What I’m Reading Lately

Some books I’ve been reading since the secular New Year:

Didion, Joan – The Year of Magical Thinking. Joan Didion wrote a painfully honest book about the year following her husband’s sudden death. Didion writes honestly but artfully, using her considerable craft to walk us through a year of irrationality. It is a magnificent book; I could hardly put it down.

Boyne, John – A History of Loneliness. Edmund Burke wrote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I do not want to give away too much about this book, but it is about the price to be paid when good people refuse to see what is before their eyes. It is a book about paralysis of the soul.

Laymon, Kiese – How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. I don’t recall who recommended this book to me – someone on Twitter – but I thank them. Laymon is a brilliant essayist and I am going to look for his novel, Long Division.  This one slim volume convinced me that I’m woefully ignorant about African American realities and I plan to remedy that.

Bliss, Eula – On Immunity: An Inoculation – This is a wide-ranging book on the history and science of vaccination, on the fears that may underlie current controversies around it, and about this one mother’s uncertainties in facing motherhood. I found it fascinating and yet eventually the confessional portions wore me out. Ms. Bliss is not a great writer, merely a competent one, but I will grant her this: she made me think and stirred my compassion.

Almog, Shmuel, ed. – Antisemitism Through the Ages – Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, editor Almog was born in Berlin in 1926. He (and presumably his family, although I do not know for sure) emigrated to then-Palestine in 1933. The book is from 1988 and is no longer in print; copies are expensive, so I have not provided a link. This is one of the books recommended in a class I’m taking on antisemitism. When I have a book on the topic I can recommend that’s a bit more available, I’ll do that, I promise.

What have you been reading? Anything to recommend?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

7 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Lately”

  1. I love “The Rabbi’s Cat”….. graphic novel(Im very find of graphic novels….Alison Bechdel wrote one for each of her parents, and I’d recommend them too, as well as her other books)….hmm…Im in search of new things to read, so any suggestions very welcome! One thing I really don’t like doing, and try not to,is to start a book but not finish reading it; makes me feel as though Im giving up, not trying hard enough: but….I see it slightly differently, now. If I just can’t get into something, well, there’s no shame in saying,no, not for me, and rather than spending time trying, better to move on o something else. Examples: Epilogue, by Anne Roiphe, and The Mind Body Problem, by Rebecca Goldstein( the Amazon reviews if which were if the “hilarious/couldn’t put it down” kind….for me, it wasn’t, and I could)

    I find Im reading a lot of poetry just now ….not got much of a concentration span. I’ve discovered some new ( to me)poets, which is a delight in itself….and a Star Trek novel, in French, to try to keep my mind active🙂



    1. There’s a wonderful history of Judaism “The Story of the Jews” by Stan Mack that is published in graphic novel format. There are a couple of omissions in it that bug me, but for the most part it’s a quite good history.


  2. I just finished The Dovekeepers and then Still Alice. Dovekeepers is the imagining of what life was like at Masada, after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and up until the final siege. And, the story is told through the eyes of four women. I like being transported in time by a good historical novel. This one relied heavily on Josephus’ accounts. It seems there is going to be a mini-series based on this book, coming soon.
    Still Alice is a story well told but so much more. There is so much to understand about our humanity.


  3. Ha. What a good question…I honestly do not know how I choose new books to read.I am tempted to say that it is a totally organic process…oooh that sounds very California to me! I do get recommendations from Amazon/kindle, but some of the best ways have been word of mouth. I am always listening when people talk about the books they have liked. I will try a book, give it 50 pages. If I am engaged, I will stay with it. If it leaves me flat, I will go onto another. I am just too slow a reader to waste my time! Might try it another time. I do like historical fiction, probably best of all, so I do troll more for that genre than most. But then, one of the best books I have read in recent years is The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. Well, I do love dogs and the research is fascinating. Have you read Rashi’s Daughters? Loved those three books.


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