It is true for me that there is no pleasure quite like pulling a book off the shelf, flipping to the first page, and wandering into a new world of ideas or imagination. Whether this is a new adventure or paths often trod, there is something peculiar to the pleasures of a good book. As the shelves groan under the weight of my many, many books, my wife has occasionally wished that I did not find reading so beneficial. Still, she has her own shelves, her own bedside table piles, and her own favourite books–though she is wonderfully good at giving away novels she likes. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful thing to give away a book one loves, and I admire her for it.
Though we were very poor growing up, my family valued books. My library card is perhaps the only card I have never lost. As I kid, I read all I could find–reading that was bolstered by a family and community love of storytelling, my father’s Classic Illustrated comics, and occasional gifts of books of my very own. The Scholastic catalogue and my bottle-collecting money were fast friends in elementary school.
As a scholar of literature, the economic necessity of book-buying never quite leaves me. And though my wife doubts that I have any resistance whatsoever, I can never quite give into the need to purchase books. Whenever I need a new paper book that is not in my library, I check my local bookstores–and have found some great things there. As I find myself reading and rereading many of the same things in the authors that I am studying (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, L.M. Montgomery, Ursula K. Le Guin, the Inklings and the like) I find myself reaching for other ways of reading.
For example, in returning to C.S. Lewis’ early poetry last week, I found Dr. Gordon Greenhill‘s earnest and robust readings of “Clive Hamilton’s” two volumes of pre-Christian poetry. Although I still had the text of Spirits in Bondage in my hands as Gordon read, it brought out new resonances in the lyrical poetry. Last month, when I wanted to reread The Personal Heresy and An Experiment in Criticism–C.S. Lewis’ first and last books of literary theory–I purchased the kindle e-books and was able to export my highlights and annotations. And the timing was good. At one point I was trapped for well over an hour in a doctor’s office waiting room and was able to read half of Lewis’ unusual Experiment on my phone.
As someone who has collected all manner of Lewis materials, then, I thought I would share my discoveries of great places to find Lewis audiobooks and ebooks inexpensively. In e-books, I am speaking mostly to American readers and all prices are in US$, for many of Lewis’ works are out of copyright outside of the US and available online. Plus, I cannot guarantee which of these resources might be available in your country. And with some regret, the Amazon juggernaut features highly in this list–but the connections along the way are excellent, and I encourage you to keep your local bookstore on speed dial. Moreover, the audiobooks, when well done, can be a wonderful discovery of a new way of reading Lewis’ classics or of thinking about Lewis’ works and ideas. Some of these resources are time-bound, but in principle, these five streams will bring you to great Lewis resources.
A year or two ago, I subscribed to the Chirpbooks newsletter. A handful of times a month, Chirpbooks offers high-quality and surprisingly relevant audiobooks at extremely low prices. Right now, there is an unusual number of C.S. Lewis books on sale. For example, for $3.99 or less, you can get The Weight of Glory, Letters to Malcolm, and various of Lewis’ essay collections, such as Philosophical Thoughts, Some Everyday Thoughts, What Christians Believe, The Church, The Christian in the World, and Letters.
Most of Lewis’ other works are reasonably priced at $10-$15 each, and you can find some scholarly and popular works about Lewis as well. For example, through the month of June, Michael Ward’s great books course, “C.S. Lewis: Christology and Cosmology,” is only $5.99–especially of interest for those thinking about Ward’s Planet Narnia thesis.
While this particular resource rotates quickly, I have found that there is almost always one C.S. Lewis book on sale on Amazon in the Kindle store. Today, for example, I was able to get Reflections on the Psalms for $1.99. Last week it was Till We Have Faces–also $1.99, and in both cases available in Canada as well as the US. If you are patient, you can find what you need. Moreover, many scholarly books are inexpensive in various e-book formats, such as Sørina Higgins’ award-winning The Inklings and King Arthur: J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain, available for $10.
