Writers in their own words: C. S Lewis on books

c s lewisWriting of his early years C. Lewis reflected on the importance books played in his childhood.
“I am a product of … of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient state of my parents’ interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass.” (C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy 1965)
While we only had a fraction of  that number of volumes in my own home, books were a key part of my childhood too though mostly obtained by weekly visits to the local library. You could say I am a product of dusty shelves and wooden floors, of sunlit corners and dark secret recesses, of clunking radiators and tiny cardboard tickets.

Posted on February 25, 2015, in Book Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I like the ‘nothing was forbidden’ bit. I remember reading The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven when i was pretty young. My parents couldn’t have cared less but I then made the mistake of telling a rather pious aunt I was staying with that I had read it and all hell broke loose!

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  2. I grew up in a house full of books but apart from the school library I was unable to access public libraries. Even though I lived close to a city, the cost for a non-resident membership was exorbitant. I can remember my shock moving to a city where the libraries were free! I do fondly remember the Scholastic book flyers which came to my rural school regularly and ordering our chosen books a number of times a year. We also made great use of used bookstores.

    For the past 20 years I have lived back in the city I grew up (almost) in with a library around the corner. It was great when the kids were young and now with everything online I can request a title from any library in the city or province and have it delivered to my local location. Oh and, as of January 1, all user fees were dropped!

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    • Hang onto that library for dear life, they are fast disappearing from the UK as our local government politicians view them as non essential. Try telling that to an elderly lady who goes there every day because it gives her someone to talk to, or the child with a school project whose parents can’t afford a laptop and internet connection so she uses the library free service.

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      • We are lucky to have a healthy library system in this city. My local branch is tiny but well used by a wide variety of youth and adults from the housing complex in which it is located. Even so it is heavily used for classes and language programs as well as the computer terminals. And when you can have any item delivered your access to a wide range of libraries opens up. I feel very fortunate when I read about the state of libraries in the UK.

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  3. I like this feature of your blog: quotes by writers. I grew up in a home without books except for the Bible and encyclopedias. We had lots of non-fiction periodicals though — news magazines as well as American Heritage and Scientific American — and my father kept stacks and stacks of medical journals. So I was a rebel! I loved fiction. (How can you read that stuff,” my father asked,” It isn’t even true.” Also went to the library. Still rebelling. Still reading fiction.

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    • We did at least have Readers Digest. Much more appealing to a child than medical journals. No wonder you rebelled. Reading is a far more healthy form of rebellion than drinking, drug taking..

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  4. I’m a product of the local library as well, although my home seems to be as full of books as the one in which Lewis grew up. It’s all very well and good until you have to move. This is when disaster strikes and you discover yet another reason why libraries should be funded up to the hilt.

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    • maybe this explains why my house also is chock full, I’m making up for the lack of them in my early years. Oh yes I know all about trying to move with boxes and boxes of books. The removal men just kept glaring at me when I told them there was yet another box of books to move.

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  5. I really like the quote. I didn’t grow up in a house filled with books but I did grow up about 500 yards from the front door of the local library! On any wet or cold day I pretty much lived there!

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  6. I would have loved it but I didn’t have a house full of books either, like you though I regularly went to the library. Sounds like my library was a bit newer though 🙂

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  7. Not surprised to hear that the life of a legend began surrounded by books!

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