Read A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown Online

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C. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis's works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author's story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography thrC. S. Lewis is one of the most influential Christian writers of our time. The Chronicles of Narnia has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and all Lewis's works are estimated to sell 6 million copies annually. At the fiftieth anniversary of his death, Lewis expert Devin Brown brings the beloved author's story to life in a fresh, accessible, and moving biography through focusing on Lewis's spiritual journey. Although it was clear from the start that Lewis would be a writer, it was not always clear he would become a Christian. Drawing on Lewis's autobiographical works, works by those who knew him personally, and his apologetic and fictional writing, this book tells the inspiring story of Lewis's journey from cynical atheist to joyous Christian and challenges readers to follow their own calling. The book allows Lewis to tell his own life story in a uniquely powerful manner while shedding light on his best-known works....

Title : A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis
Author :
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ISBN : 9781587433351
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 241 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis Reviews

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-04-29 04:01

    Ultimately the biographer spends so much of the page quoting from Lewis's (published) letters and writings that I'd rather read those and draw my own conclusions.

  • Kris
    2019-05-02 07:11

    Another valuable book on Lewis, this time focused solely on his spiritual journey. Again, it's mostly a reminder of Lewis facts I already know, but I liked the author's voice and enjoyed this refresher.In some sense this seemed like a reorganization of pre-existing facts and quotes into a very basic narrative. I'm not sure what the argument is (though I'll let that slide since this is a simple biography). But it fell into an easy and enjoyable rhythm as the author supported his claims by immediately diving into varied parts of Lewis's writing for exemplification.A great book to hand to any Lewis layman. But still, most books on Lewis nowadays leave me wanting more. Specifically, I wish there was more lengthy analysis of Till We Have Faces in here.While I've wanted to get my hands on the three volumes of Lewis's letters for a while now, this book strengthened that want!

  • Bob
    2019-05-06 08:07

    Why of all the biographies of C.S. Lewis, including his own Surprised By Joy, should you read this biography? That's a fair question but rather than try to answer that outright, I will tell you what I liked about this particular biography.First, it is a sympathetic biography without being a hagiography. Brown accepts Lewis on his own terms while also recognizing his faults and foibles--particularly his priggishness as a young scholar prior to his conversion. The only place where this might be open to criticism is on the subject of his relationship with Mrs. Moore. Some might think he handled Lewis's relationship with his war-time friend's mother with kid gloves. I'd say he was probably being circumspect with regard to matters open to speculation.Second, this is a good work of scholarship, which exposes the reader not only to writings they would already know, but also to his correspondence, some of which has only recently been released. We hear Lewis in his own words and see the care with which he writes to friends and total strangers. And Brown does all this in a book of modest length.Third, Brown explores a motif of Lewis's life, his ideas about Joy throughout his life. One sees a person who not only discovered Joy as a signpost to greater realities, but also one who tremendously enjoyed his life--his scholarship, his friends, his wife, appropriately enough named Joy, and even his last years and the anticipation of his own passing. We follow Lewis from boyhood to his last years, which while punctuated by the death of his mother and of Joy, and a horrendous grammar school experience, was a journey into Joy.Finally, I appreciated some of the new insights this book brought me into his conversion and the role played by friends like Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien. It was also delightful to read Brown's account of the Inklings and the ways Lewis and Tolkien in particular encouraged each other in their writing projects--would we have the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings otherwise? Likely not.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-23 05:00

    I was looking forward to reading A Life Observed by Devin Brown, primarily because I had the pleasure of meeting Devin at Taylor University’s Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends in 2012. (One of the many wonderful things about this event is the opportunity to dialogue with other Lewis enthusiasts, scholars, and authors!) However, having just re-read Surprised by Joy, Lewis's autobiography of sorts, I found the first half of Brown's book to be a bit of a repetitive experience for me as he seems to be summarizing and quoting from it predominantly until chapter five. Yet, Devin does a fine job of illuminating areas Lewis did not write about in his book.He does this primarily through various letters written by Lewis over the course of his life, along with correspondence about him by friends and family, such as J.R.R. Tolkien and his brother, Warnie. The Pilgrim’s Regress and A Grief Observed are two additional autobiographical works which Devin explores. He also points out examples in Letters to Malcolm and The Screwtape Letters that would seem to give us even further insights into Lewis’s own spiritual journey. Because of these added sources, I enjoyed the second half of the book far more than the first half.I also appreciate that unlike some biographies on Lewis that may seem to lack heart, leaving them stale and dry, A Life Observed is truly engaging and full of the life of Jack. Or as Douglas Gresham wrote in the forward, of the numerous biographies that have been written, “some of them are very good books about Jack, but – here’s the rub – Jack is not in them.” Then, about Devin’s book, Gresham writes, “I grew up with Jack as my guide. This real Jack whom I knew walks the pages of this book.” I can’t think of much higher praise than that!Overall, it was well written, enjoyable to read, and I will most likely read it again in the future. You can read more of my book reviews on my blog: www.neyhart.blogspot.com

