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Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir Paperback – August 9, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0849946115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0849946110
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Well written, often poignant and surprisingly relatable." -Kirkus Reviews

"The metaphors and allusions don't make the text inaccessibly erudite, but instead illustrate the beauty and struggle of her conversion." -Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Carolyn Weber holds her BA from the University of Western Ontario and her M.Phil and D.Phil degrees from Oxford University. She has been Associate Professor of Romantic Literature at Seattle University; she has also taught at Westmont College, University of San Francisco and Oxford University. Carolyn and her husband share the joy of parenting three spirited children in Santa Barbara, CA and London, Canada.  Find her online at

More About the Author

Carolyn Weber is an author and speaker. She taught literature to undergraduates for 15 years, most recently as associate professor of Romantic Literature at Seattle University. As the Canadian Commonwealth scholar for literature, she completed her M.Phil and Doctoral degrees at Oxford University, and later served as the first female Dean of St. Peter's College, Oxford.

Carolyn writes and lives in London, Ontario Canada with her husband and their 4 children.

Customer Reviews

The book recounts her spiritual journey as she wrestles with her past and with God.
Frank Peters
It is also the perfect read to open thoughtful dialogue on Christianity with people who don't believe intellect and faith in God are possible.
B. Vogelgesang
In Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber tells the story of how she found love and faith while a studying literature at Oxford University.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Proof_Rock on August 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
Carolyn Weber's beautifully penned memoir of her personal faith journey is a delight to read. Her descriptions of Oxford are enough to make any Anglophile salivate. As a professor of English literature and an expert in the Romantic poets, she intersperses snippets of classic poetry throughout. Her ongoing references to the poetry of John Donne and John Milton especially captured my attention, their insights having been instrumental in my own spiritual walk. In the end, I want to dust off the Norton anthologies saved from my own college lit classes and immerse myself once more.

When the author is awarded a full scholarship to do graduate work at Oxford University's Balliol College, she hasn't an inkling of the path on which she is setting out. In the company of her colleagues and friends, and spurred on by one particular theology student who lives across the hall, she explores the deep, existential questions that have nagged her for years. For the first time in her life she reads a Bible--what she says is "the most compelling piece of creative nonfiction I had ever read. If I sat around for thousands of years, I could never come up with what it proposes, let alone with how intricately Genesis unfolds toward Revelation." Following in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, the truth of God's Word eventually leads her first to believe in God and ultimately to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Carolyn's journey unfurls as a twofold romance: even as she is being courted by the Divine Lover, she is also courted by "TDH" (Tall, Dark, & Handsome). Conversations with this particular lover of God (and with other friends, both believers and non-believers) serve as the catalyst for her search. The questions had always been there; TDH challenges her to finally seek hard after the answers.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mike Robinson on August 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Perhaps C.S. Lewis (no stooge at describing matters of faith and reason) nailed it when he observed: "Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil" (Lewis was a Christian apologist and spent most of his adult life in Oxford as an educator). You don't need a degree in sociology to see what the good professor was saying; nonetheless in "Surprised by Oxford" Carolyn Weber (Weber is presently a visiting professor of literature at Westmont College) provides a captivating look at culture and religious life for those pursuing higher education in one of the most esteemed citadels of academia.

Weber is a passionate wordsmith and enjoys exploring concepts interspersed in the minds and words of friends, connections, and colleagues. Weber was ready to be confronted with high educational expectations and standards, but what she found along with that, was a deeper knowledge of God and how He works in the lives of people. This book was so readable and charming that I found it difficult to put it down late at night.

Before her commitment to Christ, the author had a high regard for rational quests in the halls of academia without much thought about the author of rationality: God. She found God because he found her as He opened her heart to the truth found in Christ: at Oxford! (Sorry Dawkins).

Chapters include:

- Summer Sunset
- Michaelmas Term
- Christmastide
- Eastertide
- Summer Sunrise
- and more including numerous thought-provoking quotes from literati.

One of my favorite sections was: "Jesus the Great Polarizer." The reader soon learns that one can discuss almost anything at Oxford, but if one mentions the name of Jesus, people get rankled fast.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Justine Hostetler on October 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
An absolute pleasure to read! This is the story and personal commentary of Carolyn Weber's own journey to faith while in her first year at Oxford. It is full of insights into her struggle with issues of faith, lacking a father, feminism, academia, and relationships. Strange to say, but this work of non-fiction is a beautifully written love story. The story of how her heart was won over by a gracious God, and also by deeply caring friends. What made this book exceptional to me was how intelligently it was written. Carolyn writes with stark honesty that is sometimes humorous and other times bluntly challenging. There is none of the cynicism or criticism that I have found with other authors that write with such honesty. The academic traditions and culture of Oxford form a beautiful background for the story. Quotes from literature and poetry are richly sprinkled throughout, adding a literary feel. It was refreshing to read such well-crafted, intelligent prose telling a most worthwhile story. The book read more like a novel than a work of non-fiction. I found myself caught up in the story, unable to put it down. Carolyn made me feel like I was there, experiencing it all with her, one of her friends. My husband is not an avid reader, but I noticed he has picked up the book and is likewise devouring it! Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates academia, literature, intelligence, and is open to ideas of faith. 5 stars out of 5

I received this book on a complimentary basis from BookSneeze (Thomas Nelson Publishers) for purposes of review, and I am not required to give a positive evaluation.
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