Summer Reading List – 2015

Summer Reading List 2015

At Home in Exile – Alan Wolfe
The author, a professor of political science at Boston College, argues that the diaspora community is integral to Jewish life, and plays as important a role in the world wide Jewish community as the State of Israel. (269)

My Struggle vol 2 – Karl Ove Knausgaard
The second book in the multivolume autobiographical novel by the Norwegian author. Freud’s impulse to look inward motivates Knausgaard’s astonishing work. By following the author in his soul directed journey, the reader also reaches a place of deeper understanding and wisdom. (573)

Bringing Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
Volume 2 of the author’s Wolf Hall series follows the fate of the narrative’s protagonist, Thomas Cromwell. A progressive, but at the same time a cunning and ruthless player of the political game (the real game of thrones) Cromwell stands as a powerful literally creation who reflects many of the our modern struggles. (432)

The Art of Dancing in the Rain – Garth Stein
This year’s beach read. Because every once in a while it is good to see the world from a dog’s perspective. It truly is a dog’s life.

Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty
The French economist produces a stunning survey of the history of wealth and inheritance over the last 500 years. In so doing, he argues that the market economy may increase, not decrease the wealth gap. An important book for our time, when that gap grows larger by the day. (long and technical!)

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
The beautifully written book is a moving mediation on life, loss, love, the natural world, and the art of falconry. If you choose one book from this list, this is the one to choose!

Merchant of Venice – William Shakespeare
In a year when anti-semitism is on the rise it makes sense to look back to Shakespeare’s great play with the central Jewish character Shylock. The speech that begins “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes…” is one of the greatest in all of the Bard’s cannon.

Author: Steve Schwartz

Husband, father of three, Deadhead, and rabbi. I am now in my 22nd year of serving a large congregation in the Baltimore area.

2 thoughts

  1. Steve, You have inspired me to offer to my congregation my early summer reading list (high hopes for a late summer list as well…delusion, I am sure!) . I took the liberty of claiming one of yours (with hopefully appropriate attribution!).
    Here is the “stack” by category:

    Memoirs, Aging, Grief:

    What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas (“it’s about friendship and the rueful pleasures and jarring pitfalls of growing old”)

    The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander (“Heartrenderingly candid account of the abrupt loss of her husband by the distingushed poet Elizabeth Alexander–a testament to love and the memory of love.”)

    H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald ( from my friend Rabbi Steve Schwartz in Baltimore–“a moving mediation on life, loss, love, the natural world, and the art of falconry.”)


    All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr ( I cheated, as I have already read this, and cannot recommend it enough–it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is beautifully written, unusual, heart-breaking, and amazing in its characters, sensitivity, and grasp of humanity during war. If you wonder about what your one big book for this summer should be, this is it!)

    A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (she lives up the street from my house in Baltimore–I have to read it)

    Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford (Ford has a wry understanding of current economic and social factors and how they affect people, particularly men. This is set on the NJ shore, post-Katrina)

    The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Man Booker Prize winner–I always read these)

    Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (novel about tragedy, coming of age)


    The Hero’s Fight: African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State by Patricia Fernandez-Kelly (sociologist at PU who spent years in Baltimore. The neighborhoods she writes about here are where my home church did Habitat for Humanity, so I have personal referent)

    Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition by Wendell Berry (Christian thinker, writer, ecologist, poet pondering modernity/religion and faith)

    Yours Faithfully: Virtual Letters from the Bible, by Phillip R. Davies (“fictional” letters from Biblical characters to each other, ie., Sarah to Abraham–fascinating midrash)

    Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of their Stories, by Tikva Frymer-Kensky (Tikva, of blessed memory, is one of the greats in interpreting the Scriptures)

    Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren F. Winner (new book by young Christian convert…)

    Mysteries and “Beach reads” :

    At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen (Loch Ness monster is involved…what’s not to like for a beach read?)

    Iron Lake, by William Kent Krueger (same author as above, this is one in his mystery series…we will see)

    The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (Sherlock Holmes revisited by the man who wrote PBS’s wonderful series, Foyles War)

    Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris (New Yorker columnist on grammar and life)

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