Hello everyone, we have 21 books to choose from this year, thanks to everyone who sent me suggestions during the last 11 months.
Please vote for your first second and third choice during the next 7 days.
I will let everyone know the results next Sunday.
Email your tip 3 picks to: email@example.com.
All book reviews are from Goodreads website.
1) The Unamericans: Stories
by Molly Antopol 288 pages
Moving from modern-day Jerusalem to McCarthy-era Los Angeles to communist Prague and back again. The UnAmericans is a stunning exploration of characters shaped by the forces of history. Molly Antopol’s critically acclaimed debut will long be remembered for its “poise and gravity” (New York Times), each story “so full of heart-ache and humor, love and life…[it’s] as though we’re absorbing a novel’s worth of insight” (Jesmyn Ward, Salon).
2) Saving Israel
by Daniel Gordis 272 pages
Is Israel worth saving, and if so, how do we secure its future? The Jewish State must end, say its enemies, from intellectuals like Tony Judt to hate-filled demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even average Israelis are wondering if they wouldn’t be better off somewhere else and whether they ought to persevere. Daniel Gordis is confident his fellow Jews can renew their faith in the cause, and in “Saving Israel,” he addresses the most pressing issues faced by Israel-and American Jews-today, without recycling the same old arguments.
3) The Natural Selection
by Ona Russell 308 pages
In July of 1925, Sarah Kaufman is finally taking the holiday she deserves. What she did not know, however, was that she also would need the investigative skills she had just barely acquired, the lover she had continuously resisted, and the emotional strength that she thought had been tested enough for one lifetime. Sarah reluctantly agrees to help investigate the mysterious death of one of an enigmatic professor. With the dead professor’s own cryptic, Darwinian message as a guide, Sarah travels the short distance to Dayton, Tennessee, where the internationally followed Scopes “Monkey” trial is underway. What follows is a harrowing and complex path of dead-ends, bigotry and brutality, a journey that shatters her own preconceptions, takes her to the depths of her own desire, and ultimately leads her back to the college where Darwin’s controversial theory of evolution startlingly resurfaces in a manner she never could have predicted. Set against the backdrop of what was deemed the “Trial of the Century,” this socially and politically relevant blend of fact and fiction includes actual courtroom excerpts and vividly portrays the Scopes trial’s central figures: John Scopes, William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, and especially H. L. Mencken.
4) Getting Old Is Murder
by Rita Lakin 336 pages
She’s not Miss Marple. Her friends are no Charlie’s Angels. Nevertheless, 75-year-old Gladdy Gold and her gang of eccentric Fort Lauderdale retirees are out, about, and hunting down a killer–one who is silently stalking them.
Selma Beller was the first to go–but Gladdy and her neighbors never suspected murder until another of their friends died in an eerily similar way. Now a handsome young detective won’t listen to them, Hy Binder won’t stop telling them dirty jokes, and crazy old Greta Kronk is doing everything humanly possible to make herself into a suspect. But amid the endless rounds of poolside kibitzing, early-bird specials, bittersweet memories, and interminable grocery-shopping trips, Gladdy and her gals are about to discover how the murders are being committed. And when it comes to catching this culprit–time really is running out.
5) The Hollow Girl
by Reed Farrel Coleman 303 pages
Drunk, alone, and racked with guilt over the tragic death of his girlfriend Pam, Moe Prager is destined for oblivion. But destiny takes a detour when a shadowy figure from Moe’s past reappears to beg for Moe’s help in locating her missing daughter, an early internet sensation known ironically as the Lost Girl or the Hollow Girl. The case itself is hollow, as Moe finds little proof that anyone is actually missing. The question isn’t whether or not Moe can find the Hollow Girl, but whether the Hollow Girl was ever there at all.
6) French Impression
by Katherine Lato ( FVJN member) 417 pages
Working in Paris for a year could help Miriam move on with life. She’s off to an exciting start when she has a romantic night with a charming Frenchman, until she discovers he’s married to her new boss, Estelle.
Estelle finds the recent merger with an American firm upsetting. Her non-French employees report to their former colleagues, and work is less fulfilling. Enduring her husband’s tales about his perfect dead wife was bad enough, now she has an employee, Miriam, who mourns a similar loss.
So much divides these two women. Will they discover what they have in common?
7) The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century
by David Laskin 400 pages
In the latter half of the nineteenth century Laskin’s great-great-grandfather, a Torah scribe named Shimon Dov HaKohen, raised six children with his wife, Beyle, in a yeshiva town at the western fringe of the Russian empire. The pious couple expected their sons and daughters to carry the family tradition into future generations. But the social and political upheavals of the twentieth century decreed otherwise.
The HaKohen family split off into three branches. One branch emigrated to America and founded the fabulously successful Maidenform Bra Company; one branch went to Palestine as pioneers and participated in the contentious birth of the state of Israel; and the third branch remained in Europe and suffered the Holocaust.
