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The Importance of Reading

By Katherine Reay

Today is my birthday…. An unusual way to open a post on writing, but I chose this day because I thought visiting here would be a fun way share/mark the day. But we will not discuss my age… πŸ™‚

Instead we’ll discuss one of my favorite aspects of writing: Reading! And if we’re going to talk about reading, I’ll naturally gravitate to my favorite writer. No – not Jane Austen, despite obvious indicators, though she does rank high. My favorite is C.S. Lewis.

Considered one of the greatest thinkers and Christian apologists of our time, C.S. Lewis’s works cover the gamut: science fiction novels, essays, children’s literature, adult novels, non-fiction, lectures, radio talks… There’s a little something for everyone within his body of work.
The Bronte Plot
And I’m going to admit right here, I’ve read a lot of Lewis and, yet, I know I’ve merely scratched the surface. I do not claim to be an expert — just an admirer.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Screwtape Letters
This diabolical parody is written in a series of letters from a top devil, Screwtape (an Under Secretary and “affectionate uncle”), to a beginning devil, Wormwood. The subject? Advice on how to secure a “patient” — a human soul. It is packed with humor and incredibly accurate insights into the human psyche. (Everybody likes a good epistolary novel, right?)

All of Narnia!
With the three movies, much is known about these — and a fourth movie is on the way. But they are always worth mentioning. Fantastic reads for adults and kids alike. If you want to meet Lewis, you’ll find him in his own Hitchcockean cameo as Diggory in The Magician’s Nephew. Lewis lost his mother at Diggory’s age and went through many of the same emotions — Diggory’s mother lives in the story.

Also pay attention to Reepicheep and Puddleglum. You’ll find them — a mouse and a giant — throughout Narnia. Lewis stated that they were his favorite characters and they are wonderful. I love them too… but my true favorites are Edmund and Eustace.

We are introduced to Eustace with: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” With such an entrance, the poor boy could only get better — and after living as a dragon for a while, he does!

The Great Divorce
This is a wonderful dream. Lewis is asleep and travels to heaven where he witnesses souls journeying “upward and onward.” Decisions must be made and burdens laid down. In a wonderful fantasy, Lewis introduces us to the idea of free will, choice, consequence, strings pulling at our hearts and the nature of surrender. This was a touch point for me when I wrestled with Lucy and Helen’s choices in The Bronte Plot. Lewis provided a solid road for their journey as well.

Mere Christianity
There are so many books that lay out the logical “case for Christ” and this is one of the best. Lewis takes you step for step into Christianity with his own dry wit and a keen focus on the times — this originated as a series of lectures on the BBC during WWII.

The Four Loves
The book is fantastic — about the four loves in our lives and the order in which we do/should/could regard them. If you get a chance, however, listen to the audio. It is one of the only remaining recordings of C.S. Lewis and his voice, intonation and occasional jokes are a treat. I used this book, an examination of love lost and renewed, in Lizzy & Jane.

There are so many more, but this is a start. I offer up these because they are wonderful books full of fantasy, adventure and truth — only the last two are non-fiction. And I believe reading great fiction helps us write great fiction.

What are reading today?

Katherine Reay 2015Katherine Reay is the author of Dear Mr. Knightley, a Christy Award Finalist and winner of the 2014 INSPY Award for Best Debut as well as Carol Awards for both Best Debut and Best Contemporary. She’s also the writer behind Lizzy & Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer, Katherine and her family live outside Chicago, IL. Visit Katherine on her website at www.katherinereay.com

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3 Responses to The Importance of Reading

  1. Happy Birthday! πŸ™‚ I, too, love C.S. Lewis. The Narnia series is one of my all-time favorites.

  2. I loved the Screwtape Letters and am said to say I’ve never read the Tales of Narnia. But will soon rectify that.

  3. Londa Hayden says:

    Hi Pat, Still waiting for the INSPY short list. Crossing my fingers, toes, etc.