Book Review: “Surprised by Oxford” by Carolyn Weber

Recommended. So I’ve been recommending this book to people left and right and it’s time for me to do the same for my readership at large. This memoir has been stunningly enchanting for me, it’s wildly entertaining, and spiritually encouraging.

Carolyn Weber writes about her journey through the academic world as she pursued a masters degree at Oxford University. It’s often assumed that intellects have a harder time with embracing the Christian God than most, that logic and reason somehow don’t mesh with faith. But if we believe in the God who created the universe, what makes us think he can’t save even the brightest of scholars? Weber is among the upper echelon of intellects, having spent time at the highly prestigious Oxford, yet being surrounded by tradition and intellect couldn’t stop her from being pursued by God and the truth of the gospel. This memoir captures her experience finding, understanding, and eventually putting her faith in Christ in the strangest of places.

I fell in love with this book because of its honesty about the difficulties in coming to Christ and her impeccable way of presenting them. There are no illusions in this book as to what the call of Christ requires: Weber, as most Christians, had to make some significant sacrifices and persevered through many struggles due to her newfound convictions. Her personal life comes into focus and she’s brutally honest with the thoughts that ran through her head during her most pressing struggles. Issues with family and relationships arise, and difficult decisions are made as a result of her faith. No one could walk away from this memoir thinking the Christian life is easy. And even through her deepest doubts, God was faithful in bringing people alongside her to encourage her. After all is said and done, I walked away praising God even more for how he brings us, His children, through trials.

Theological issues, as with all books, are present but not obvious which is a plus in this genre of literature. This isn’t a Christian Living book or a theological dissertation–it’s an honest assessment of a life coming to Christ; even the structure of the book is unique and lends to an easier read. Weber makes true statements of the character of God without being over-powering and therefore taking away from the narrative; even so, the reader still walks away with a better understanding of the God who captured her heart.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for spiritual encouragement without the “Christian Living” book feel. It’s a leisurely read and a refreshing look at a person coming to faith in the midst of disagreement and doubts. Weber, an Associate Professor of Romantic Literature at Seattle University, demonstrates exceptional writing abilities and her witty insights make this book a joy to read (and her references to literature make me want to read even more). More specifically though, I think this book would be encouraging for anyone looking to go into academia–the application and parallels are just too perfect to pass up.

bc

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