More than just an author (which is how most of us know him today), C.S. Lewis was an avid reader. More than that, he was an avid reader of books on Christian doctrine. He always pointed to books of doctrine over ‘devotion’. In Lewis’ introduction to a particular translation of Athanasius work ‘On the Incarnation’ he wrote,
“for my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”
I think this points us to an important idea pertaining to good writing, it requires hard thinking.
I agree with Lewis, my own experience attests to this. Even when it comes to subjects other than Christian theology, I would rather be challenged than spoon fed. But…I have always been curious to what books made Lewis’ heart sing?
Well, we might have one source. In 1962, The Christian Century magazine published C.S. Lewis’s answer to the question, “What books did most to shape your vocational attitude and your philosophy of life?” While some of the books listed are not solely focused on the subject of Christian theology, we can gleam something about the life and mind of Lewis.
Here is C.S. Lewis’s list.
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.