I am reading C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. It is an unparalleled example of Lewis’s insightful and ingenious way of writing; he makes many poignant and perceptive observations about human nature and the world. The commentary he offers is rooted in a well-considered and broad perspective of all reality. Real truth for a real world, a world that includes the physical and spiritual.
As I was considering my plan to immerse myself in the writings of C.S. Lewis this year, it has occurred to me that I should have mapped out my reading list chronologically. That is, according to the order that Lewis wrote/published his works. I have already begun to see parallels in the ideas Lewis presents as I read his works. It would have been profitable to discover Lewis’s train of thought as it surfaces through his publications. No one ever arrives at all knowledge and wisdom, and then proceeds to write it all down. There is a process of growing and gathering. By reading his works in the order that he wrote them would give me a better idea of how Lewis fostered his worldview. I am not talking about fundamental changes in his thinking; I am interested in minor advancements in his thinking, shifts in perspective, refinement, new discoveries and so on. How did he envision life as a 35 year old (say in, Pilgrim’s Regress 1933) as opposed to a 58 year old (say in, Till We Have Faces 1956)?
If I ever do this sort of thing again, then I will certainly begin at the beginning. As I look ahead to future reading, I am becoming increasingly interested in Francis Schaeffer. I may start reading his works in the order of publication.
On a related note, I also recommend that new readers coming to “Narnia” enjoy the books as they were published, not according to Narnian chronology. Lewis recommends---albeit whimsically---that people should read the Chronicles of Narnia chronologically. This is why the publishers number the books beginning with The Magician’s Nephew. This book was actually the sixth book he wrote. In spite of Lewis’s recommendation, I must disagree with him on this point. I am convinced that readers should begin with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The main reason is the fact that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a much better book than The Magician’s Nephew. It is a better story. I have heard many people confess that they started to read the Chronicles of Narnia but “never got into the series…” I proceed to ask what book they started with: the answer, The Magician’s Nephew. It is the “Genesis” of Narnia, it explains the origin of the Narnian world. However, I believe this book’s value to readers comes only after readers have fallen in love with the world Lewis created. How did the lamp post get into Narnia? We only ask that question once we come to cherish that first magical image of the lamp post on the other of the wardrobe… along with an umbrella wielding Faun carrying packages on a snowy day. I am so glad I began my own personal journey into Narnia with the snow covered lamp post. For me, this image is unforgettable. My brother, who gave me the books as a gift many years ago, recommended that order of reading. Thanks, bro.
The order Lewis actually wrote the books is as follows (the publishers numbering according to Narnian chronology is in parentheses):
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2)
Prince Caspian (4)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (5)
The Silver Chair (6)
The Horse and his boy (3)
The Magician’s Nephew (1)
The Last Battle (7)
On a (mostly) unrelated note, I also recommend that first-time viewers of the Star Wars franchise watch the films in order of production, not in order of Star Wars chronology.
Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars I: Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
I just hope Lucas doesn’t get any more “pre-quel” ideas with the Indiana Jones franchise…