Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life

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Surprised by JoyC.S. Lewis–one of the most beloved Christian authors of the Twentieth Century.  But he wasn’t always a Christian.  His quest for joy is what drove him on his spiritual journey–from the nominal Christianity of his youth, to the atheism of his early adult years, and then eventually to become ” the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England”.

Meet C.S. Lewis:
This video offers a tour of many of the places the young Lewis lived and worked along with a narrative about his early life:

Video link: 

Quote from the book:

I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. “Emotional” is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events. It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”

― C.S. Lewis describes his conversion in Surprised by Joy


Topics for discussion that the book will bring up include:

  • The concept of “joy”.  What did it mean to Lewis?  What does it mean to the members of your group?
  • The influence that various people in Lewis’ life had on him and his beliefs.  Your group can also talk about what people have influenced their beliefs or how they think others influence our beliefs in general.
  • The influence that books had in leading Lewis to his eventual conversion.  Group members can discuss the influence that books had upon him–and on readers in general.  Has reading a book ever caused a fundamental change in your worldview?
More discussion questions can be found here.


PBS aired a show called The Question of God in which pits Lewis against Freud, using information from his writing.  The website includes a discussion guide based on the series.  The library also has the DVD of the series and the book that it is based on.  Watching this series and discussing it would be a great follow up to your groups discussion of Surprised by Joy.

C.S. Lewis makes a lot of allusions to other literary works in Surprised by Joy.  This website has a list of all of them and what work he is referring to.  Have your group members bookmark it so that they have a handy “cheat sheet” to refer to while they read.


Is C.S. Lewis on of your favorite authors?  Or have you yet to read on of his books?  Share your experiences and thoughts on this popular author in the comments section.