This summer, Josh and I made the biggest and scariest step in adulting: we bought a house (one step less scary than having a baby, in my opinion). So now the pressure is on to start saving money: a difficult task for a book hoarder like me. Luckily, I don’t mind rereading old favorites.
Reading and freelance writing are pretty much taking over my summer. As is typical with a new release, the buzz for Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic has slowed, though it did pretty well for a solid month and a half: #25 in Judaism, #26 in Ecumenism on Amazon. It even ranked #6 in Ecumenism a month before release, which has never happened with one of my books before (then again, I’ve never had a book available for pre-order until this one). So really, I don’t have much to complain about in the way of book sales. I’ve out-bested my original goal to just have people other than my mom read my work, and that’s no small feat.
Still, most writers supplement their writing with a day job, since book sales alone don’t pay bills (unless you’re JK Rowling) and that search hasn’t been going too well. I won’t be looking for a full-time job until next year, after I graduate with my master’s, but even seasonal work at coffee shops is hard to find. Also complicating matters is my anxiety, which has gotten progressively worse since my father died, almost to the point where I couldn’t leave my apartment without having panic attacks. Not surprisingly, I’ve had difficulty holding jobs because of this. Now that school is out and I finally have the time, I’m shopping around for doctors who specialize in mental illness, and the ideal prescription cocktail with minimal side effects: something I’ve put off because I didn’t want said side effects to disrupt my schoolwork.
Fortunately for me, I have a husband who earns enough money to support us both, and is okay with me using this summer as a period of much-needed self-care. While it’s not earning me any money, it is granting me sanity, which is pretty damn priceless. It’s my hope that by this time next year, I will be able to manage my symptoms enough to hold a stable job – hopefully something in the field of publishing.
With all this extra time, I’ve read a lot of new books, and I’m almost at the end of the to-read pile, which is another source of panic by itself.
An indie friend of mine absolutely raves about Unteachable by Leah Raeder, a novel that took the indie world by storm a few years ago and has recently re-released with a major publishing house. Now that it’s finally available at the library, I checked it out. The writing itself is pretty good. The storyline, however, did not live up to my expectations. Maybe I expected too much out of a teacher-student romance. I was hoping the book would explore, even subtly, the ethical dynamics of the power imbalance at play, even if the student was eighteen and the relationship perfectly legal. Instead, it was sex scene after sex scene after sex scene – well-written sex scenes, I’ll say that, but there was way more sex than development of a relationship that was intended to be Real Love. Maise and Evan hardly did or talked about anything but sex, so much that I couldn’t figure out what else made them click in the first place. Disappointing. But it kept me intrigued until the end, so that’s something.
Jesus > Religion: Why he is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough by Jefferson Bethke. I won this at a Christmas party last year, and finally got around to reading it. Admittedly, my guard went up when I read a review on the back cover from Mike Huckabee, but I didn’t let that keep me from reading it.
Sadly, I didn’t find anything original here. The “it’s a relationship, not a religion” trope has been done before, many times, but my biggest complaint about this book is how Bethke brings up the violence of the Old Testament when describing the occasional doubts about God’s goodness…and never mentions it again. No deconstruction, no wrestling with the text. This is not uncommon with books that are a hit within evangelical circles, I’ve noticed, and that bothers me. Considering that violence is a starting point for the path to atheism for many, it ought to be handled with a bit more depth than just one paragraph could allow.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Tearjerker, this one, but then again, I read it from the perspective of a still-grieving daughter. Knowing Kalanithi already passed away before the book was published did color the reading experience a bit, because the words I read were, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, his last: his carefully-chosen legacy. The contrast of going from established neurosurgeon to cancer patient in his own hospital was jarring, but well done.
Despite having – let’s be honest – a privileged life (he earned degrees from quite a few Ivy League universities), Kalanithi writes about finding more meaning in his marriage, his journey toward parenthood, and the limited amount of time he had with his infant daughter. It seemed like something my father would have written, which is what started the waterworks for me. By far the best part of this book was the epilogue written by his now-widowed wife, Lucy. If she doesn’t plan on writing books herself, she should.
Hope everyone had a good and safe Independence Day. My apartment complex did not allow fireworks, which spared my girls the trauma of thinking that the world is ending. They both turn two in a matter of weeks. Where has the time gone?