APU Honors College Book Hits No. 1 on Amazon Best Seller Lists
A team of APU Honors College students wrote a book about C.S. Lewis’ science fiction novels that has reached the top spot on two Amazon best seller lists. A Compass for Deep Heaven: Navigating the C.S. Lewis Ransom Trilogy, (Square Halo Books 2021), hit No. 1 in the “Religious Literature Criticism” and “Science Fiction & Fantasy Literary Criticism” categories. A Compass for Deep Heaven has received enthusiastic feedback from readers all over the world, including endorsements from more than a dozen major Lewis scholars and incorporation into the curriculum of numerous academic programs.
The editor of the book, Diana Pavlac Glyer, PhD, is a professor in the APU Honors College as well as the Department of English. She has won multiple awards for her research on the lives of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Her books The Company They Keep (2008) and Bandersnatch (2015) offer insights into the Inklings’ collaborative writing process. In her work with the Honors College, Glyer has served as a mentor and editor for multiple Oxbridge Tutorial groups, in which seniors spend a year diving deep into exploring a single text, resulting in scholarly collaboration and a published book.
“The first three years of the Honors program are an exciting but brisk overview of great books. During this time, students are challenged to master a number of texts. For their senior year, students allow a text to master them, diving deeper into a focused text with colleagues. The Oxbridge tutorial is not just a senior thesis. Rather, it allows students to participate in a scholarly literary conversation, making significant contributions that increase understanding of a specific work,” said Glyer.
For their 2018-2019 Oxbridge Tutorial, Glyer and her student writers released their book under the original title, Warnings from Outer Space: Backdrops & Building Blocks of C. S. Lewis’s Science Fiction Trilogy. The text focused on C. S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy, a trio of science fiction works predating Lewis’ popular Mere Christianity and Chronicles of Narnia series.
“These texts are not widely known, not widely read, and quite honestly perplexing. We saw this as a valuable opportunity to add something of significance to the scholarly conversation,” Glyer said.
In order to write their Oxbridge book, students underwent immense collaborative work for over a year. Students read the book individually and participated in discussions with their Oxbridge teams. For their book, the team focused on exploring themes and topics that they wished they had understood better before reading the Lewis texts themselves. The Ransom Trilogy explores literary tropes from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Arthurian legend, and more. Glyer and her students aimed to offer a guide for readers to be able to understand the complexities of these texts to a higher degree. “The problem with C. S. Lewis is that he thinks we’re smarter than we are. Many of his references can be confusing. For our book, we wanted to provide some of this background so that readers would be able to read Lewis with greater pleasure and understanding.”
After the completion and local release of their Oxbridge book, APU graduate Julianne Johnson ’19 joined as co-editor, and the team pushed on to have their work distributed on a broader level. Although the book had been published by the Honors College, Glyer and her team decided to also reach out to conventional publishers for further commercial distribution.
“By this time, most of the student writers had already graduated and were in full-time work or graduate school. We had to meet on weekends, perfecting each chapter and revising our work for a broader audience. The students’ hard work and commitment to collaboration was inspiring for me to see.”
Johnson also commented on the difficult yet rewarding collaborative process. “Getting so many contributors together to work on the book was not always easy. While we worked on the project, one of the challenges we had to overcome was how to communicate with mentors and classmates in different time zones and countries. Ultimately, facing these challenges was rewarding, and revealed our passion for communicating what C. S. Lewis had taught us. It was really a joy to study this work alongside so many gifted people.”
Thanks to the team’s hard work and cooperation, the book was picked up by major publisher Square Halo Books, and released under a new title, A Compass for Deep Heaven: Navigating the C. S. Lewis Ransom Trilogy. After a lengthy revision process, the team was ecstatic to have a widely distributed published final product.
Glyer and her students have been able to use their commercial success to give back to the APU community. The team decided to forgo all royalties generated from the book’s release, and instead directed all the proceeds to the Honors College to create an award for an outstanding senior writer. Glyer and the Honors faculty are currently in the process of creating the “Compass Award,” honoring a graduating senior for an exemplary Oxbridge essay.
“Student writing created an income to establish an award for other student writers. A student book, a student-led initiative, and a student-award to encourage future generations of Honors Scholars—It makes me incandescently happy.”
Nolan Andrew ’19
Daniel J. Friend ’19
Daniel Z. Hsieh ’19
S. L. Jensen ’19
Julianne Johnson ’19
Maya Maley ’19
Jacob E. Meyer ’19
Evangeline M. Prior ’19
Rachel M. Roller ’19
J. D. Wunderly ’19
Diana P. Glyer, PhD
Posted: October 25, 2021