Surprised by Joy
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Surprised by Joy

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  20,268 ratings  ·  717 reviews
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life is a partial autobiography describing Lewis' conversion to Christianity. The book overall contains less detail concerning specific events than typical autobiographies. This is because his purpose in writing wasn't primarily historical. His aim was to identify & describe the events surrounding his accidental discovery of &...more
Paperback, 185 pages
Published (first published 1955)
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C.S. Lewis, the man that "thought his way to God" (according to the back of the book), isn't really all man - he's part reading machine. Everything, every sentence, in his spiritual autobiography is laden with some classical allusion to a work that the normal person hasn't read in Greek or Latin.
After the death of his mother in his youth, Lewis enters a long lasting period of atheism. Although he knew epistemologically that God didn't exist, he still felt that there was something else "out there...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Okay, I started this today and finished it today, and will probably reread it. This has happened with many of Lewis' books. I've read The Four Loves several times and am getting ready to reread Miracles. There often seems to be a lot that I don't get first time through.

This is a wonderful book with some less than wonderful parts. By that I mean discourses on difficult or unpleasant events and/or topics. I won't try to go over this volume in any kind of detail. I suspect it will "strike" differen...more
Mark Adderley
There's not much to say about this book, as it is famous, and has been reviewed many times. It's about C. S. Lewis' conversion from atheism to Christianity. He identifies a quality which he calls "Joy," which occurs in what he describes as "a stab of joy." This is the a moment of perfect happiness occasioned by . . . well, it differs. Lewis explains that he got three stabs of joy in his youth: once from the a model garden in a biscuit-tin lid that his brother had made, once while reading Beatix...more
"Surprised by Joy" este autobiografia intelectuala a lui C.S. Lewis si prezinta trecerea lui de la crestinismul din copilarie la ateism, la teism si apoi la un crestinism matur. In prima parte a cartii descrie copilaria in Irlanda, relatia cu tatal si fratele lui, apoi diversele scoli si internate prin care a trecut, anii petrecuti la Oxford si experienta primului razboi mondial. Intors la Oxford dupa citiva ani, intilneste mai multi intelectuali crestini, printre care si J.R.R. Tolkien. Lecturi...more
Brittany Petruzzi
Considering all the things we’ve studied at New Saint Andrews—and the way it keeps coming back to one thing—I find it highly interesting that it was essentially C.S. Lewis’ love of story that brought him to Christ. If you think about it, story is what all of his experiences of Sehnsucht have in common. Most of the Sehnsucht took place while reading poetry or literature, and if not, it was because it transported him to the places in those stories. For example, looking up at the night sky took him...more
anca dc
cel mai ciuda mi'e ca nu imi las notitele proaspete, atunci cand citesc cartea. pentru ca dupa aceea nu mai ii simt pulsul in acelasi fel, nu mai este totul proaspat in mine si apoi nu mai am aceeasi usuratate in exprimarea insemnatatii scrierii respective. asta ii asa, in general, dar si in special pentru cartea asta si lewis...asa ca o sa urmeze niste notite care mie imi par asa seci, serbede..imi pare rau. asta e! invatatura de minte!

mi'a placut:
* franchetea lui de la inceput:) ca aceasta car...more
This is Lewis's spiritual autobiography of sorts. It traces his life from childhood experiences in church as the grandson of a clergyman to ignoring God as a youth to the trenches in which he fought in WWI to his Oxford days as a full-out Atheist to his close friendships with JRR Tolkien and a few others that sped along his ultimate conversion. It's written in a very rational and slightly detached way (as is everything Lewis writes). It's interesting to see how his childhood shaped him into the...more
Mostly, I was charmed by this painstaking account of a spiritual pilgrimage, by CSL's awkward earnestness, if not his logic. It appears that he was led, kicking and trying to wriggle out of Divinity's fierce embrace, pinned by his own scrupulous honesty and reasoning. That he still sympathized with those who still cling to their atheist beliefs was surprising, but when he admitted that he still cringed at their bad arguements,he endeared himself to me forever as a sensitive, scrupulous man of in...more
This book wasn't what I was expecting. At first, I had expected it to be the story of how Lewis met his wife, Joy, as was portrayed in the movie SHADOWLANDS with Anthony Hopkins. Upon learning that such was not the case, I then expected it to be a straight-forward autobiographical account of Lewis' life. Wrong again. Actually, SURPRISED BY JOY is a memoir about Lewis' formative years. More specifically, it deals with Lewis' early rejection of Christianity and the manner in which he eventually re...more
Surprised By Joy is an account of C.S. Lewis' early life into his adulthood. The thread that ties the writing together is his spiritual life. He went from a kind of Christianity (not taught at home), to stark atheism, to Theism and finally to Christianity. The early chapters of the book were a delight to read (except for the information about his horrible schoolmaster and school conditions). As the book went on, it became more and more intellectual to the point that I could hardly bear to finish...more
Erik Graff
Dec 17, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Lewis fans
Recommended to Erik by: Mildred Hogle
Shelves: biography
Until I was fourteen, the closest neighbors to grandmother's cottage in Michigan were the Hogles, Mildred and Alfred. Without children of their own, sixtyish, they acted as doting grandparents for me and the only kid who actually lived year-round in the Livingston Hills area of Lake Charter Township, Michigan, my contemporary, Diane Werner.

