Words to Live by: A Guide for the Merely Christian

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Overview

C. S. Lewis is a beloved writer and thinker and arguably the most important Christian intellectual of the twentieth century. His groundbreaking children's series The Chronicles of Narnia, lucid nonfiction titles such as Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, and thought-provoking fiction, including The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce, have become trusted companions for millions of readers. Here Lewis breathes new life into words and concepts that have dulled through time and familiarity, and his ...

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Overview

C. S. Lewis is a beloved writer and thinker and arguably the most important Christian intellectual of the twentieth century. His groundbreaking children's series The Chronicles of Narnia, lucid nonfiction titles such as Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, and thought-provoking fiction, including The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce, have become trusted companions for millions of readers. Here Lewis breathes new life into words and concepts that have dulled through time and familiarity, and his writings inevitably provoke deep thought and surprising revelations.

Words to Live By contains an unprecedented selection of Lewis's writings, drawing from his most popular works, but also from his volumes of letters and his lesser-known essays and poems. His works are presented in accessible selections covering subjects from A to Z, including beauty, character, confession, doubt, family, holiness, and religion. Both a wonderful introduction to Lewis's thinking and a wise and insightful guide to key topics in the Christian life, these are truly words to live by.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else," wrote C. S. Lewis. This handsome collection of Lewis's writings contains his signature pithy wisdom on topics including prayer, faith, love, greed, lust, creeds, the church, doctrine, heaven, hell, suffering, grief, joy, and miracles. A spiritual treasure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061209123
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/17/2007
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 353,073
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.37 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over one hundred million copies and have been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales más importantes del siglo veinte y podría decirse que fue el escritor cristiano más influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeñó hasta que se jubiló. Sus contribuciones a la crítica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantástica y teología popular le trajeron fama y aclamación a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribió más de treinta libros, lo cual le permitió alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aún atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cada año. Sus más distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las Crónicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.

Biography

C. S. Lewis was famous both as a fiction writer and as a Christian thinker, and his biographers and critics sometimes divide his personality in two: the storyteller and the moral educator, the "dreamer" and the "mentor." Yet a large part of Lewis's appeal, for both his audiences, lay in his ability to fuse imagination with instruction. "Let the pictures tell you their own moral," he once advised writers of children's stories. "But if they don't show you any moral, don't put one in. ... The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author's mind."

Storytelling came naturally to Lewis, who spent the rainy days of his childhood in Ireland writing about an imaginary world he called Boxen. His first published novel, Out of the Silent Planet, tells the story of a journey to Mars; its hero was loosely modeled on his friend and fellow Cambridge scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis enjoyed some popularity for his Space Trilogy (which continues in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), but nothing compared to that which greeted his next imaginative journey, to an invented world of fauns, dwarfs, and talking animals -- a world now familiar to millions of readers as Narnia.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book of the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, began as "a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood," according to Lewis. Years after that image first formed in his mind, others bubbled up to join it, producing what Kate Jackson, writing in Salon, called "a fascinating attempt to compress an almost druidic reverence for wild nature, Arthurian romance, Germanic folklore, the courtly poetry of Renaissance England and the fantastic beasts of Greek and Norse mythology into an entirely reimagined version of what's tritely called 'the greatest story ever told.'"

The Chronicles of Narnia was for decades the world's bestselling fantasy series for children. Although it was eventually superseded by Harry Potter, the series still holds a firm place in children's literature and the culture at large. (Narnia even crops up as a motif in Jonathan Franzen's 2001 novel The Corrections). Its last volume appeared in 1955; in that same year, Lewis published a personal account of his religious conversion in Surprised by Joy. The autobiography joined his other nonfiction books, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, as an exploration of faith, joy and the meaning of human existence.

Lewis's final work of fiction, Till We Have Faces, came out in 1956. Its chilly critical reception and poor early sales disappointed Lewis, but the book's reputation has slowly grown; Lionel Adey called it the "wisest and best" of Lewis's stories for adults. Lewis continued to write about Christianity, as well as literature and literary criticism, for several more years. After his death in 1963, The New Yorker opined, "If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels."

Good To Know

The imposing wardrobe Lewis and his brother played in as children is now in Wheaton, Illinois, at the Wade Center of Wheaton College, which also houses the world's largest collection of Lewis-related documents, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The 1994 movie, Shadowlands, based on the play of the same name, cast Anthony Hopkins as Lewis. It tells the story of his friendship with, and then marriage to, an American divorcee named Joy Davidman (played by Debra Winger), who died of cancer four years after their marriage. Lewis's own book about coping with that loss, A Grief Observed, was initially published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.

