Each year around Memorial Day I publish a summer reading list, letting the congregation know what books I expect to be delving into during the summer months. Happy reading!
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel – A post apocalyptic tale of a traveling Shakespeare troupe, this novel explores memory, friendship, family, and asks the ultimate question: what is it that truly makes us human? (378 pages)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe – Published in 1968, this book (non-fiction) chronicles the early hippie movement in the San Francisco Bay area, particularly the escapades of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters. In a time when psychedelics are making a bit of a comeback this is worth a re-read, just after the author’s death at the age of 88.
The Story of the Jews: Belonging, 1492-1900 – the long fight to survive, by Simon Schama – The British historian has just published part 2 of his history of the Jewish people. The second installment covers a 500 year span as the Jewish community struggled with what it meant to live in the Diaspora. Will the Jews be accepted or rejected? Questions of antisemitism, assimilation, and Jewish identity come to life in Schama’s lively prose, and reading his book reminds us those questions are just as relevant today as they have ever been. (some 600 plus pages!)
The Great Shift, Encountering God in Biblical Times, by James Kugel – One of the best modern Bible commentators, Kugel explores the shifting sense of God that is conveyed by the Hebrew Bible. Why is God present and active when the Bible begins, but remote and invisible when it ends? This book is Kugel’s answer to that question.
On Middle Ground, a History of the Jews in Baltimore, by Eric Goldstein and Deborah Weiner – As advertised, a comprehensive history of Baltimore’s Jewish community, from its very first Jews to Pikesville. Close readers will find that Rabbi Mark Loeb z’l does get a mention! (about 400 pages)
Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, by Yossi Klein Halevi – One of Israel’s most thoughtful writers, Halevi explores with frank honesty his sadness at the Palestinian situation, his longing for reconciliation, and his fierce belief in Israel, its mission, and its right to exist. In a world where we are all too often driven to extreme views, Halevi’s nuanced exploration of the ‘matzvah’ is poignant and necessary.
* As always, a caveat emptor – I may not read all of these books this summer, and I probably will read one or two books not on the list! Enjoy the reading!!