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Surprised by joy: The shape of my early life [Unknown Binding]

C. S Lewis
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Fontana Books (1959)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007JB1IE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,839,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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 when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics, the Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.


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First Sentence
I WAS BORN in the winter of 1898 at Belfast, the son of a solicitor and of a clergyman's daughter. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise, Entertaining, Beautifully Written 13 Oct 2000
Format:Paperback
I have loved this book for the better part of thirty years - - and not simply because it is the autobiography of one of my favorite authors. I would revere this book if it was the only work by C. S. Lewis that had ever been published.
Lewis himself said that the best part of many long novels, such as Dickens's, is the beginning - - the childhood years. As an autobiographer Lewis excels here, too, with his account of his imaginative formation in a big old Belfast house and as a junior member of a family that included some eccentrics indeed. We read on to an account of his school-days miseries that rivals George Orwell's notorious essay "'Such, Such Were the Joys'." (One of Lewis's masters was institutionalized as insane within a year or so of Lewis's leaving the school.) Later, we read of his wartime experiences. (He did not have to serve in World War I, by the way, as Irish-born.)
Are you a Tolkien fan? You'll enjoy Lewis's account of his wary meeting with a "Papist" philologist.
The account of his conversion is, of course, a classic, one that people may, I believe, be reading for decades, even centuries, to come; many people have found it useful in understanding their own spiritual experiences.
The book is generous, poetic, and fresh.
Dale Nelson English Department Mayville State University, USA
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
By MJDR
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have already read most of C.S.Lewis' works, but I'd intentionally put-off reading 'Surprised by Joy'. I'd felt it more interesting to learn Christian Wisdom from what he wrote after his conversion, than to concern myself with how he became converted. However, I finally gave in; and it is a thoroughly good read, unusually humorous in some places: his memories of his eccentric father and also of a wartime troop-train had me laughing out- loud. Another C.S.Lewis triumph.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny Story and Review... 26 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Before I saw this book on a shelf in a library, I knew that C.S. Lewis married a woman named Joy. When I saw the title, I thought the book must have been about how he and Joy met each other and that since he was an older man when he married, he was "surprised by Joy." Funny thought, but not the case. This is C.S. Lewis' spiritual autobiography. He describes his early years, his internal yearnings, his hunger for he-knew-not-what. A more honest book, you would be hard pressed to find. I give it the highest rating possible and recommend it to all. Also recommended: Castle of Wisdom by Rhett Ellis-- a Christian book that is... well, different.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By R.J.W89
Format:Paperback
I was informed, by reviews of the book, that this would chart his conversion from atheism to Christianity. I was, instead, surprised to read a good autobiography about him, with a great deal of reference to what Lewis calls 'stabs of Joy'. The the last few pages chronicled in lightning speed how he went from atheism, to theism, and then to believing that Christ was the son of God. I'd have liked to read more about his philosophical musings on why Christianity is a valid, and true religion. But nevertheless, it was an entertaining read, and provided a good sight into Lewis' character.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true philosopher 10 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
I read this book before any of Lewis' other non-fiction works (with the execption of 'Screwtape letters') to find out something about the man.
It was interesting, to say the least, but is not an 'autobiography' in the sense that some may understand.

Surprised by Joy is more a chronicle of Lewis' life journey, the influnences of his parents and events in childhood, and his schooling on his personality and perspective. Lewis is deep, philosophical and analytical throughout, because of this the book can be rather tedious and difficult. If you are not familiar with Classical Mythology, or Dialetic much of it will go over your head, as it did for me.

Despite that, it is worth a read, to discover something about Lewis' character, if nothing else, and provide a background to some of this other works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joyful 19 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a delightful book typical of the man. I think it takes a while to get used to his way of writing but once this is mastered a store of wealth is awaiting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised by Jack 10 Mar 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Surprised by Joy" is one of C.S. Lewis' most well-known books. In it, he tells the story of his conversion to Christianity. I found the book both interesting, confusing and somewhat disturbing.

Lewis' mother died young, his father seems to have been quite insane, and his school years at "Wyvern" were marked by extreme pennalism. He describes both the hazing and the institutionalized pederasty with a remarkable restraint - something I frankly find somewhat objectionable.

Lewis' Christianity, despite his claims to strict orthodoxy, always had certain original features. One was the idea that paganism had foreshadowed Christianity, just as much as the Old Testament. Virgil, Plato and Aeschylus were a kind of "pagan Old Testament". It comes as no surprise to learn that Lewis was enamoured of both these and other pagan writings already before converting. Thus, he went through a Wagnerian-Norse period as a child and teenager. Despite his participation in World War I, Lewis comes across as very much an "ivory tower intellectual". Romantic longing, ancient and early modern poetry, classical music and philosophical speculation - these were his main preoccupations, rather than politics or science. (Lewis claim to have been interested in science, as well. If he did, it certainly doesn't show!) Lewis also reveals that he had periodically been interested in Theosophy and the occult. He was seriously shocked when two of his best friends, including Owen Barfield, became Anthroposophists. However, Lewis never broke with Barfield, and even included Charles Williams (a Christian "ex"-occultist) in his circle of friends. I wonder why? Did he nevertheless feel some kind of unwanted fascination with occult teachings?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book as I expected it to be. I am half way through it and a couple of friends are already queuing up to read it after I finish!
Published 7 days ago by D
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Lewis is known for his Christian faith but there are also chapters and sections that show his sense of humour. This is a wonderful book and bears re-reading.
Published 1 month ago by Will
5.0 out of 5 stars Master piece!
C S Lewis is for me one of the best writers in the modern era, his simplicity and depth are amaizing, he has a particular way to engage with the reader that no many are able to. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Javier Chaviel
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Christians and Atheists alike.
This is deserved of a erudite and considered critique rather than the one liner I have time for. However this book is potentially life changing, or at the very least mind changing. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Alastair Dracup
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable
CS Lewis has a way with words. An easy read if a little eccentric. A transparent account of turmoil in a young lad.
Published 3 months ago by David G Smithard
2.0 out of 5 stars Christianity
Many of te arguments are far too complicated and much of the rest is boring. Even "The Great Divorce" is better then this!
Published 3 months ago by Mr. H. Weatherall
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised By Joy
A good read but with some archaeic language in some parts.
He left a lot out of this book according to a TV programme but
I enjoyed it.
Published 4 months ago by Enid Bennett-shaw
3.0 out of 5 stars There's more to life than books you know, but not much more
First of all I enjoyed this book, more because it evoked memories of the books I'd read in my teens and early twenties, and the pleasure derived there from, than because of any... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Euclidean Norm
4.0 out of 5 stars A book full of surprises
I like reading but I choose my books to read on their individual merits. There has never been an author whose work I will read indiscriminately, and in turn I rarely read several... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Penguin
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised by Joy
What a wonderfully written book. Grammar first class, would be really appreciated by someone who loves the written words and really gives you a flavour of where C J Lewis was... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marva Wilson-Harrison
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