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Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  26,790 ratings  ·  865 reviews
"A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous." This book is not an autobiography. It is not a confession. It is, however, certainly one of the most beautiful and insightful accounts of a person coming to faith. Here, C.S. Lewistakes us fromhis childhood in ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published March 23rd 1966 by Mariner Books (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
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
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
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" 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
Courtney Joshua
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Webster Bull
With crystalline clarity Lewis lays out his conversion to Christian faith as a path of ten thousand stones trod in logical succession. So different than my own experience, a leap of the heart into the darkness of morning mass, "Surprised" was too erudite for me in many places. I will have to read it again, and perhaps a third time, to follow Lewis’s logic properly. But as I wrote on my blog "Witness" I feel kinship with Lewis and identify with what I understand of his experience. http://witness2 ...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.
Such a pleasure to read such an unaffected tale of growing up. This book struck me in much the same way as Karen Armstrong's "The Spiral Staircase" as the least "action-packed" books I have ever read. Now, that previous sentence may sound like a harsh criticism, but in truth both books focus on the thrill of evolving worldviews and are quite intriguing! At the finish of long thoughtful roads, Lewis becomes a Christian while Armstrong becomes a "free-lance monotheist." What a treasure it is to be ...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
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C.S. Lewis Books: Surprised by Joy 6 25 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
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.” 332 likes
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” 53 likes
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