Praying with Jane Eyre: Reflections on Reading as a Sacred Practice (Hardcover)

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Description


“In these soaring, open-hearted essays, Vanessa Zoltan writes with fierce brilliance about suffering, survival, and the kind of meaning in life that can withstand real scrutiny.”—John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and The Anthropocene Reviewed
 
 
A deeply felt celebration of a classic novel--and a reflection on the ways our favorite books can shape and heal us.


Our favorite books keep us company, give us hope, and help us find meaning in a chaotic world. In this fresh and relatable work, atheist chaplain Vanessa Zoltan blends memoir and personal growth as she grapples with the notions of family legacy and identity through the lens of her favorite novel, Jane Eyre. Informed by the reading practices of medieval monks and rabbinic scholars from her training at the Harvard Divinity School and filtered through the pages of Jane Eyre as well as Little Women, Harry Potter, and The Great Gatsby, Zoltan explores topics ranging from the trauma she has inherited as the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors to finding hope, meaning, and even magic in our deeply fractured times. Brimming with a lifelong love of classic literature and the tenderness of self-reflection, the book also reveals simple techniques for reading any work as a sacred text--from Virginia Woolf to Anne of Green Gables to baseball scorecards.

Whether you're an avowed "Eyrehead" or simply a curious reader looking for a richer connection with the written word, this deeply felt and inspiring book will light the way to a more intimate appreciation for whatever books you love to read.

About the Author


Vanessa Zoltan has a B.A. in English literature and creative writing from Washington University in Saint Louis, an M.S. in nonprofit management from the University of Pennsylvania, and a M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School. She is the CEO and founder of Not Sorry Productions, which produces the podcasts Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Twilight in Quarantine, and Hot & Bothered. She also runs pilgrimages and walking tours that explore sacred reading and writing.

Praise For…


Praying with Jane Eyre is literary, spiritual, and autobiographical all at once. This is a book committed to the truths of things—from the Holocaust to personal betrayal—no matter how hard those truths may be. . . . We can follow [Vanessa’s] example of learning how to read as if our lives depend on it—which I believe they do.” —Terry Tempest Williams, from the foreword

“In these soaring, open-hearted essays, Vanessa Zoltan writes with fierce brilliance about suffering, survival, and the kind of meaning in life that can withstand real scrutiny.”
—John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars and The Anthropocene Reviewed

“As an atheist, I’ve hungered for these sermons. As a reader, I’ve longed for this exegesis. This is a book about much more than how to pray secularly, and much more than how to read reverently. It is a book about how to be. And it is told through the wondrous earthly companionship of not just Jane Eyre, but the miraculous Vanessa Zoltan.”—Lauren Sandler, author of This Is All I Got and Righteous

“How does one create a life of meaning—not merely a sense of purpose, but a ritual and a practice to give that purpose structure and power—when traditional religion feels untenable? Vanessa Zoltan destroys the boundaries between ethics and aesthetics with a radical and beautiful idea, one that will ring true to every passionate reader: that intentional reading can empower and shape our lives. More than a love letter to the power of books, more than a reinterpreting of religious practice, and much more than a reading of Jane EyrePraying with Jane Eyre invites us, in Zoltan’s accessible voice, into an intimacy with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, and shows us how literature can sanctify them.”—Dara Horn, author of Eternal Life and People Love Dead Jews

“This book will make you laugh. It will make you cry. But best of all, it will change the way you read forever.”—Casper ter Kuile, author of The Power of Ritual and cohost of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

“Praying with Jane Eyre is a readable, huggable guide to better living, and loving, through literature—not to mention the most affectionate portrait of grandparents that I have read in ages. And doses of Jay Gatsby and Harry Potter besides. Who can resist?”—Mark Oppenheimer, host, Unorthodox podcast
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593088005
ISBN-10: 059308800X
Publisher: TarcherPerigee
Publication Date: July 6th, 2021
Pages: 272
Language: English

How to read more

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How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.

 

And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.

 

15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.

 

50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.

 

Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.

 

Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.

 

Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.

 

Outcome

Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.

 
 
 

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