Each year I release a reading list to my congregation of books I plan to read over the summer. I generally read the books that make the list, but I also add one or two unexpected titles. These are my reading ‘detours.’ I discover them in local book shops or in the NY Times book review. They catch my interest for one reason or another and before I know it the official list books are on the back burner and I am deeply immersed in some new narrative.

This year two detour books have appeared. One is the 2013 Mann Booker prize winner The Luminaries, by Eleanor Cattan, and the other the new David Grossman novel To the End of the Land. I finally finished the Catton book a few days ago. A monster of a read at 850 pages.  It is beautifully written, but I had the feeling I was watching a magician’s trick – it was enthralling but at the end it didn’t ring true.  I have high hopes for the Grossman novel but want to finish Hillbiilly Elegy before I get to it.

Some summers it is the detour read that ends up the best of the batch. This summer the jury is still out, but I have a feeling nothing will beat Lincoln in the Bardo which I loved, a book that truly moved me.

In the meantime I will keep my eyes open for further detour opportunities. After all, isn’t that part of what summer is about? Finding the hidden roads, the never before tasted treat, the unexpected delights and pleasures of being away?

What is it that Bobby Weir sings in Lost Sailor?

Drifting, you’re drifting; drifting and dreaming; ’cause there is a place you’ve never been; maybe a place you’ve never seen; you can hear them calling on the wind…



Filed under books, Rabbi Steven Schwartz, summer reading, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Detours

  1. Linda Napora

    “calling on the wind” is too close to “blowin’ in the wind” for me (what could be better than those words). **so great to have your thoughts about THE books! **i am wrapped up in Lincoln in the Bardo–so much because Lincoln is so important to me (more than ever)…. Also– George Saunders has been interviewed (tv, new yorker,etc); he is so brilliant, origional, wild, etc –just kind of overwhelms me (& this book is included in Osher bk club & my wonderful old bk club). Grossman is also on Osher list!! **Last, Hillbilly Elegy was one of my group’s all-time best discussions. Well-written & provocative for us to see this world (reading & listening to him on tv). ***really last: i was told that the audio version of Lincoln _ __ is fantastic…all the different voices…. as always, thank you. linda

    Sent from my iPhone


    • hi Linda – I managed to finish Hillbilly Elegy this AM, and it is well done and worth a read if you haven’t so far. I will start To the End of the Land tonight. But Lincoln in the Bardo really caught my attention – I’ll be interested to see what you think about it. Happy to discuss!

  2. Judy Pachino

    Agree with you and Linda re: ‘Elegy’. However, need a tutorial from Linda on
    ‘Lincoln at the Bordo’. As cochair of the Rabbis’ book reviews want to know if you find ‘End of the Land’ appropriate for your contribution this year or if you have another thought (definitely not an 800+ pager). I, also noticed that one in the NYTimes Book Review and was interested. I just finished a lengthy one and we can’t ask that of our group. Have you read ‘Behold the Dreamers”? If you’re still on vacation, enjoy and be safe. jdy

    • hi Judy – To the End of the Land has had terrific reviews, but it is also on the long side, I think 500 pages plus. I am not sure Lincoln in the Bardo is for mass consumption, despite how much I enjoyed it – but that is up to you. I have not read ‘Behold the Dreamers.’ Happy to check it out if you want to go in that direction. And yes, we are still in New England, and heading home tomorrow –

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