Through the years, I've had numerous friends who've been fascinated/inspired by the life and works of C.S. Lewis. Due to that, I read both Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity while in college, though I didn't really enjoy them until I reread these works in 2009. I also enjoyed the 1993 film Shadowlands, but didn't have a great interest into learning about Lewis' life until more recently. Two issues of Christian History whet my appetite, and I eventually read The Narnian earlier this year. C.S. Lewis not only had a voluminous literary output, but his life itself proved a strong example of Christian faith in action. Yet, how did his books come together?
The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter's engaging work from 1978, sets out to answer that question. It shows how Lewis benefited greatly from the feedback of others, and how the creator of Narnia conversely aided fellow authors with their respective works. This text also gives the reader helpful insight into how Lewis and Tolkien's philosophical and theological differences led to their regrettable estrangement. It further demonstrates how lesser-known characters, such as Charles Williams, played a role in Lewis' intellectual journey and social life.
If one is looking for an extensive biography on Tolkien, this is probably not the best place to go. Humphrey Carpenter wrote a much-praised volume about him one year before The Inklings, so Tolkien's interactions with fellow Inklings are a primary focus here. As part of that, the reader does get the feeling that C.S. Lewis helped to make the Lord of the Rings a reality through his constant encouragement. At the end of The Inklings, it's obvious that Tolkien never forgot Lewis' personal and professional contributions to his own life story.
This work is full of other "nuggets" as well, including one chapter devoted to creating a hypothetical Inklings meeting. If you're in the market for a Lewis-related biography, you won't go wrong here.