What I'm Reading Lately: An Inklings Fix

By Thursday, March 31, 2016 , , ,

Fans of C.S. Lewis, this one’s for you! Hence the "Inklings" reference in the title. It’s been a while since I’ve discussed my recent reading, and I now have a few that I’m SO excited to share. And C.S. Lewis happened to keep popping up in the books I’ve been reading lately, so this round-up will focus on those. Let me know what you think! 

A Grief Observed and The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

These two Lewis works are often paired, though they were written at very different times. The Problem of Pain came first, and in his typically brilliant fashion, Lewis examines and argues the purpose of life’s pain and the roles of God and man in it. I’m still in the middle of this book, and it’s one of those that makes me stop every few paragraphs and go, “Okay, whoa. Let me read that thought twelve more times to fully appreciate it.” I love the way he thinks and how eloquently he addresses every argument someone could come up with. He takes the most complex questions and explains them in a way anyone could understand. 

On the other hand, A Grief Observed is a much more personal work. The Problem of Pain is philosophical and argument-based, but A Grief Observed is a collection of diary entries he compiled as he faced the tangible pain of his wife’s death. C.S. Lewis remains such a hero of Christianity and such a philosophical giant that it can be easy to set him apart, but this little book reminds you that he had his doubts, struggles, and pains just like anyone else. The grief he expresses in it is raw and the questions he asks in it are difficult and even shocking. It was a heavier read, but a beneficial, thoughtful, and necessary one at the same time. 

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
This had been on my TBR list for ages, and I finally read it last month as the “book I’ve been meaning to read” for the 2016 Reading Challenge. It’s a fascinating look at the background of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly World War I. I recently mentioned it and promised more on it soon, so here you go! It made history enjoyable for me, which is always a plus. The focus on World War I was interesting, from the details of trench warfare to the cultural philosophies that blossomed as a result of it. Both of these aspects of the war had unmistakable influence on Lewis and Tolkien’s writings, and reading this book showed me just how much influence it was. For example, Loconte pointed out that the battle sequences in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings have undeniable shades of trench warfare in their descriptions. And one of my favorite parallels is that Tolkien’s beloved character of Samwise Gamgee was based on the English foot soldiers Tolkien knew during the war. 

Another aspect I loved in this book was the heavy emphasis on Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship. I knew previously that they were close, but the extent of it as revealed in this book was truly touching. They were spiritual encouragers for one another and loyal supporters of each other’s books. I loved reading about their late-night chats and critiques of their works. Oh, to have been a neutral observer during one of those chats! 

Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Weber
As I like to do, I’ve saved my favorite for last. This is one of my new favorite books. While it’s not by C.S. Lewis or even about him directly, his presence is strongly felt in it since literature and Oxford are such central themes. Carolyn Weber is a thoughtful, witty literature professor, and this is her story of her conversion to faith in Christ, which took place while she studied abroad at Oxford. She arrived there as a hard, embittered agnostic and feminist, but throughout her time there, God was clearly pursuing and softening her. It’s an encouraging, strengthening story to read as a fellow Christ follower, and touching, humorous, and entertaining to boot. 

Honestly, I had to remind myself many times that this book was a memoir and not fiction. Though a true story, it reads like a fast-paced novel and I couldn’t put it down! I was amazed at how well Weber recalled so many fascinating conversations and poignant events. Its focus on literature and the England setting also clearly hit some sweet spots for me. Read this book. You will be better for it as I know I now am! It’s moving, uplifting, and made me think seriously and laugh out loud in public. 

What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the above? What did you think? I’d love to hear!

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