August 16, a date now immortalized by the passing of Elvis, is my birthday. On the sixth or seventh of them Diane had come over in the morning, watched me ope...more
Rachel Rueckert
After reading so many books by C.S. Lewis, it was really nice to hear in his own words what life experiences he had that made him that unique individual. I am not the biggest fan of autobiographies in general, so I appreciated the companion biographical story told in The Essential C.S. Lewis, but I think Lewis does a pretty good job at honestly representing himself, particularly his childhood and educational career.

Things I did not know before (including bits from class discussion):

Lewis wen...more
While this is my second time reading this book, it's almost as if it is my first time. I read it six years ago during a month-long missions trip, and while I remember liking it, I had forgotten a great deal of it by my second time around.

Unfortunately, the time that has elapsed between my finishing the book and this review has been significant, and my review will be short and incomplete. This is in part due to the fact that I forgot I had it listed as "currently reading," and I want to try and a...more
I recommend this book for C.S. Lewis fans and/or those well-versed in literature and philosophy. I fall firmly into the first category and only very partially into the second. The vast majority of the book concerns Lewis' early life and intellectual development. He alludes to quite a few classical Greek works, British authors, and various philosophers. Many of the allusions went over my head, though I managed to follow the story well enough. Though I majored in English and developed a passion fo...more
Unlike some of the other Lewis works I've read, this book meandered around for a while and was hard to follow during Lewis' early years. Maybe I just wasn't the type of kid Lewis was -- totally interested in fantasy and mythology. Whatever it was, I was pretty bored and confused for the first 150 pages.

Also, the bullies at British prep schools are downright cruel. Remind me never to send my future kids there.

Then it got much better. As Lewis entered his college years and started reading some of...more
I really love this. CS Lewis was a phenomenal writer. Reading how his life effected what he thought and wrote about is truly interesting. He proves to us, in this book, what an incredible master of words he was. He truly did belong in academia. Yet, I love how CS Lewis never demanded that of other people. In each book I read of his, I can tell that he always wrote to meet people where they were.
This is C.S. Lewis' autobiography. It made me wish I knew more Christians like C.S. Lewis. Surprised by Joy is not just a source of good information about Lewis for those who are interested, but also a glimpse into the mind of a man who educated himself, made a decision about faith, and then defended his decision creatively, rationally, and always as a gentleman.
Lewis's famous, if incomplete, autobiography. You can't pretend to understand Lewis if you haven't walked with him through some of these dark and troubling times.

Recommend you also read a biography like Alan Jacobs' . ISBN 0060872691.
David Woods
This is the autobiography of CS Lewis, chronicling his progression from Atheism to Absolutism, to a believe in Spirit, to Theism to Christianity. It is the story of someone much smarter and better educated than I will ever be, ending up begrudgingly accepting Theism, and then Christianity after ever other choice fell away, much to his dismay at the time. It's hard to rate this book with stars, the first part autobiography, the second, more philosophical. The book doesn't actually get to his disc...more
This was my end-of-summer pleasure read, and what pleasures--joys--it enfolded. I savored it in chapter-sized bites like a box of rich, creamy chocolates savored for their own sweetness, for the delicate blending of flavors, but also for the delight of remembering the one who gave them. I loved this book for the story of C.S. Lewis's life in the way that I love so many books about very British childhoods. I loved that he, intentionally and with a good sense that I hope I can claim to share, chos...more
I am not normally one to read biographies, let alone autobiographies. It always struck me as the height of arrogance to write and publish a book about yourself. Perhaps if I read more of them it would cure me of this attitude. The only reason I read this one is it was part of single-volume collection of CS Lewis books I bought. It is not really a full autobiography, as it only carries through his early adulthood and it basically gives the background of why he wrote off the idea of any god, and t...more
Alex Stroshine
"Surprised By Joy" is an intimate spiritual autobiography by one of the most prolific and profound Christian writers of the twentieth century. In his own words, C.S. Lewis relates his early life, including his gradual slide from Christianity into atheism and, finally, back into Christianity.

