Ever wonder what agnostics think about Narnia? This collection of essays by diverse authors will interest those who want to understand, debate, and talk about how the other half thinks. The volume includes a few essays by Christians who love Narnia, but many more come from those-including the founder of PETA (who complains about Lewis' "speciesism") and a lapsed Greek Orthodox writer (who re-imagines the tale told from an Orthodox perspective)-who have bones to pick with Lewis.
Leland Ryken is an excellent professor of literature at Wheaton College. Marjorie Lamp Mead is the associate director of the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, which holds Lewis' writings and the famous wardrobe. Together they are the perfect guides for those wanting better to understand The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as literature. They work through it chapter by chapter, explaining Lewis' technique and pulling back the curtain to show what Lewis is doing and why it works so well. Their questions for further discussion will help readers better understand Lewis and also approach any novel more intelligently.
Gene Edward Veith has written a good introduction to Narnia that will appeal to two main groups: those who want a clear explanation of what the Bible teaches and how those truths are echoed in Narnia, and those who want better to understand how Lewis' vision differs from that of the Harry Potter and His Dark Materials series. Mr. Veith writes clearly and provides questions for further discussion of his main points. He also argues that LWW is a particularly powerful way to reach this postmodern generation that prefers its truth in story form.
Adult newcomers to Narnia, or those with questions about the value of fantasy or the propriety of reading stories with witches, will find this family guide to the series helpful. Each page has short, chatty paragraphs aimed at adults and intended to help them answer questions they might have about the books' plots, characters, and difficulties (such as references to alcohol use) as well as enrichment activities for children. Readers will find respectful and thoughtful answers to all kinds of questions, especially those raised by parents cautious about exposing their children to popular culture.
With the LWW film scheduled for release on Dec. 9, stores are full of Narnia books, including Paul Ford's classic Pocket Companion to Narnia, an encyclopedia of Narnia lore, now available in an actual "pocket-sized" volume. Also worth looking at are Douglas Gresham's Jack's Life, a biography by Lewis' stepson; Narnia Beckons by Ted and James Baehr; and Further Up and Further In by Bruce Edwards. The most important thing, of course, is to read the actual Narnia stories and let Lewis work his magic. As Ryken and Mead put it: "Our first and essential step in the reading process must simply be to enjoy."
New Narnia editions put The Magician's Nephew first. Nonetheless, Mr. Ryken, Mr. Veith, and many other scholars argue convincingly that despite the new ordering, you should read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe first to discover its secrets just as the Pevensie children did.