The most recommended books about Oxford

Who picked these books? Meet our 29 experts.

29 authors created a book list connected to Oxford, and here are their favorite Oxford books.
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Book cover of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Jenni L. Walsh Author Of A Betting Woman: A Novel of Madame Moustache

From my list on women paving their way in a man’s world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written ten books for children and adults inspired by women throughout history, ones about American outlaws, war-time heroes, resistance groups, and activists. I enjoy learning, researching, and shining a spotlight on the women who shape our world today. In A Betting Woman, the presence of three names for a single woman intrigued me. I wondered how one name bled into the next and how life winded to a seemingly unappealing nickname, given to Eleanor after she’d taken a man’s last dime during a card game. Still, Eleanor kept the moniker for over a decade as she carried on. I hope you’ll enjoy her story, along with the other strong women featured on this list!

Jenni's book list on women paving their way in a man’s world

Jenni L. Walsh Why did Jenni love this book?

Becoming Mrs. Lewis is the improbable love story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. And, at the novel’s onset, their coupling truly feels improbable. While in an unhappy marriage, Joy is very much married. She has young children. Joy has health issues. Joy and C.S. Lewis are separated by a body of water. Yet, Joy is also a very tenacious woman, which also included Joy inserting herself into conversations and places women at that time didn’t frequent. I wholly respect how Joy creates a new life for herself.

By Patti Callahan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Becoming Mrs. Lewis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller! Meet the brilliant writer, fiercely independent mother, and passionate woman who captured the heart of C.S. Lewis and inspired the books that still enchant and change us today.

When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis-known as Jack-she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn't holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford professor and the beloved writer of The Chronicles of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters.

Embarking on the adventure of her…


Book cover of After Such Kindness

Mark Davies Author Of Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford

From my list on Lewis Carroll and Alice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Oxford local historian, and the only Oxford guide endorsed by the Lewis Carroll Society. I have helped shape Oxford’s annual Alice’s Day since the first one in 2007, and have participated in French, Dutch, Canadian, Brazilian and British TV and radio documentaries, most notably for BBC 2 and BBC Radio 4. My interest is mainly the many Oxford realities which are hidden away within the apparent fantasy of the ‘Alice’ books, an angle which has enabled me to lecture on this internationally famous topic as far away as Assam in India. Subsequently, my appreciation of Carroll’s versatility as a mathematician, photographer, inventor, diarist, and letter writer has grown steadily over the years.

Mark's book list on Lewis Carroll and Alice

Mark Davies Why did Mark love this book?

A teasingly insightful glimpse of the Victorian Oxford of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the two protagonists – and yet they aren’t! Yes, there is an Oxford University don with a penchant for photography, and yes his favourite subject is a ten-year-old local girl, and yes the text is scattered with subtle Wonderland and Looking-Glass references, but this is otherwise a quite different, very cleverly contrived, story. Structured as the inner thoughts of the main characters, After Such Kindness engagingly explores the dilemmas posed by the unusual friendship between a mature clergyman bachelor – Arnold convincingly captures Carroll’s playful sense of humour – and an inquisitive and trusting young girl, while sustaining a lurking sense of foreboding through to a thought-provoking finale.

By Gaynor Arnold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked After Such Kindness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the writer, Oxford scholar and photographer John Jameson visits the home of his vicar friend, he is entranced by Daisy, his youngest daughter. Jameson charms her with his wit and child-like imagination, teasing her with riddles and inventing humorous stories as they enjoy afternoons alone by the river and in his rooms.

The shocking impact of this unusual friendship is only brought to light when, years later, Daisy, unsettled in her marriage, rediscovers her childhood diaries hidden in an old toy chest.

Inspired by the tender and troubling friendship between Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, After Such Kindness demonstrates…


Book cover of The Midnight Press: And other Oxford Stories

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Sculpting the Elephant

From my list on Oxford and where town meets gown.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a freelance writer for The Oxford Times for 20 years when it was well respected. For ten of those years, I wrote the Oxford Castaway series in which I cast away inspirational people from 5 continents whose lives have been affected by their time in the city. Even Lord Chris Pattern of Barnes – the Chancellor of Oxford University and former Governor of Hong Kong let me cast him away on Oxtopia! Oxford is still divided between Town and Gown but I stride the two and my husband was an academic at that other Oxford University: Oxford Brookes.

Sylvia's book list on Oxford and where town meets gown

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

For me, Oxford is the Hollywood of stories and indeed it is now home to The Story Museum. One of the stars of Oxford storytelling was Colin Dexter, whose Inspector Morse novels have spawned three TV series. He was the patron of the Oxford Writers Group and recommended this anthology. It includes stories from Town, Gown, and County so it is a good holiday read while in Oxford or dreaming of the city.

By Oxpens Writer's Group,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Midnight Press as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fourth collection of tales from the OxPens writers with intrigues set in Oxford coffee shops, colleges, the old Jewish Quarter and at Henley Regatta. Experience the escape from the castle, strange happenings on Platform 3 and discover who the chocolate people were.


