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Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
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Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  24,080 ratings  ·  807 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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Nathan
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
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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
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
Lavinia
"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
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
Lindsay
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
John
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
Selim
One can learn so much from C. S. Lewis, feast on the beautiful language and sophisticated literary and historical references, not quite get everything, but still revel in the mysteriousness of it all.
I loved this book for more than one reason. For me, it wasn't only about him becoming Christian; this book is an honest account of Lewis' self-discovery and the series of experiences--pleasant and otherwise--that molded his personality and made him the legend that he was, has been, and continues to
...more
Magdelanye
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
Timothy Stone
Do you know what you believe and why? Do you know what joy and happiness are? Have you ever thought of these questions? CS Lewis did, or at least tried to think of the answers when he went and responded to questions about such issues.

The result is what you might call an "intellectual autobiography", as I would call it. Lewis tried to determine the moral and spiritual development of his life generally that lead him to his (as of writing the book in his fifties) then viewpoints. Of great import to
...more
David Sarkies
May 24, 2014 David Sarkies rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians and Literature Lovers
Recommended to David by: Some guy at church
Shelves: christian
It is a little difficult to categorise this book as while in part it is an autobiography, Lewis goes to great pains to exclaim otherwise. One could also suggest that it falls into a category of Christian literature known as a testimony, that is a story that is told by the author as to how they became a Christian, however this particular book sort of does not follow the two forms that that type of literature takes, namely:
1) I was a really, really, really bad person, but the God came along and k
...more
Dennis
"Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side." C.S. Lewis should know, he was one.

It is a rare thing to find a book that speaks to you so thoroughly and on so many levels. This was a complete surprise, something I rather stumbled upon because of a reference to it in another book. And what a surprise! Reading each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence, felt much like catching up with an old and dear friend, someone who understands your
...more
Cindi
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
John
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
Grace
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
Kris
This is more philosophical than autobiographical. Lewis rambles about things that interest him, and only the last three chapters or so talk about his conversion to Theism and then Christianity -- without many details. I enjoyed it because I love reading anything Lewis wrote, and I want to learn everything about him. But this is not the first thing I'd suggest to others for a general sample of his writing. It's not the "spiritual thriller" as advertised on the cover.

Useful for lovers of anything
...more
Michelle
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
Kathy
This was a very intellectual engaging book for me. I am amazed at the range and quantity of books that Lewis read (and in original languages at that). Had to even look up a few words to get at what he was trying to communicate to the reader. I don't think that one needs to be a Christian to enjoy this book. His search for truth and joy is something that all humans can understand.
Kelli
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.
Matt
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.
Ron
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
Angie Libert
I like CS Lewis even more after reading his autobiography.

Some excellent quotes:

"Also, 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 the bedroom, books piled high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents interest, books readable and unreadable, bo
...more
Heather
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
Rob
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 @ http://lanceschaubert.org/2011/12/28/... )

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
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C.S. Lewis Books: Surprised by Joy 6 24 Aug 16, 2014 01:49PM  
  • The Everlasting Man
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  • Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis
  • The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis
  • Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
  • The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life
  • How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture
  • A Severe Mercy
  • Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
  • Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis
  • Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
  • Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Lives of Faith)
  • Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
  • Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret
  • Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith
  • On the Incarnation
  • The Pursuit of God
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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.” 319 likes
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” 44 likes
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