Several poems, stories, and a novel fragment published after Lewis's death have come under scrutiny as possible forgeries. On one side of the controversy is Walter Hooper, a trustee of Lewis's estate and editor of most of his posthumous works; on the other is Kathryn Lindskoog, a Lewis scholar who began publicizing her suspicions in 1988. Scandal or kooky conspiracy theory? The verdict's still out among readers.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Clive Staples Lewis (real name); Clive Hamilton, N.W. Clerk, Nat Whilk; called "Jack" by his friends
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 29, 1898
    2. Place of Birth:
      Belfast, Nothern Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      November 22, 1963
    2. Place of Death:
      Headington, England

Read an Excerpt

Words to Live By

Chapter One

Almsgiving

Charity-giving to the poor-is an essential part of Christian morality. . . . Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce that kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality. I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
Mere Christianity

On the duty of alms-giving, and even on the subtle corruptions of alms-giving, few men have written better than Calvin himself. The limit of giving is to be the limit of our ability to give. We must not consider ourselves free to refuse because those who ask us are undeserving, "for Scripture here cometh to our aide with this excellent reason, that we respect not what men merit of themselves but looke only upon God's image which they bear." We must guard against that subtle insolence which often poisons the gift. Even "a merry countenance and courteous wordes" accompanying it are not enough. A Christian must not give "as though he would binde his brother unto him by the benefit." When I use my hands to heal some other part of my body I lay the body under no obligation to the hands: and since we are all members of one another, we similarly lay no obligation on the poor when we relieve them (Institutio, III. vii. 6, 7).
English Literature in the Sixteenth Century ExcludingDrama

Asceticism

To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, "Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?" Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King's stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else-since He has retained His own charger-should we accompany Him?
Miracles

Because God created the Natural-invented it out of His love and artistry-it demands our reverence; because it is only a creature and not He, it is, from another point of view, of little account. And still more, because Nature, and especially human nature, is fallen it must be corrected and the evil within it must be mortified. But its essence is good; correction is something quite different from Manichaean repudiation or Stoic superiority. Hence, in all true Christian asceticism, that respect for the thing rejected which, I think, we never find in pagan asceticism. Marriage is good, though not for me; wine is good, though I must not drink it; feasts are good, though today we fast.

The wrong asceticism torments the self: the right kind kills the selfness. We must die daily: but it is better to love the self than to love nothing, and to pity the self than to pity no one.
God in the Dock

Assurance

Sorry you're in a trough. I'm just emerging (at least I hope I am) from a long one myself. As for the difficulty of believing it is a trough, one wants to be careful about the word "believing." We too often mean by it "having confidence or assurance as a psychological state"-as we have about the existence of furniture. But that comes and goes and by no means always accompanies intellectual assent, e.g., in learning to swim you believe, and even know intellectually that water will support you long before you feel any real confidence in the fact. I suppose the perfection of faith wd. make this confidence invariably proportionate to the assent.

In the meantime, as one has learnt to swim only by acting on the assent in the teeth of all instinctive conviction, so we shall proceed to faith only by acting as if we had it. Adapting a passage in the Imitation one can say "What would I do now if I had a full assurance that there was only a temporary trough" and having got the answer, go and do it. I a man, therefore lazy: you a woman, therefore probably a fidget. So it may be good advice to you (though it wd. be bad to me) not even to try to do in the trough all you can do on the peak.
The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume II

My primary field is the past. I travel with my back to the engine, and that makes it difficult when you try to steer. The world might stop in ten minutes; meanwhile, we are to go on doing our duty. The great thing is to be found at one's post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.

We have, of course, the assurance of the New Testament regarding events to come. I find it difficult to keep from laughing when I find people worrying about future destruction of some kind or other. Didn't they know they were going to die anyway?
God in the Dock

Words to Live By. Copyright (c) by C. Lewis . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Quotes and Excerpts by C.S Lewis arranged by Topic

    I have read many of C.S. Lewis' writings, and there are many "compilations" and devotional type books written with "snippets" of his writings (which I enjoy), however this collection is arranged alphabetically by topic (ie... Hope... Faith... Love... Pain). This is very helpful when searching for a specific reference. It is an excellent "overview" of Lewis' perspective on a wide variety of subjects. For anyone exploring the Christian faith there is a wealth of thought-provoking material assembled from a varied assortment of his prolific writings (including the Chronicles of Narnia, personal letters, and his Christian apologetics).

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    GREAT GUIDENCE FOR CHRISTIANS

    "WORDS TO LIVE BY" IS A VERY FASINATING BOOK AND IT HAS ALOT VERY WEALTHY INFORMATION FOR ALL CHRISTIANS. THIS BESTSELLER HAS MANY DIFFERENT TOPICS COVERERED 1 IN EACH CHAPTER AND THEY ARE ALL TAKEN FROM C.S. LEWIS BOOKS THIS LITTLE HARDBACK IS VERY HANDY FOR bIBLE STUDYS AND UNDERSTANDING THE WORD OF GOD MUCH BETTER. C.S. LEWIS WAS AN ATHEIST AT ONE TIME AND BECAME A CHRISTIAN THIS BOOK WOULD MAKE A GREAT GIFT IDEA FOR A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

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