  • John
    2019-05-18 05:00

    Judging from what I found on the shelves of my local library, there has been about one new biography of C.S. Lewis written every other year since 2000. I've read none of them until this one (written in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the year of Lewis' death), but I believe I know enough about Lewis to surmise that he would be either astonished or appalled (or both) to know that that much paper was expended on his life.In my view, the essential biographical works about C.S. Lewis are "Jack," written by George Sayer in 1988 (and the only book I own that was signed by its author), "The Letters of C.S. Lewis" (the earlier compilation; not the entire four volumes that has since come out) and his own "Surprised by Joy." It might be worth inserting here that Lewis' friends and family always called him Jack, never Clive, even though Clive was his name."A Life Observed" wouldn't make my essentials list, but I don't regret reading it. The author does a particularly good job of showing how themes from Lewis' life work their way into his books. Example: I knew that Lewis had unfortunate experiences in schools, and I knew that schools come off badly in the Narnia Chronicles, but I never really connected the two before.Reading "A Life Observed" also has led me to think it's time to reread all of Lewis' works that I own, and I own most of them. This time, I'm going to try to read them in the order he wrote them, starting with "A Pilgrim's Regress."I think my favorite moment in "A Life Observed" is when the author talks about the week he spent in the Kilns, the Lewis homestead near Oxford, while leading a seminar. He writes: "I got to sleep in Jack's bedroom -- as far as I can tell, the thing I have done in my life which has most impressed my mother."

  • Aisling
    2019-04-29 12:16

    A thoroughly researched and convincing book. I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis and was eager to read this biography of the interesting spiritual journey that led Lewis back to God and Christianity. The book does not disappoint. The author Dr. Devin Brown uses Lewis's fictional works, non fiction, and private letters as well as correspondence about him by others (like Lewis's brother, Warnie, and his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien). What emerges is a clear picture of Jack (as C.S. Lewis was known to family and friends) and the lifelong evolving relationship he had with faith. An inspiring and moving biography.

  • Laura Lee
    2019-05-01 12:08

    A lovingly written book about C.S.Lewis and his journey to becoming a Christian. The author doesn't dwell on any occurrences in Lewis's life but rather the reaction of Lewis and how it relates to his journey. As a child Lewis believed in God, though a more frightening one. He later went through many other beliefs, even atheism. I did not know anything of Lewis's life and have never read any of his works, however I will now. He was a sensitive man, filled with wonder. The book portrays him this way and at the end of it you are glad to have met him.

  • Joanna
    2019-05-04 12:01

    Despite being a huge Narnia fan (I wrote my BA Honours thesis about an aspect of the Chronicles) and having read - many years ago - the planets novels and the Screwtape Letters. I have never read a detailed biography of Lewis or his own autobiographical works. I knew the broad brush strokes of his life from a variety of sources over the years. This is not a biography in the classic sense of the word, however; it is, as the title says, a spiritual biography. How did he move from a by-rote Christian, to an atheist, to a "deist", and finally to a deep, meaningful and sincere true Christian with a deep, meaningful, sincere and non-judgemental faith and a sympathetic understanding of the nature of Christianity and the struggles that believers face in their faith. I truly enjoyed this book, and found it very informative and, indeed, inspiring. I now want to go back and re-read those books I read so long ago, and read more of his Christian writings. My only quibble with the book is the style. It begins with a style that made me wonder if the author was writing for young people, but he soon drops the pseudo-simplistic voice and, while still retaining a very accessible style, "gets serious" about his topic. Is it an accurate assessment of Lewis' journey? I'm not sure - I haven't read enough other sources yet. But one thing the author does not do, which he says other biographers have done, is question the honesty of Lewis' faith or the veracity or interpretation of the very words that Lewis himself wrote.

