57. The Accidental Santera

by Irete Lazo
started 10/14 finished 10/21
Most of the time I am excited to share books that I’ve read and loved. Sometimes, though, when reading about certain subjects, I hold back from recommending them because I don’t think that a lot of people will be open and receptive. That is certainly true with books about certain religious, cultural or political points of view. So having said that, I know that even though I loved this book I won’t be pushing it at work (especially since we can’t discuss religion or politics with our customers) and I hope that it finds its audience.
A santera is a female practitioner of the African-based spiritual belief system known as Santeria. The Accidental Santera is a novel (there are not many fictional books on African-based religions) telling the story of a scientist, Gabrielle Segovia, who suddenly finds her life changing. While attending a conference in New Orleans she is dragged by a friend into a voodoo shop. Wanting answers to some strange things happening to her, she schedules a reading expecting it to be nonsense. When Gabrielle returns home and everything told to her in the reading comes true, she starts on a whirlwind journey that tests everything she believes in.
Through the story of one woman’s initiation, this book reminds us of our over dependency on science and how sometimes that has to be suspended to open our minds to the unseen forces that move among us. If you are a student of religion and culture, you will love this tale of melding tried and true old world ways with our modern lives. Thumbs up!

53. The Year of Living Biblically

by A.J. Jacobs

started 11/16 finished 12/6

This is another bestseller list book that I have managed to read and enjoy. As I may have said before, I seldom read “popular” books because I just don’t have mainstream book tastes. But after this book and Eat, Pray, Love, maybe it’s not my tastes are changing – maybe mainstream readers tastes are changing to match mine.

Like Will Smith, I consider myself a student of the world’s religions and am fascinated by the cultures that surround them. Jacobs decides to immerse himself in the Bible and obey its commandments (The Big 10 and the hundreds of others) for one year.

He prepares by reading the Bible from start to finish and entering into his computer any rule, major or minor, that he comes across. He makes decisions on which version of the Bible to use, how much time to devote to each Testament (being Jewish, he already is quite familiar with the Old one), and assembles a group of spiritual advisers to call on with questions along the way. Oh, and he starts growing his beard.

What follows is an interesting, insightful and sometimes hilarious journey (the day he decides to stone adulterers is quite funny – he lives in New York City, not ancient Jerusalem). Jacobs’ year takes him to the new creationist museum in Kentucky, the more familiar Hasidic neighborhoods of NYC, an Amish bed & breakfast in Pennsylvania, and to Israel to visit his aunt’s ex-husband the former cult leader. Also worth reading because of what happens in his own home. His wife proves to be a very patient woman while rolling her eyes at some of the things he does.

I had one customer say that he hadn’t read it yet because he thought it would be too serious. I was able to convince him that it was far from a scholarly work – just one regular guy living by the rules of the Bible in the modern world.