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Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  4,127 ratings  ·  617 reviews
In middle age, Ehrenreich came across the journal she had kept during her tumultuous adolescence and set out to reconstruct that quest, which had taken her to the study of science and through a cataclysmic series of uncanny — or, as she later learned to call them, "mystical" — experiences. A staunch atheist and rationalist, she is profoundly shaken by the implications of h ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.26  · 
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 ·  4,127 ratings  ·  617 reviews

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I had a lot of “aha” moments with this personal exploration of spirituality by a life-long atheist and scientist turned journalist. As a teenager she had some “mystical” experiences which challenged her highly rationale world view at the time. Going back to revisit the import of those experiences made for a fascinating journey of self-discovery. This is not a heavy philosophical exploration of ideas, but more of a brutally honest autobiographical account of how a person growing up in the 50’s an ...more
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Road to Damascus on US hwy. 395 in Central California

Barbara Ehrenreich lives in her head. So do I. I, and I think she, can’t imagine any other mode of living. We share, if that’s not too oxymoronic an idea, a solipsistic attitude toward the world in general - that it really is dependent upon my thinking it into existence. We both know that this is irrational and a social handicap. But the attitude is not a matter of choice. Through some combination of nature and nurture, it is our fate to l
Deborah Markus
Jul 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
The short version: This book started out good. Then it got boring. Then it got irritatingly tedious. Then it got offensively bad.

True fact: It's impossible to read while simultaneously rolling one's eyes, smacking the book in question on the nearest hard surface, and yelling, "Oh, come ON!" I was doing all of those things on a regular basis by the time I hit the halfway mark. That's why this book took me so long to finish, and why I'm going to have to pay a library fine on a book I hate. Which
Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*
I'm not sure if this type of book could really have spoilers, but I am going to say a great deal about what's in this book. If you don't want to see it...then read the book and come back and read my review.

Barbara Ehrenreich was born and raised atheist in a fairly dysfunctional household. Her parents were intelligent, but also alcoholic and they moved regularly which caused problems with Barbara's education and socialization.

Barbara didn't see other people as intelligent and in possession of a m
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

I am familiar with Barbara Ehrenreich as a social commentator and have read some of her essays and one or two of her books. I was attracted to the premise of this book: prompted by coming across a journal she kept as a teenager, a lifelong atheist looks back and tries to reconstruct and analyze her adolescent search for “the Truth.”

Ehrenreich grew up in a horribly dysfunctional family in which both parents
I was tremendously excited when I heard Barbara Ehrenreich was writing a book about spirituality. After all, this is the author of Nickel and Dimed and Bright-Sided (aka Smile or Die), two classic works of journalistic enquiry. I couldn’t wait to see what this confirmed atheist would make of mystical experiences. However, having wrestled with the book for over five months, often only managing to read a few pages at a time, I find myself disappointed.

What has Ehrenreich written here? She refu
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What does a 70-something journalist, advocate for social justice, and life-long atheist trained in science make of the long series of spiritual-feeling dissociative experiences she’s had off and on since she was a teenager? Barbara Ehrenreich, author Nickel and Dimed, turns her unflinching, unsentimental powers of investigation on herself this time and the result is largely fascinating.

She originally expected to write a history of religion, but at the advice of her agent that plan morphed. Ehre
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, memoirs
While looking through the remains of her hurricane-flooded house in the Florida keys, Barbara Ehrenreich discovered a journal that she wrote as a teenager. Her journal forms the foundation of this book. Growing up, she remembers her family was often dysfunctional. Her mother was rather mean-hearted, and her father was a genius, but also an alcoholic. It is obvious that Ehrenreich is also a genius, and as a child she was precocious. Growing up, she often engaged in solipsism--the idea that her mi ...more
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Goodreads and Twelve Books for the review copy.

Nothing in me wants to review this book because I don't want to get into a discussion about its contents. The truth is, there's stuff in here to upset atheists and believers alike, and I just don't want to get in that discussion on Goodreads. Perhaps I'll change my mind later, but I doubt it.

