By: C. S. Lewis
Subject matter: Christianity; 20th century
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from The Screwtape Letters, but I was pleasantly surprised from the get-go.
In the Christian community, C. S. Lewis is practically a celebrity, even outside of the Chronicles of Narnia, though who doesn’t enjoy those? His words are simple, eloquent, convicting, and motivating.
I had never read any Lewis until recently, but over and over and over his name came up, so finally I located a copy of Mere Christianity and dove in.
And I was impressed. But I wasn’t awed, or struck, or in love with Lewis. Don’t get me wrong, Mere Christianity is a great book, but I feel that it serves a certain purpose that wasn’t my intention for reading it, and I also feel that it’s one of those books you just need to talk about. Every chapter, every concept would benefit from discussion.
The Screwtape Letters isn’t that way. (Although I do think it would make an excellent Bible study series.)
The premise is a little strange, I’ll give it that: the eponymous character in this epistolary novel is a demon in Hell writing to his nephew, giving him tips for how to “[secure] the damnation of an ordinary young man.”
But, bare with it! I got a lot out of this book. This particular premise allows Lewis to expose those little, tiny, seemingly irrelevant things all of us do every day that probably mean a lot more than we allow them to in our own minds. Instead of the typical guidebook on how to avoid temptation, this book really gets at another angle, showing the reader what temptation truly is.
It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian who believes in demons literally or not. This book is a fantastic mind exercise either way. I don’t believe Lewis really intended us to take his depictions of Screwtape and Wormwood as truth.
I can’t say what this book would be like for a nonbeliever. I don’t know if it’s just too religious, if the premise is too outlandish, if the nuances of the plot are unappreciable.
But this is a great book for individual reflection (not too heavy, don’t worry!). In a confusing world where it’s very easy to question the existence of a loving God, this book provides a whole new perspective on why there is so much evil.
This book is wonderful. I don’t think it’s going to change my life or anything like that, but Lewis has a masterful way of making the complicated seem simple. So if you’re curious, AT ALL, go for it. It won’t disappoint. Go easy, go slow, and you’ll find that Lewis has a lot to say.
If you’re interested, check out Casey N. Cep’s article about the continued popularity of the novel.
If you enjoyed this novel, here are some books to try:
(for other books by Lewis)
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
(for religious fictional themes)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
(for themes of angels and demons)
The Angel Letters by Nick Shelton
Demon by Tosca Lee
Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig