The Chronicles of Narnia is, hands down, both my favorite fantasy series and my favorite children’s book series. I’ve read them privately for my own enjoyment, and I’ve also read all seven books out loud to my kids. Reading them out loud is a great experience, one I highly recommend. At the end of a chapter, when I intended to quit, the kids would beg me to keep reading! Every one of them, from age 5 to 15 at the time, were engrossed in the story.
I do think, however, that the books should be read in the order in which they were published. That is: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and His Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; The Last Battle.
Some of the more recent releases of the set place the books in a “Narnian” chronological order, which makes The Magician’s Nephew the first book in the series. The problem with that is that there are references in that book to events you should already know about from having read The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. So my advice, again, is to stick to the originally published order. I recommend getting the box set–it’s easier to rearrange than those one-volume editions.
There are excerpts from several of the books that I find unforgettable. The Christian imagery in Lewis’s prose is refreshing, and at times deeply moving. Here is one of my favorite excerpts, from The Silver Chair.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink.” said the Lion.
“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?,” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at it’s motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?,” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?,” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!,” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
It’s a fantastic set. If you haven’t read it, hesitate no longer!