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Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  33,704 Ratings  ·  1,070 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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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
Mark Adderley
Jun 07, 2009 Mark Adderley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
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
Jul 11, 2016 Madelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiogrophies
"Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back....everything is different."

I can easily mark this as my favorite autobiography. It didn't drone on and on as most others do. Starting out in his childhood, spreading through his years at Oxford and when he served as professor, and ending shortly after his conversion to Christianity, there was insight for almost every season of life. I've been a long-time reader of many of the classic Lewis works (Mere Christianity, Narnia, e
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
David Sarkies
Aug 03, 2015 David Sarkies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians and Literature Lovers
Recommended to David by: Some guy at church
Shelves: christian
Not quite an autobiography
24 May 2014

It is a little difficult to categorise this book since 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: 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, which are:

1) I was a really, really, really bad p
Jan 19, 2016 Morgan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to read immediately after The Pilgrim's Regress. I could see how the latter was an allegorical representation of his own conversion. I only wish he'd written a regular autobiography as well, for I'm very interested to hear of his later life in his own words.

Recommended for: Ages 15 to Adult (mentions of sinful behavior by the other boys at school, and mentions of certain temptations)

Many years ago, I read the first few chapters of this book as research for a speech on C.S. Lewis. I
May 07, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Courtney Joshua
Feb 18, 2015 Courtney Joshua rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was interesting, but considering the very lengthy and detailed set-up, the denouement was hasty and disappointing. It barely brought together any of the varied strands he'd investigated; especially, his final treatment of “Joy” is relegated to one brief paragraph on the final page, and he fails to explain how Christianity satisfies/fulfills this feeling.

He believes it does, as he says in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logic
Sep 14, 2008 Lavinia rated it really liked it
"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
May 04, 2009 anca dc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-2009
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
"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
May 25, 2009 Lindsay rated it liked it
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
Jeff Shelnutt
Feb 02, 2016 Jeff Shelnutt rated it liked it
In this autobiographical account of how he tumbled accidentally into the Christian faith, Lewis talks about the first time he went to his alma mater, Oxford. He got off the train and began walking. After a mile or two he turned around, bewildered.

There, behind me, far away, never more beautiful since, was the fabled cluster of spires and towers. I had come out of the station on the wrong side and been all this time walking into what was even then the mean and sprawling suburb of Botley. I did n
Demetrius Rogers
Dec 21, 2015 Demetrius Rogers rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, audiobooks
I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I even like The Screwtape Letters. But, I haven't really connected with Lewis' essays as much. I've never really been able to follow his train of thought. Maybe it's his brittishness, or perhaps his discursive mind, but I just can't seem to hang with his discourse. However, I love his imaginative works! And oh man, I love his Till We Have Faces. Anybody who can write such literature deserves further investigation. Well, after reading this autobiography, I'm even ...more
Jun 18, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
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
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
Oct 19, 2014 Selim rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 21, 2016 Olubukola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very much liked reading this. I feel as though the more times I read it, the better I will appreciate it.
Feb 25, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-inklings
I loved this book. I read it about 14 years ago, but still think about the book and the lessons I learned from it.
Feb 27, 2010 Cindi rated it really liked it
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
Rachael Miles
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
Rachel Rueckert
Oct 10, 2011 Rachel Rueckert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious, biography
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
David Woods
This is the autobiography of CS Lewis, chronicling his progression from Atheism to Absolutism, to a belief 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 every 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
Sep 22, 2016 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is so much that I love (absolutely love!) about this book. First of all, it's a book by CS Lewis. Secondly, it's about his life. Thirdly, it's about his life with learning and books. Fourthly, it's a story of a journey of thought from atheism to Christianity. Many of the quotes that people love so much come from this book. This is definitely one to reread many times, and I can't wait to look into some of the books he recommends. There is something about Lewis that makes me think I could ha ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 17, 2012 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  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
Nov 02, 2014 MC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 07, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing
I am convinced that most biographies (not all: I am thinking of Boswell's Dr Johnson) would be better if they concentrated on one's early life -- the way that C.S. Lewis does in 'Surprised By Joy'. Although one's youth can just as well lead one down the wrong path, it is amazing when one reads about someone who has a fine mind, intellectual honesty, and a basic goodness.

In one sense, Surprised by Joy is about its author's journey toward Christianity. In another, it is the picture of a serious qu
Ashley Abate
Jan 25, 2016 Ashley Abate rated it really liked it
My favorite thing about this book is the way Lewis speaks to his reader, assuming we are well educated, curious friends. He continually references moments and quotes from the Great Classics (often in their original languages), as if to give context to what he is trying to say, or "Shaw says it better when...". Its sweet, because Lewis' own thoughts are more relatable to the modern reader than anyone who writes " epic poems" in Greek.
Anyway, Surprised by Joy is not the apologetics I expected; its
Feb 21, 2013 Heather rated it liked it
This book was a little bit different than I expected, but I enjoy how open and honest Lewis is in telling his story and journey of faith. He explains family events and his school environment which affected his faith. He also refers to many places, people and particularly books that made him who he was. I thought his discussion of prayer was most interesting - not praying was what seemed to lead to him losing his faith for a time.

Here are a couple of interesting quotes:

"When my mother's case was
Dec 03, 2013 Grace rated it liked it
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
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C.S. Lewis Books: Surprised by Joy 6 33 Aug 16, 2014 01:49PM  
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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
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“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” 352 likes
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” 67 likes
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