Surprised by Joy, by C. S. Lewis

2012 Book 144: Surprised by Joy

Written by C. S. Lewis, Narrated by Geoffrey Howard

Reason for Reading: I’m slowly working through the books of C. S. Lewis out of curiosity for his theology. 



Reveiw

In this short memoir, C. S. Lewis describes his spiritual journey from youthful atheist to firm and faithful believer. This isn’t really a memoir of Lewis’ life, although it does contain some interesting anecdotes about his school years. Mostly, he only focuses on incidents in his life that impacted his spiritual development. I have read many spiritual development memoirs, and this one is like the others…only it stands out because it is a classic. It was written when these types of journeys were not as commonly shared in memoirs. (In fact, I suspect that this book was one of the ones that inspired so many of the spiritual-journey memoirs that we see today.) One thing I found interesting about this book is it explained to me why so many people retro-diagnose Lewis with Asperger’s syndrome. He talked about his difficulties dealing with other students…not knowing how to respond in social situations and being told to “take that look off [his] face” when he was trying very hard to keep an appropriate facial expression. I think it is important to recognize that we can’t accurately retro-diagnose people with today’s syndromes, but it IS interesting to see how such personality traits were present in Lewis’ day, and how he excused them with stories about how childhood events affected his social interactions. It was definitely an interesting read…and anyone who likes to hear about others’ spiritual journeys really should start with C. S. Lewis.


Translation of the Bones, by Francesca Kay


2012 Book 108: Translation of the Bones, by Francesca Kay (7/17/2012)

Reason for Reading: This book was longlisted for the Orange Prize this year, and it peaked my curiosity so I decided to give it a try.

My Review 
When Mary-Margaret, a well-meaning but slow young woman, sees a vision of Jesus’ blood in a Roman Catholic Church, she stimulates a miracle-craze which compels many people to question the meaning of faith. This is a very difficult book for me to review because I’m rather ambivalent about it. It is deep with meaning—but would mean something different to the “faithful” than it would to the “faithless.” This is a quality that few books attain, and I believe this is why it deserved to be nominated for the Orange Prize. However, this story is also very sad…it took me in a direction I didn’t expect. There were a lot of negative messages mixed in with the positive messages, which, I suppose, represents life perfectly. But still…some of it was hard for me to read. I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to explore faith and the meaning of mother-child relationships more deeply, and with an open mind. 

Abraham, by Bruce Feiler


2012 Book 105: Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths, by Bruce Feiler (7/11/2012)

Reason for Reading: It fit into Reading Globally’s Middle Eastern literature theme. 

My Review 3.5 stars
In this short work, Feiler reviews the Biblical story of Abraham and then describes how the myth of Abraham has changed over time and between the Abrahamic religions. It is well-written and interesting, and its length is well-suited for the amount of information Feiler wishes to convey. (There were no lengthy speculations in order to add bulk!) I enjoyed it and learned a little bit, too!

Revelations, by Elaine Pagels


2012 Book 85: Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, by Elaine Pagels (6/17/2012)

Reason for Reading: General interest in Church history and apocalyptic literature

My Review: 4/5 stars
In her newest book, Pagels explores the history of John of Patmos’ Book of Revelation. She outlines what we know about John of Patmos, what he was trying to say with his preaching, and how contemporaries may have responded. The second half of the book covers the history of Christianity in the first two centuries C.E., with emphasis on Pagels’ favorite topic of disparate beliefs among early groups. She completes the book with a description of how the Bible Cannon was chosen, with some suggestions about why John of Patmos’ Book of Revelation was the only apocalyptic literature included. Pagels’ writing is clear and interesting, though a bit repetitive–especially if you’ve read some of her earlier works. If you’re interested in early church history, especially the disparate groups of Christians, then this is the book for you. If you’re interested in apocalyptic literature in early Christian history, then the first half of this book, and the tail end, is for you.

A Preface to Paradise Lost, by C. S. Lewis

2012 Book 41: A Preface to Paradise Lost, by C. S. Lewis (2/29/2012)

Reason for Reading: Wanted to better understand Paradise Lost. I’m not very good at poetry.

My Review: 4/5 stars
In this preface, Lewis first outlines what an epic poem is and what Milton was trying to do with Paradise Lost. Then he discusses his views on how Milton’s theology played a role in this epic. Lewis debunks the view that Milton had compassion for Satan. It was a good introduction, which I read before the poem because I thought it might help me comprehend the poem while I’m reading it. It was helpful, though it managed to make me more skeptical that I’ll comprehend Paradise Lost.

(TO SEE MORE ABOUT PARADISE LOST, GO TO MY MASTER POST)

The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis


2012 Book 38: The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis (2/26/2012)

Reason for Reading: Currently working through the Narnia series in publication order.

My Review: 5/5 stars
Eustace Scrubb ventures back to Narnia with his schoolmate Jill Pole. There they are sent on a mission to rescue Prince Rilian, who has been kidnapped by an evil witch. This is another lovely installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. Very cute.