Tag Archives: Benyamin Cohen

WWW Wednesday, 22-November-2017

22 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently readingI’m still going strong with The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. The story is really intense right now and I’m looking forward to some runs over the holiday weekend when I can listen to this. I’m guessing I need at least another week to finish it.
I was able to start Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Friday night. It’s a really fast read! If all goes well, I’ll finish it today and take a new book with me on my Thanksgiving travels tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
I started a new ebook as well, This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. I think this book is in the same strain as We Need to Talk About Kevin or Defending Jacob, both of which are really dark but have very thought-provoking plots that I really enjoyed.

Recently finishedTwo this week! When it rains, it pours. The first was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. This was an ebook and I think reading it in that format was not the best way to enjoy it because I lost some consistency (I read ebooks when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office and during lunch so they take me a while). I wrote a review and published it on Monday. I gave it Three out of Five stars. Please go check it out!
I also finished My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. I really enjoy religious memoirs (yes, a very niche category) and this one was no exception. It was fun to read about a Jew learning about my religion, Christianity, through a year-long immersion experience. It’s interesting to see how you’re perceived from the outside! My review went up Tuesday and I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I’m going to take Singing Him My Song by Malachy McCourt with me to Texas on my Thanksgiving trip. I read the first few pages of this right when I got it and I was intrigued so I’m excited to keep going with the plot. I always love a good memoir.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Review: My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen (4/5)

21 Nov

I got sucked into a genre I’m calling religious memoirs. If there’s a better name for these books, I haven’t heard it. The first I read was A.J. Jacob’s book The Year of Living Biblically. From there, I read The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. This one was next on my list and I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. I love memoirs because they let you look through someone else’s eyes for a bit. A chance to look at Christianity through the eyes of a Jew sold me and I’m glad I found a copy of this book on the sale shelf at the library.

Cover image via Goodreads

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen

Summary from Goodreads:

One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging. He observes the Sabbath, he goes to synagogue, and he even flies to New York on weekends for a series of “speed dates” with nice, eligible Jewish girls. But, something is missing. Looking out of his window and across the street at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlanta, he asks, “What would it be like to be a Christian?”

So begins Benyamin Cohen’s hilarious journey that is My Jesus Year—part memoir, part spiritual quest, and part anthropologist’s mission. Among Cohen’s many adventures (and misadventures), he finds himself in some rather unlikely places: jumping into the mosh-pit at a Christian rock concert, seeing his face projected on the giant JumboTron of an African-American megachurch, visiting a potential convert with two young Mormon missionaries, attending a Christian “professional wrestling” match, and waking up early for a sunrise Easter service on top of Stone Mountain—a Confederate memorial and former base of operations for the KKK.

During his year-long exploration, Cohen sees the best and the worst of Christianity—from megachurches to storefront churches; from crass commercialization of religion to the simple, moving faith of the humble believer; from the profound to the profane to the just plain laughable. Throughout, he keeps an open heart and mind, a good sense of humor, and takes what he learns from Christianity to reflect on his own faith and relationship to God. By year’s end, to Cohen’s surprise, his search for universal answers and truths in the Bible Belt actually make him a better Jew.

Cohen has a great writing voice that really helped me enjoy this book. He doesn’t assume a Jewish or Christian audience for this book which is good because he explains almost everything where needed. He often refers to laws in Judaism and he gives both the Hebrew and English words while explaining the tradition or law. He also doesn’t assume the reader knows about Christianity which I found helpful when he explored denominations different from my own. He was funny without being demeaning, which was a good touch.

Benyamin has only one other consistent character in the book, his wife Elizabeth. He speaks about his father occasionally and touches on his siblings from time to time, but Elizabeth is the only other person who appears regularly. Even so, he doesn’t go into a lot of detail about her, leaving the impression we get one of a loving wife who is tolerating her husband’s travels through Christianity. She’s not discouraging him, but not encouraging either. As someone who’s been a Christian and decided on Orthodox Judaism, she doesn’t’ see the point; she’s already done the reverse journey.

