9 Jewish books to read this summer
By Victor Wishna for JTA
Sure, winter might seem like the ideal time of year for curling up with a good book — but summer is when you might actually have time to read.
So before these warm months all too swiftly fade to fall, here are some Jewish-themed titles, from a wide range of genres, to fill your beach bag (or tablet) for the season.
A bonus: These works, from an international smattering of authors, are equally enjoyable while riding in an overcrowded bus on your way to work.
The People and the Books
By Curt Schleier for Hadassah Magazine
It turns out the Jews are not the people of the book. That moniker, writes author Adam Kirsch in The People and the Books, is “an Islamic title, used in the Koran to designate both Jews and Christians—peoples who possess their own revelations from God in the form of holy scriptures.”
That is one of many tidbits in Kirsch’s brilliant, well-researched work, which looks at Jewish texts over the past 2,500 years to explain the enduring, diverse beliefs and philosophies regarding the nature of God, Torah, the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.
Interview: The Worlds of Dalia Rosenfeld
Adam Rovner for Jewish Book Council
Dalia Rosenfeld, a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, moved to Israel two years ago to reinvent her life. And though she has been publishing sharply observed literary fiction in American journals and magazines for two decades, The Worlds We Think We Know (Milkweed Editions) is her first collection. The wait for these twenty new stories has been worth it.
Adam Rovner: The Worlds We Think We Know has already garnered praise from major American writers, including Adam Johnson, Cynthia Ozick, and Gary Shteyngart. Shteyngart has called your work “very funny, Jewish and wise.” Are you conscious of being a “Jewish writer?” What does that mean to you?
Dalia Rosenfeld: I wish I knew! I was hoping I was far enough removed from the immigrant experience to be unqualified to answer that question, but here I am, suddenly the holder of a second passport, a new immigrant to Israel. But that doesn’t help much either, because the days of linking “Jewish writer” to immigrant status are pretty much over now. If the question implies loyalty to a people, I feel that strongly outside the context of writing, but on the page my loyalty is to language. Jews owe their survival to the power of the written word—you can’t take your land with you into exile, but you can take your stories—which is not to suggest that focusing on language alone makes one a Jewish writer, but feeling at home in language constitutes a major part of the Jewish experience.
Kafka’s Son by Curt Leviant
By Sanford Pinsker for Hadassah Magazine
Kafka’s Son, Curt Leviant’s latest novel, may or may not successfully capture the family Kafka never had, but it incorporates great moments of madcap comedy as well as pays homage to the world’s best postmodernist novelists such as Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.
Readers are in for a wild ride as the novel has no fewer than seven beginnings—and concludes with seven endings. The first beginning—with a bow to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick—reads as follows:
Call me Amschl.