The authoritative, definitive list of Lewis’s top five nonfiction books.  Don’t even try to argue with it.  You won’t win.

1)  Mere Christianity.  Is there really another serious contender for this slot?  Probably not at a blog that takes half its name from this classic.  While admittedly it is not Lewis’s most academic or maybe even most profound book, MC has had so an influence that few books rival.  That alone merits

2)  The Abolition of Man.  This is Lewis’s  most important non-fiction book, and just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it.  Lewis is at his best in diagnosing the problems of our late-modern era, even if his prognostication about the future ended up being wrong (he could have been helped by a dash of Tocqueville, I think).

3)  The Allegory of Love.  Lewis’s best scholarship is also an illuminating treatment of the courtly love tradition, compared to which the Renaissance is but a “mere ripple on the surface of literature.”

4)  The Four Loves.  Perhaps Lewis’ most profound book, The Four Loves is the best example of Lewis’s remarkable insight into the structures of the human psyche and human communities.

5)  A Grief Observed.  This barely nudges out The Problem of Pain, which really does deserve to be on the list.  Lewis is at his most transparent in this profound meditation, though, a quality which is particularly suited to the difficulty of the topic.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

0 Comments

  1. I’m not in agreement, again. I think Surprised by Joy, a personal memoir and testimony, is much more accessible and helpful to a greater number of people than The Allegory of Love.

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    1. @Sherry, I agree with you about accessible/helpful. But Allegory is really an impressive piece of scholarship, and it seems like no list of Lewis’ top non-fiction is complete without at least a representative of the other half of his life. That was part of my rationale there.

      @Jake, that you think “The Great Divorce” and “Screwtape Letters” count as ‘nonfiction’ is, well, interesting. That is all. : )

      Reply

  2. No Great Divorce or Screwtape Letters? Man, how can someone so well read and thoughtful be so wrong about their music and their taste in Lewis books? Here is the correct list ;) :

    1) Mere Christianity – Like you said, not his best, but his most important and influential.
    2) Abolition of Man – Most penetrating analysis of modern culture he wrote.
    3) Screwtape Letters – Seriously, how do you leave this one off?
    4) Great Divorce – I’ll concede that I may be biased to this one because of the impact it had on my own thought. Completely changed the way I understand Heaven and Hell and, by extension, the nature of the Gospel. But in terms of overarching significance, I can kinda/sorta see putting Four Loves and Allegory of Love ahead of it.
    5) Grief Observed – For the same reasons you gave.

    Reply

  3. Glad to see The Problem of Pain got at least an honorable mention. Now I won’t have to beat you down.

    Reply

  4. Hey Matt. Miracles should have made the list. Lewis’s argument against naturalism is profound and airtight. It’s only now that philosophers like Alvin Plantinga are starting to recognize its brilliance.

    I read Allegory of Love in grad school. Good scholarship, yes, but top five? P’shaw!

    I can see Jake’s point about Screwtape Letters and Great Divorce being nonfiction (and therefore deserving). I would submit that they were not novels in the same way that Narnia, or the Space Trilogy, or even Til We Have Faces was. They were intended to be read as extended metaphors. Regular old fiction, on the other hand, offers a vicarious experience to the reader.

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  5. Great lists.
    I couldn’t agree more re: Abolition of Man, and I wonder which future prognostications you were referring to? I don’t know that the books ‘future’ has yet arrived.

    I struggled through the Allegory of Love, mostly because I don’t understand 14 languages (or whatever :P).

    I would place The Discarded Image higher, as well as possibly Studies in Words. Lewis was broad and deep.

    Reply

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