While the book is well-written and fascinating, parts of it were also humdrum. This is because, as with anyone's life, some of it is so personal, so woven into the writer's own life, that readers cannot appre...more
Lance Schaubert
( originally @ )

Surprised by Joy continually… well… surprised me. Part autobiography, part school-boy memoir, part philosophical musing on the shaping of Lewis’ early life moves from his intimate experience with Norse mythology through his aggressive atheism until we reach his decision to turn his life over to Jesus. S.B.J. (not to be confused with S.O.J., you Diablo 2 players) anchors Lewis’ experience inthe British school system and a compost pile of gr...more
Margo Berendsen
This autobiography only chronicles C.S. Lewis' early years, from childhood to age 31, his journey from atheism to Christianity. He made a point early on in the book that most autobiographies he'd read himself, he found the childhood and early adult years to be the most interesting part, anyway, and when I stopped to think about it I tend to agree.

CS Lewis uses the analogy of a chess game between himself and God throughout the book which was very apt, but this book is far more of a exploration o...more
Rachael Eliz
I remembered reading an interview carried out with a theologian I find fascinating called Marcus Borg, and reading in his book Putting Away Childish Things, that he describes Lewis’ works with the terms “early Lewis” and “later Lewis”: "I find a much more persuasive sense of the mystery of God and the mystery of life in his later writings, including A Grief Observed, but probably starting with Surprised By Joy, than I do in his early pugnacious, polemical works. So I commonly speak of an early L...more
Allison Marshall
Read more reviews on my blog.

Having grown up in a Christian home, I’ve known about Lewis’s legacy and exactly how important he is to our home library since I was a wee little Ally. However, I must confess that I hadn’t read too much of his non-fiction. I lived and breathed Chronicles of Narnia as a child (sometimes I still do). I read the Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces, and The Screwtape Letters in middle school. But as for his non-fiction, I did a Mere Christianity study with in Sunday Schoo...more
Ian Smith
Autobiographies of early life seem to fall largely into three categories. First, the entertainer; rose-spectacled reminisces which sometimes stretch the boundaries of credibility - Gerald Durrell comes to mind. Second; the survivor; the struggles of a brutalizing and dysfunctional upbringing. Perhaps 'Angela's Ashes'. And third, the informer; why I am who I am. 'Surprised by Joy' clearly falls into the third category, though gently lays a finger on the other two at times. And it's profoundly rev...more
Jun 27, 2009 Olga rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Olga by: it's title screamed at me in Borders
Shelves: memoir, spirituality, 2009
The number one reason to read this book for me was to learn more about the idea of joy. It wasn't an easy read. I would tackle it for about an hour a day, and only when the narrative sped up pretty dramatically in the end, I was able to read for longer stretches at a time and finish the book.

At times I wanted to just put this book away and stop reading. What did it to me were, among some other things, his discussion of homosexuality, his remarks on occult and magic, not to mention his exclusivel...more
Courtney Johnston
One of my least attractive, and most intractable, qualities is the attitude I hold towards organised religion (and let's face it, I'm not any more forgiving towards unorganised religion). Partly this is because no matter how hard I try, I can't understand how people believe in a God. To me, it's as unfathomable as believing in fairies or unicorns.

I've had moments that I have no better word for than spiritual - usually, when I'm introduced to a thought or idea that has such force, such scope, th...more
To tell you the truth I don't know what I expected when I began reading this book. I knew of Lewis first as the author of the Narnia Chronicles, and a wonderful weaver of fantasy. I also knew he was or is considered a theologian or at the very least a Christian Apologist; the term theologian from reading this book I wonder if he would have accepted. I wanted to know what could take such an admirable mind(that much I did know-- was of his brilliance) and change it from a stance as atheism once re...more
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C.S. Lewis Books: Surprised by Joy 4 18 Jun 09, 2013 02:49PM  
  • The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis
  • The Everlasting Man
  • Jack A Life Of C S Lewis
  • Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis
  • Basic Christianity (IVP Classics)
  • Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
  • The God Who Is There
  • Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman
  • Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Lives of Faith)
  • The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life
  • The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God
  • Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
  • C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet
  • The Knowledge of the Holy
  • A Severe Mercy
  • The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, #3)
  • Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale
CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than th...more
More about C.S. Lewis...
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

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“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” 297 likes
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” 27 likes
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