Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A reading list

From an interview with Thomas Howard by editors of Touchstone magazine (1999):
One more question along this same line: What would you give for a C.S. Lewis reading list? If someone had a year to read five or ten books of Lewis' and wanted to know which ones to start with, what would you tell him, to get an overview of his prose and fiction?

HOWARD: There would be an obvious case for telling someone to start with Mere Christianity. I wouldn't quarrel with that, but I, myself, might say, start with the Narnia Chronicles. Reading the Narnia Chronicles has the advantage of almost inevitably drawing a reader in, head over heels, to a world,—the world, the world of truth, of reality that is Lewis' whole world. So I would say the Narnia Chronicles, The Abolition of Man, The Great Divorce, "The Weight of Glory" and "Transpositions"—which last two appear in a book of essays called The Weight of GloryThe Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces.

Then, of his apologetic books, Miracles I think in one sense is a special-interest book. I think Mere Christianity does that job well for general readers. Of his scholarly books, the books on Edmund Spenser and his English Literature in the Sixteenth Century from the Oxford History of English Literature—the "OHEL"—are wonderful. They're glorious reading. Other works like Studies in Words and Experiment in Criticism are good, but they're not center stage.

I think I would include Preface to Paradise Lost, interestingly enough, even if the reader has never read and will never read Milton. Lewis touches on some very, very fundamental things there.

The Problem of Pain?

HOWARD: Yes, I would certainly include that.

Last night in your lecture you told everyone to drop everything and read The Discarded Image.

HOWARD: Ah! Yes! You see, the list gets longer. That's a glorious book. And he pursued an absolutely faultless course. He never drops into the error of nostalgia for the Middle Ages or of complaining that "Oh, we've gone down the tubes since then." He describes the mind of the Middle Ages, and at the very end of the book he says, "It will be obvious to the reader where my sympathies lie", but he doesn't argue it. Yes, I think one could even make The Discarded Image number one because it will lead you in a sober, classroom way or a Lewis tutorial way into the world that you are going to encounter one fine morning at the Last Trump.
Thomas Howard, The Night is Far Spent, 2007.

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