C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces (Audiobook)


The most comprehensive collection of essays by C. S. Lewis was edited by Lesley Walmsley in 2000 and published in London. At just over 1,000 pages it is the largest of its kind. And although it was published rather recently, the book has already passed in and out of print and now into the status of a rare and collectible relic.

C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces is simply a goldmine. Used copies of the giant collection of 137 essays, letters, and short stories can be found, but for a price. A few rare hardcovers (and a few even rarer paperbacks) are on the market, starting at around $150!

Another way to get the collection is in a $35 audiobook through Audible. I’ve been listening for a few days now, and loving it. The 39 hours of audio is performed by the late British actor, Ralph Cosham (1936–2014).

For details, check out the Audible site here.

Here’s the track list:

1) The Grand Miracle
2) Is Theology Poetry?
3) The Funeral of a Great Myth
4) God In the Dark
5) What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?
6) The World’s Last Night
7) Is Theism Important?
8) The Seeing Eye
9) Must Our Image of God Go?
10) Christianity and Culture
11) Evil and God
12) The Weight of Glory
13) Miracles
14) Dogma and the Universe
15) The Horrid Red Things
16) Religion: Reality or Substitute?
17) Myth Became Fact
18) Religion and Science
19) Christian Apologetics
20) Work and Prayer
21) Religion Without Dogma?
22) The Decline of Religion
23) Unforgiveness
24) The Pains of Animals
25) Petitionary Prayer: A Problem Without an Answer
26) On Obstinacy in Belief
27) What Christmas Means to Me
28) The Psalms
29) Religion and Rocketry
30) The Efficacy of Prayer
31) Fern Seed and Elephants
32) The Language of Religion
33) Transposition
34) Why I am Not a Pacifist
35) Dangers of National Repentance
36) Two Ways With the Self
37) Meditation on the Third Commandment
38) On Ethics
39) Three Kinds of Men
40) Answers to Questions on Christianity
41) The Laws of Nature
42) Membership
43) The Sermon and the Lunch
44) Scraps
45) After Priggery – What?
46) Man or Rabbit?
47) The Trouble With X
48) On Living in an Atomic Age
49) Lillies that Fester
50) Good Work and Good Works
51) A Slip of the Tongue
52) We Have No Right to Happiness
53) Christian Reunion: An Anglican Speaks to Roman Catholics
54) Priestesses in the Church?
55) On Church Music
56) Christianity and Literature
57) High and Low Brows
58) Is English Doomed?
59) On the Reading of Old Books
60) The Parthenon and the Optative
61) The Death of Words
62) On Science Fiction
63) Miserable Offenders
64) Different Tastes in Literature
65) Modern Translations of the Bible
66) On Juvenile Tastes
67) Sex in Literature
68) The Hobbit
69) Period Criticism
70) On Stories
71) On Three Ways of Writing for Children
72) Prudery and Philology
73) Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings”
74) Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said
75) It All Began With a Picture
76) Unreal Estates
77) On Criticism
78) Cross Examination
79) A Tribute to E.R. Eddison
80) The Mythopoeic Gift of Rider Haggard
81) George Orwell
82) A Panegyric for Dorothy L. Sayers
83) The Novels of Charles Williams
84) Learning in War-Time
85) Bulverism (or, The Foundation of 20th Century Thought)
86) The Founding of the Oxford Socratic Club
87) My First School
88) Democratic Education
89) Blimpophobia
90) Private Bates
91) Meditation in a Tool Shed
92) On the Transmission of Christianity
93) Modern Man and His Categories of Thought
94) Historicism
95) The Empty Universe
96) Interim Report
97) Is History Bunk?
98) Before We Can Communicate
99) First and Second Things
100) The Poison of Subjectivism
101) Equality
102) De Futilitate
103) A Dream
104) Hedonics
105) Talking About Bicycles
106) Vivisection
107) The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment
108) Behind the Scenes
109) The Necessity of Chivalry
110) The Inner Ring
111) Two Lectures
112) Some Thoughts
113) X-mas and Christmas
114) Revival or Decay
115) Delinquents in the Snow
116) Willing Slaves of the Welfare State
117) Screwtape Proposes a Toast

118) The Conditions for a Just War
119) The Conflict in Anglican Theology
120) Miracles
121) Mr. C.S. Lewis on Christianity
122) A Village Experience
123) Correspondence With an Anglican Who Dislikes Hymns
124) The Church’s Liturgy, Invocation, and Invocation of Saints
125) The Holy Name
126) Mere Christians
127) Canonization
128) Pittenger-Lewis and Version Vernacular
129) Capital Punishment and Death Penalty

Short Stories
130) The Man Born Blind
131) The Dark Tower
132) The Dark Tower (continued)
133) The Dark Tower (continued)
134) Ministering Angels
135) The Shoddy Lands
136) After Ten Years
137) Forms of Things Unknown

Books on Building Great Sentences (Advice for Writers)


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, our language has more than 100 synonyms for verb forms of “to be wordy,” a detail I find beautifully enigmatic. English is rich, and writing sentences is an art with few concrete boundaries. But crafting great sentences means choosing the right type of sentence structure.