In tracing the roots of his own family, Laskin captures the epic sweep of twentieth-century history. A modern-day scribe, Laskin honors the traditions, the lives, and the choices of his ancestors: revolutionaries and entrepreneurs, scholars and farmers, tycoons and truck drivers. The Family is an eloquent masterwork of true grandeur—a deeply personal, dramatic, and universal account of a people caught in a cataclysmic time in world history.
8) Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral
by Kris Radish 331 pages
For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine’s oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request–a traveling funeral–and she wants the most important women in her life as “pallbearers.”
From Sonoma to Manhattan, Katherine, Laura, Rebecca, Jill, and Marie will carry Annie’s ashes to the special places in her life. At every stop there’s a surprise encounter and a small miracle waiting, and as they whoop it up across the country, attracting interest wherever they go, they share their deepest secrets–tales of broken hearts and second chances, missed opportunities and new beginnings. And as they grieve over what they’ve lost, they discover how much is still possible if only they can unravel the secret Annie left them.
9) The Privilege of Aging: Portraits of Twelve Jewish Women
by Patricia Gottlieb Shapiro 127 pages
In The Privilege of Aging author Patricia Shapiro (M.S.W.) opens a window for us into the lives of women from 75 to 102 years old and explores their successes and challenges, longevity and vitality. Each woman has lived a different path of life, and their examples show us that the resources for successful aging are within us.
10) Like Dreamers: The Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, and the Divided Israel They Created
by Yossi Klein Halevi 320 pages
In June 1967, Israel won a swift and decisive victory in the Six Day War.
Through extensive reporting, Yossi Klein Halevi explores the lives of seven members of Brigade 55 — a popular songwriter, a soldier-turned-radical, a brilliant economist, and religious revolutionaries-and traces their evolving beliefs. Emerging from a religious Zionist background, one group became founders and leaders of the West Bank settlement movement. The other-peace activists who grew out of the world of secular agrarian communes known as kibbutzim-rose in opposition to the settlements. Both groups agreed that Jewish statehood was a powerful, transformative event: For the founders of the kibbutz-based peace movement, Israel would become the laboratory for democratic communism. For many religious Zionists, Israel would become the catalyst for the messianic era.
11) A Bride for One Night: Talmud Tales
by Ruth Calderon 184 pages
Ruth Calderon has recently electrified the Jewish world with her teachings of talmudic texts. In this volume, her first to appear in English, she offers a fascinating window into some of the liveliest and most colorful stories in the Talmud. Calderon rewrites talmudic tales as richly imagined fictions, drawing us into the lives of such characters as the woman who risks her life for a sister suspected of adultery; a humble schoolteacher who rescues his village from drought; and a wife who dresses as a prostitute to seduce her pious husband in their garden. Breathing new life into an ancient text,A Bride for One Night offers a surprising and provocative read, both for anyone already intimate with the Talmud or for anyone interested in one of the most influential works of Jewish literature.
12) Hope: A Tragedy
by Shalom Auslander 292 pages
To begin again. To start anew. But it isn’t quite working out that way for Kugel. His ailing mother stubbornly holds on to life, and won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi concentration camps she never actually suffered through. To complicate matters further, some lunatic is burning down farmhouses just like the one Kugel bought, and when, one night, he discovers history—a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen of history—hiding upstairs in his attic, bad quickly becomes worse.
13) The Opposite of Everything
by David Kalish 300 pages
When Brooklyn journalist Daniel Plotnick learns he has cancer, his fortunes fall faster than you can say Ten Plagues of Egypt. His wife can’t cope, his marriage ends in a showdown with police, and his father accidentally pushes him off the George Washington Bridge. In the darkly comedic tradition of Philip Roth and Lorrie Moore comes a new novel from author David Kalish, who draws us into a hilarious, off-kilter world where cancer tears apart relationships…and builds new ones.
14) The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man
by Abraham Joshua Heschel 118 pages
Elegant, passionate, and filled with the love of God’s creation, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath has been hailed as a classic of Jewish spirituality ever since its original publication-and has been read by thousands of people seeking meaning in modern life. In this brief yet profound meditation on the meaning of the Seventh Day, Heschel introduced the idea of an “architecture of holiness” that appears not in space but in time Judaism, he argues, is a religion of time: it finds meaning not in space and the material things that fill it but in time and the eternity that imbues it, so that “the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.”
15) Shiksa: The Gentile Woman in the Jewish World
by Christine Benvenuto 304 pages
Shiksa tells the stories of gentile women and women converts living in the Jewish community today, sharing insights from rabbis, Jewish feminists, educators and therapists. The book explores relationships between Jewish and gentile women, particularly Jewish mothers and their gentile daughters-in-law, as well as those between Jewish men and gentile women. And it looks at some of the fascinating Biblical figures whose stories startle with their relevance to today’s most intimate issues of Jewish identity.
