Now that Shavuot is over, I feel that my summer has begun. It doesn’t mean that things at Holy Blossom shut down, but they do get a little slower. In the summer I try to read books that have been on my nightstand or my e-reader wishlist for awhile. I spend the summer attempting to read more so that the ideas might migrate to sermons and classes, but I also, of course, read for personal fulfilment and entertainment. So, here is a short reading list for me. Come Rosh Hashanah, please ask me if I finished.
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Captivity by Gyorgy Spiro
I am reading this novel right now and I am about a third of the way through. It is more than 800 pages, but well worth it. I can’t put it down. It was originally written in Hungarian, and has recently been translated into english. It takes place 2000 years ago in the Roman Empire. A young Jew named Uri goes from Rome to Jerusalem as part of the city’s Jewish communities delegation for Pesach. I hope you’re still with me because so far I find it to be a great commentary on being a Jew in a globalized world, Diaspora vs. Homeland, faith and reason, and just what is this thing we call Judaism. It’s also very funny.
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Post-apocalyptic and speculative fiction is huge right now. (I am watching “The Handmaid’s Tale”, and maybe I’ll get to reading it.) I started this classic by a while ago and for whatever reason I haven’t finished. The book is about civilization rebuilding itself after a nuclear war. What I have loved about so far is that really grapples with religious faith and the meaning of history.
Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal and Social Change by David Jaffe
As someone who is interested in Mussar, the Jewish study and practice of developing personal virtue, I picked up this book because I saw that it is about integrating Mussar practice and social action. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes about the book,“Changing the World from the Inside Out combines sweeping, idealistic visions to repair the planet with practical, realistic approaches that enable this to get done, one step at a time. It offers a path with directions how to repair one’s self and grow into a kind, understanding, nurturing partner in progress.”
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
This Pulitzer Prize winning book profiles eight families in Milwaukee to show the plight of the working poor. Even though it focuses on an American city, I think parallels can be drawn to Toronto and Canada. As the Ontario government announced the other day that they want to revisit labour laws and the minimum wage, I want to focus on what we Jews can do to help with poverty reduction.
Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation by Yossi Klein Halevi
This book has been on my shelve for a couple of years, and now that it is the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, I want to read it to really think about how the Israel that we love and engage with is a result of those days.
I hope I can get through all of these. Please hold me to it, and leave your recommendations below.