That said, this is extremely well-written by one of the smartest minds I've encountered in a book. Ehrenreich is beyond intelligent. Her mind may le

I was quite disappointed by this. It was rather self-indulgent and aggrandazing and, well, it totally lacked the self-reflection I would expect from an intelligent woman in the second half of her life.

Especially there was almost no reference to the wealth of knowledge to be found in modern neuroscience and general psychology regarding the brain basis of religious beliefs and transcendental experiences - and that seemed incongruous for a proclaimed scientist.

Dec 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-have-won
Premise: This book is a memoir about Barbara Ehrenreich, a athiest and scientist who is striving to answer some very difficult life questions that all of us have. The content in this book is often quite hard to get through if you are not into (or knowledgeable) about science. Barbara talks a lot about very complex scientific things. If you love chemistry though, you will probably have fun reading it. Me personally, I'm not a scientist so I often found myself getting bored and very confused. I di ...more
Call this book review "The deep loneliness of Barbara Ehrenreich" or maybe "The Tragedy of Barbara Ehrenreich."

I wrestled with exactly how to rate this book. Her alleged metaphysical experience as a teen, and her return to it at late-midlife crisis time? That part's a 1-star, and I knew that when I had read an excerpt online. She even admits that, as William James notes, the physical "symptoms" she had of her mystical experience are not uncommon. Yet, she wants to mystify them, rather than notin
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a book I should have connected with. Barbara Ehrenreich and I both attended the same small college (Reed) in the 1960's and later connected with nature in an almost religious way in spite of or maybe because we are atheists.

For me the book got better in the last 1/3, but it was hard to get there. If this had not been a goodreads win that I felt obligated to review, I would have given up early on. Ms. Ehrenreich is obviously one smart cookie if she earned a degree in chemical physics fro
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An old atheist goes soft. I have heard in fact that this is quite common, believers when they near death come to doubt their belief and atheists start to hope they were all wrong.

My first time to read Barbara Ehrenreich and what a mind! Brilliant! Also, original. I practically inhaled this book. I was afraid, nearing the end, that she was going to lose the thread of what she had started, but she did not let me down. Really, I should have known that with such a keen mind, she would bring her arg
Feb 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I love Barbara Ehrenreich, and was lucky enough to have her as a professor in journalism school. This book, unfortunately, wasn't what I expected. I learned more about her upbringing but the "mystical experience" she takes forever to lead up to was disappointing in its scope. Between that and all the philosophizing, I just skimmed most of the book. Sorry, Barbara!
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 31, 2014 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
65 pages in and I'm just not connecting with it. I think it has to do more with how the book is written than the subject matter itself. Or the fact that my library ended up with the large-print version and the words just scream at me from the page. I can't hold it far enough away to feel comfortable, and for some reason I can't focus. I might try it again someday, but I suspect I don't care enough about her philosophical perspective. I wanted more of the journal and her spiritual experiences and ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2014
This is a challenging book. Enrenreich carries the reader along on her journey as she tries to reconcile a mystical experience in her adolescence with her lack of faith. I respect, immensely, her decision to write a weird book about a deeply personal experience that she likely knew would not satisfy anyone looking for the popular memoir story-arc. At the same time, I found myself impatient with her assumption that her experience was either inexplicable or unusual. She chose, based on her own upb ...more
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I received this via a Goodreads giveaway - I am so glad I won this title!
I've loved reading Barbara Ehrenreich ever since coming across "Nickel & Dimed" when I worked in a bookstore.
This book, "Living with a Wild God", is a beautifully written memoir detailing her quest for meaning throughout her life. Prompted by finding journals she'd written as an adolescent, Barbara explores where her spiritual journey took her and where she is now. Coming from someone who was trained as a scientist, is a jo
Megan Baxter
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is definitely not for what I usually sit down to read Barbara Ehrenreich. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it did take me a little while to adapt to what was not a story both personal and researched, relating her experiences to wider domains of thought and study. There's certainly work out there on mystical experiences and the like, but she is not drawing it in and weaving it with her story. This is as close to a straight-up memoir as I've ever seen from her.

