Even if you — like me — are not the biggest fan of the sticky heat of summer, there are few things more enjoyable than sitting outside with a good book and reading.
One of the best places to do that? The beach.
Plop me on the beach with a book, and I’ll be satisfied for hours. And at least one thing summer is good for is the endless supply of new books to read as you sit in a beach chair with a healthy dose of SPF and perhaps a Chipwich.
Both 2016 and 2017 — so far — have offered a vast array of reads by Jewish authors (some local!) or with Jewish characters and storylines that will fit in perfectly with your beach aesthetic, whether you’re on the sandy shores of Bermuda or Ocean City. Be it a memoir, fiction, romance, thriller or any genre in between, here a few selections of some new(ish) books that are waiting to join you in the sun.
For fiction fans, there are tons of options, whether you want to be whisked away to London or Rio.
And We’re Off by Dana Schwartz
This quick, breezy debut by Dana Schwartz follows aspiring artist Nora as she heads to Europe on a mission from her acclaimed artist grandfather before going to an Irish artists’ colony — joined at the last minute by her mother, with whom she has a strained relationship. Riddled with teenage angst, romance (with a cute Irish boy, no less) and vivid scenery of destinations in Paris and beyond, And We’re Off provides a fun, escapist read that will make you want to hug your mother and traipse around Europe.
Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown
This 2016 novel follows a mother and daughter in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935 — and they both happen to be pregnant. Dottie is trying to be modern with her steady boyfriend and bookkeeper job, while Rose yearns to return to the activist roots of her youth. Both women’s situations alter their lives and change their worlds in this read that switches between both women’s narration, shining a light on their feelings and taking you along each journey.
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
The winner of the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, Novey’s debut novel centers on the disappearance of Beatriz Yagoda, once one of Brazil’s most celebrated authors, and her translator Emma, who tries to solve the mystery with Yagoda’s son and daughter. The novel has gained accolades from BuzzFeed to NPR and will surely satisfy your literary needs while whisking you away to Rio.
The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, The Orphan’s Tale is a powerful story of survival and sacrifice against the backdrop of a traveling circus during World War II. It tells the story of two women, Noa and Astrid, a 16-year-old cast out after being impregnated by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby and the lead aerialist with whom she develops first a rivalry and then a friendship.
The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor
This June 2017 release takes place in the 1930s and 1980s. Kristoff is an apprentice to a Jewish stamp engraver — and his daughter for whom Kristoff falls — in Austria who becomes forced to engrave stamps for the Germans after Kristallnacht. Decades later, as Katie Nelson goes through a stamp collection of her father’s that she discovers, she is sent on an unexpected journey.
Stay Where I Can See You by Lori Miller
Using adorable cartoons, local M.O.T. author Miller’s children’s book incorporates nature and the concept of kindness to share a story about the challenges faced by a family of turtles — mama and hatchlings — as they attempt to stay together. Safety is the key in this book, which will surely entice parents as the summer approaches and playground and water safety is on the brain.
If reading about other people’s nonfiction lives is more your style, here are a few that should grab your attention.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
“When Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.” Such is how Amazon introduces the description for the memoir by The New Yorker’s Levy, who will take you on a whirlwind journey through her life in a book whose colorful cover will be perfect for Instagram.
Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing by Jennifer Weiner
Philadelphia’s Weiner is one of those novelists who you often feel is talking with you as a friend rather than an author. And her set of essays is no different. Honest and hilarious, Weiner shares intimate stories about her life in ways that will feel like you’re sitting at brunch with her talking about sex and body issues over mimosas. Though, I’ll be honest, her middle-grade book The Littlest Bigfoot is a joy to read as well, even if you’re not the intended 8- to 10-year-old audience.
Schadenfreude by Rebecca Schuman
The first book by Slate columnist Schuman is described by the Jewish Book Council as “vivid and rollicking” as she takes the reader through various stages of her life. It also boasts an abnormally long subtitle (Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For) and promises a fun and funny read that plays with language and will be perfect for your summer vacation.
There are also plenty of nonfiction and even academic books that are attention-grabbing. Here are a few:
Ordinary People: Extraordinary Lessons — Leadership Insights from Everyday Encounters by Karen Friedman
Former 6ABC Action News reporter Karen Friedman’s column in the Philadelphia Business Journal, Perspective on People, provided inspiration for Ordinary People (anyone else singing John Legend?), a compilation of anecdotal lessons from everyday life. Learn about different people and how varied perspectives can change the way we see everyday moments.
Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias by Larry Atkins
In the age of fake news (unlike this article), getting news from myriad avenues and advocacy news networks pushing competing points of view, Atkins — a Jewish journalism professor at Temple University and Arcadia University — shows you how to separate the facts, give you the tools to critique the media and see both sides of an issue.
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Lifespan Development, 6th edition edited by Dr. Allison Buskirk-Cohen
OK, so a textbook may not be the first type you think of when packing your beach bag, but Buskirk-Cohen, chair of Delaware Valley University’s psychology department and member of Shir Ami in Newtown, is sure to open your mind. The textbook presents readers with two different perspectives on controversial issues related to lifespan development. One such issue that may grab your attention is religion in early adulthood and looking at whether religion and spirituality mean the same thing to today’s college students.
Jews, Gentiles, and Other Animals: The Talmud After the Humanities by Mira Beth Wasserman
Rabbi Wasserman, a professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, delves into the Avoda Zara, “arguably the Talmud’s most scandalous tractate, to uncover the hidden architecture of this classic work of Jewish religious thought.” Again, not exactly a beach read, but Wasserman proposes a new way of reading the Talmud that ties it to the humanities.
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