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Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955)

by C. S. Lewis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,985501,356 (3.93)124
In the closest thing we have to an autobiography, C. S. Lewis, an unfailingly honest and perceptive observer of self, here shares the story of his personal spiritual journey. With characteristic candor and insight, he describes how his "search for joy" led him from the conventional Christianity of his childhood to a youthful atheism, and finally back to an assured Christianity compatible with his formidable intellect. With no pretense, Lewis describes his early schooldays, his experiences in the trenches during World War I, and his undergraduate life at Oxford, where he reasoned his way to God. Lewis' "surprise" holds continuing interest not only for admirers of his work but for any modern seeker concerned with the compatibility of the rational and the spiritual.… (more)
  1. 40
    The Confessions of St. Augustine by Saint Augustine (2below)
    2below: For anyone interested in exploring spiritual autobiographies, Augustine's Confessions is a good example. Like Lewis, he begins by discussing his early life and how it shaped the development of his spiritual life as he got older. More verbose and theological than Lewis, especially after the conversion: Augustine devotes the remainder to an exegesis of Genesis.… (more)
  2. 00
    Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C. S. Lewis by C. S. Lewis (FFortuna)
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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
C.S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy is interesting from two perspectives: first, that it is the closest Lewis came to writing a conventional autobiography; second, that it recounts the process that led to Lewis becoming a Christian, and so is an invaluable aid to his philosophical and theological writings. Sometimes these two perspectives seem to be jostling for position: the earlier portion of the book deals with Lewis's childhood in great detail (including a painful account of his schooldays), while the more formal autobiography peters out in the book's second half. The spiritual theme is always present, but less so in the book's first part (for example, we learn less than might be expected about Lewis's teenage shift to atheism). Perhaps the reason for this is the connecting thread: Lewis's concept of 'joy'. 'Joy' is an Augustinian longing that manifests itself first in creative fantasy, then in the Nordic myths before finally finding its true aim. Perhaps for this reason, the book comes to an abrupt halt once the pursuit of 'joy' brings Lewis back to the Christian faith. While Surprised by Joy may be somewhat unusual in form, it is no less valuable for anyone interested in C.S. Lewis. ( )
  Lirmac | Mar 2, 2022 |
An autobiography of Lewis’s early life and the influences and experiences that led him to become an atheist and then later return to Christianity. Gotta be honest — this one bored me most of the way through, right up until the last couple of chapters. ( )
  vvbooklady | Jan 1, 2022 |
4.5 stars - I really liked this book. The writing style was wonderful to read. I especially enjoyed this first-person perspective on his past and what events he felt were the most important and life changing. As with his other non-fiction, it was a slower read due to the literary quality of the writing, but that in no way diminished my pleasure in reading it.
Reading this book has both rekindled my desire to read more by Lewis and to look for a good biography of his whole life.
( )
  ChelseaVK | Dec 10, 2021 |
3.5 stars. Lewis is so well-read that a lot of his references to authors or philosophies and how they affected his life really went over my head, or at best, I could recognize the reference and understand just a little bit. That was not particularly enjoyable to me. He has this way of writing conversationally, referring to points in his story ahead or behind his current place which was quite familiar and almost friendly, which was enjoyable to me. And then there is his textbook writing style that is so charming and matter-of-fact, his way with words that is such a joy to take in. The story of his conversion to Christianity is told from his childhood, pretty much up to the time of actual conversion and not very much further. His is not a typical story of a man who comes to find himself in a place of great need who sees God as his only way out and find more than he ever hoped. His is the story of the man who came reluctantly to his faith, inch by inch through his learning and logic and though he very much would have liked to avoid it. His God is not the lovey-dovey forgive-all-your-sins God, but the Inevitable, Unchanging, and Completely Right; the I Am who will not be ignored and who, when finally accepted and seen rightly, causes His followers to change their own lives to better relate to His holiness. ( )
  Annrosenzweig | Oct 15, 2021 |
The last three chapters were typical Lewis. And most of his insights into character were brilliant. However, most of the book was rather dry and methodical... not as exploratory as some of his others.

I did find myself disagreeing with him about his schoolmates known as "Tarts" though. And I was disheartened by the lack of progress in boys schools between his time and Dickens'. It was amazing that he was as untouched as he was... and still more amazing that the world isn't more messed up as a result.

His varied referenced to authors and works were both affirming and frustrating-- affirming because it confirmed that we had much in common and frustrating because there was so much I hadn't read.
( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lewis, C. S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pearson, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skeats, ClareCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Surprised by joy - impatient as the wind
—Wordsworth
Dedication
To Dom Bede Griffiths, O.S.B.
First words
I was born in the winter of 1898 at Belfast, the son of a solicitor and of a clergyman's daughter.
Quotations
"I am struck here by the curious mixture of justice and injustice in our lives. We are blamed for our real faults but usually not on the right occasions."
"The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."
Our destination was the little town of -- let us call it Belsen [Watford] ê in Hertfordshire. "Green Hertfordshire", Lamb calls it; but it was not green to a boy bred in County Down. It was flat Hertfordshire, flinty Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire of the yellow soil. There I first knew bitter frost and stinging fog, sweltering heat and thunderstorms on the great scale. ... We bought sweets in drowsy village shops and pottered about on the canal bank or sat at the brow of a railway cutting watching a tunnel-mouth for trains. Hertfordshire came to look less hostile.
I was wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. Inexorably Joy proclaimed, "You want something other, outside".
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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In the closest thing we have to an autobiography, C. S. Lewis, an unfailingly honest and perceptive observer of self, here shares the story of his personal spiritual journey. With characteristic candor and insight, he describes how his "search for joy" led him from the conventional Christianity of his childhood to a youthful atheism, and finally back to an assured Christianity compatible with his formidable intellect. With no pretense, Lewis describes his early schooldays, his experiences in the trenches during World War I, and his undergraduate life at Oxford, where he reasoned his way to God. Lewis' "surprise" holds continuing interest not only for admirers of his work but for any modern seeker concerned with the compatibility of the rational and the spiritual.

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Contents

I. The first years.

II. Concentration Camp.

III. Mountbracken and Campbell.

IV. I broaden my mind.

V. Renaissance.

VI. Bloodery.

VII. Light and Shade

VIII. Release.

IX. The great knock.

X. Fortune's smile.

XI. Check.

XII. Guns and good company.

XIII. The new look.

XIV. Checkmate.

XV. The beginning.
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Ediciones Encuentro

3 editions of this book were published by Ediciones Encuentro.

Editions: 8474906628, 8474909007, 8474902371

 

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