March 22, 2014

Review: If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

McGrath, Alister. If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life (Tyndale, 2014), 241 pp.

In If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis, author Alister McGrath invites the reader "to sit down with C. S. Lewis and . . . think about some of the persistent questions and dilemmas every person faces in life." The book is presented as "a series of imagined lunches with Lewis" (p. ix). These "lunches" allow McGrath to "explore Lewis's thoughts on everything from friendship to heaven, from the reasons for faith to the power of stories"  (from the back cover).

Chapter one sets the stage well with a discussion of the meaning of life. Subsequent chapters cover topics as wide-ranging as friendship, apologetics, storytelling, education, and suffering. McGrath does an admirable job of presenting Lewis's views on each topic clearly and concisely. The eight "lunches" are followed by two helpful appendices. The first offers suggestions for further reading while the second contains a brief biographical sketch of Lewis.

The book is well-written, and, despite being written at the popular level, makes a valuable addition to the secondary literature on Lewis. McGrath walks a fine line here, managing (like Lewis before him) to keep things breezy and simple without ever oversimplifying. If there is a better introductory level treatment of the life and thought of C. S. Lewis, I've yet to discover it.

My only complaint about the book is that the central motif—the titular lunch with Lewis—feels tacked on. The book simply does not deliver on the conversational tone promised. At no point did I ever feel like I was hearing from Lewis in his own words. Instead, I was very aware that I was reading McGrath on Lewis (whereas the title seems to promise McGrath as Lewis).

Overall, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis is an excellent, popular-level introduction to the life and thought of C. S. Lewis. Recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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