The Jewish Book Council announced the finalists for their Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and Jewschool’s very own Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg made the list for her memoir, Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion (published by the good folks at Beacon Press). Mazel tov, Danya!
I was a little bit late to the game myself, only catching up with the book in September. If you haven’t read it yet, let me tell you – don’t wait. It’s a great window into how one person grappled with the big questions of life, and as you know from reading Danya here, she writes with panache. She also writes with extensive footnoting, which makes for a memoir that has the feel of a great (and very accessible) academic work. We’re Jews, we tend to interpret our lives through text (and interpret our texts through life), and the way Danya weaves in the voices of those who have written before her reflects this ethos in a thrilling way.
Apparently, some other people got nominated too. I have neither read their books nor shared webspace with them, so I offer their names and titles without further comment:

  • Lila Corwin Berman – Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (University of California Press)
  • Ari Y. Kelman – Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the United States (University of California Press)
  • Kenneth B. Moss – Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press)
  • Sarah Abrevaya Stein – Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce (Yale University Press)

Mazel tov to them too, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m rooting against them. (Look, I don’t watch sports, so ever since America’s Next Top Model stopped being good, this is about as invested as I get in any kind of competition.)
For a somewhat less biased and more informative take, read the press release from the Jewish Book Council.