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Notable Books

Books | Four books on literature and Christian authors

Issue: "The Battle for Africa," Feb. 8, 2014

A Prayer Journal

By Flannery O’Connor

Fifty years after her death in 1964, Flannery O’Connor is still celebrated as one of the most influential writers in American literature. As a Southerner and Roman Catholic, O’Connor set her fiction in a “Christ-haunted” American South, using grotesque characters and violence to convey man’s fallenness and need for divine grace. In this recently discovered prayer journal, we meet O’Connor before she assumed the cultural spotlight, and she pours her heart out to God with a lucidity and passion that would later mark her fiction. In particular, her understanding of the refining nature of suffering—as well as how God uses human weakness to show His strength—seem personally prophetic. Note: She occasionally prays to Mary.

Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey

By Luci Shaw

If anyone could liven up a discussion of the aging process, one would hope Christian poet Luci Shaw could. Her writing career, spanning over 30 books, has seen her tackle topics as varied as Christ’s incarnation and spring rain with intellectual, emotive word-play. The Adventure of Ascent partly delivers. Using the metaphor of a mountain climber leaving behind the trappings of human life and eventually her mortal coil, Shaw here finds profound beauty in her ascent toward a heavenly home. Unfortunately, even as Shaw hits her middle 80s, she is haunted by spiritual doubt, preferring to embrace her experience and the “mystery” of Christian faith rather than the firmer ground of biblical witness.

Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian

By Bret Lott

Whether laying bare secular literature, the Christian publishing scene, or his own performance as a son, Bret Lott’s Letters and Life is an unflinching book. Yet it is also uniquely God-honoring. In the book’s five essays and one extended memoir, this professor at the College of Charleston and best-selling novelist (including Jewel, an Oprah Book Club pick) pulls a wide range of topics into his field of vision. Comfortable with thinkers as disparate as Raymond Carver, Francis Schaeffer, and Flannery O’Connor, he also recounts God’s work in his own life, including the death of his father. While the pieces vary in focus, all combine excellence in the craft of writing with a solidly evangelical worldview. 

Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles

By Joe Rigney

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are not allegories, and Joe Rigney marshals Lewis himself to make this point. Yet, the books are repositories of “grace and comfort and encouragement and motivation,” which—once experienced as stories on their own terms—can disciple those who love them. Using selections of Lewis’ writing beyond his stories, including The Abolition of Man and his autobiography, Rigney teases out the rich treasury of moral, political, and theological thought behind the Narnia books. He then shows how these truths have influenced him as a follower of Christ, as well as how they can benefit his readers spiritually. Not intended for children.

Spotlight

C.S. Lewis remains one of the pre-eminent Christian voices on writing and literature. Last year, 50 years after his death, Focus on the Family Radio Theatre released C.S. Lewis at War.  

When World War II began, Lewis was an unknown literature professor. By the war’s end, his radio addresses through the BBC on the subject of Christianity had made him a household name. C.S. Lewis at War combines high-quality radio drama with crisp theological content to show how Lewis brought spiritual light to England during its “darkest hour.” The riveting soundscape includes excerpts from Winston Churchill’s speeches, the Inkling’s fireside chats, the sound of bombers flying overhead, and the voices of young girls who came to stay at Lewis’ rural English home. The recording also includes a dramatic reading of Mere Christianity. —E.W.

Emily Whitten
Emily Whitten

Emily reviews books and movies for WORLD and is a contributor at RedeemedReader.com. She homeschools her two children and sees books through the eyes of a mother.

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