Books I Re-Read LIKE A BOSS

HK.ColinI’ve heard all the reasons before for why people don’t re-read books– and I’ll allow each his own– but I really can’t understand it. Refusing to re-read favorite books is, to me, the equivalent of saying, “Why would I want to hang out with my best friend? I’ve done that before, and there are so many new people to meet.”

Can. Not. Fathom.

Did you know that I listen to The Chronicles of Narnia nearly every single night as I fall asleep? They are my faithful bedtime story, and I never get sick of them. I’ve been known to listen to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe multiple times in a row: I listen, it ends, I start it over, it’s all good. One time I listened to The Horse and His Boy something like five or six times in one month. Every year I plan to keep track of how often I read these books in the course of a year, but sometime halfway through, I lose track.

The Book Thief is always, always a fantastic re-read.  The snowman in the basement and the hair like lemons and the sun painted on the wall. This book is one of the novels that changed my life, and returning to it is like returning home, like finding myself in the space where the light flipped on in my writer heart.

I could never tire of re-reading The Last Unicorn. There are lines in this novel that are like friends to me. I could never tire of them. Every single time I re-read them, I feel astonished, as if I just found a diamond resting under a leaf. I would surrender wheelbarrows of unread manuscripts just to make sure that I could keep this one in my possession forever.

Then, of course, there’s scripture– which is the only living and active book I know. I will re-read this one for life. (And, yes, I meant that two ways.)

How about you? Which books can you read over and over and over again?  Or– if you don’t re-read– try to convince me you’re sane. 🙂

Image credit: HK.Colin

The Magic of the Gospel

I posted something about Harry Potter on my Facebook page recently, and a Christian friend of mine made a comment about how she was against witchcraft, just as the Bible insists.

I’ll be clear: if something is invoking evil and Satan, I’m against that too.

But to me, the magic of Harry PotterMary PoppinsThe Wizard of Oz, etc., is not the same thing as what the Bible is describing as witchcraft.  Who knows.  Maybe I’m wrong.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

I said to my friend: “In Narnia, both the good side and bad side use magic.  Just like in Star Wars and many others.”

She asked if I was saying there is a “good” magic and a “bad” magic.

My response? “Of course there is a good magic– Christ’s miracles!  What else would you call them?”

Am I way off?  I think the amazing, supernatural, miraculous works of God could be described as “good magic.”

I don’t know how to explain it, so I’ll call upon J.R.R. Tolkien’s words in his essay “On Fairy Stories”:

The Gospels contain a fairystory, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, selfcontained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe.

deeper magic masikarainIn Narnia, there is a Deep Magic from the dawn of time … and there is a Deeper Magic from before the dawn of time.

I like that.

Image credit: MasikaRain

The Question of Emeth

Warning: spoilers ahead for The Last Battle, the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia series.

emethDoes anyone really know what to do with Emeth, that Calormene soldier who was so devoted to Tash … and yet was welcomed by Aslan?

Here’s the story: Emeth was on the “bad guys” side– part of the army from Calormen that was invading Narnia– and he had served Tash, the Calormen god (though he was evil, more of demon), since his youth.

Yet …

“So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant’s; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.

“Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.

“And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog – “

My friend Ashley has major issues with this part of the story (as do many others):

1) How does Emeth get “heaven” without having been devoted to Aslan?
2) How does this reconcile with the Christian doctrine that “there is only one name whereby men may be saved”?
(Though you could argue the two questions are the same.)

The answers?  I don’t know.

May I quote Wikipedia here?  It says:

The implication is that people who reflect a righteous heart are to some degree justified, regardless of misbelief. This is a cornerstone of Christian theology: one party cites the Christian paradigm that faith in Christ alone saves, and the other wants to account for the fate of those born and raised into another faith. There has been extensive commentary on the question. In a letter from 1952, Lewis summarized and explained his position:

I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god, or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know him. For He is (dimly) present in the good side of the inferior teachers they follow. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats those who are saved do not seem to know that they have served Christ.[2]

Lewis cites this view as derived[2] from the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:34-40, from Paul‘s speech to the Athenians in Acts 17:23: “What you now worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you”, and from 1 Timothy 4:10: “God, the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (all references NIV).

Lewis encountered[2] one contradiction to this idea in Romans 10:14: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (TNIV). This is consistent with Paul’s doctrine that though God is already with the pagans, they still need to see him revealed. Lewis, however, replied with 1 Corinthians 1:12-13: “One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas‘; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ — Is Christ divided?” (TNIV), which he interpreted as indicating the sameness of God regardless of his context.

Perhaps the strongest support for Lewis’ case is found in Romans 2:13-15 (TNIV):

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

A final reply is found in Jesus’ words in John 14:6: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (NIV). However, its interpretation is ambiguous: if Jesus meant that he was an object by conscious faith in whose name a person is saved, this verse would appear to contradict Lewis’ argument. However, Jesus could have meant (a) that he alone made salvation possible (i.e., activated it by his death), and/or that (b) as Lewis suggested, some might come to the Father through Jesus who did not at first realize that was what they were doing.

I admit that I myself have tried to reconcile it all by believing that the stable door was not a door of death and that the “real Narnia” they entered was more of a road to Damascus (leading to the gated garden, which was the true “heaven”).  I’ve perhaps lost many of you by now.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Narnia and Uncertainty

In my lowest OCD years, uncertainty appeared to be my enemy, and I attempted to avoid it at all costs.

It was a losing fight since we cannot. avoid. uncertainty.