I find these e-book sales in a couple of ways. One is through the Facebook group called “Free and Discounted Kindle/E-Books for Christians and Bible Scholars”–a very useful resource that lives up to its lengthy name. Another newsletter I follow is that of the great folks at the Englewood Review of Books. Their “5 Essential Ebook Deals for Church Leaders” weekly resource list is pretty great–along with interviews, reviews, and giveaways. I love what C. Christopher Smith and his gang are doing, and I would recommend the podcast hosted by Jen Pollock Michel. With both of these resources, sometimes the e-book sale is a US-only deal, though occasionally I do well in Canada. Half of my Kindle purchases have come from ERB, I believe.
Twice a year–in June and December–ChristianAudio.com offers thousands of its digital audiobooks for $7.49 each. Many of the course packs and omnibus editions are not included, but my issue each year is trimming my “to buy” list down to a reasonable proportion! ChristianAudio is kind of a cool site, in any case, with a free audiobook of the month and some $5 sales from time to time.
But as a C.S. Lewis resource, it is very helpful. There are more than two dozen audiobooks of C.S. Lewis’ works for $7.49 or less, including the apologetics trilogy, the Ransom Cycle, collections like God in the Dock and The Weight of Glory, his theological quasi-fiction, his classic Till We Have Faces, and individual books like The Pilgrim’s Regress, A Grief Observed, and Reflections on the Psalms. Of the “7 New Audiobooks on C.S. Lewis: Michael Ward, James Como, Stephanie Derrick, Patti Callahan, Joe Rigney, Diana Glyer, Gary Selby” I wrote about a couple of years ago, they have 4 of them–as well as Lewis studies books by Devin Brown and Alister McGrath, a new bio by Colin Duriez, and the Women and C.S. Lewis collection. While we takes our chances in passing up a sale, this is likely a resource you can save up for when the next sale comes around.
Though the membership is costly, Audible members have a number of perks. One of them is the “Daily Deal”–and I have purchased dozens of these great volumes for $2-$5 over the years. A recent feature for US Audible members is the “Audible Plus Catalog,” a collection of hundreds of audiobooks available absolutely free for those with an active membership.
Most of the “Audible Plus” books in my “Top Picks for You” section of the website are classics, including older theological texts and early 20th-century fiction. However, what is intriguing is that there are more than two dozen C.S. Lewis books absolutely free to members–including the traditional readings by Ralph Cosham/Geoffrey Howard or Simon Vance of most of Lewis’ classics listed in the previous entries (all except for Wanda McCaddon’s gorgeous reading of Till We Have Faces). At least for the time being, the Audible Plus Catalog includes scholarly books like Armand Nicholi’s provocative book on Lewis & Freud, George Sayer‘s lovely biography, Jack, Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings, Abigail Santamaria‘s excellent biography of Joy Davidman, and David Downing‘s smart and readable Into the Region of Awe and The Most Reluctant Convert. Audible memberships are expensive, but they have benefits in this season for lovers C.S. Lewis and some of his real-life and literary friends.
For the audiobook lover, there is a flurry of new activity on Audible (in Canada and the US, at least). I am amazed at how many new audiobooks of Lewis’ works are popping up. There are new readings of classic works like Mere Christianity and Narnia–it is surprising it has taken so long–but there are also readings of more obscure books. Matthew Erwin has provided a new reading of The Great Divorce and The Four Loves (the book–and another by John Hopkinson), though I have only heard the samples thus far. What really impresses me, though, are Gordon Greenhill’s dramatic readings of Lewis’ poetry and Richard Elwood’s unusually adept reading for the first time of The Discarded Image and An Experiment in Criticism–two of Lewis’ more intriguing and helpful late-in-life books.
There are also new studies of Lewis on audiobook worth reading, such as the “7” I featured here, but also new volumes appearing regularly. I am looking forward to listening to Gina Dalfonzo’s Dorothy and Jack: The Transforming Friendship of Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis. I like Gina’s work and am intrigued by the connection. I have already featured Alan Duncan’s Gilbert and Jack, and I am thinking about Christiana Hale’s new A Reader’s Guide to C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy–though that is a volume I’m likely to prefer in a printed or e-book. Audible informs me that Michael D. Aeschliman’s The Restoration of Man C. S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism is available for pre-order, which might take up one of my monthly tokens. We’ll see–but I am confident that new materials will be arriving with some frequency.