  • Merrilee
    2019-05-22 08:11

    After taking an online course about CS Lewis at Hillsdale College I wanted to learn more about the life his life. I found this biography to be interesting and informative about his life and works. I am reading the Narnia books for the first time, too.

  • Melody Hitchner
    2019-05-17 08:14

    A beautiful tribute tracing Lewis’s spiritual growth from Atheist to believer and Christian apologist. Brown talks just enough about each book to make me want to go and buy all of them (which I tried, but my local used booksellers say they cannot keep his works in stock).

  • Stephanie
    2019-05-20 04:17

    Lovely biography of CS Lewis' spiritual journey and his writing

  • Nathaniel Lainson
    2019-04-27 12:06

    This book is a wonderful journey of learning Lewis the man behind the lion. If you want to know who Lewis was as a human being, read this book.

  • Diana Maryon
    2019-05-14 06:05

    I am already very fond of this new ‘Life’ of Lewis: while it doesn’t essentially add any information to the modern record, it does constitute a rich new synthesis, a sensitive account of Lewis the ‘mere Christian’ which contrasts quite sharply with the well-known if not notorious Freudian and atheistic versions. It is well worth having if only for some fresh emphases on the links between Lewis’ life, thinking and writing. He was after all that rarest of beings, a truly integrated man. Buy this account if you buy no other. There are some misprints: on p. 32 Brown must mean to write “casual” not “causal”, and on p. 59 the original “completely” not “competently”. There are some solecisms: p. 14 “equally as”, p. 103 “different ... than”, p. 158 “continued on”, p. 207 “Reverend Farrer” without the article. There is some “valley-speak” in the shape of “like” as a conjunction in place of “as if” or “as though” [pp. 28, 104, 192, and possibly in other places which I have missed]. Lewis’ wife never was “Mrs. Joy Lewis” [p. 29]: she could have become that only if he had divorced her before he died. The author has the matter of how many degrees Lewis earned when he read Mods., Greats and a year of the English School right in spots, but mostly he repeats the standard misunderstandings [p. 87 “two other first degrees”, pp. 106-7 “each of these degrees”]. If I had accepted Oxford’s best Classics scholarship for women in 1956 I should have read Greats as he did. This is the University of Oxford's Classics course, and is divided into two parts, lasting five terms and seven terms respectively, the whole lasting four years in total. Honour Moderations is taken at the five-term mark, and unless one is failed the result makes not an atom of difference to one’s final class-mark. The whole course of studies leads to Finals and ONE (1) B.A. degree. He no more got two degrees, let alone three after his extra work on the English School, than I got four degrees after four Parts of the Cambridge Tripos. Because Cambridge is different (Surprise, surprise!), and does not classify its degrees, only its examinations, one speaks there of a Double, Triple, or even a Quadruple First; but one still finishes up with ONE (1) B.A. We Cantabrigians do not write Finals as undergraduates, just one or more Tripos examinations.The reference to the Guardian as a religious paper [p. 187] may confuse some readers. There was an Anglican weekly of that name from 1846 to 1951.I don’t‎ think that Lewis could have invited anyone to lunch in Merton College [p. 200].Brown does not address the conundrum of the bluebells at Whipsnade in September on a “crisp fall day” [pp. 155-6, pp. 160-161]. McGrath’s very recent solution needs to be taken on board at this point. It would chime with the two other places where Lewis’ typical vagueness about chronology is noted by Brown. The one area where this book strikes me as a little bit ‘thin’ is the matter of Lewis’ emotional life as it related to the opposite sex in the long years before his marriage. The “huge and complex episode” through which his “earlier hostility to the emotions was very fully and variously avenged” must surely have been more than his simply moving in with the Moores. That the relationship with ‘Minto’ was simply erotic rather than also sexual in nature I do believe to have been possible — but not completely certain. If Lewis was not virginal when he was converted, one can indeed be certain that he became chaste afterwards; but not only was he very needy emotionally at that earlier time, he felt no moral scruples of any kind. I do suggest that a second edition is urgently needed, not necessarily because of this particular gap, but to take care of all my other points of criticism including the purely typographic errors.

