Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood


“Flunking Sainthood” Now Available

posted by Jana Riess

I never thought I would write a memoir, and still maintain that no one ever should. There are far too many memoirs published already. But … well, there it is. I wrote one, and it’s out this week. I hope it is funny, and insightful, and honest, and all the things I look for from the authors I admire. You be the judge, and let me know.

The book is the product of my failures at twelve different spiritual practices, including mindfulness (what does that even mean, anyway?), fixed-hour prayer, fasting, an Orthodox Jewish Sabbath, financial generosity, and others. If you’ve ever felt like you are flunking sainthood — that you think you might love God but don’t quite measure up to the standards you set for yourself — then we are probably kindred spirits.

The book was featured in a lovely story in USA Today yesterday about religion and humor. The underlying question is always: Can God take a joke?

I’m counting on it.

I’ll post some over the coming weeks about book events, but I don’t want my blog to devolve into being about me, me, me. I hate that. So here’s a working schedule of the next few weeks:

    • Saturday, October 22: Books by the Banks Festival, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Duke Energy Center in Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Saturday, October 29: 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Reading and signing at Innkeeper’s coffeehouse in Galesburg, Illinois
    • Wednesday, November 2: Reading and signing at Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, Utah @ 5:30 p.m.
    • Sunday, November 6: Reading and signing at Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati @ 11:15 a.m. (All Saints Sunday!)
    • Friday, November 11: Reading and signing at the Diocesan convention in Dayton, Ohio, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

I love to meet readers, so if you’ll be around at one of these events, be sure to say hello and tell me how you flunk sainthood.



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Penny Gold

posted October 15, 2011 at 9:39 am


Jana–I enjoyed reading your profile in the Galesburg Register Mail this morning, and look forward to reading your book! I have 2 blogs myself, one on cooking and the other on quilting: http://penny-inthekitchen.blogspot.com/ and http://penny-studionotes.blogspot.com/ I’m also still teaching–right now a course on “The Bible in History,” which has led me a couple of times to think about the time I had the pleasure of teaching Biblical Hebrew with you in the class.



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    Jana Riess

    posted October 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm


    Dr. Gold, how lovely to hear from you! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I think fondly of that class & wish I could keep up with the Hebrew studies. I did 3 more years of it after our class, but it’s hard to hold on to languages if you don’t use them regularly. I do try to keep up a bit with the Hebrew in my Twible project, which might be entertaining (!) for your class — it’s the Bible, but with 68% more humor. (http://twitter.com/#!/janariess)



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Emily Butler

posted October 24, 2011 at 3:18 pm


Hi Jana,
I’m in the middle of reading your book, and I’m enjoying it, but I do wonder why you don’t discuss your Mormon faith? (And I’m not saying you’re missing a missionary opportunity–I’m transitioning out of the church at the moment, so I really don’t care about that!) I notice that you are sticking to the Bible and common Christian spiritual practices, but you have never mentioned what church you go to. (You mention buying challah from a Mormon bakery, but that’s as close as you come!) Were you trying to read a wider audience this way? Why the reluctance to talk about your religion? I just wondered. Thank you for your blog and your books! I read the one on Buffy because I was so tickled an LDS author would find that worthy of discussion, and I loved it even though I only had a passing familiarity with the show! Thanks to your book and Hulu, I’m now working my way through Season 6! Keep up the good work!



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    Jana Riess

    posted October 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm


    Hi Emily, I’m glad you are enjoying the book. This publisher does books along the spectrum of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christianity, and asked me to read spiritual classics that reflected on those traditions. I’m sure I will continue to write about the Mormon aspect of my faith journey elsewhere, as I have before, but that was never the goal of this project. P.S. Hooray for you for discovering Buffy! Season 6 is dark but it also has the musical episode, which is beyond brilliant. “I’ve got a theory . . . .”



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