I love to read (and re-read) great books on beautiful sentences of all shapes and sizes: sound sentences, long sentences, short sentences, pop sentences, classic sentences, and literary sentences. I find it helpful to take apart a great sentence, break it down into its individual parts, and see how it works (like a typewriter).

Recently, I posted a picture of some of these books on Instagram, and got enough questions to warrant a quick explanation for why I chose these certain titles as my five favorites. And from the start I should mention that none of these books are written by Christian authors, at least not to my knowledge. In each case, the unbelieving worldviews of these non-Christian writers are not always shrouded.

Now, to the list.

On writing fundamentally sound sentences:

Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams

This is a book for all writers. It’s a brief, to-the-point, and refreshingly visual guide to putting good sentences together. I read this book back in my early days of writing (way back in ought-nine), and it’s been with me ever since. At $30, it’s a wallet-gouging, over-priced little guide, used in a lot of academic training. For less expensive options for general writing help, see Roy Peter Clark and Steven Pinker below.

On writing long sentences:

Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read by Brooks Landon

This book is for more experienced writers who want to master the art of the long, right-branching sentence that seems to expand with no necessary end in site, that sends waves of compounding details washing over the reader and descriptions flowing to the mind. The content in this book was first a video lecture series, but the published version is a now more affordable way to get the same details. No surprise, Landon often is guilty of feather-tongued multiloquence.

On writing short sentences:

How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark

Great journalists know how to write compact sentences, and Roy Peter Clark is one of the best. He also trains the best. Roy Peter Clark is to the writing life what Paul David Tripp is to the Christian life: You just read everything he writes, and enjoy the overlap. This book is a goldmine of writing advice. Beginning writers, especially, should consider everything by RPK. See also his books Writing Tools (2008), The Glamour of Grammar (2011), and Help! For Writers (2013).

On writing pop sentences:

Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines that Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever by Jay Heinrichs

Pop sentences may or may not be useful for you as a writer, but every writer (and reader) can benefit from learning the lessons of the most thoughtful pop stylists. So much thought goes into witticisms and snappy pop-culture writing that understanding these trendy tips will help you frame your own message for today’s reading culture. Heinrichs is a genius when it comes to arguments and rhetoric (see his bestselling book, Thank You for Arguing), and his book Word Hero is equally valuable. Perhaps most impressive to me was the way he formulates the subtle skills of using syllable sounds to make the sense and setting especially strong.

On writing classic sentences:

Clear and Simple As the Truth: Writing Classic Prose by Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner

Thomas and Turner’s book is definitely for advanced writers. I feel like I’m cheating a bit here because the whole point of classic style is to not focus too much time on the mechanics of sentence structure, but to build up the engine of logic. Classic style is more about how sentences get put together and how to an audience gets persuaded. Classic style paces the focus on the flow of logic. Such a writing style requires a lot of research, and it requires a lot of preparation (a lot of clear logic, really). Classic style is a subtle art mastered by French writers, but once you get a handle on it, you will learn why the readers of C. S. Lewis’s essays sometimes feel like they arrive at the conclusions before Lewis does. There’s a method behind classic style’s persuasive powers, and Thomas and Turner explain the deeper philosophical substructures well.

Recently in the comments of this blog, Benjamin Vrbicek reminded me of a good summary of the classic style in The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker. Pinker devotes his entire second chapter to a synopsis of Thomas and Turner, and loads the remainder of the book with practical tips for pulling it off. Pinker’s attempt is less philosophical, less advanced, and more practical.

In Pinker’s words, “Classic style is not a contemplative or romantic style, in which a writer tries to share his idiosyncratic, emotional, and mostly ineffable reactions to something. Nor is it a prophetic, oracular, or oratorical style, where the writer has the gift of being able to see things that no one else can, and uses the music of language to unite an audience. . . . The guiding metaphor of classic style is seeing the world. The writer can see something that the reader has not yet noticed, and he orients the reader’s gaze so that she can see it for herself” (28–29).