  • Marek Oziewicz
    2019-04-24 10:24

    I really enjoyed this quiet book. One of the greatest questions in human life is how we become what we are. The process has no end, but it does have stages and it is these that we care about in our personal development as well as in all educational practices we design. We seek to find meanings, we ask unanswerable questions, and we aspire to transcend what we are or know at any given moment. This unquenchable thirst that most people experience strongly suggests, as Lewis would say, that there is something that can satisfy it. That thing, in Lewis’s parlance, is Joy. No matter what name you give to it, we’re all questers for it, whether we know it or not. On this road, biographies of exceptional people are some of the best signposts to look at. In them we see our own struggles reflected, surprisingly relevant though they usually happened in very different circumstances. “You too?,” we ask surprised, “I thought I was the only one…” This last sentence, by the way, comes from Lewis’s own description of how friendship arises. The way it suggests that friendship involves discovering invisible connections is a very apt description of Devin Brown’s superb achievement in A Life Observed. What this book does is not just shed light on Lewis’s life: it illuminates ours too, reaching across time, space, and circumstances of Jack’s life to connect them with ours. Here are my three bottom line reasons why I consider it brilliant. One: Brown’s focus is on Jack’s life as a quest for Joy. Although it seems common knowledge that all of Lewis’s life and work was part of his own spiritual quest, no one has ever attempted a biography that foregrounds that perspective. Perhaps no one has dared. A Life Observed is first and foremost a spiritual biography. Read it and you’ll see how Brown succeeds in this formidable task.Two: Brown speaks Lewisesque. Although I’m way less knowledgeable about Lewis’s oeuvre than Brown is, I’m sufficiently familiar with Lewis’ style, imagery, characterization and logic to see how Brown’s own writing “speaks” Lewis(-esque). This is not just on the level of language or imagery, but also on a deeper level of sharing the quest for Joy and understanding what it means. Three: This book is simply fun to read. It’s not scholarly and not hagiographic either; it’s packed with information but not overwhelming. Brown’s conversational style—again, read any essay by Lewis and you’ll see similarities—has a warm, inviting tang to it. This book is a mine of little treasures and Brown helps the reader become its confident explorer. C.S. Lewis is one of the most influential authors and Christian thinkers of the 20th century. Devin Brown is perhaps the greatest Lewis scholar writing today. When the two meet, we get extraordinary yet unassuming gems such as A Life Observed. Highly recommended!

  • Aidan
    2019-04-29 07:00

    I quite like the idea that a biography can be about a particular aspect of a person rather than their entire lives. After all, how many biographers are expert in so many fields that they can perfectly describe someone with many talents and characteristics?In this book, Devin Brown writes the beautifully moving story of Lewis' conversion to Christianity. Each point is backed by something Lewis said, which makes it all the more compelling.And who knew he was such an fascinating guy? Between his prison-like schools, time in ww1, and founding of the Inklings, C.S. Lewis obviously lived an interesting life. His experiences with God and faith, already explained so clearly in some of his non-fiction works are given new depth here as they are compared to events he lived.It's worth noting that this book only picks up steam after the first 30 pages or so. Before that it drags a little, but after that it's very hard to put down. The reason I couldn't give it five stars is that I was hoping more for the character of CS Lewis. What was he really like? Maybe this is asking too much of a non-contemporary, but it seemed that for most of the book, he was just an idea of a person floating through space. Perhaps this comes from an over-reliance on Lewis' letters; he's very unlikely to describe himself in one!And all the other people he interacted with (his teacher, Tolkien, Joy) are described only in the briefest biographical terms. I have no real understanding of what traits any of these people had.This makes the book slightly less powerful. On the other hand, I feel I know a lot more about the author than I usually do. He explained why he wanted to write this, and how he went about doing it. It added a nice touch to the book. Maybe authorial interjections don't sound like an appealing feature, but they help you envision the importance and possible impact of the book.When I was done, it inspired me to re-read some of his works, especially a Grief Observed. As, I suppose, was the point of the book. Hopefully anyone who reads this will have at least a passing interest in picking up his non-fiction works.Overall, it shed a lot of light on a truly inspirational man, and did so in an engaging way.

  • Nick Jordan
    2019-05-12 09:20

    This is not a good biography. It's limited to only publicly available and widely published sources, with apparently no original research. The first half is a summarizing of what is better available in Lewis' own writings, particularly Surprised by Joy. The second half was better written and more compelling, but that couldn't redeem this book.I bumped it up from two stars because it does make me want to read and re-read more Lewis.