Note: The rest of th
Fred Forbes
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
I read a couple of other books by Barbara so I know she can be an informative and entertaining writer. The blurbs for this book read something like "Adolescent girl has mystical experience; in adulthood she examines possible explanations and the nature of God (if any)." Well, since most intelligent people engage in similar quests I was looking forward to hers. What I got was an autobiography. It took well over 1/3 of the book to get to the mystical experience, and frankly, it did not strike me a ...more
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing

As the above quote suggests, this book is about a metaphysical quest for the elusive ‘truth’ about the universe and everything, written by a scientist who came to dismiss the explanations offered by religion, poetry or philosophy.

Barbara Ehrenreich is well known as a non-conformist writer and thinker wth a deep sense of social justice. Much of her religious scepticism and later political activism can be attributed to growing up with parents who were staunch atheis
Larry Bassett
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Sometimes when the subtitle is significant, you have to include the entire title. That is the case with this book: Living with a Wild God: A Nonbelievers Search for the Truth about Everything. It is a mouthful and takes up a few brain cells as well. It includes some smiles, as you would expect from Barbara Ehrenreich, as well as some deep thoughts.

I spent my teenage years reading Scientific American. I was eleven when the Sputnik was launched in October 1957. Barbara Ehrenreich’s father was a
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most people who pick up this book assume that it's a regular old memoir, and the title 'Living with a Wild God' is, as with most memoirs, just some catchy phrase that seemed to work well as a title.

It's not. This book is actually just about Barbara Ehrenreich's life search to understand some unique experiences she had as a young woman. Mental illness? Hallucinations? God? Beings? Something else?

I liked a lot of the topics brought up in this book. Fir
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm a Barbara Ehrenreich fan so I ripped through this the second I could get it. It's a strange and challenging book-- by turns heartbreaking (her childhood and parents- yikes) and inspiring. It is heavy going intellectually at moments, but it is also a great story. It's a searing story of a brilliant, lonely young women coming of age in a truly dysfunctional family, and managing to grow into an amazing woman nonetheless.

It's a complicated book-- not an "easy" read. She really pushes you to thi
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
The author clearly wanted to write, in rambling fashion, about herself. Not a whole lot about God in the mix.
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I recently read this article that speculates as to how our world might end. In addition to the familiar threats of nuclear war and a rise of the machines was the idea, becoming ever more popular, that our reality is simply a computer simulation being run on an alien processor; that "God" could become bored with us at any time and end humanity with the flick of a power switch (Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom calculates the likelihood of this scenario at greater than 50%). Dovetailing n ...more
Rebecca Budd
“Try inserting an account of a mystical experience into a conversation, and you’ll likely get the same response as you would if you confided that you had been the victim of an alien abduction,” Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything

The first time I met Barbara Ehrenreich was when I read "Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Positive Thinking is Undermining America." (Which reminds me, I must write a review on that book) While the meeting was
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
A Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I thought this book, primarily due to the subtitle, sounded interesting. The first chapter or two held some promise. Then I got increasingly frustrated with it. A couple of moments toward the end seemed to redeem it somewhat, but in the end, I'm left with a big feeling of blah. Be forewarned there might be spoilers ahead; it's impossible to review this book without discussing them.

Ehrenreich was raised as an atheist, rather than coming to it later, as many of us
Melissa I
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Melissa by: Goodreads
Living with a Wild God A Nonbeliever by Barbara Ehrenreich

It's not often that I don't have a rating idea of my feelings on a book before I'm even finished, however it's even more rare for me to not have a rating decided by the time I've finished. I always have a rating ready to go and the review is the one that's more difficult sometimes, but this is a very high interest and deep topic. I'm in a huge battle about this topic in my life at the moment so I'm leaving the rating out until I reflect more.

I can, without question, sa
Apr 10, 2014 added it
Another choice selection:

"Science fiction, like religious mythology, can only be a stimulant to the imagination, but it is worth considering the suggestion it offers, which is the possibility of a being (or beings) that in some sense 'feeds' off of human consciousness, a being no more visible to us than microbes were to Aristotle, that roams the universe seeking minds open enough for it to enter or otherwise contact. We are not talking about God, that great mash-up of human yearnings and project
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Barbara Ehrenreich is an American journalist and the bestselling author of sixteen previous books, including the bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. A frequent contributor to Harpers and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time Magazine.

Articles featuring this book

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