Review: Spiritual Sobriety by Elizabeth Esther

It’s been a while since my last review, and I held off on posting my last Blogging for Books review because it means so much to me to get it right (also, I LOVED IT, and my excitement was skewing my ability to write an objective review). So heeeeeeeeere is a book that was honestly very good. Not perfect, but also not long, and I would recommend checking it out if you’ve ever been frustrated or hurt by a church or religious experience. Enjoy!

spiritual sobrietySpiritual Sobriety: Stumbling Back to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad by Elizabeth Esther (Convergent Books, 192 pages)

Recommended for: Readers of faith (all kinds), readers who are tired of religion or have a negative viewpoint towards it, spiritual readers, readers of Anne Lamott, Addie Zierman, Madeleine L’Engle, Lauren Winner.

Spiritual Sobriety is a breath of fresh air. A memoir following Esther’s first book, Girl at the End of World, which is about coming out of a fundamentalist cult, this book covers the questions of whether one can come back to faith after experiencing a religious fervor that is damaging and ultimately a hurtful message from the Church. And her answer is yes, though it takes healing.

Esther describes that if you are one of those people who questions whether faith is worth it because of horrible experiences it’s possible you used God and religion like a drug the same way addicts use substancesto numb pain, alter [your] mood, or simply to escape the realities of this messy, unpredictable thing called life.” She calls it akin to being “high” on God. This is what she herself experienced, so she’s speaking from personal experience with a warmth of a mentor sitting down for coffee with you.

Once she identified her problem with what she previously practiced as religion, she struggled with depression and realized that her religious addiction was preventing her from experiencing faith as it was meant to be. At this point, the book is more of a “how to” than a memoir, but with the purpose of helping all who read it discover a deeper faith that is meaningful without being riddled with unhealthy behaviors.

If you liked Addie Zierman’s When We Were on Fire, you’ll love this book, but know that it is more instruction rather than personal emotional recollections. She includes research from books on this subject as well as quotes from interviews she conducted with people who faced similar experiences. Traveling through the journey with the reader, Esther also writes discussion questions at the back of each chapter to help walk you through healing and identifying personal issues to find acceptance, love, and a meaningful faith. The reader has the choice to go through the discussion questions and personally develop their ideas and faith or simply read it as a learning experience. The practical advice invites readers to decide for themselves if they want to rethink the way they relate to God or practice religion, and she is gentle with her suggestions. It is also a short read.

Coming from someone who experienced similarly damaging relationships with churches, camps, religious conventions, and even people in the Church, I very much appreciated the fresh viewpoint. I would say this book isn’t perfect and got a little repetitive at times, but it is definitely a positive stepping point for releasing and working through anger towards harmful religious experiences and looking at them from a fresh, learning perspective. I have a sense that this book will stay with me for a long time, and I may revisit it should I choose to delve back into faith with vigor. I will recommend this to any friend who has ever questioned their relationship with the Church, though I would also encourage any believer or person of religious experience to explore what this book is trying to say. 3.5 or 4 out of 5 stars.

Buy the book from IndieBound here, or support your local bookstore! I received this book free from Blogging For Books as part of their Book Review Blogger program in exchange for an honest review.

 

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help make Milkweed Books happen!

open-book-inthenews
(photo from http://www.openbookmn.org)

I haven’t yet written about Milkweed Editions‘ new bookstore opening in the Open Book building in downtown Minneapolis called Milkweed Books! This store is particularly exciting because 1) any new independent bookstore is worth celebrating, and 2) it will be rather unique even among indie bookstores.

Originally the store planned to open in late June but now the grand opening will be on September 20th. The store will be located in the Open Book building in Minneapolis, shared by The Loft Literary Center: one of the biggest nonprofit literary centers in the United States, which also houses the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Imagine all of these businesses in one building! There’s a small coffee shop/cafe inside as well as the MN Center for Book Arts’ retail store, meaning that if you like books or writing at ALL, you’ll be pretty happy hanging out there for hours on end. The Milkweed Books store will be open before that but the grand opening is scheduled for the 20th.

You can read more about the bookstore here, where there’s a Kickstarter raising money (their goal is $25,000) to help make the bookstore happen. You can pledge as little as $5, just the price of one fancy Starbucks coffee, to help make a difference. As of my writing this, they’re almost to $15,000 in just a few days since its launch.

