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Surprised by Oxford Review

I recently signed up for Booksneeze, a program for bloggers where they get a free book in exchange for posting a review of it on their blog.  This is very exciting for me, because although our family spends a lot of money on books, 99% of those funds go towards Children’s literature.  So yes, I did get this book for free, but I did not get paid for my review, and I am can write whatever I think about it, either positive or negative.  Please also note that I tried to choose a book related to the field of education.

Surprised by Oxford is a memoir by Carolyn Weber of the first year she spends at Oxford University as a scholarship student working on her graduate degree in the early 1990s.  It is also the story of her gradual conversion to evangelical Christianity.

There are two really interesting ways to view this book.  One is as an armchair tourist, or more accurately, and armchair exchange student glimpse into what life is like at Oxford University.  Weber offers insider tidbits such as; how the colleges are laid out, what the dining hall china looks like, what it is like to attend a black tie event with visiting dignitaries, what graduate student housing is like, and a brief history of the role women have played at Oxford. 

The second way to view this book, is to think of it in the genre of a conversion narrative.  Although I have reached different faith conclusions than the author, I appreciated the thoughtful and gentle way she told her story.  All in all, I enjoyed reading this book a lot, especially all of the included poems.


  1. Jean says:

    That sounds really interesting. I’ve heard quite often lately that Oxford students drink a LOT (and I live by Chico State so my standards aren’t high!), which doesn’t quite fit my mental image of the place. I’d be very curious to read an account of life there, so maybe I’ll try to get this book.

    Also maybe I’ll sign up for this Booksneeze thing. I have a book blog! I don’t actually *buy* a lot of books–librarians like books you don’t have to pay for.

    • jenbrdsly says:

      Oh man! I feel awful. I totally spaced about your blog, and haven’t been checking it in a while. I’m adding your book blog to my links section so other people can see it too. I never have enough time to read books, so I can be an armchair reader via http://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/.

      I had a sorority sister who spent a year at Oxford, and she described it as a big drinking scene too. That’s not represented in the book at all.

      • Jean says:

        Ha! Don’t bother today–I’ve been so nervous about the presentations I’m doing this weekend (on classical education!) that I’ve been unable to read anything except cozy British mysteries. There isn’t much new there right now. It will have to wait until I get back!

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