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Praying with Jane Eyre cover art

Praying with Jane Eyre

By: Vanessa Zoltan
Narrated by: Vanessa Zoltan,Cassandra Campbell
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Summary

“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, best-selling 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 listener 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.

©2021 Vanessa Zoltan (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

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, best-selling 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

What listeners say about Praying with Jane Eyre

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  • Amelia
  • 15-11-21

Very moving!

I am an atheist searching for meaning in a way that feels inaccessible to me without religion. This book gave me exactly what I've been looking for for so long. Vanessa Zoltan manages to connect with literature while also sharing her incredible and humbling life experiences. Hearing about her own personal growth through reading as a sacred practice was inspiring and motivating. I can't wait to apply her teachings to my own sacred texts.

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  • Natasha
  • 06-11-21

This is a Generative Book

This book reminds me of how much I value great literature for how it can impact the human experience. I love the process of connecting to characters that Vanessa Zoltan walks us through. Many times I found myself wanting to share her thoughts with my sisters, who also love literature--showing that she connected not only with the characters but with the reader. Many times as I listened to her audio book I found myself wanting to weave the thoughts she inspired in me into my own written stories. This book is generative, which is, I think, the best compliment I can give it.

I grew to love Vanessa and Casper years ago, listening to their podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and I have recommended it to countless people. Although I was predisposed to think well of this book, I was surprised by HOW much I've loved it, how MUCH I've loved it. These are simple words, but the power of Vanessa's words is not simple. You have to read them to experience their weight. I have already read them again and again and plan to read them, and write my own thoughts related to them, again and again.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-09-21

Love for Vanessa

I was skeptical to read this book. I love Vanessa’s insight on Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and now the Real Question, but did not want to read a book I had subconsciously avoided for its dated values and treatment of people. So I read this without ever touching Jane Eyre, and it was magnificent. I got to experience all the grace of Vanessa’s wisdom, connect with characters through her lens, and enter the spiritual place I’ve re-cultivated over the years thanks to her voice. I highly recommend this book, both as its own experience and a guide on how to treat books (and life) as if it were sacred.

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  • heather bernardy
  • 02-09-21

Wonderful Listen!

Loved this even more than the HPST podcast. I didn't think that was even possible.

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  • Margaret Sadler
  • 27-07-21

Unique & Engaging

This was a very different and interesting book. The stories were engaging and provided a new way of looking at, relating to and finding meaning in an old text, flaws and all.

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  • Emily
  • 22-07-21

Always in good hands with Vanessa Zoltan!

You're always in good hands with Vanessa Zoltan! This book was nourishing, and thought provoking. A true joy to read, and a true joy to listen to 💚

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  • Brittany
  • 11-07-21

So lovely

I loved this book and I loved having Vanessa read it. It is one of the best things to have the narrator of the story also be the author. I feel like you get so much more from listening this way. The book is interesting, insightful, and inspiring. Listen to this book and then go grab your book of choice to begin a sacred reading practice.

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  • emmylyn
  • 09-07-21

Love hearing Vanessa's voice!

I'm a huge fan of all of Vanessa's work in her podcasts and was thrilled when she said she was writing a book. I had it pre-ordered and wasn't disappointed. How she relates to texts is truly inspiring and I so appreciate hearing all of the stories she has to tell. Highly recommend!