Summer Reading List 2014

The Story of the Jews (Finding the Words 1000 BC – 1492 CE), Simon Schama

Its been a while since a ‘history of the Jews’ book has been published, let alone to such high praise, so Simon Schama’s just published ‘The Story of the Jews’ had to make this summer’s list.  It is in fact a first volume of a planned two volume work, covering the history of the Jewish people from 1000 BCE all the up to the time of Christopher Columbus, who sailed the ocean blue in 1492 CE.  2500 years of Jewish history – 500 pages – about 5 years on every page!  Who could resist that?


The Circle, Dave Eggers

The newest novel by one of the great modern American writers.  It tells the story of a Google like technology company in the near future, and explores our growing penchant for making even our private lives public.  The world the novel describes is eerily similar to our own, with the internet and its vast technologies a constant, and ominous presence.  This is a book about where we might be going, but reading it reminds us that in many ways we are already there.  500 pages give or take – mostly give!


A Guide for the Perplexed, Dara Horn

One of today’s best known Jewish writers gives us a narrative that weaves together stories from Genesis, medieval philosophy, the figure of Maimonides, and the discovery of the Cairo geniza in the early 1900s.  The book explores sibling rivalry, the power of words and texts in Judaism, and the way memory informs our lives.  342 pp.  (this is the beach read for the summer – save it for your week in Bethany!!)


Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

The story of the orphan Pip, as he grows from a little boy into a young man.  This is a classic for all time, but explores themes that are central to our lives today – when loyalty and social conscience conflict with ambition, wealth, and class, what wins out, and what should win out?  And you’ll get to meet (or re-meet) the unforgettable character of Miss Havisham, who has created a home where time literally stands still.  caveat emptor – Dickens novels are long!


Shakespeare’s Restless World, Neil MacGregor

The Director of the British Museum in London explores Shakespeare’s world by closely examining 20 objects that come from his time and the places where he lived.  Using the technique he established in A History of the World in 100 Objects, MacGregor brilliantly brings out the details of Elizabethan life in this series of short, beautifully written essays.  336 pp. – but a fast read!


The Tempest, William Shakespeare

Each summer I re-read one of the Bard’s plays.  The Tempest is a personal favorite, exploring through the character of the ship wrecked Prospero ideas of mortality, aging, forgiveness, justice, wisdom, creativity, and art.  Some scholars believe Prospero is the one character in the Shakespearean canon that most directly reflects Shakespeare’s own sense of self.  Good for a summer reading list as it takes place on an island! 


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