  • Kimberly
    2019-05-20 11:16

    A Life Observed is not a straightforward biography as the author himself points out on several occasions. Brown is primarily interested in Lewis’ spirituality and how it evolved throughout the course of his life. People, events, and places that influence Lewis’ faith are highlighted but not dissected. Lewis and his friends are quoted continuously, providing the reader with first hand accounts without intense biographer commentary. The reader never feels that the biographer knows more about Lewis in hindsight than Lewis knew himself. I agree with the author—this is not a normal biography but it is a worthwhile read. Brown crafts a fine perspective through which readers can grow to understand Lewis’ motivations as an author and private thoughts on God. I recommend this book to fans of Lewis apologetics or those interested in Christian theology. However, if you are looking for scandal or tiddle taddle about Lewis, look elsewhere. If you are looking for straight facts or an uninterrupted timeline of Lewis, look elsewhere. This is strictly for readers interested in his faith and the roundabout way in which Lewis finally allowed Christ into his life. I thoroughly enjoyed this biography and felt it helped me access difficult Lewis texts more easily such as The Pilgrim’s Regress (tried to read in the past and failed miserably) or The Problem with Pain. The gaps or purposefully overlooked events in Lewis’ life sometimes had an unintentionally suspicious feel. For example, what exactly was Lewis’ relationship with Mrs. Moore? It was certainly odd and his brother did not approve. This will definitely require research on my part. Brown does recommend many titles for further reading and I plan to take his advice. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

  • Pamela
    2019-04-23 11:17

    I have rarely, if ever, defined a book as “life changing”. Several have had a great influence on the way I think. Aristotle's Poetics comes to mind, as does St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas but probably more because they formed my thoughts in a parochial high school. I'm also a devoted fan of Wm. Shakespeare but I can't say he changed my life although I'm certainly richer for having read him. However, when a friend sent me C.S. Lewis'A Grief Observed, I really think reading that did make a change in my life at that time. I certainly felt that without it I may never have recovered my sanity.So when I saw A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis, I was looking forward to reading an account of how this man, who had written so eloquently of his grief at his wife's death, had gone through his conversion process. I was familiar with the story….an atheist as a young man, Lewis came gradually to belief in God and was a reluctant convert to Christianity. He eventually became became one of the most famous Christian apologists of the 20th century and one of its best selling authors. He is known to children the world over as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia which still sell in the millions. So also do his books on Christianity.A Spiritual Biography does a good job of following the tale of Lewis' conversion through his life story and especially through his writings. Dr. Devin gives very good examples from many of the published works, especially The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity that illustrate this journey. He does a good job with quotes from the people that knew C.S. Lewis personally. What is lacking is any sense of emotional investment. When I came to the end, what I felt is that if I wish to learn about a journey of faith, it's best to learn it from the person who took the journey.

  • Matthew Mofield
    2019-04-29 05:27

    Intriguing and EnjoyableThis was my first biography on C.S. Lewis. I thought it was very enjoyable to read and I feel my understanding of the man he was and the works he has written have been greatly increased. I was also very encouraged as a follower of Jesus by his conversion story.

  • Lisa
    2019-05-10 12:16

    I su much enjoyed this book, so this isn't going to be an objective review. Because, after all, I already really, really liked the writing of C. S. Lewis, most especially the Narnia books, and The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. And now, this bio completed, I think I have a historical crush on C. S. Lewis himself.Devin Brown sets out in this book to chart Lewis's lifelong spiritual development, from little of anything as a child, to a rote Christianity, to atheism and then back to Christianity. There's enough personal history to narrate Lewis's life, but the focus here is his spiritual development. And Brown made that development clear, interesting and well settled in it's time period and milieu. I understand Lewis a bit better, and I marvel and smile at his journey, because, while I've always been a Christian believer, I to have felt tugs and pushes and moments of not-coincidence that have guided my path.Finally, after reading this, I see in Lewis a kindred spirit, in ways I didn't know before. I think my own personality would bee too exuberant for his tastes, and I have no doubt Lewis could crush me intellectually every time. But we are/were both bibliophiles and lovers of language in a high degree, sharing that necessity of having reading material of all types near at hand. In Lewis as a youth, I see a kindred old soul more comfortable with older people or in their own head than with people his own age. (I spent a lot of time with grandparents as a child, most happily.) I see someone who just wanted to pack in all that knowledge, and temper in with imagination, for knowledge's and imagination's own sake. And I smile and wave in joyous recognition. I'd have liked to be his friend, very very much so.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-10 12:14

