Sunday, October 26, 2014

C. S. Lewis on Reading

In Surprised by Joy C. S. Lewis wrote that he was the product of endless books:
"My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.” ― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
I think it is safe to say that I am also the product of endless books. My parents were so great about reading to me every day when I was a kid. I know they read to me every day because at the very least they read a Bible story to me each night before bed. I remember my mom taking me and my brother to the library every two or three weeks. I remember the excitement of picking out new books to read, with new places to explore in my imagination.

As a voracious reader and lover of books, I love Lewis's words on reading:

“I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” 
― C.S. Lewis in a letter to his dear friend, Arthur Greeves, Feb 1932 (The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Volume II)

“Clearly one must read every good book at least once every ten years.” 
― C.S. Lewis, in a letter to Arthur Greeves

"It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones." - C.S. Lewis, “On the reading of old books,” God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 200.

"In the first place, the majority never read anything twice. The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. [...] Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life." - C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” ― C.S. Lewis, On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”
― C.S. Lewis

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. [...] Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege of individuality... in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” -  C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

So in summary:
1. Re-read good books.
2. Read old books too.
3. Read fairy tales and fantasy books.
4. Just read!

In response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be posting every day in October. You can read previous posts HERE. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter to be notified of new posts. You can also Subscribe to get posts sent to you by email. (There is a simple form towards the top on the right where you can do this.)

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and questions!

Index of Posts (Highlights):
Day 2. C. S. Lewis on Longing (In "The Weight of Glory")
Day 3. C. S. Lewis on Sehnsucht (Longing and Desire in The Weight of Glory)
Day 6: C. S. Lewis: The Intolerable Compliment (The Problem of Pain)
Day 7: C. S. Lewis: What is "The Weight of Glory"?
Day 8: C. S. Lewis: The Great Divorce and The Weight of Glory
Day 9: C. S. Lewis: A Grief Observed
Day 12: C. S. Lewis and Postmodernism (Part 3 - Conclusion)
Day 13: C. S. Lewis: The Grand Miracle (Myth and Allusions)
Day 14: C. S. Lewis: Is Theology Poetry? (Part 1: More on Myth)
Day 19: C.S. Lewis: Brief Biography: Did you know? (Part 2)
Day 20: C. S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia Correct Reading Order
Day 21: C. S. Lewis: Why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my Favorite Narnia Book
Day 22: C. S. Lewis: The Undragoning of Eustace
Day 24: C. S. Lewis: The Silver Chair - Hope in Darkness

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