03 August 2011

Booksneeze Review: Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

I wasn't sure at first. I mean, naming a book so overtly after Surprised by Joy seems a bit dangerous to me. C.S. Lewis is a very hard act to follow, let alone with panache. Carolyn Weber's attempt, Surprised by Oxford, "pleasantly surprised" me. It's a thought provoking book, but the way she tells her faith story is so unpretentious that it was enjoyable as well. I didn't want to put this book down.

What made it so appealing to me? References to great literature are everywhere. The story covers her first year as a post-graduate student at Oriel College: She was majoring in Romantic Literature, after all. Quotes from "dead white men" (and women) worked their way into her writing and into conversations with fellow students as naturally as I quote Children's Literature to the Pipsqueaks. It was comforting to see that other people plagiarize the great minds of the past when they can't find their own words. Some ideas just transcend time.

Her efforts to grapple with the nature of truth are honest, and there is enough life mixed in with the theology that it keeps it interesting. I especially appreciated her struggle with understanding that faith in God does not necessarily preclude intelligence. She gives the average postmodernist quite a bit to think about, and although she discusses some controversial topics, she doesn't get preachy about it.

She achieves a good balance between ivory tower and everyday life. Plus, she likes U2.

Yes, I got the book free from BookSneeze; but I can write whatever I please about it.

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