Classic writing isn’t punchy or sexy, it’s often long, works best in books, rarely goes viral, and it’s certainly not the best style for every situation. But it is a style you must master if you want to understand the psychology of persuasion and if you want to use sentences to move readers toward ah-ha moments of self-discovery. And the important philosophy behind the style is why I say don’t pass over Thomas and Turner too quickly.

On writing literary sentences:

Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte

Tufte’s book is for advanced writers, and I recommend this book all the time because it’s worthy of repeated commendation. Tufte dives into what makes sentences work well, and highlights hundreds of the best sentences she can find. Every serious writer should have a copy of this book on hand to read and enjoy, as Tufts splendidly reveals the secrets behind the slight of hand by the masters of literature.

So there it is, my favorite books on writing sentences. Like a well-balanced workout, writers will need exercise in all these fields: a technical kettlebell routine (classic), some jogging (long), and walks (literary), sit-ups (short), and a little PX90 (pop).

Also in this series:

• What Kind of Writer Am I? (Advice for Writers)

Boring Ourselves Back to Life


In 2003 and 2006 Carl Trueman published a pair of editorials that are worth reading (annually). Here are the especially pertinent excerpts.

Carl Trueman, “Editorial: Boring Ourselves to Life,” Themelios, 28.3 (2003), 3–4.

Why do we pay sports stars, actors, and the various airheads that populate the airwaves more than we pay our political leaders? We do this because they help to take our minds off the deeper, more demanding truths of life, particularly the one great and ultimately unavoidable truth: death. It is not just the entertainment industry that does that: the huge amount of money expended on the health industry in general and the cosmetic surgery industry in particular also point us towards the basic drive in society to avoid this one at all costs. As Pascal himself says, ‘It is easier to put up with death without thinking about it, than with the idea of death when there is no danger of it.’ . . .

This is where boredom is so important. Stripped of diversions and distractions, individuals have no choice but to reflect upon themselves, the reality of their lives and their future deaths. Human culture has proved adept over the centuries at avoiding the claims of Christ and the truths of human existence revealed in him. The modern bureaucratic state, the instability and insecurity of the work environment, the entertainment industry and the consumer society in which our modern Western affluence allows us to indulge all play their part in keeping us from reflecting upon reality as revealed to us by God.

Let us take time to be bored, to strip away from ourselves the screens we have created to hide the real truths of life and death from our eyes. Let us spend less time trying to appropriate culture for Christianity and more time deconstructing culture in the light of Christ’s claims on us and the world around us. Only then will we truly grasp the urgency of the human predicament. Oh and by the way, if it snows again, don’t rent a video; read a copy of Pascal’s Pensées.

Carl Trueman, “Editorial: The Eloquence of Silence,” Themelios 32.1 (2006), 1–2:

One of the distinguishing marks of God as he reveals himself in Scripture is that he is a God who speaks. He is a God who is not silent. This contrast with silence is fascinating; and, in a world which is full of all manner of ‘noise’ — cultural, social, commercial — reflection on silence, and the significance this has for the God who is not silent, can be most productive. Indeed, one could argue that silence is, in its own way, one of the most enlightening things about the world in which we live and about who we are within that world, both positively and negatively.

I have reflected before in an editorial on the contribution of the Christian philosopher, Blaise Pascal, to the development of Christian cultural criticism. I have looked at how, with his ethical understanding of the human thought and his categories of distraction and diversion, he probed the ways in which cultural pursuits, from entertainment to education to bureaucracy, could be used to avoid facing the moral realities of human sin and mortality, and the inevitable judgement that follows.

It would seem to me that one of the challenges that Pascal lays before us is that of silence: if cultural ‘noise’ is generated to allow us to forget or to avoid the reality of our human condition, then surely silence is useful as one context in which that condition can, indeed must, be faced. The measure of a man or woman, one might say, is the ability to sit alone and be silent in a room for an hour, contemplating nothing but their own mortality in the light of eternity.

Think about it. Think about the lengths we go to in order to exclude silence from our lives: from iPods as we travel to and from work, to the background hum of the television, stereo or radio as we go about our daily lives at home. Noise is everywhere. Much of it is unnecessary and a matter of our personal choice. We live in a world where silence is rare, and, if we are honest, is deliberately excluded even from those obvious contexts we have in which we might indulge in it. Yet silence is golden, for in silence human beings must face the starling reality of who they are.