Baltimore Jewish Community Weighs in on What to Read This Year

It looks like a long winter is ahead, and you’ve pretty much exhausted Netflix.    

Not sure what do in your spare time? Why not hunker down with a good book as the weather gets colder. 

We reached out to the Baltimore Jewish community for ideas on what they are reading right now as well as some recent recommendations. 


Robin Neumann, Co-chair of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Kesher program 

I read a lot and am always happy to recommend and talk about books! One of my favorites is The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel.  

Eva, a member of the French Resistance during World War II, helps hundreds of children escape the Nazis by forging documents and assigning new names. In order to preserve the children’s real identities, Eva uses a code to record their names in a hidden book. Sixty years later, the book is discovered, bringing back memories of that dangerous time. This fictional account was inspired by true events and I enjoyed this fast read about a strong, female, Jewish protagonist. 


Howard Libit, Executive Director, Baltimore Jewish Council 

The book that is currently on my nightside table is the new book by Congressman Cummings, We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy. As we make our way through this tumultuous political period, I decided that I needed to read the inspiring words of one of my political heroes. We are badly in need of his leadership, his caring, and his decency. Reading some of his book before going to sleep each night gives me some hope that when we come through this election, we can come together again as a country. 


Sally Davis, Member, Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation 

I love to read and here are four recent favorites: 

For a thought-provoking story using race and sexuality as a backdrop to explore the dynamic of family relationships, I enjoyed America for Beginners by Leah Franqui. The characters forge an unlikely friendship as they travel across the country, each learning from each other how to view the world. 

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a very timely story about migrants as they flee their native countries for a chance at freedom. The story follows a group of undocumented immigrants as they travel north on La Bestia, from Mexico to the northern border. 

There are many twists and turns in The Home for Unwanted Girl by Joanna Goodman, a story of a young unwed mother’s love for her daughter given up for adoption against her wishes. It is based on actual orphanages in Canada. 

Finally, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan is a light and heartwarming story bringing unusual characters together, as they learn to accept and love each other. However, they must first understand the meaning of the found objects, in order to discover the joy in their own lives. 


Barak Hermann, Chief CEO, JCC 

I just started reading Wired to CareHow Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy by Dev Patnaik. This winter, I plan on leading a discussion on this book with Jonah Geller through The Associated’s Na’aleh: The Hub for Leadership Learning. 


Maureen David, President, Macks Center for Jewish Education(CJE) and President, Board of Trustees, Baltimore County Public Library 

Nothing is better than curling up with a good book under a warm knitted throw when the temperature falls and the days become short. I get most of my best recommendations from the Baltimore County Public Library.

Louise Penny’s latest book just came out, the sixteenth in the Inspector Gamache series. All the Devils are Here is set in Paris and has one character with a past full of secrets from his time in Germany and in the French resistance. The series’ other volumes are well plotted murder mysteries, set in Quebec and the small village of Three Pines that revolve around characters who grapple with family, love, and moral dilemmas. If you start with this one, I promise you will go back and read the rest. 

Another book I can’t wait to read is The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams. It is an epic family saga taking place from 1930’s Siberia to modern day Brighton Beach centering on three generations of women in a Russian Jewish family. It was a BCPL recommendation, but I already had it on my Kindle. Thanks to CJE’s Jewish Matryoshka Project and Baltimore-Odessa Partnership, we got to schmooze with the charming author last August.  (You can still catch the Odessa Schmooze with Alina Adams)


Alicia Block Berlin, Director, Camp Louise 

While I definitely enjoy getting lost in a good fiction book about relationships or family dynamics, I also spend some time reading nonfiction that usually ends up having an impact on me both professionally and personally. As the mom of three girls and the director of Camp Louise, I got a lot out of The Confidence Code for Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  Raising confident girls in today’s crazy world is not always easy to say the least. This book breaks it down in steps to show girls how to be their own best, imperfect, incredible selves. I liked it so much, I gave one copy to each of my girls. After all, it is never too late for all of us to learn and grow – including grown-ups like me! 

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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