Seven Books You Should Read Now

As the weather turns cooler and the nights grow longer, there is nothing better than curling up with a good book. We asked local community members and several of our professionals what books they are recommending right now. From fiction to memoirs to a book that marries Jewish tradition with meditative practices, check out their suggestions.  

“I think I’d choose The Forest of Vanishing Stars. The author presents a strong female protagonist through the main character Yona and while it is historical fiction, the events that led Jews being persecuted in Poland during World War II to take refuge in the forests were accurate. The author has a lot of notes about the research she did for the book which were very interesting. It was reminiscent of one favorite books from a few years ago, Where the Crawdads Sing.” 

Joan Cohen, Executive Director, Jewish Community Services 

“Find the Helpers by Fred Guttenberg. Fred’s brother was a first responder in 9/11 and passed away from cancer most likely due to toxin exposures at the 9/11 site. Fred is also the father of Jamie Guttenberg victim of the Parkland school shooting. Fred is Jewish.  

This book inspires us to think about the quintessential role of helpers; how we can be one and how we find our helpers in unexpected people and places. After reading the book one feels a new vigor for how to be a helper and a true understanding that we all need a helper at various times in our lives.” 

Will Minkin, Co-chair, Insight Israel Forum 

“I recently read a memoir of a guy named Trent Preszler entitled Little and Often that was recommended to me by a friend.  He writes about how he dealt with the death of his father and came to terms with their strained relationship by spending a year building a canoe with tools that he inherited from his father. It was inspiring and thoughtful and while he describes the work of boat building in more detail than you could imagine, it was very interesting and uplifting.” 

Katie Fink, IMPACT 

“My book club recently read This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, and it was a huge hit! The book is about a large, loving, and chaotic family, keeping a secret to protect their youngest child. The story follows the family as the secret comes to light and reveals that protecting one child can often come at the expense of other family members. Even operating with the best intentions, this book shows that keeping a secret to prevent societal ridicule isn’t always the best way to help a child blossom and thrive. This Is How It Always Is had us all laughing, crying and deeply considering what it means to be a family.” 

Jakir Manela, CEO Hazon/Pearlstone 

We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer is a beautiful, moving and personal account of what it means as a Jew, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, and as an American to confront the climate crisis in all its urgency, personal accountability and spiritual implications. I have never encountered any writer or thinker who so clearly integrates the American Jewish experience with this existential crisis that impacts all of us and our descendants for generations to come. A must read for any Jew – or someone connected with Jews – who cares about the earth, our climate, and our future. Truly beautiful! 

Neil Rubin, Chair, Department of Jewish History, Beth Tfiloh Dahan High School 

The single God concept of the Jewish people is a dangerous lie that denies humans true pleasures. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed it, and the brilliant 20th century Jewish writer Rabbi Milton Steinberg wrestled with it in his 1939 landmark historical fiction As a Driven Leaf. Read this work, ponder it, debate it and relish in exploring the Jewish angle of the great debate in philosophical history. 

Sara Shalva, Chief Arts Operator, JCC 

During the holidays this year I picked up the book Be Still and Get Going by Alan Lew z’l. The author and rabbi is most famous for his book about the high holiday season, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared, which I read every year and every year I learn something new. I love that book, so I wanted to explore some of his other writing.  Be Still is wonderful. He brings in deep Jewish learning, interwoven with personal stories and anecdotes all in a comfortable warm voice. The book does make me want to have a more regular meditation practice and connect that practice to the cycle of Jewish life – so be prepared to want to shift if you choose to read it! 

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