Book cover of The Death of Woman Wang

Henrietta Harrison Author Of The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire

From my list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern China in the department of Chinese at the University of Oxford. I started off working on the twentieth century but have been drawn back into the Qing dynasty. It’s such an interesting and important period and one that British students often don’t know much about! 

Henrietta's book list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian

Henrietta Harrison Why did Henrietta love this book?

This short classic was one of the first books I read when I began studying China, and that drew me into the subject of rural life.

The story of the death of Woman Wang (nothing more is known of her name) is gripping and tragic, and it is beautifully written.

By Jonathan D. Spence,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Death of Woman Wang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Spence shows himself at once historian, detective, and artist. . . . He makes history howl." (The New Republic)

Award-winning author Jonathan D. Spence paints a vivid picture of an obscure place and time: provincial China in the seventeenth century. Life in the northeastern county of T'an-ch'eng emerges here as an endless cycle of floods, plagues, crop failures, banditry, and heavy taxation. Against this turbulent background a tenacious tax collector, an irascible farmer, and an unhappy wife act out a poignant drama at whose climax the wife, having run away from her husband, returns to him, only to die at…


Book cover of The Years

Connie Kronlokken Author Of Pulled Into Nazareth

From my list on siblings who help each other to evolve.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader, I am deeply interested in the real and complex lives of people. This often leads me to history and biography. Fiction shows both the interior and exterior lives of its characters and gives language to relationships, places, and the times in which they live. I am always looking for books with their feet on the ground and their pages crackling with the details of reality. Coming from a large family myself, I have found that, even if you live far apart, siblings make up each other’s world, and that, as my mother used to insist, our siblings may be our best friends throughout our lives.

Connie's book list on siblings who help each other to evolve

Connie Kronlokken Why did Connie love this book?

This book quickly became my favorite novel by Woolf, perhaps because it depicts a large Victorian family over time.

When her mother dies, Eleanor keeps the home fires burning for her siblings, Morris in the law courts, Edward at Oxford, Delia, Milly, and the younger Martin and Rose. We watch them grow and, fifty years later, deduce what has become of their lives when they talk to each other at a party.

Woolf’s narrative sweeps across England, across London, giving us vignettes of her characters from which the reader must make up the whole. My copy of this book is tattered from re-reading. I loved following along with Woolf’s attempt to gather everything she knew into her story of the Pargiter family.

Book cover of The Pursuit of Love

Ursula DeYoung Author Of Shorecliff

From my list on families from the mid-twentieth century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a small seaside town north of Boston. I have three siblings, and we always spent a few weeks every summer with our cousins in a rented house somewhere in New England—a new place each year. I became a bookworm at a young age, and I’ve always loved reading novels about big families that capture both the magic and the conflicts inevitable with many siblings and relatives. I was also an anglophile, and I tended to gravitate toward books written in earlier decades, particularly those of the mid 20th century. When I began writing my own novels, it seemed natural to set them in those fascinating earlier times.

Ursula's book list on families from the mid-twentieth century

Ursula DeYoung Why did Ursula love this book?

Fictionalizing her large and extremely eccentric family—shabby members of the British gentry in the 1930s, lacking the wealth of earlier times—Nancy Mitford managed to create a novel that is both hilarious and poignant, with a style uniquely her own. Her characters seem almost too bizarre to be real, yet if you read about the real Mitfords, you discover that, if anything, this novel (published in 1945) softened their edges! She writes brilliantly not only about the fun and tensions among an array of strongminded siblings but also about her domineering father and, later, about the blissful madness of falling in love after an isolated childhood.

By Nancy Mitford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pursuit of Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the funniest, sharpest novels about love and growing up ever written, Nancy Mitford's classic is now a major BBC and Prime Video series directed by Emily Mortimer and starring Lily James, Andrew Scott and Dominic West

'He was the great love of her life you know.'
'Oh, dulling,' said my mother, sadly, 'One always thinks that. Every, every time.'

Oh, the tedium of waiting to grow up! Longing for love, obsessed with weddings and sex, Linda and her sisters and cousin Fanny are on the lookout for the perfect lover.

But finding Mr Right is much harder than…


Book cover of The Princess Who Hid in a Tree: An Anglo-Saxon Story

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Sculpting the Elephant

From my list on Oxford and where town meets gown.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a freelance writer for The Oxford Times for 20 years when it was well respected. For ten of those years, I wrote the Oxford Castaway series in which I cast away inspirational people from 5 continents whose lives have been affected by their time in the city. Even Lord Chris Pattern of Barnes – the Chancellor of Oxford University and former Governor of Hong Kong let me cast him away on Oxtopia! Oxford is still divided between Town and Gown but I stride the two and my husband was an academic at that other Oxford University: Oxford Brookes.

Sylvia's book list on Oxford and where town meets gown

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

This is the story of Frideswide and the creation of Oxford as a place of learning told for young children. Our grandchildren are weaned on superheroes and I would like them to know the stories of heroes and heroines from the past as well.