“Milkweed Books will showcase and sell titles primarily published by independent presses, nonprofit presses, and other publishers working to bring the most exciting literary art to the marketplace. If you want to find the best new poetry, or creative nonfiction, or short stories, or translations, this bookstore is for you.”

The manager is Hans Weyandt, who edited a book with Coffee House Press called Read This! Handpicked Favorites From America’s Indie BookstoresI loved this book when I picked it up before National Indie Bookstore Day this year, and I especially love knowing the book recommendations come from experienced booksellers who have waded the vast pool of literature before me. I’ve said this before: the hardest part about being a bookseller myself is the ever-growing, endless TBR (to-be-read) list I create by talking with coworkers and customers!

Consider pledging to this fantastic new bookstore and supporting one of the coolest centers for books in the States. For more information, check this article by the American Booksellers Association. Hope to see you at the grand opening!

get these September events on your calendar!

I know I’ve skipped… well, way too many months. Summer IS much slower for literary events compared to the spring and fall. Are you ready for fall things like leaves changing and cider? I know, too soon, too soon.

Ever read Jonathan Safran Soer, Emily St. John Mandel, or Liane Moriarty? They, among many other great writers, are coming to MN!

Here’s a rundown of things to get on your radar for September. Again, I know I’m not super consistent with posting the same events every time (if they’re monthly or recurring) but just shoot me a line to include what I missed! I’ve tried to be more inclusive by focusing on each bookstore and linking to all their upcoming events after featuring just one on here.

As always, in the “Events” tab above you’ll find the Rain Taxi official literary calendar and other resources to help with finding book readings  and lit events in the Twin Cities area.

  • Thursday, September 8th: Graywolf Literary Salon: A World of Voices
    • Featuring authors Anuradha Roy, Solmaz Sharif, and Monica Youn in conversation with Graywolf publisher Fiona McCrae and executive editor Jeff Shotts about fiction, poetry, and twenty-first century ideas. With musical performances by cellists Jacqueline Ultan and Michelle Kinney, and percussionist Gary Waryan.
    • This event does require tickets, and they’re on the higher end, but consider it a donation to a FANTASTIC independent press.
    • It’s going to be so great.
  • Wednesday, September 14th: Sky Blue Water Book Launch hosted by Wild Rumpus Books for Young Readers, the release of short story collection that celebrates Minnesota’s vibrant storytelling tradition, edited by Jay D. Peterson and Collette A. Morgan.
    • This event is offsite, but only a block from Wild Rumpus and they will be selling books for signing.
    • For a list of all events at Wild Rumpus, check out their Facebook events here!
  • Thursday, September 15th: Eric Dregni presents Let’s Go Fishing
    • Looking for the perfect Minnesotan coffee table book for dad for Christmas? This is your best bet! But shhhh (my dad doesn’t read this blog… I don’t think.)
    • For a list of all events at Subtext: A Bookstore, check out their Facebook events here, or visit their website! They have a monthly book club, too!

If you can, I encourage you to check one or two of these great events out and perhaps discover some new awesome reads along the way! Let me know in the comments if there are any others you’re excited about this month! 

 

Review: Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz

Guys. GUYS GUYS GUYS I loved this book! Also, I’d like to announce that it’s the first NetGalley book I’ve finished and reviewed since creating an account and becoming a NetGalley “Professional Reader.” I was so excited when I got approved for this one and a few others, so expect a few more reviews from me from NetGalley.

rad women worldwideRad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz (Ten Speed Press, 112 pages)

As a woman and feminist, I was so proud while reading this book. Let me praise it from the rooftops and hand sell it to every girl, boy, mom, dad, relative, friend, you name it. Everyone could benefit from reading this.

I was devastated to discover I did not even know about most of these women before picking up this book. I felt myself longing to have had this book in my hands as a girl in school when it came time to pick the people I wanted to write my research papers on. When it’s published, you can bet I’m gonna be buying myself a copy to pass along to my children someday and will hand sell it at Christmas as such a beneficial book.

If you’re at all curious about the women included, pre-order a copy now. Here are some of the most badass mothers, social activists, astronauts, scientists, doctors, teachers, athletes, musicians, artists, suffragettes, queens, spies, and even a pirate! Imagine picking this up in school as a girl and realizing that the options for your career are ENDLESS and that no one can tell you what you can and can’t do. Each description is quite short, like a brief summary and biography of why this woman was/is a luminary and what she contributed to society. I wished they were longer, but it is really is just a gateway for you to learn the fast facts now and research more if you want to later. Also keep in mind it really is meant for a younger audience, but doesn’t alienate adults at all either. It’s nice to having something so short and yet empowering. Women seriously rock! I also was so happy to see diversity represented as well as giving women credit who lived so long ago (think: Ancient Egypt). At the back there’s a list of other rad women around the world divided up by country. I wish I could add some to the list, though it’s quite long as is.