Benyamin made himself very likable. I wondered how much of this was really his personality and how much was good editing. He was observant, polite, and questioning without ever seeming condescending. He seemed open-minded, which someone on his journey would need to be. He seemed to doubt himself a lot, though. He needed someone’s approval, his rabbi, his wife, or God’s, to do almost anything. I felt a bit bad for him. OK, a lot bad for him in parts.

I’m not afraid to say I’ve doubted my faith for a time in the same way Benyamin did. I never considered leaving it, but I wasn’t as strong and convicted as I’ve been at other points. While I didn’t explore other religions, I could relate to the lost feeling Benyamin had. He was looking for the fire and vigor he saw in others and wanted to get it back. I think he had it again before the year was over, but I’m glad he finished his journey.

Benyamin Cohen
Image via From the Grapevine

The story of him dating before he began the journey was one of my favorites. I found it hilarious that he’d fly to New York to look for a wife. That just seemed ridiculous to me and I had to tell my husband so we could shake our heads together. I also liked the Christian Wrestling show. It seemed like such an odd concept but as Benyamin experienced it, I saw how it could be used to call others to God. It wasn’t a traditional ministry, but sometimes the unusual gets people.

I waited the whole book for Cohen to get to my denomination, Catholicism. I guess as a Catholic, I should be offended that he went to confession and didn’t tell the priest he was Jewish. Honestly, I’m not. I think he got more from the experience than many Catholics do. I wish he’d gone into a little more detail about the mass, though. He went into a lot of details about the Baptist and Evangelical services he went to that it was a bit of a let down for me. It was still nice to feel represented, thought!

 

Cohen says several times that he wants to explore Christianity to make him a better Jew. I feel the same way about reading religious memoirs and books on religious understanding. It helps me to have my faith convictions when I can see why other people have theirs. I understand why what I believe is different from what a coworker or friend believes. Rather than tempting me to convert, it helps reinforce my own beliefs. I don’t know what I’d do if I ran into another religion that made sense to me, the way Elizabeth did. I haven’t come into that situation yet so I don’t know.

I love memoirs that read like a conversation with the author and Cohen did an excellent job of that. I admired how conversational he was about a topic that divides so many people.

This was a really enjoyable book about a topic that I find fascinating. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Post:
My Jesus Year, by Benyamin Cohen (LentBooks #15) | Compulsive Overreader

WWW Wednesday, 15-November-2017

15 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m 3/4 of the way done with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. With how short the book is, I’ll probably finish it up in the next week provided I get a few days to read during lunch. Three more days should do it.
I reached halfway in The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. His books are really long so I’m not surprised this one is taking me so long. I’ve been easing off a bit with running, too, which is making this even slower. I’ll keep pushing on because it’s a really fun storyline.
I’ve been enjoying My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen a lot. I really enjoy these religious memoirs and I feel pretty certain I’ll finish this one up this week.

Recently finished: Nothing again! I’m going to blame starting them at the same time. And length. And me being a bit lazy lately.

Reading Next: It will still be Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. This is a slim book and I’m hoping it will be a fast read so I can knock it out before my next book club meeting! Fingers crossed.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 8-November-2017

8 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m still pushing forward with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I’ve had really busy lunch periods lately so I haven’t had much of a chance to read it during lunch but I’m squeezing in a few pages here and there. I should finish it before the end of the year with no problem.
The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer is going to be a long haul. This is a long audiobook but I’m liking it so far. As with most thrillers, it’s very fast paced but I’m having fun trying to figure out who is involved in what and who knows what.
I’m trying to read My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen so I can start my next physical book. I really enjoy memoirs, especially religious memoirs, so this is really enjoyable for me and it’s a quick read anyway.

Recently finished: Nothing this week. I’ve made good progress in my books, but nothing new to share.

Reading Next: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is sitting next to my bed, ready for me to finish Cohen’s book. I’m excited to read a new-to-me author and I’m hoping this goes well.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 1-November-2017

1 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is still my ebook and I’m really enjoying this during my lunch breaks. It jumps around a bit more than I like, but the short snippets of the story make for good lunchtime reading.
I started a new audiobook, The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. I’ve read a few Meltzer books before so I’m pretty sure of what I’m getting into with this one. It’s fun to see how similar an author’s books can be and yet how different. This is a long audio so I suspect this will be on here for a while.
I also started a new physical book, My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. I love memoirs and memoirs about travel and religious understanding are always top in my book. Especially when my favorite non-fiction writer, A.J. Jacobs, has a blurb on the cover.

