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Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  43,771 ratings  ·  1,434 reviews
Introduction (From Wikipedia)
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life is a partial autobiography published by C. S. Lewis in 1955. Specifically the book describes the author's conversion to Christianity which had taken place 24 years earlier.

Overview (From Wikipedia)
Lewis' purpose in writing was not primarily historical. His aim was instead to identify and describe the
Kindle Edition, Revised edition (March 23, 1966), 253 pages
Published March 23rd 1966 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1955)
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4.09  · 
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 ·  43,771 ratings  ·  1,434 reviews

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Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Douglas Wilson
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Great. Finished yet again in November of 2017. And again in January of 2018.
Mark Adderley
May 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
Olivier Delaye
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
C. S. Lewis, one of J. R. R. Tolkien's best friends and creator of the Narnia Chronicles, among others. Pure genius. Period.
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irlanda
Libro autobiografico in cui C.S. Lewis racconta la storia del suo passaggio dall'ateismo al cristianesimo. La sua fu una conversione lenta, sofferta, tormentata, e quando infine giunse all’ammissione dell’esistenza di Dio definì se stesso il “convertito più riluttante di tutta l’Inghilterra”.
Qui C.S. Lewis descrive il suo itinerario spirituale ripercorrendo la lunga strada della sua vita.
Affascinante, sorprendente.
David Sarkies
May 19, 2014 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 16, 2016 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
Courtney Carlson
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
Nick Imrie
'I never read an autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not far the most interesting.' C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy

'This book is written partly in answer to requests that I would tell how I passed from Atheism to Christianity […] The book aims at telling the story of my conversion and is not a general autobiography, still less 'Confession' like those of Augustine or Rousseau. This means in practice that it gets less like a general autobiography as it goes on.' C.S. Lew
Lydia Dyslin
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprised by Joy is by C.S. Lewis.

I really enjoyed this book. I liked learning more about C.S. Lewis's life. I have enjoyed most of the books I have read that are by him, and I enjoyed reading his conversion story.

Many of the references to literature were lost on me, though. He compared an event in his life to some ancient poem that I had never read, and so most of that side of the book was lost on me.

However, even if I didn't understand a lot of the references, I still liked reading the book
"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
Demetrius Rogers
Jun 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, memoir
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
Ian Galey
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The autobiography of C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy outlines the occurrences of Joy in Lewis's life and how these accompanied him from his childhood to his conversion from atheism (or "anti-theism" as Lewis refers to it) to theism to Christianity. Lewis defines Joy as an intense longing or desire that is itself the most desirable desire. As Lewis discovers, it is not the longing itself that he actually desired but the object of the longing which is for something far greater than and not of this w ...more
anca dc
Jan 21, 2009 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
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
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Have some mixed feelings on this one. I love reading about his conversion and philosophical reasoning processes, but the chapter where he addressed the pederasty (student to student, not adult to student) and other issues going on at one of the schools he attended left me pretty disturbed. I was not satisfied by his exploration of greater vs. lesser moral evils. I'd have to reread that chapter and do some serious pondering/praying, but . . . yeah. Not totally at rest regarding that. I also felt ...more
Richard Ryan
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I'm pleasantly surprised by Surprised by Joy. I've attempted a couple of his other books which I couldn't get my head around, and indeed I have read other books I understood better but rated less than this one, but there really was something quite special about Surprised by Joy which kept me enthralled to the end. Maybe it was the journey, maybe because I knew a lot of the places he mentioned, maybe because I saw a bit of Lewis in me (only without the same intellect). Whatever it was, It's a boo ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1) I am rather dismayed at the education system CS Lewis had to go through - it was hard to read about school after school of terrible pedagogy, abuse and neglect.
2) I greatly appreciate his intellectual honesty - I now trust much more his quick refutation of certain ideas in other books, because I see that he once held these ideas in the highest regard, loved them and lived them; and therefore, rejected their most compelling version. I can almost picture him creating these models of the world i
Jeff Shelnutt
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
Jul 29, 2014 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
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
Sep 22, 2016 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
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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.
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, the-inklings
An excellent book! For C.S. Lewis fans and more. If interested in the full discussion from the Inklings Series, join in!
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Clive Staples Lewis 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
“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” 391 likes
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.” 99 likes
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