Surprised by Oxford – by Carolyn Weber

Surprised by Oxford

  • ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist
  • Best Book, Christian Living, Logos Bookstores
  • Winner, Grace Irwin Literary Prize, for Christian Book of the Year by a Canadian Author

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Book Summary: Surprised by Oxford is the memoir of a skeptical agnostic who comes to a dynamic personal faith in God during graduate studies in literature at Oxford University.


“A hugely readable journey of cultural and spiritual discovery, sparkling with wit and wisdom.”
     -Alister McGrath, Author & Apologist

“…reads like a fast-paced novel. I loved the humor, skillful use of language and compelling account…”
     -Marilyn Meberg, Women of Faith

“…filled with prose that sings and paragraphs that beg to be read a second time.  A delightful read.
     -Trevin Wax in CT’s “Books to Note”

“Well written, often poignant and surprisingly relatable.”
     –Kirkus Reviews


“Surprised by Oxford is a sprightly contribution to the genre of spiritual memoirs in the vein of C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy and Lauren F. Winner’s Girl Meets God. Carolyn Weber is an unconventional thinker whose engagingly told faith journey will speak to folks who still believe that thoughtful people cannot be Christian.”

Dr Lyle W. Dorsett,
Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism,
Beeson Divinity School

“Carolyn Weber is a formidable intellect and a sought after college professor, as well as a great wife and mom. But what I love most about her is her heart, which you’ll find on every page of this book. Showing us the world through her eyes, she brings readers along on her journey to Oxford, where the unexpected awaited her. This is a journey worth taking, and as our guide, Carolyn is candid, insightful and charming.”

Randy Alcorn
Author of Heaven and If God is Good

“A hugely readable journey of cultural and spiritual discovery, sparkling with wit and wisdom.”

Revd Professor Alister McGrath,
Centre for Theology, Religion & Culture
Kings College London

“Carolyn Weber’s memoir reads like a fast-paced novel. I loved the humor, skillful use of language and compelling account of her steps to finding God at Oxford. I was totally captivated from beginning to end. I simply loved everything about this book.”

Marilyn Meberg
Author and ‘Women of Faith’ speaker

“Carolyn Weber has written a wonderful, enchanting tale of how her journey to Oxford became a much greater adventure of life and faith. Her captivating prose details the odyssey of the human longing to find meaning and purpose in life while fastening our destiny to purposes that will outlive us. Beautifully and elegantly written, this is a wonderful invitation to reflect on the nuances of your own life and faith by entering into the vast world of one who has walked this same journey.”

Dr Gayle D. Beebe
President, Westmont College

“In the spirit of C.S. Lewis, Carolyn Weber has given us a conversion observed. With sparkling immediacy, she recreates the succession of experiences and encounters by which God broke down her old faith in self and drew her into the more abundant life.”

Claudia Anderson
Managing Editor, The Weekly Standard

Surprised by Oxford is a three-dimensional love story about a young woman’s romance with Oxford, with a handsome stranger, and (most of all) with a Savior she never wanted or expected to meet. This funny, well-written, heart-warming memoir will give you fresh joy for the love that only the grace of God can bring to life.”

Dr Philip Ryken
President, Wheaton College

“Carolyn Weber has penned a memoir for the ages; a tale of learning, love and life. She didn’t come to Oxford University to think about God but in the end she discovered that He was thinking about her and this reality changed her life. This is a terrific book; compelling, well written, and deeply meaningful.”

Dr Jim Belcher
Pastor and Author, Deep Church

“Vulnerable candor, romantic adventure, spirit and spires, a light so lovely that many students and lovers will be drawn to this journey into life. Into beauty. I found it too intriguing, and too much fun, to put down. It is all gift.”

Kelly Monroe Kullberg
Author, Finding God Beyond Harvard:
the Quest for Veritas

“Carolyn Weber’s brilliantly written account of her conversion to Christianity in Oxford will inspire her fellow believers and provide intriguing food for thought for sceptics. It is honest, entertaining and refreshingly free of superficial cant. I warmly commend it.”

Vaughan Roberts
Rector, St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford

“It is a delight to read Carolyn’s pilgrimage to God through some of the best of English literature and poetry. Reading each chapter is a discovery of sentences, phrases and couplets that delight the heart. Carolyn’s journey to God is through the lens of the mind, the intellect and an appreciation and wonder for beauty. Hers is a story of a brilliant academic finding spiritual depth and roots without sacrificing her mind on the altar of conformity or devotion. Her sharp wit and keen insight into both academia and culture allowed me to simultaneously explore Oxford, great literature and a woman looking for home (not to mention her romance). I heartily commend it to readers who yearn for both delight and depth.”

