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Surprised By Joy [Paperback]

C S Lewis
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 14 1998 The C.

This is a fascinating account of Lewis's spiritual life. It amounts to an autobiography. From Lewis's early years it then covers the spiritual crisis which was, in his own view, crucial to his later life.

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'He is admirably equipped to write spiritual autobiography for the plain man, for his outstanding gift is clarity. You can take it at two levels, as straight autobiography, or as a kind of spiritual thriller, a detective's probing of clue and motive that led up to his return to the Christianity he had lost in childhood.' Isabel Quigley, Sunday Times

About the Author

Born in Ireland in 1898, C.S. Lewis gained a triple First at Oxford and was Fellow and Tutor at Magdalen College from 1925-54, where he was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien, among others. In 1954 he became Professor of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. One of the most gifted and influential Christian writers of our time, he is also celebrated for his Narnia Chronicles and his literary criticism and science fiction. C.S. Lewis died on 22 November 1963.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece Sept. 12 2003
This is C. S. Lewis's spiritual autobiography and it is a masterpiece. Lewis was raised in a somewhat nominal Christianity, which he threw off as a school-boy. But as Lewis says, "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There were traps everywhere - 'Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,' as Herbert says, 'fine nets and strategems.' God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous." And this book is Lewis's chronicle of God's strategems and nets and the surprises which eventually converted Lewis back to Christianity. Central to this process was Lewis's experience of joy, which he defines as "an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction." As a boy and as a man, Lewis was stabbed by this desire, yet never able to satisfy it. By a process of elimination, he came to realize that (as he says in another book) "if I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." The desire led him to the Objective Other - the Absolute - Spirit. At first, Lewis viewed this Other as an impersonal and objective absolute. But, God strategically boxed him into a corner (Lewis uses the analogy of check-mate in a game of chess) where he was forced to acknowledge that this Other was God Himself, and beyond that, God enfleshed in Jesus Christ. Woven into the story are the events of Lewis's childhood, education, and intellectual development. Quite a lot of the discussion centers around his reading, from Beatrix Potter as a child, to Keats, Herbert, MacDonald, and Chesterton as a young adult. This is a fascinating book and one cannot quite hope to fully appreciate Lewis without reading it. I highly recommend it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece: One Man's Journey to God Feb. 15 2002
C.S. Lewis has written a masterpiece on the subject of one man's conversion to Christianity. Not only that, it is a must-read for any fan of Lewis, for it sheds a great deal of light on his early life and biography. It follows Lewis from childhood to his conversion to Christianity as an adult professor, tracing the influences on his philisophical and religious thinking along the way. It is in my mind a modern Augustine's "Confessions". Lewis writes, as usual, with great candor and his usual lucid, easy to follow prose that takes complex issues and makes them understandable to everyone. This style has made him one of the finest Christian authors. His 'Mere Christianity' and 'Screwtape Letters' are other examples of his books that challenge a reader's religious philosophy. Of course, Lewis is more famous in most circles for his 'Narnia' books, which are also great, but it is his philisophical and deeply personal treatment of Christianity that makes him one of the greats.
Highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to see how one man made his journey to belief and/or wants to learn more about C.S. Lewis, the man.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It brings God nearer, or near in a new way." Aug. 12 2001
This is the firsthand account of how C.S. Lewis passed from Atheism through to Theism, and onward to Christianity. Lewis says in the Preface that he knew of no autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not by far the most interesting. As such, the entire first half of his own consists of a detailed recollection of childhood and adolescence. The second half is devoted to tracing his adult intellectual interests and particularly to recounting the thought processes which led him in his thirtieth year to a profound conversion experience.
Lewis said "How far the story matters to anyone but myself depends on the degree to which others have experienced what I call 'joy'." By "joy" he was referring to his concept of "sehnsucht" a German word that came closest to the sense of yearning or longing that Lewis felt as early on as six years old. Sehnsucht is an experience difficult to define... it is a longing for an object which is never fully given, coupled with a sense of alienation or displacement from what is desired. Perhaps another way of describing it could be a ceaseless yearning which always points beyond itself. It is this elusive nature of sehnsucht that Lewis had in mind when he (in typical brevity) coined the phrase "our best havings are wantings." At any rate, sehnsucht or "joy" was such a crucial element in the development of Lewis that we find it here in the title of his life story, and the "surprise" for him was in the gradual realization that joy (as such) was not foreign, contrary to, unaddressed by or otherwise OPPOSED to theism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for the Lewis admirer Nov. 11 2001
The Lewis admirer will greatly appreciate this book and its depiction of the early life of this Christian genius. He describes his slow transformation from stanch athiest to devout Christian in the complicated simplicity that only Lewis can achieve. However, be weary of this book if you have never previously read Lewis. The development of the story is rather slow and lethargic and the non-Lewis fan may find it difficult to get through the early chapters. Yet, for the Lewis admirer the lax early chapters are well worth the culminating transformation in the late portion.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting info about C S Lewis
If you wanna know the person, character and life behind the man C S Lewis, this is the book that will do the job. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Georges Assaf
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
A disappointment, though not without interest. Lewis's purpose is to tell the story of his conversion from atheism to Christianity. Read more
Published on April 6 2004 by Alan Nicoll (real name)
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read
one of the best books by my fav author of all time. well worded, insightful, instructive, inspirational - how many more 'i' words do you need? Read more
Published on March 10 2004 by jeff reedy
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely and perennially absorbing book
This is a great book by a great writer, telling both of CS Lewis's life, including his education and his experiences as a front-line soldier in World War I, and his discovery of... Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2003 by Susan Norton
5.0 out of 5 stars Introspective and Informative
Lewis says the two families from which he sprang were extremely different in both temperament and origin. On his dad's side there was the Welsh lineage. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2003 by Dr. W. G. Covington, Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece Read this work of his first
Owning all of C.S.Lewis' non-fiction works I believe this is the first book most people should own, simply because it shows his journey from being an atheist and a serious one at... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2003 by Beth DeRoos
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis is deeply intelligent.
A wonderful writer.
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by Declan
5.0 out of 5 stars The auto-biography of Believers.
"Surprised by Joy" is C.S. Lewis' auto-biographical book about the early, formational years of his life, which began with a vaguely religious upbringing, led into devout... Read more
Published on July 5 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Mere Joy
As much as C.S. Lewis hems and haws in his preface about how suffocatingly subjective and uninteresting this book will be to many readers, there are few books in Lewis' corpus that... Read more
Published on April 28 2003 by Joshua M. Clark
4.0 out of 5 stars Strikingly honest description
As many have noted, there are parts of this book that tend to drag a bit and are less than gripping. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2003 by TLS
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