Surprised by Oxford (Carolyn Weber)

In a word: Rich


I spoke a little bit about this book already, but it was too full of goodness to not get its own post. I picked this book up on the recommendation of a fellow book-lover, and it was definitely a right-time, right-book situation. I was coming off of a list of heavy books, and Surprised by Oxford was like a breath of fresh air.

Carolyn Weber (Caro) reflects back at her time at Oxford University where she was unexpectedly faced with the claims of Christianity. She had grown up knowing about God (ish), but she had never seriously considered the person of Jesus or the implications that knowing Him might have for her life. She believed that her ideals as a feminist and an intellectual were at odds with the teachings of the Bible. As she engages in conversations with professors and fellow students, she finds her heart stirred and her mind convinced that Jesus truly is who he says he is.

Caro is articulate and thoughtful and this book was a joy to read. She was getting her master’s degree in Romantic literature, so there are tons of quotes from Keats and Milton, and Coleridge mixed in with her own musings. She and her friends regularly quote poetry in the midst of their conversations, which is just delightful.

Just before going abroad on my scholarship, I came across an epigram by Alexander Pope, the the eighteenth-century English poet famous for his clever wit and urbane satire. Pope engraved the verse on the collar of a dog, which he then gifted the king:

I am his Highness’ Dog at Kew:
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Granted, the dog image is not as elegant or politically correct as some might prefer, but it does effectively beg the question: just who is your master? For we all have one. No individual, by the very state of existence, can avoid life as a form of servitude; it only remains for us to decide, deny, or remain oblivious to, whom or what we serve.

I did feel like this book was a little bit longer than I would have preferred (lots of nonfiction is!), and I admit that I skimmed a couple of chunks in the middle, but overall it was really great. If you enjoy rich, thoughtful non-fiction, this might be a good choice for you!



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