    I have only read C.S. Lewis's fiction books (Chronicles of Narnia, Space trilogy, and Screwtape letters) and never previously read a biography of his life, but I was very impressed by this book. This book "rang true" for me. The author clearly substantiated most of his assertions with Lewis's own words, he also clearly stated when he was drawing conclusions of his own and backed them up with supporting statements, and if something he wrote contradicted a secondary or primary source he explained that too. In addition, I don't think you can get a much better endorsement now, fifty years after Lewis's death, than his stepson. This is not an exhaustive biography of Lewis's life, but as it states a focus on Lewis's spiritual journey through life. From formative years in a relatively typical Christian household--attendance at church, but very little personal guidance from any Christian mentor--Lewis progressed to active atheism, then stepped gradually from philosophic theism on to a passionate personal belief in God the father and Christ his son (presumably the Holy Spirit as well, although this was not referenced in the book) resulting in one of the most effective Christian apologetic writers and speaker of the twentieth century. This book has inspired me to add several more of Lewis's works to my reading list, especially "Surprised by Joy," which appeared to be the author's favorite source material. While I have admired Lewis for many years, the author's emphasis on Lewis's carefully nondenominational approach intrigues me.Overall, I highly recommend this book! In the spirit of full disclosure, I read an electronic galley proof of this book provided by Netgalley and the publisher, and in return am providing this unbiased review.

  • Ronna
    2019-05-01 12:04

    This is an excellent exploration of the spiritual development and growth of C S Lewis as told through his own words in his books, letters, and talks, with observances by those who knew him. Author Devin Brown is a renown professor who has taught on Lewis for many years at Asbury University. One of the things that often disturbs me in biographies, has been avoided in this book----authors who have never met their subject, making assumptions about their subjects rather than letting their subject's words speak for themselves. Here we are shown that Lewis was raised in the church, but his study of philosophy turned him into atheist thinking. Discussions with fellow authors eventually led him on a logical pathway to Christianity. We are shown how God brought Lewis to Christ through logic and emotions. We see how Lewis' books show his growth in his relationship to his savior, and how he shared this with his readers. Also, we learn of his personal life, and how that affected his spiritual growth and writings. Well written and extremely informative book just about the spiritual growth of C S Lewis. Brown gave the reader links to further information on all the other aspects of Lewis' life for those who want to know more. Interesting book about an extremely interesting and popular author. Fifty years after his death, Lewis' Narnia fiction books, and his books on Christian apologetics are still best sellers.

  • Peter
    2019-05-09 10:00

    For the full review, please check out my blog.There are many biographies of C.S. Lewis out there and a few more have been released recently. I can't speak for all of them, but this one is certainly one worth reading. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis is not your ordinary biography. Devin Brown has set out to paint a picture of C.S. Lewis's spiritual life. He admits that he is not setting out to write a lengthy and definitive biography of C.S. Lewis. Instead Brown writes that his goal is, "to focus closely on the story of Lewis's spiritual journey and his search for the object of the mysterious longing he called Joy."I really enjoyed reading this biography. While many biographies are really thick and full of seemingly unending details, this one had a specific purpose which makes it much more accessible for the person who would like to know more about the life of C.S. Lewis without taking the time to read a hefty book. I also thought the purpose of this biography was beneficial to its subject. The spiritual development of Lewis's life has a great impact on all the works that he wrote both fiction and non-fiction and knowing that brings a greater depth to his books. If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, you should take some time to read this work. You will have a greater appreciation for the books of this beloved author.

  • Adam Shields
    2019-05-10 10:07

    Short Review: This is an excellent companion to McGrath's new bio of Lewis. They do supplements one another well without treading over the same ground. McGrath is heavy on the details of Lewis' life and is more interested in digging into the details. Brown however wants to let Lewis speak for himself. So there is very little psychoanalyzing of Lewis. Instead there is a quote or reference from one of Lewis' letters or books on almost every page. That would seem to be off putting to me, but it is done so well that it feels like we are getting an inside look at Lewis' writing, like one the very best types of Literature classes where you actually understand much better than before the class. Brown structures the first half of the book roughly around Lewis' Surprised by Joy (Lewis' own memoir of coming to faith) and the last third around A Grief Observed (his raw journals after his wife's death). My only real complaint is that like seemingly all other biographies of Lewis, there is not much about his spiritual life between conversion and his marriage to Joy. There are hints (a chapter on the Inklings, local church involvement, a mere mention of a long term spiritual director) but what I would like is much more on how Lewis grew spiritually between conversion and his rise to Christian superstar.My full review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/life-observed/