16) The Rabbi’s Cat
A graphic novel by Joann Sfar 152 pages
In Algeria in the 1930s, a cat belonging to a widowed rabbi and his beautiful daughter, Zlabya, eats the family parrot and gains the ability to speak. To his master’s consternation, the cat immediately begins to tell lies (the first being that he didn’t eat the parrot). The rabbi vows to educate him in the ways of the Torah, while the cat insists on studying the kabbalah and having a Bar Mitzvah. They consult the rabbi’s rabbi, who maintains that a cat can’t be Jewish — but the cat, as always, knows better.
17) The Assistant
by Bernard Malamud 264 pages
Bernard Malamud’s second novel, originally published in 1957, is the story of Morris Bober, a grocer in postwar Brooklyn, who “wants better” for himself and his family. First two robbers appear and hold him up; then things take a turn for the better when broken-nosed Frank Alpine becomes his assistant. But there are complications: Frank, whose reaction to Jews is ambivalent, falls in love with Helen Bober; at the same time he begins to steal from the store.
18) Countrymen: The Untold Story of How Denmark’s Jews Escaped the Nazis
by Bo Lidegaard 416 pages
Amid the dark, ghastly history of World War II, the literally extraordinary story, never before fully researched by a historian, of how the Danish people banded together to save their fellow Jews from the Nazis—told through the remarkable unpublished diaries and documents of families forced to run for safety, leaving their homes and possessions behind, and of those who courageously came to their aid.
While the bare facts of this exodus have been known for decades, astonishingly no full history of it has been written. Unfolding on a day-to-day basis, Countrymen brings together accounts written by individuals and officials as events happened, offering a comprehensive overview that underlines occupied Denmark’s historical importance to Hitler as a prop for the model Nazi state and revealing the savage conflict among top Nazi brass for control of the country. This is a story of ordinary glory, of simple courage and moral fortitude that shines out in the midst of the terrible history of the twentieth century and demonstrates how it was possible for a small and fragile democracy to stand against the Third Reich.
19) Sophie Scholl and the White Rose
by Jud Newborn 257 pages
From beginning to end, the captivating story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose is an uplifting and enlightening account of the largely untold story of German resistance to the Third Reich. With details of Scholl ‘s arrest and trial before Hitler’s Hanging Judge, Rol and Freisler, and including the leaflets that the White Rose circulated throughout the German population, this volume is an invaluable addition to World War II literature. And it is a fascinating window into human spirit. The animated narrative reads like a suspense novel. -New York Times
20) The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust
by Edith Hahn Beer, Susan Dworkin 305 pages
Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman studying law in Vienna when the Gestapo forced Edith and her mother into a ghetto, issuing them papers branded with a “J.” Soon, Edith was taken away to a labor camp, and though she convinced Nazi officials to spare her mother, when she returned home, her mother had been deported. Knowing she would become a hunted woman, Edith tore the yellow star from her clothing and went underground, scavenging for food and searching each night for a safe place to sleep. In vivid, wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells of German officials who casually questioned the lineage of her parents; of how, when giving birth to her daughter, she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal her past; and of how, after her husband was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia, Edith was bombed out of her house and had to hide in a closet with her daughter while drunken Russians soldiers raped women on the street.
Yet despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith Hahn created a remarkable collective record of survival: She saved every set of real and falsified papers, letters she received from her lost love, Pepi, and photographs she managed to take inside labor camps.
On exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents form the fabric of an epic story – complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant.
21) The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King
by Rich Cohen 288 pages
When Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891, he was tall, gangly, and penniless. When he died in the grandest house in New Orleans sixty-nine years later, he was among the richest, most powerful men in the world. In between, he worked as a fruit peddler, a banana hauler, a dockside hustler, and a plantation owner. He battled and conquered the United Fruit Company, becoming a symbol of the best and worst of the United States: proof that America is the land of opportunity, but also a classic example of the corporate pirate who treats foreign nations as the backdrop for his adventures. In Latin America, when people shouted “Yankee, go home!” it was men like Zemurray they had in mind.
Rich Cohen’s brilliant historical profile The Fish That Ate the Whale unveils Zemurray as a hidden kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary, driven by an indomitable will to succeed. Known as El Amigo, the Gringo, or simply Z, the Banana Man lived one of the great untold stories of the last hundred years. Starting with nothing but a cart of freckled bananas, he built a sprawling empire of banana cowboys, mercenary soldiers, Honduran peasants, CIA agents, and American statesmen. From hustling on the docks of New Orleans to overthrowing Central American governments, from feuding with Huey Long to working with the Dulles brothers, Zemurray emerges as an unforgettable figure, connected to the birth of modern American diplomacy, public relations, business, and war—a monumental life that reads like a parable of the American dream.