Now that I’ve switched teams and am an official cheerleader for uncertainty, I notice it in the positive sense now.  No longer the terrifying stranger, creeping around the corners, I now see it as the exciting flash of risk stealing a smile my way.

“I know what it is,” said Peter; “it’s a beaver.  I saw the tail.”

“It wants us to go to it,” said Susan, “and it is warning us not to make a noise.”

“I know,” said Peter.  “The question is, are we to go to it or not?  What do you think, Lu?”

“I think it’s a nice beaver,” said Lucy.

“Yes, but how do we know?” said Edmund.

“Shan’t we have to risk it?” said Susan.  “I mean, it’s no good just standing here and I feel I want some dinner.”

For twenty years, I feared uncertainty.  And Susan was right: it was no good just standing there.

P.S. The risk was worth it, and dinner was great.


Best Sequels Ever


10. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare | Wound up tight for the final book in this series!

9. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi | Oh Perry.

8. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness | Reviewed this series here!

7. Anne of the Island by Lucy Montgomery | Oh Gilbert.

6. Fire by Kristin Cashore | Oh Brigan.


5. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli | Such a difficult book for which to create a satisfying conclusions– but Spinelli pulls it off!

4. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta | After reading Finnikin of the Rock, you just can’t possibly imagine that you could grow to love Froi.  And then you read this book.

3. Prisoner of Azkaban by Jo Rowling | I love books like puzzles!  This is where the Potter books really started getting great.

2. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta | It is just unbelievably satisfying to see how the Saving Francesca gang has grown and changed!

1. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis | The best of the best!

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

5 Favorite Moments in Narnia

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!  (P.S. If you have not read these books yet, what is wrong with you?!!!) 🙂

5. The end of the world in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
The lilies!  The stillness!  The water so sweet and the lamb on the shore.

After that for many days, without wind in her shrouds or foam at her bows, across a waveless sea, the Dawn Treader glided smoothly east. Every day and every hour the light became more brilliant and still they could bear it. No one ate or slept and no one wanted to, but they drew buckets of dazzling water from the sea, stronger than wine and somehow wetter, more liquid, than ordinary water, and pledged one another silently in deep draughts of it. And one or two of the sailors who had been oldish men when the voyage began now grew younger every day. Everyone on board was filled with joy and excitement, but not an excitement that made one talk. The further they sailed the less they spoke, and then almost in a whisper. The stillness of that last sea laid hold on them.

4. The celebration in Prince Caspian.
I love that even the trees got their own food:

They began with a rich brown loam that looked almost exactly like chocolate; so like chocolate, in fact, that Edmund tried a piece of it, but he did not find it at all nice. When the rich loam had taken the edge off their hunger, the trees turned to an earth of the kind you see in Somerset, which is almost pink. They said it was lighter and sweeter. At the cheese stage they had a chalky soil, and then went on to delicate confections of the finest gravels powdered with choice silver sand. They drank very little wine, and it made the Hollies very talkative: for the most part they quenched their thirst with deep draughts of mingled dew and rain, flavoured with forest flowers and the airy taste of the thinnest clouds.

3. The creation in Magician’s Nephew.
Singing it into creation.  Yes.

The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave. In a few minutes it was creeping up the lower slopes of the distant mountains, making that young world every moment softer.

2. The resurrection in LWW.
So mighty!

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

1. The reunion in The Last Battle.
Every bit of it.

The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.


 Random 5 Friday is a weekly meme over at A Rural Journal.

Jackie’s Favorite C.S. Lewis Books

cs lewis1. The Chronicles of Narnia are hands down my favorite of Jack Lewis’s books and so take the #1 spot.  Were I pressed to delineate the order in which I rank them, I would say this: The Last Battle; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Horse and His Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Prince Caspian; The Silver Chair.  I think.  I love them all though and usually listen to a Narnia audiobook to fall asleep each night.  In this way, I read the whole series perhaps a dozen times a year.  That’s a lot of Narnia– just the way I like it.

2. The space trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.  Theological science fiction?  Heck yes!  And each book is better than the last.

3. The Great Divorce.  One crazy bus ride through the afterlife.

4. Till We Have Faces.

5. A Grief Observed.  Written after his wife died.  I read this in one evening.

6. Mere Christianity.

7. The Problem of Pain.  How can God be all-good and all-powerful if there is still pain in the world?

8. Letters to Children.  A collection of Lewis’s letters written mostly to kiddos.  LOVE.

Notably absent:
The Screwtape Letters.  While this book of advice from one demon to his nephew is an oft-quoted favorite of people, it’s not one of mine.  It’s clever and valuable, and you should definitely read it, but it’s a lot to swim through.  Even Lewis claimed it was “not fun” to write and that he’d never written anything with “less enjoyment.”  He wrote, “Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment . . . though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch.”  He “was resolved never to write another ‘Letter.'”

Surprised by Joy.  This is Lewis’s autobiography, and while it’s been many years since I’ve read it, it certainly wasn’t a favorite of mine.

C.S. Lewis on Fan Fiction

fan fiction

Now here’s where I show just how big of a Narnia nerd I am.  C.S. Lewis made a mistake in his own quote.  I know the scene he is talking about with “plenty of hints”– it’s in The Last Battleand it’s a conversation between
Jill and the Unicorn actually.

I’ve been known to dabble in a little Narnia fan fiction/fan poetry myself:
Nine Names
Cor & Aravis
Susan of Narnia
The Professor

I’m a little out of control.