If I Had Lunch with CS Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of CS Lewis on the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath

Summary: McGrath tries to imagine what type of advice Lewis would give, if you had lunch over 8 weeks.

McGrath has written one of the two or three best biographies of CS Lewis, so in my ongoing quest to read more and more by or about Lewis, I was eager to pick up McGrath’s newest book, Lunch With Lewis, especially since it was free on Kindle and the audiobook part of my free trial of Scribd.

The preface laid out exactly I was looking for, Lewis is the type of person that many people would say they would like to have lunch with out of a host of historical characters. And so McGrath wanted to imagine what type of things Lewis would talk about and what type of wisdom we could gain if we did have lunch with him. So McGrath set out 8 weeks of lunches, and a chapter for each.

The problem is that the actual book did not live up to the promise. Instead most of the chapters were more lecture, biography or book report. The first chapter is on the meaning of life. The second was on friendship (which was mostly about Tolkien and the Inklings.) The third was on the importance of stories in shaping our life and meaning (with significant overlap from the first chapter.) The fourth chapter was on Aslan and how he was and was not Christ. And it continued on, apologetics, education, the problem of pain, heaven and hope.

None of the content was bad, it just was not really what was promised by the title or the preface. McGrath is a real scholar, he has a very good biography on Lewis as well as a more academic work on Lewis. This seems to be more of an introduction and/or young adult or college-age finding yourself oriented book. And most of it seemed to be McGrath telling us what Lewis would think instead of really illustrating it either through story of Lewis or quotes from his writing.

I think I was probably negatively affected by the narrator of the audiobook. The quality of the speaking and recording was fine and he would probably be a good narrator for others books. But there was a sense of condescension the whole time. ‘You are the learner and I am the guide, so listen to me’. That condescension is probably why it feels like a young adult book to me. That tone of condescension may not have carried through to the printed book.

On the whole this would be a good introduction if you have not read much by or about Lewis. But I would suggest that you read one of regular biographies instead. McGrath’s or Sayers’ general biographies, or one of the specialized ones, like Devin Brown’s look at Lewis’ spritual development or Alan Jacob’s look at Lewis as a writer are good introductions to Lewis and all four of them cover much of the same territory as this book, but without the condescension and with a broader look at Lewis’ life and work.

I was ready to stop at about the third chapter. But because this book was fairly short and I was listening to it on audiobook and hoping it would get better, I soldiered on. There really are good isolated thoughts scattered throughout, but if I had to do it over again, I would have stopped at the third chapter.

If I Had Lunch with CS Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of CS Lewis on the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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