Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion

Danya Ruttenberg, Author . Beacon $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1068-6

In this memoir of her journey from punk-partying atheist teenager to rabbi-in-training (yarmulke and all), Ruttenberg chronicles the awakening and intensification of religious life. The book's breezy style, mixing personal anecdotes with reflection, is balanced by thoughtful narrative about what religion is and what it demands of its adherents. The author weaves in her religious studies training gently, applying occasional references to classical theologians (Kierkegaard and Maimonides), medieval mystics (Teresa of Ávila), and modern thinkers (Thomas Merton and Elliot Dorff) as they illuminate a particular insight or experience. In the context of Ruttenberg's enthusiasm for ideas and practice, readers can forgive when instructive reflections hint of sermonizing. Although the details of Ruttenberg's experience—including wild parties during California's dot-com boom, a lonely Shabbat in Tel Aviv and praying in tefillin—may be unique, her description of her growing awareness of the power of ritual, the support of community, and religion as relationship will resonate with all sorts of spiritual seekers. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 04/28/2008
Release date: 08/01/2008
Paperback - 235 pages - 978-0-8070-1069-3
Ebook - 252 pages - 978-0-8070-9740-3
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