Recently finishedI finished Rules of Civility by Amor Towles on Friday and really enjoyed it. The characters were very real people and Towles writes amazing little details about them. My book club met to discuss this on Monday so I’ll have a summary of that up next week. You can take a look at my review, posted earlier this week, in the meantime.
As I expected, I flew through Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. It was short and sweet and I understand why this one is consistently on the bestseller lists. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much time and money went into Mitch visiting Morrie for all of those weeks but I think what both men got out of it was more than worth what was put into it. I posted a review earlier this week so please check it out.

Reading Next: I got my next book club pick, which is going to be Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for Haruf’s novels but this will be my first. I’ll pick it up as soon as I finish Cohen’s book.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 23-August-2017

23 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m still working on Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi. I checked yesterday and I’m on chapter 34 of 40 so I really do promise I’ll finish this book!
I started a new audiobook while on vacation, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I’m really enjoying it so far and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn how wondrous Oscar’s life is.
I have a new physical book as well, The Detroit Electric Scheme by D.E. Johnson. It’s fun to read a book set in your town, but I’m having some issues with this book already. It’s not enough to stop me from reading it, but it will make for a long review.

Recently finishedI was able to finish Chemistry by Weike Wang on the plane to New Orleans. I’m excited to put up a review next week and see if I can talk to Weike about the book a little and share with you all.

Two reviews to share! I posted a review of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum on Monday. I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t what I was expecting and I think that threw it off for me. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also posted a review of Empire Falls by Richard Russo yesterday. I understand why this book won the Pulitzer and now I want to see the HBO mini-series! Does aAnyone know if it’s easy to get a copy of that?

Reading Next: It turns out I am going to the conference I mentioned in my last post so I will not be reading for my upcoming book club. Instead, I’ll likely read My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. It feels good to knock some of my own books off my TBR, especially as I build it up while traveling.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 16-August-2017

16 Aug

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


**So, it’s worth noting that I am AGAIN out-of-town and writing this quite in advance. Hey, it’s the summer and I’m going to take my vacation while I can! I may be a bit slow in responding but I am around and in the country this time. Send me some love while I explore NEW ORLEANS! I’m going to try to hit up a few bookstores here to report back.

Currently reading: Moderate progress on Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi. Probably some of my best progress in months, actually. It’s nice having time to read during lunch again! I think I’m about 2/3 of the way through and I’ll keep pushing forward.
New books for this list! The first is a new audiobook, The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer. Before I met Meltzer a few years back, I was at a church used book sale and picked up a few of his books, including this one. I’m listening to the audio to get to it sooner than I would my paper copy. So far, he’s delivering on the fast-paced thriller!
I also got to start Chemistry by Weike Wang! I’m really hoping to do an author interview with this book as I knew Wang in high school. If you want to read more about that, check out this post.

Recently finishedI finished I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum while cooking last Wednesday and I’ve been waiting a week to tell you all. I enjoyed it, but not for the reasons I expected to. It was sad but I could have known that if I read book summaries. I’ll have a review up next week. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also finished
 Empire Falls by Richard Russo on Friday. I knew this book was going to come to a quick end and I kind-of saw it coming, but I still gasped out loud near the end! I think I woke my husband up from his nap. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars. I also plan to have this review up next week.

Many of you have commented on it, but I posted a review of Commonwealth by Ann Patchett last Thursday. Please go check it out if you haven’t yet and let me know what you think! I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: As of writing, I think my next book will still be The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This might change just before I leave on my trip, though! I got invited to a conference that would interfere with me attending the book club meeting on this book. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I’ll skip the book if I can’t make the meeting and read something off my TBR instead. If that’s the case, I’ll probably pick My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. It’s at the top of my TBR books that I own. Or I might grab something from the library before I leave. I’ll have to report back next week.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!