Jana Riess

Since 2008, Jana Riess has been an acquisitions editor in the publishing industry, primarily acquiring in the areas of religion, history, popular culture, ethics, and biblical studies. From 1999 to 2008, she was the Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly, and continues to write freelance articles and reviews for PW as well as other publications.

She holds degrees in religion from Wellesley College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in American religious history from Columbia University. She speaks often to media about issues pertaining to religion in America, and has been interviewed by the Associated Press, Time, Newsweek, People, the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday, among other print publications, as well as “Voice of America,” the "Today" show, MSNBC, and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” “Tell Me More,” and “Talk of the Nation.” 

She is the author, co-author, or editor of nine books, including Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor; What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as a Spiritual Guide; Mormonism for Dummies; and The Writer’s Market Guide to Getting Published. She blogged for Beliefnet before coming to RNS in 2012.

Posts By This Author

Don’t Read This Part of the Bible If You’re Under 30 (or a Woman)

by Jana Riess 02-10-2012
Icon of the Prophet Ezekiel via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/xLsxE4.

Icon of the Prophet Ezekiel via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/xLsxE4.

It's long been known that Ezekiel is — well, let's be honest here — one crazy-arse book of the Bible.

Now that I'm tweeting about it every day and reading it cover to cover for the Twible project, I've come to understand one of the oldest traditions about it: it's not for everyone.

Some of the great rabbis taught that the book of Ezekiel, with its strange visions and explicit sexual language, should not be read by any Torah student under the age of 30.

The symbolism of "30" was likely tied to Ezekiel's own reported age when he began receiving his prophetic visions; perhaps the rabbis felt that if Ezekiel was old enough to see these weird word-pictures, 30-something men were considered mature enough to read about them.

Not so for women.

Om Shaka Laka Laka: Three Myths and Two Truths About Yoga

by Jana Riess 02-09-2012
"Yoga." Image by Earl McGehee via Wylio http://bit.ly/xzjw0R.

"Yoga." Image by Earl McGehee via Wylio http://bit.ly/xzjw0R.

As a yoga practitioner — no, make that "zealous convert and obsessed fanatic" — I listened with great interest to Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview this week with William Broad, whose book The Science of Yoga has just been released.

In the interview and in the book, Broad (a science writer for the New York Times and a yoga practitioner for more than 40 years) takes on some of the claims about yoga and separates the wheat from the chaff, arguing that only some of these claims are borne out by science. Here are three myths debunked, and two major claims — that yoga can do wonders for your sex life and your mood — officially verified.

 

Why We Fast

by Jana Riess 02-07-2012
Photo via Paulo Dias Photography/Getty Images.

Photo via Paulo Dias Photography/Getty Images.

In February of 2009, when I tried a month-long Ramadan fast for the book Flunking Sainthood, I felt like a failure for most of the month.

Fasting was not a practice I ever cheated on (weirdly, it was easier for me to give up food completely in February than it was just to be a vegetarian in October of that year, when I did cheat -- how lame is that?). But I never felt like I fully "got" it. I did feel unexpectedly relaxed at the end of February -- and, let's face it, a bit smug that I'd persevered through the experience -- but not much more spiritual than when I started.

I think it's because I had the wrong attitude to begin with.

The Top Six Mistakes Reporters Make About Mormons

by Jana Riess 02-06-2012

I spent the weekend in New York at a conference I co-organized on Mormonism and American politics. We had two days of stimulating papers and presentations, an overview of which you can read here. One of my favorite talks was by veteran religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack, who has been covering Mormonism (and every other faith) for years for the Salt Lake Tribune and had some advice for journalists who suddenly find themselves trying to understand Mormonism this year during the Romney campaign.

Peggy’s basic thesis was that many reporters cover Mormonism using a basic paradigm taken from covering Protestantism, and fail to appreciate important differences. Find out what Peggy's the top six mistakes journalists make are inside the blog...

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