“I would read other books, of course, but in my heart I knew that I read them
only because there wasn’t an infinite number of Narnia books to read.” – Neil Gaiman
When they both died fifty years ago today, November 22, 1963, it would have seemed an odd debate as to who would have the most impact fifty years on: the President of the United States, icon for the nation, or an Oxbridge Don, known for his children’s books and popular Christian apologetics. Today, certainly, the television coverage is dominated by the President: JFK and his legacy.
Nonetheless, Lewis is far from forgotten. His popular Narnia series still sells, and a movie version of The Silver Chair has been announced. Lewis was popular in his day, we shouldn’t forget, a popularity that led to a certain unpopularity and marginalization at Oxford that prompted his move to Cambridge. He even appeared on the cover of America’s TIME magazine. Indeed, as Jonathan Merritt notes, Lewis is now more popular than ever.
I had the great pleasure of reading Alan Jacobs’s fine biography of Lewis, The Narnian, this year. I couldn’t recommend it to you highly enough. (Don’t miss Jacobs’s Lewis inspired thoughts at Books & Culture.) The biographical insight puts Lewis in a new light. Lewis was a man who led an unorthodox personal life, to be sure, and I find it extraordinary that he was able to write as much as he did under the circumstances. Belief in God was something Lewis struggled with. The atheism of a young intellectual finally gave way to the considered reflection of belief. Aslan was on the move. Lewis had lived it.
What to read from Lewis? It’s hard to pick. Everyone should read Narnia, of course. Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters are probably best known among his apologetics. But there is more, which shouldn’t be ignored. Lewis wrote so much worth reading he becomes a friend who stays with you decade after decade as you read, discover something new, and read again.
Of the curious fact of that Lewis and Kennedy died on the same day, along with Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, the always delightful Peter Kreeft made use in his book Between Heaven and Hell. In the imaginary dialogue “somewhere beyond death” the men discuss the meaning of life, and, of course, it is Lewis who points the way to Christ. He has done that through his books for decades now. And of those who died on this day fifty years ago, it is hard to deny that it is Lewis who is still on the move.