Don N. Johnson
Senior Pastor, Montecito Covenant Church
Santa Barbara, CA

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“Following in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, another Oxonian famously surprised by joy, Weber chronicles her encounters with God and Jesus while studying at Oxford University, in an honest and earnest tale structured around the university’s trimester school year. The tale of her coming to Christianity from an intellectual agnosticism is woven with poetry and song lyrics that punctuate and, at times, encapsulate key moments of her study and discovery. The metaphors and allusions don’t make the text inaccessibly erudite, but instead illustrate the beauty and struggle of her conversion.”

— Publishers Weekly

“Conveying the effects of unbridled inquiry and open mindedness, this memoir of obtaining a degree in literature and much more, also offers a peek inside of what many consider the world’s most prestigious university, which Weber portrays as a place both steeped in great traditions yet tolerant of youthful exuberance. One of the best parts of the book is the author’s self-deprecating sense of humor that she uses to transcend challenging moments. Brimming with inspiring quotes from literary giants and great artists, this book is a truly endearing work that offers great comfort and delight as it celebrates the Christian faith.”

— Booklist, American Library Association

“A touching narrative of friendship, love and faith. There, the author was just as often inspired by Keats and the Beatles as she was by the Gospel. Weaving lines of poetry, philosophy and scripture into her narrative, Weber grasps at the meaning of life in the pages of great works of literature and overcomes her own childhood cynicism. The delicately crafted moments when Weber’s faith allowed her to think more clearly and walk more gracefully through her life are, much like her romance, worth the wait. Well-written, often poignant and surprisingly relatable.”

— Kirkus Review

Surprised by Oxford offers a host of delightful gifts for readers looking for depth and breadth… Readers can expect challenging questions and answers about a true life of faith; rich history that seeps from the walls of Oxford; and enough literary references to delight the heart of any aficionado… Weber has written an astute, stimulating memoir of her conversion to Christ, as well as her year at Oxford.

— Christian Retailing (Ann Byle)

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“Weber is a capable writer and more than capable, really. As much as I enjoyed the story, it is the writing that truly gripped me. There were moments that I had to stop reading for a time and just ponder the beauty of well-formed sentences and perfectly-chosen words. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I never tire of reading how the Lord draws people to himself and I found Weber’s story particularly compelling in its warmth, its wit and its uniqueness.”

Tim Challies, Blogger
full review

An irresistable story of irresistable grace: “…Weber’s writing is free from pious jargon; she undercuts her own praise of clichés by rarely using them. The author avoids both the superficiality and the pseudo-intellectualism that Christian writers are often guilty of. Hers is exactly the kind of writing that I want to read. And her story is exactly the kind I needed to hear. … Surprised by Oxford is the warmest and most enjoyable memoir I’ve read this year.”

John A. Bird
(Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer)

full review on Amazon

Surprised by Truth & Joy at Oxford: “ …If you imagine that the elite academic world has eradicated the awareness of God, you should pick up this volume. Ms. Weber supplies a collation of stories that weave together literature, science, education, politics, culture, and relationships under the knowledge of God and the need of Christ. Not only is it appealing and thoughtful, but it encompasses a joy and purpose that many struggle with in the pursuit of higher education. Beautifully and wonderfully written by a professor who has discovered what she really believes about the most important subject one must face: God.”

Mike Robinson, Apologetic Analyst & Researcher
(Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer)

full review on Amazon

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Surprised by Oxford is the memoir of a skeptical agnostic on a surprising journey toward a dynamic personal faith in God. When Carolyn Weber arrived at Oxford for her graduate studies in Romantic literature, she felt no need for God. Her childhood in a broken but loving family taught her to rely on reason and intellect—not faith—for survival. What she didn’t know was that she was about to embark on a love story of her own—one much deeper, more colorful, and more surprisingly God-shaped than any she’d read before.

From issues of fatherhood, feminism, and doubt to doctrine and love, Weber explores the intricacies of coming to faith with an aching honesty and insight echoing that of the poets and writers she studied. Rich with illustration and literary references, Surprised by Oxford is at once gritty and lyrical; both humorous and spiritually perceptive.

Organized according to the Oxford Liturgical academic calendar, Surprised by Oxford tells the real-life tale of a young woman’s search for—and eventual discovery of—purpose, identity, faith and what it really means to be human.