I first read Surprised by Joy in about 1985; during a period of time when I was actively investigating Christianity. Then and since, I regard this autobiography of CS Lewis as a superb book - one of the best autobiographies ever, and as full of perfectly expressed and permanently memorable stuff as any other book of its length.
In particular, the focus of this book - the experience of 'Joy' (which is essentially the same as Novalis's Sehnsucht or a Colin Wilson's Peak Experience) has for me, as it was for Lewis, been probably the core of my life.
Surprised by Joy described my own deepest spontaneous yearnings, diagnosed exactly the ineradicable problems with making that 'desire' and 'state of mind' the focus of my life - and pointed to the answer in Christianity. An answer that I eventually reached myself - and in which I continue to regard Lewis as one of the most important of my mentors.
So here was a first-rate book which was written by a man with whom I had much in common, spiritually, in that we were both lifelong Romantics; a book describing beginning with Joy and becoming a Christian...
Yet the fact is that I did not become a Christian; not until more than 20 years after reading SbJ.
Also, it was only after a few more years as a Christian when I reached the point of being able to reach what I regard as a satisfactory way of knowing Christianity to be the real and full answer to my Romantic yearning; I mean (what I call) Romantic Christianity.
The reason that Surprised by Joy did not convert me back in 1985, I now perceive to be because it defines the problem, and make the diagnosis - but does not provide the answer.
Indeed, in its final concluding passages, SbJ explicitly rules-out what I would now regard as the true solution to the problem. Here is the penultimate paragraph:
You see the problem?
But what, in conclusion, of Joy? for that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the old stab, the old bittersweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever. But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts. When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, "Look!" The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold. "We would be at Jerusalem."