Devin Brown (PhD, University of South Carolina) is a Lilly scholar and professor of English at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he teaches courses on C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. He has written, taught, and lectured on Lewis extensively for more than ten years. He has authored a number of books related to Lewis, including Inside Narnia. In 2008 he was invited to serve as scholar-in-residence at the Kilns, Lewis's home in Oxford.
A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewisby Devin Brown
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 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, books 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.
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My book club at church selected this- as Episcopalians, we have a fondness for all things Lewis! The book is well written- I thought of it as a guided tour though Lewis' autobiography and other writings. His journey is not unique; it's one many of us take as well. What is wonderful about Lewis is that we can easily relate to his thoughts, his fears, his doubts, etc. Brown's writing helps the reader navigate Lewis' journey so that we enjoy him on a whole new level.
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. That Lewis’ writings are meaningful and strongly resonate with millions of readers today needs no argument. However, with several books about Lewis’s life out there—including two biographical movies plus, of course, Lewis’s autobiography Surprised by Joy—one may wonder why there’s a need for another biography. And here’s where Brown’s expertise enters the picture. Not to give out too much of the book, which anyone interested in Lewis or human spiritual development should read, 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. If you’re ever asked about why spiritual development matters, recall this modest looking yet highly recommended biography.
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.
Dr. Brown presents a marvelous look at the spiritual journey of C. S. Lewis. I especially appreciate how Brown examined Lewis's own words at face value, rather than imposing his own particular spin on what Jack tell us about himself. Although it is a brief biography, it kept me reading from page one and it even compelled me to get out of bed at an exceptionally early time for the summer to finish this biography. The most important thing Brown has given me in the biography is that, coming away from it, I feel as if I know Lewis better, on a personal level. That is crucial for me and therefore why I encountered such joy in reading it.