By Jackie Holderness, Alan Marks (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Princess Who Hid in a Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

This story is about a brave and kind Anglo-Saxon princess called Frideswide who lived in Oxford a long time ago and just happened to be brilliant at climbing very tall trees. Her talent came in useful one day when a wicked king tried to kidnap her. How did she and her friends escape, and what happened to the king and his soldiers?

With stunning illustrations by award-winning artist Alan Marks, Saint Frideswide's legend is retold for young children as a tale of adventure, courage in the face of danger, friendship, and kindness, with a few surprises along the way.

The…


Book cover of The Gothic Revival: An Essay in the History of Taste

Rosemary Hill Author Of God's Architect: Pugin and the Building of Romantic Britain

From my list on the way that architecture reflects British history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since childhood I have wanted to know why things look as they do. Every object expresses what was once an idea in someone’s mind. Looking from things to the people who made them and back again, we understand both better. This single question has led me through a lifetime of writing about material culture, architecture, applied art and craft. I have written books about Stonehenge, the Gothic Revival and antiquarianism in the Romantic age. I also hosted a podcast series, for the London Review of Books

Rosemary's book list on the way that architecture reflects British history

Rosemary Hill Why did Rosemary love this book?

This was the first book about architecture I read and it remains one of my favourites. Clark wrote it in 1928, long before ‘Civilisation’ made him a television star and it has the freshness of a young man trying out ideas and working to understand something he doesn’t like. He was writing about Gothic architecture at a time when it was completely out of fashion. Clark’s subtitle ‘an essay in the history of taste’ is tongue in cheek because Gothic for his generation meant bad taste. Tracing its roots back into the eighteenth century Clark shows how it developed to embody the ideals of the Victorian age. 

By Kenneth Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gothic Revival as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1928, this informative study offers an introduction to the most influential and widespread artistic movement that England ever produced - the Gothic revival. It shows how buildings once neglected and laughed at could latterly be seen as having grace and artistic merit.


Book cover of My Oxford Year

Patti Callahan Henry Author Of The Secret Book of Flora Lea

From my list on transporting you to another land.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author because I was a reader who loved to be transported to a world and land outside my own. My favorite books are the ones that introduce me to a place and time I’ve never been, an immersive read that brings me somewhere new. I believe in the power of story and the magic of its transport. Come along with me and discover a few books that do this very thing. 

Patti's book list on transporting you to another land

Patti Callahan Henry Why did Patti love this book?

Julia Whalen is also a renowned audiobook narrator, and I listened to this book in her melodic voice, being carried to Oxford. Julia attended Oxford for a year, and she takes us there in this beautiful story.

The story is about a young American woman named Ella Durran who has made it to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. Through twists and turns, Ella must decide whether to turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with or follow her political dreams, which are coming true. Can we change our dreams? Read to find out. 

By Julia Whelan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Oxford Year as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

She could never have guessed what the year would hold...

'A pure delight . . . will stay with you long after you're done' TAYLOR JENKINS REID

Gazing up at the dreaming spires of Oxford, American student Ella Duran can't believe it: she has finally arrived at Oxford University.

A new life starts, and not even Ella's handsome lecturer Jamie Davenport can distract her from her classes. But, as the term goes on, Ella can't deny the growing attraction between them - an attraction that soon turns to love.

And when Ella learns of Jamie's life-changing secret, their relationship becomes…


Book cover of Experiencing Oxford

Chris Andrews Author Of Belfast, A View of the City

From my list on landscape, architecture, and the natural world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a photographer based in Oxford who has published books for 40 years. I love to be outside, whether it's enjoying the urban landscape of historic Oxford or the wild beauty of the Scottish hillside. The charm of the natural world and the romance of historic buildings are equal enthusiasms. To capture some essence of this, either by camera or paintbrush is a true skill. And it's not easy! To really create a new view is a constant challenge which is my driving force, in my own books I try for images that are just slightly different, atmospheric, romantic, yet always recognisable. I love to search out others who achieve the same, this is why I love these books.

Chris' book list on landscape, architecture, and the natural world

Chris Andrews Why did Chris love this book?

This book is a comprehensive and fascinating look at an elusively handsome city. It shows unknown corners as well as the familiar Spires. History and events feature in attractive informative writing. All balanced by sensitive new imagery from the noted artist, architect, and illustrator Ian Davis. It is a gripping read, stunningly illustrated.

I love the fact that despite my living in Oxford for over 40 years, Ian Davis showed me views I didn’t know and facts I had not learnt. The book is Informative and interesting.

The book's great value is its comprehensive personal view of the City of Oxford, produced in an accessible and affordable format.

By Ian Davis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Experiencing Oxford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Experiencing Oxford (2020) celebrates the way Oxford can be experienced using our senses, memories, emotions and spirits. Since some prefer to look rather than read, the book includes over a hundred of the author’s drawings and watercolours as well as hundreds of photographs he took of Oxford’s buildings and landscapes. Reactions to Oxford by past and present writers are included with examples of ways to experience buildings, squares, streets, sculptures, stained glass and Oxford’s open spaces. Twelve 'sensory walks' and 'climbs' are provided. The book is written for any reader - whether visitor, student, professional or resident, who has appreciated…