  • Kristen
    2019-05-15 11:21

    Devin Brown writes that, unless he could find an entirely new angle, he saw no reason to write yet another biography of the beloved novelist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. (Such a startlingly concept: apologist. Is it modern? Apologizing for faith in a secular time, explaining why it makes sense after all… Or is it instead terribly old-fashioned? Our is a Clint Eastwood, “stand your ground” world, after all, that doesn’t believe in apologizing for what one believes in.)We’re fortunate that Brown found the new angle. A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis, the title obviously a play on Lewis’s book A Grief Observed, is an excellent biography of Lewis, covering what many of us care about most, his spiritual writings and where they came from.Brown’s writing is smooth as silk, and he takes the reader through Lewis’s life and thought with little fuss. I was grateful that he didn’t complicate it with unnecessary theological intricacies. I was left with the desire to reread my favorite of Lewis’s book, a number of his books added to my “want to read” list, and the sense that I’d been given some of the best insights from the many books about Lewis.I’d recommend this book to anyone intrigued by Lewis or by Christianity. A Life Observed is an excellent introduction to both.

  • Cara
    2019-05-05 11:14

    I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I have not read any of the other biographies of C.S. Lewis, just his autobiography, "Surprised by Joy." I really appreciated little facts and tid-bits of information in this book, which focuses on the spiritual life of Lewis, because that is the aspect of his life that most interests me. I loved how Brown points out parallels between C.S. Lewis and the fictional characters in his books that I hadn't noticed or known about before.In fact, my only complaint is that at least twice the author arrogantly points out flaws in other biographies of Lewis, which seems to insult the reader's intelligence, as if we're not smart enough to figure out what is true on our own. However, towards the end I found it helpful that he pointed out several sources to turn for more information that had adequately been covered by other authors.This book is well researched and scattered with magnificent quotes from Lewis's works, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

  • Dean P.
    2019-05-15 12:11

    Brown's work here is a refreshing take on biography, focusing on the spiritual thoughts and development of Lewis. The book is well-researched and interacts with Lewis' own thoughts as well as those of his friends and companions. While the book starts out a little slow, it catches it's stride around the time Lewis gets to Oxford and, unlike a helium balloon, it never loses its buoyancy afterward. A sturdy and enjoyable read.Perhaps the best component of this book is the way Brown interacts with biographies of Lewis. Rather than simply citing existing work, Brown takes the insights of others and reflects them upon Lewis' fictional writings. Seeing Lewis' personal development in characters as varied as Eustace and Wormwood brings a credibility to Brown's work that might be missing in the standard biographical work. Brown also manages to work in his own personal reflections in the end, revealing the whys he wrote this work.

  • Monika
    2019-05-04 10:11

    One of the only things I've ever own, this biography of C.S. Lewis took me quite some time to finish, not so much because of the content or writing, but more so because of other reading obligations. I have always been interested in how man finds faith once lost and after reading a biography on Tolkien, I found this book. I was quite lucky that GoodReads was offering it in a giveaway. Admittedly, I did not read this as closely as I normally would, but I quite like that this biography maintains a focus around his "spiritual" upbringing. This is one of those texts that I will continue to come back to, both for study and self-reflection. A finely researched text on a man of great imagination, influence and most importantly-faith.

  • Jen
    2019-04-29 05:25

    I won this as a GoodReads giveaway. Devin Brown attempts to trace the spiritual journey of Clive Staples Lewis, especially focusing on the years from his childhood through his adult conversion to Christianity. Brown has done his homework. He quotes Lewis' own writings extensively, as well as referencing the works of other biographers. He uses plain language to interpret for the contemporary reader some of Lewis' occasionally not-so-plain writing. I found most interesting not so much the facts of his life, but insight into the possible workings of Lewis' mind as reflected in his fiction and nonfiction works.

  • Jacob Davis
    2019-05-11 06:22

    A wonderful read and an informative look into the life and character of C.S. Lewis. If Alister McGrath's recent biography of Lewis is more thorough, Brown's is more focused in places (particularly on Lewis's spiritual life, as the title suggests); both well-written books serve their stated purposes very well. I was particularly impressed with how Brown tackled the last portion of the book, which gives an exceptionally good look at Lewis's spiritual reckoning in the wake of his wife Joy's death and the anticipation of his own. The book thoroughly captures the spirit of C.S. Lewis, and I highly recommend it.