Surprised by Joy, by C. S. Lewis

A Book Review by Naomi Downing

Back Cover:

“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere… God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

This book is not an autobiography. It is not a confession. It is, however, certainly one of the most beautiful and insightful accounts of a person coming to faith. Here, C.S. Lewis takes us from his childhood in Belfast through the loss of his mother, to boarding school and a youthful atheism in England, to the trenches of World War I, and then to Oxford, where he studied, read, and, ultimately, reasoned his way back to God. It is perhaps this aspect of Surprised by Joy that we—believers and nonbelievers—find most compelling and meaningful; Lewis was searching for joy, for an elusive and momentary sensation of glorious yearning, but he found it, and spiritual life, through the use of reason. In this highly personal, thoughtful, intelligent memoir, Lewis guides us toward joy and toward the surprise that awaits anyone who seeks a life beyond the expected.

Okay, I’ll admit. A good portion of the beginning was pretty boring. At first, I regretted choosing this book. The different boarding schools Lewis talked about all kind of ran together and… well, like I said… weren’t that interesting.

But then I got closer to the end, and after he stopped going to school his life got more interesting. (Which sounds kind of bad…) He talked about the war, going to college, and how he came to be a Christian.

Even through the boring parts, sometimes Lewis would word something in an amusing way, or a really good way. I noticed he takes things that I believe, but explains them in a way that makes me understand them even better. (I’m not saying I believe every single thing that Lewis believed, just that he is really good at explaining things.) So that’s talent.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t recommend this book—it did get really interesting near the end—but I would probably warn readers that it could drag for a good portion of the beginning.

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Downing is a homeschooled high school student who live on a small farm in the middle of no where. She enjoys reading, writing, taking pictures and dreaming about her future. She blogs at

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