As a child, whenever I came upon a strange door, stone steps that seemed to lead nowhere, or (of course) a wardrobe, I wondered if they might take me someplace different. And there was always that moment, just before the door swung open or I took the last step, when I sensed that this time, the Narnia I sought might really be there.

The idea that another world could be just beyond the next door has made the Chronicles of Narnia one of the most beloved of all children's series. In December, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will be released as a big-budget film on a par with The Lord of the Rings movies. Along with new editions of the novels themselves, a blizzard of Narnia-themed books will hit the shelves to coincide with the film's release. We've selected three of the best books that open new doors into Narnia and the mind of its creator through works of literary criticism, inspirational study and biography.

Just as one cannot separate Narnia from Christianity, one cannot separate this fanciful realm from its creator, C.S. Lewis. His life and faith are masterfully explored in Alan Jacobs' The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. An English professor at Wheaton College, Jacobs is both a scholar of exceptional ability and a writer of marvelous skill. Throughout the book, he delves deeply into Lewis' developing theology and philosophy, revealing how the experiences of his life shaped his beliefs and writings. Jacobs focuses closely on Lewis' relationships, especially the pivotal friendship with his Oxford colleague J.R.R. Tolkien whose theory that pagan myths point to the coming of Christ led both to Lewis' conversion to Christianity and Tolkien's own explorations of the theme and Lewis' marriage at the age of 57 to American divorcŽe Joy Davidman, whose love and death shaped his remaining years.

Jacobs argues that Lewis had "a willingness to be enchanted," a quality that enabled him to create remarkable books that captivated the imaginations of children worldwide. The author also corrects many misconceptions about Lewis' life and work, successfully disputing the claims of both critics and devotees. The Narnian is thoughtful, intriguing and inspiring a treasure for Narnia fans, as well as aficionados of fine biography.

 

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