Category: Book Reviews (page 2 of 14)

Weber on Surprised at Oxford

Weber, Carolyn. 2011. Surprised by Oxford: A memoir. Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group.

Dr. Carolyn Weber taught literature to undergrads for 15 years, but now works from her home as an author and poet. She lives in London, Ontario, Canada with her husband and 4 children.

In Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber provides us with a personal and detailed account of her life at Oxford University and how, eventually, she became a Christian while studying there.

Her book is not the usual kind of chronological biography, but is instead an interactive story of friends and acquaintances that benefitted her life and, eventually, led her to faith in Christ—or detracted her at times. Central in the story is the man (whom she calls TDH, for tall, dark and handsome) whom she several years later marries. He is a friend and debater with her throughout her journey to faith and one in whom she finds integrity and strength.

Life at Oxford is intellectually stimulating, with large doses of hedonism and post-modernism thrown in, as the reader is taken into the confines of classrooms and pubs, parties and isolated philosophical reflections. Throughout the foray, Weber provides verse by a range of poets and theologian-philosophers, including C.S. Lewis.

Most of her “memoirs” involve creative conversations, somewhat difficult for me to imagine. For example, her interaction and exchange with Professor Von X (the title of chapter 19, but referring ot a Dr. Condorston) seems overworked and contrived. Nevertheless, his antagonism toward Christianity undoubtedly represents the attitudes of other professors at the university.

Weber does, however, throughout her dialogues with peers and colleagues, cover most of the familiar criticisms of Christianity in general and God in particular, with Jesus receiving his share of university antagonism as well. In many chapters she is tangled with a continuing battery of doubts and confessions and her discourse about them forms the central part of her story.

Weber is an accomplished author and poet so, as we would expect, the book is highly readable and enticing. She weaves poetry and images throughout the book in the way that only a lover and learner of literature can. The images of Oxford are beguiling, where smells and sights abounding as conversations with her friends take place.

I bought the book expecting to read more about the inspiration of C.S. Lewis, in that the title reflects Surprised by Joy. In that respect, I was somewhat disillusioned but, as other readers have observed, the book is “honest and entertaining and well worth reading.


Quereshi on Seeking Allah, finding Jesus

Qureshi, Nabeel. 2014. Seeking Allah, finding Jesus: A devout Muslim encounters Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Nabeel Qureshi died of stomach cancer on September 16, 2017, leaving a wife and young daughter. Qureshi was raised as a devout Muslim and held Two MA degrees, an MD and an MPhil in Judaism and Christianity from Oxford University. He lectured to students in more than 100 universities and participated in numerous public debates in several countries. (For additional information see

In Seeking Allah, finding Jesus (SAFJ), Qureshi provides his account of a conscientious and sustained journey to understand the truth about Muhammed the Prophet and Jesus the Messiah, as well as about the Quran and Bible. His worldview of Islam is sympathetic, even as he outlines stories about the obligations of Islam, including detailed descriptions of the Muslim rituals and the Arabic words and phrases inherent in them.

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Nuland on Maimonides

Nuland, Sherwin B. 2005. Maimonides. New York: Schocken.

Sherwin Nuland, a clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, teaches bioethics and medical history there. He has written a number of books, resulting in a number of literary awards.

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known as Maimonides, was born in what is now present-day Sapin in 1135 (probably) and died in Egypt in December 1204. He worked as a rabbi, physician and philosopher and is known for his writings on Jewish law and ethics. His fourteen volume Mishneh Torah is a codification of Talmudic law.

Nuland devotes a chapter, “The Commentary on the Mishnah,” in which Moses, (another name for Maimonides), outlines the moral and social responsibilities of Judaism, as well as expounds its concepts, especially those which he believed had been misinterpreted.

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Maberly on God Spoke Tibetan

“At last, in the Tibetan year of the Wood Hog (1935) Yoseb laid down his pen.  Now fifty years old, he had toiled since he was twenty-three with the stupendous task.  Gazing on the completed manuscript, he bowed his head: ‘Thank you, Lord.  The Task is done.  Now the Bible has legs to go to my people.  Now the Book will be printed; then it will go to its appointed task.  May it be soon, Lord.'”

Allan Maberly, God Spoke Tibetan; The Epic Story of the Men Who Gave the Bible to Tibet, the Forbidden Land. Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1971, p.92.

It took just over 90 years of effort before the Tibetan people had the Bible.  It was two Moravian missionaries who first made their way into Tibet and attempted Bible translation. Unfortunately, as it turned out, they used the classical form of the language and what work they did complete could not be used or understood by the common people.

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Berman on Grief

Berman, Jeffrey. 2010. Companionship in Grief: Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C. S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillin. University of Massachusetts Press.

Berman’s book is about what happens in the life of a remaining spouse when the wife or husband dies. There are five chapters, each Berman’s examination of the writings of the grieving partner and the therapeutic value of the authors’ stories.

Although Berman is a “secular Jew” and certainly a non-believer as far as Christian doctrine is concerned, in Chapter one he gives a balanced and, indeed, favorable exploration of the writings of Joy Davidman (Lewis) and C.S. Lewis.

Berman has read the books of Davidman and Lewis carefully and even taught a course called “Love and Loss” based on A Grief Observed. He believes that Lewis’s book has “exerted…a profound influence on later memoirists who write about spousal loss” (21).

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