Top Ten

Though all of C.S. Lewis’ 30 plus books are well worth reading, below is, in alphabetical order, what Jackson Presbyterian Examiner considers his ten absolute best. The majority of these books are available through the Jackson-Hinds Library System, www.jhlibrary.com. They are also available at the Leland Speed Library at Mississippi College.

1. A Grief Observed

Originally a journal, never intended for publication, Lewis eventually consented to have his reflections on his young wife’s death to cancer published, in hopes that it might help other grievers. One of the most personal of all of Lewis’ books, A Grief Observed, is sure to resonate with anyone dealing with deep loss and struggling to find God in the midst of it.

2. God in the Dock

A compilation of numerous essays Lewis wrote over the course of three decades, God in the Dock was published posthumously and has become one of Lewis’ most revered books. Lewis explores a wide range of topics—the Deity of Christ, Christianity and culture, the commercialization of Christmas, the importance of reading old books, the conflict between science and religion, etc… As an apologist, Lewis is at the top of his game in God in the Dock.

3. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

The last book Lewis ever wrote, Letters to Malcolm is a window into his views on prayer, both private and corporate. In this book, more so than any other, Lewis opens up about his views regarding the sacraments, liturgy, and prayers for the dead. Feeling it would be presumptuous to write an instructional book on prayer, Lewis instead framed this as a series of letters to a fictional friend on the topic of prayer. Readers feel like they have the privilege of over hearing a fascinating conversation between Lewis and “Malcolm.” Congenial as always, one reviewer said that in this book Lewis effectively took the “protest out of Protestantism.”

4. Mere Christianity

The most important book Lewis wrote, Mere Christianity is the summit of Lewis’ contribution to Christian literature in the 20th century. Setting out to explain and defend the beliefs that have been held in common by all Christians in all times and in all places, Lewis persuasively shows readers why Christ is who he claimed to be, why his death and resurrection reconciles the world to God, why Christian morality reflects how God originally designed human beings to function, and why the doctrine of the Trinity is central to the Christian life. Accessible, brilliant, witty, and profound–if Mere Christianity had been Lewis’ only contribution (thank God it wasn’t), he still would deserve to go down in history as arguably the best Christian communicator since apostolic times.

5. Out of the Silent Planet

In this, his first of three science fiction novels, Lewis turns the age old fear of being invaded by creatures from outerspace on its head: in this story, wicked men from earth travel to Mars, intending to corrupt the locals. Containing rich Christian symbolism, Out of the Silent Planet introduces the Mars inhabitants, or Malacandrans, as an unfallen race who’ve never known sin. Though all three installments of the Space Trilogy are worth reading, Out of the Silent Planet is the most accessible.

6. Reflections on the Psalms

An amazingly original perspective on the Psalms, this book showcases Lewis’ appreciation for the Old Testament, as well as his unique view of Scripture in general. Beginning with what he feels to be the difficult or problematic passages in the psalms, Lewis ends by exploring the extent to which the psalms foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ. Even when making assertions evangelicals can’t agree with (such as that Scripture contains error and contradiction), Lewis’ charitable and irenic tone endears him to readers, and will edify even those who won’t always concur.

7. The Great Divorce

Arguably Lewis’ most profound work of fiction, this “theological fantasy” takes readers on a journey from hell to heaven, where conversations between lost spirits and redeemed spirits are overheard. Lewis explores what motivates the lost to cling to their rights rather than give in, as well as the nature of repentance itself. No other Lewis book, with the possible exception of Screwtape Letters, shows Lewis’ depth of understanding of human nature better thanThe Great Divorce.

8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The most beloved installment of the seven volume Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobeintroduces readers to a Narnia oppressed by the wicked witch, Jadis, who makes it always winter, but never Christmas. Through a magical wardrobe, four English children find themselves in Narnia with the task of helping to break the witch’s curse. One child turns traitor, though, and can only be saved through the sacrificial death of Aslan, the great King, the Lion who created Narnia ages ago. Full of Christian imagery, Lewis’ book re-tells the gospel in a way that captures the imaginations of children, as well as adults.

9. The Problem of Pain

“How can an all-powerful, good God allow evil and suffering in the world?” That age old question is tackled by Lewis in this, his first apologetics book. Published in 1940, as England was engaged in World War II, the book carried a poignant message for its original audience, but it is no less relevant today. Lewis argues that God’s goodness and love towards creatures means that he loves us too much to “leave us alone” when we are separate from him, and that much of the pain we experience is simply God’s effort to draw us back to the realization of our need for him. Never patronizing or condescending, Lewis explores hard doctrines such as the Fall of Man and the existence of hell. The book closes with a poetic description of heaven, arguably the most heavenly description of paradise, outside of the canon.

10. Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis

In his lifetime, Lewis often viewed keeping up with his correspondence as a daunting task, as he made it a priority to personally answer every serious letter received. Though it would’ve been easy to see such constant letter writing as tedious, a distraction from his important writing, it turns out that the content of his letters has proven to be some of Lewis’ most inspiring work. In this volume, letters from the 1930s to the 1960s have been gleaned for spiritual/devotional insights from Lewis. Warm, personal, and pastoral, these letters are a pleasure to read and re-read.

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