In all, this book is well written, needed, and absolutely fabulous. The cut paper illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl were an incredible as well and added a dynamic to even the women featured who lived thousands of years ago, and the quotes were also a marvelous addition. You will not regret reading this book. 5 stars, without a doubt.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#24in48 readathon wrap up

Yes, oh yes, I know it has been like weeks since the #24in48 Readathon wrapped up, but IT WAS SO FUN SO I GOTTA POST ABOUT IT.

First, I did not make it to 24 hours of reading. But I got to 19 hours and 51 minutes logged, which is DANG INCREDIBLE if you ask me.

I only really updated Litsy, after the crash was fixed, because trying to keep up with multiple social media sites was actually exhausting. I mean, it’s actually always exhausted (confession time, ahh!) but that weekend was particularly bad. Also, there were distractions EVERYWHERE. Half of the time my tired brain was actually seeking them out in order to have a break from reading, but half the time my husband and cats were just being annoying ;). Then my brother and sister-in-law randomly decided to come to town and it was quite the full weekend. Here’s a rundown of what happened:

Friday, Day 0.5:

I read until about 1:30am the night the 48 hours started. This was spent finishing up He’s a Slut, She’s a Stud, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti (which, BTW, is a fantastic quick look at sexism everywhere and will probably make you a little mad. If it doesn’t, it should. But I digress). I also almost finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman that night, but I got soooooo sleeppyyyyyyy.

Saturday, Day 1: 

I slept in (THIS WAS MY DOWNFALL GUYS) until basically 10am and then began reading the Gaiman book and also Spiritual Sobriety by Elizabeth Esther. I was all positive like “hell yeah I got this, so excited omg,” but after a few hours realized it doesn’t matter how fast I read, that will never give me more hours in this day. That was scary, I got sleepy, and then panicked because I didn’t have time for napping.

And then I realized: I didn’t have any audiobooks on hand!! One quick Google search for legal, free audiobooks and I found ThoughtAudio, which is a lot of classics badly narrated. But hey, some were short stories and thus only an hour, so I “rested my eyes” while listening to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Later, I worked on reading Asking for It by Kate Harding (wonderful, WONDERFUL BOOK on rape culture and what we can do about it) and A Good Time for the Truth edited by Sun Yung Shin. OH, and my goal for the weekend was to reach page 300 in Stephen King’s IT (having started at page 212… out of 1,000+ pages. Yep. I needed to make progress).

On Saturday night, we went to see Star Trek: Beyond with my husband’s brother and his wife, so that was fun but it took so many hours getting there early, finding bad seats (it was packed!), and we didn’t get home until late. I clocked right around 8 hours total for Saturday.

Sunday, Day 2: 

Slept in, again. By the time I woke up I realized there was no way I could read 16 hours before 12am. It just wasn’t actually possible. Never have I wished for more hours in a day, though, because I realized then how much fun I was having. I COULD ACTUALLY READ ALL DAY LONG, WHO KNEW!? Haha.

Books I worked on reading or finished: same as above, then adding PersepolisThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Fall of the House of Usher, Gold Fame Citrus, and The Bookshop.

I ended up getting very jealous of all my friends who went to a beach not too far away, so I ended up joining them for 2 hours and simply floating on the lake for a while. It was fantastic because it was SO hot out that weekend and our AC leaks and was a pain. I also meal prepped while listening to audiobooks and playing with my cats.

I finished the challenge exactly at midnight by completing The Bookshop, a short novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, clocking in at 19 hours and 51 minutes.

In conclusion…

Books I finished: 9 

  • He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know – Jessica Valenti
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
  • A Good Time for the Truth  – edited by Sun Yung Shin
  • Spiritual Sobriety: Stumbling Back to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad – Elizabeth Esther
  • The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
  • The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald
  • 3 stories/short novels: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allen Poe, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Washington Irving

And I made progress in It (page 300!), Gold Fame Citrus, Asking for It, Alice in Wonderland.

Would I do this again? Absolutely. Would I try to make it to 24 hours? You bet! 

Mark your calendars! The next #24in48 readathon is on January 21-22, 2017! Click on that link to sign up!