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4.3 out of 5 stars36
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on July 2, 2015
I like C.S. Lewis but this autobiography is way too detailed in the first half of the book for my liking. I found myself speed reading through far too many pages.
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on August 26, 2013
If you wanna know the person, character and life behind the man C S Lewis, this is the book that will do the job. I was personally interested in his idea behind the title "Surprised by Joy". What did he mean by "Joy". After a great deal about his life in the book, he answers that question very clearly in the end, saving the book from it being simply about his life.

His road to Christ is explained through his life, taking root in his quest for the imaginary joy that he longed for. This book is highly recommended for it gives yet another compelling evidence for the kingdom of God. This "Joy" that we seek is only met in His Kingdom and there is reason for it.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2004
A disappointment, though not without interest. Lewis's purpose is to tell the story of his conversion from atheism to Christianity. But there is little here to challenge or even interest the open-minded atheist. It seems to me that Lewis converted largely for emotional reasons, apparently because he believed in some kind of Hegelian Absolute. The last two chapters are so vague and poetic (or perhaps poetically motivated...?) as to be very tough to read when trying to find out why he believes and what relevance his conversion might have to me. I never really got clear answers to these questions. Lewis is always readable, but this was disappointing on intellectual grounds (which is true of all his apologetics).
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on March 10, 2004
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? please, take my word, and read this book.
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on November 26, 2003
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 "Joy" and the sense of the scared, and his final conversion from Athiesm to Christiantiy. Full of wisdom, humor and fascinating historical description. His descriptions of his father, mother and brother, including his reaction to his mother's early death, are poignant and moving. He tells, also, of what it was really like to be a yong officer in the trenches of World War I, in which he was seriously wounded. In another key, how to really learn a difficult foreign language. This is a book to treasure and to read again and again.
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on November 7, 2003
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. He describes them as being sentimental, passionate, and rhetorical. While the Hamiltons, on his mother's side were less passionate, more critical and ironic. On both sides, his parents were "bookish" people. He says his brother was a blessing to him, although the two of them were different also.
I love the description of the house full of books in which he grew up. He writes: "My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest..."
He talks about staking out his claim in the attic and making it his study. Early on he became a reader and writer. It was a love affair with communication. He discovered his gift and pursued it from then on.
This book traces the stages of his spiritual journey as well. He is very straightforward in describing what was going on in his mind at various stages. In reading about his unique experiences one acquires insight that can be beneficial in reflection on one's own life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 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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on August 27, 2003
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 that, to becoming not only a Christian, but in many peoples opinion, including mine, the greatest Christian scholar on the twentieth century or many centuries. It is a book I recommend to any academia minded person who wants a literate and challenging work that lays out how a serious atheist and secular scholar can evolve into a scholar who also happens to be a Christian. Chapter fourteen titled Checkmate is where this really gets explained. The other interesting thing about this book is how it got me reading other works from the many people C. S. Lewis mentions as catalysts in his journey. People like George Macdonald, and G K Chesterton. Thus my home library has expanded a lot.
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on August 11, 2003
A wonderful writer.
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on July 5, 2003
"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 Atheism, and ended in Christ's drawing Lewis home. This book is excellent as auto-biographies (Christian or non-Christian) go as C.S. Lewis was one of the 20th Century's best story-tellers and an amazingly well-read professor at Oxford as well. Whether the reader is a Christian or not, C.S. Lewis makes this story entertaining and thought-provoking.
For those readers who have come to believe in Jesus Christ as Man's only possible salvation, this book will leave them marvelling repeatedly at how Christ works in the lives of those he calls. Any Christian reader of "Surprised by Joy" will find numerous similarities in the path C.S. Lewis' salvation took him down, and a Christian reader can't help but want to join him in praising Christ for his awesome goodness in the lives of human beings he touches.
One fascinating element in C.S. Lewis' life, which is so encouraging for Christians in a post-Christian era, is that Lewis was raised by brilliant men to be constantly curious but always logical... always seeking the truth. One of the men Christ used the most in saving C.S. Lewis was a staunch Atheist; a dry, pensive, professor who demanded a rigid adherence to logic in any belief or action. This man, the "Great Knock", as Lewis, his brother, and their father called him, was so influential in Lewis' mental development that Lewis devotes a whole chapter ("The Great Knock") to discussion of him. How fascinating that whereas many today believe a rigorous pursuit of knowledge and facts leads to agnosticism, in the life of the greatest Christian apologist of the 20th Century it led to a belief in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ.
This is a book that I would recommend to anyone, but as "a must" to any Christian. While "Mere Christianity" is C.S. Lewis' best-selling book, and arguably has initiated more paths to Christ than any other book outside the Bible, "Surprised by Joy" presents a more complete understanding of those paths and their ultimate result.
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