What Would C.S. Lewis Read?

Ten books that shaped a man who shaped Christian culture

The books of C.S. Lewis have had a huge influence over a generation or two of devoted readers. The Chronicles of Narnia, Perelandra, The Great Divorce — all these filled me with a sense of wonder & awe, and shaped my youthful vision of what it meant to be a whole, healthy, mature, and virtuous human being. But what books shaped him?

The Christian Century asked Lewis directly, just fifty years ago this week, for its June 6, 1962, issue. Here’s the list Lewis gave:

  1. Phantastes by George MacDonald
  2. The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton
  3. The Aeneid by Virgil
  4. The Temple by George Herbert
  5. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  6. The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto
  7. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
  8. Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
  9. Descent into Hell by Charles Williams
  10. Theism and Humanism by Arthur James Balfour

There are others he could have added, of course. Some of these I discovered via Lewis, and they shaped me as well. Some of them I’ve heard of; others are unfamiliar to me. All of them, though, will be the topic of an upcoming conference hosted by the C.S. Lewis Society of Madison, Wisconsin. The Ten Books that Most Influenced C.S. Lewis will take place at the Pyle Center on the UW-Madison campus from Thursday through Saturday, October 18-20, 2012. I’m honored & excited to be running the book sale table there!

Until then, I’ll be catching up on these books (starting with Sarah Ruden’s rendering of the tale of Aeneas, “the biggest horse’s patoot in all of literature” ) and writing about them here. You’re welcome to join in! Please comment, or if you’d like to write a post or two here at Reading Circle Books this summer, send a note to CircleReader @ this site!

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