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An Introduction to Karen Swallow Prior

Karen Swallow Prior, "Promiscuous Reading"

NOTE: Due to bad weather on the east coast, Karen Swallow Prior’s February 26 lecture has been cancelled. We’re working with her to reschedule for the fall—stay tuned!

Karen Swallow Prior is a remarkable English professor, the kind of professor that you wish you had as a student (if you weren’t blessed with one yourself, as I was). She loves books, and she loves drawing you into them to see what they offer—what beauty, truth, and goodness they give.

Consider these words, from the beginning of Booked, her memoir of her life with books:

My relationship with books was much more than professional; it was—is—personal. Deeply personal. Books have formed the soul of me.
I know that spiritual formation is of God, but I also know—mainly because I learned it from books—that there are other kinds of formation, too, everyday gifts, and that God uses the things of this earth to teach us and shape us, and to help us find truth.

We’re excited to host Karen Swallow Prior on Thursday, February 26, Karen Swallow Prior’s visit has been cancelled due to inclement weather on the east coast. When she comes in September, she’ll talk more about her life of wide reading and what that reading has to do with wise living. For now, we’ve collected a range of her work. Take a few minutes to learn more about this delightful, wise Christian writer.


What does wide reading have to do with wise living? In the book that she’ll draw from for her lecture for us, Karen Swallow Prior investigates the relationship between these two. From the publisher:

A life of books. A life of soul. Professor Karen Swallow Prior poignantly and humorously weaves the two, until you can’t tell one life from the other. Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte’s Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.

  • For a preview of the book (and her lecture!), watch this five-minute YouTube video:

Fierce Convictions

Karen Swallow Prior’s most recent book is Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More. You can read a preview of the book on Google Books or Amazon.

Essays for The Atlantic

Prior has written extensively for The Atlantic, as well. Her articles cover a wide range of topics, and they do so in ways that are admirably thoughtful and provocative.


There are a range of interviews with and talks by Prior available on YouTube. We recommend starting with this series on Hannah More and animals, part of the Humane Society’s Faith Voices on Animal Protection series.

  • Hannah More & Animals video series:

Join us on February 26!

Karen Swallow Prior will talk for us on Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m. She’ll be speaking in Hanson Hall 1-108 (on the UMN west bank campus—where Jamie Smith spoke for us last year).

We hope you can join us! If you’d like, please help us publicize the event by joining the Facebook event and sharing it with your friends.


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