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It’s Summertime… Perfect time for a good book!

Jewish Ledger | 6-10-11

Ah, summertime – long hot days, soaking up the sun at the beach, by the pool, on the deck… the perfect time for a good read. Not sure what page-turner to pick up? We asked some people around Connecticut to share with us what books they’ve read recently or are sitting on their nightstand waiting to be read.


Binnie Klein
New Haven psychotherapist
Host of a weekly music and interview show on WPKN-FM
Author of “Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind”

Given my unlikely propensity for books about boxing, I recently read Mischa Merz’ The Sweetest Thing. Australian national women’s champion Mischa Merz upped the ante on her boxing game when she came to America at the age of 45 for another push. Her no-nonsense, gritty memoir is filled with insider details about the infamous Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, and the personal lives of a range of female boxers.
I’ve been enthralled with journalist Janet Malcolm since “Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession.” Her latest book is a courtroom drama, Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial (Yale University Press), adapted from a New Yorker essay. It reads like an exciting detective story.   It is also the story of the insular Bukharan Jewish immigrant community of Forest Hills, Queens, and its reaction to a chilling murder.
It’s painful, particularly as a psychotherapist, to watch the parade of depictions of wounded healers in film and television, so I approached Rikki Ducornet’s novella Netsuke, warily, knowing it was about a sex-addicted psychoanalyst.  Her writing is so brilliant, poetic, and evocative, it transcended its protagonist’s weakness, and portrayed his despair and dissolving marriage through a rare and fresh writing style.


Josh Cohen
Program Director, Connecticut Valley Region BBYO

“Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” by Edward Kritzler — the title alone lured me to this book.  A series of short stories about Jews who sailed the high seas in the aftermath of the Spanish Inquisition.  This book is not your average “History of the Jewish people” but rather a chapter mostly unheard of.  My favorite part about this book were the pictures on the author’s website:  grave stones with the Pirate’s skull and cross bones with Hebrew names carved into the stone.
Also, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey.While this book is widely read in high schools the information inside is useful, insightful and relatable.  Step one emphasizes the importance of being proactive and not reactive.  The next sequential steps take you from setting goals to keeping your mind and body in shape.  What’s great about the book is that it relates every day life decisions to using the 7 habits.  This is a great book for any teen and any parents of teens!


Lisa Lenkiewicz
Freelance writer and editor
West Hartford

One of the best books I’ve read recently is “The Invisible Bridge,” by Julie Orringer. For those brave enough not to be intimidated by its 600 pages, a powerful story takes the reader from Budapest in the 1930s to Paris and back to Hungary in a sweeping tale of love amidst the horrors of the Holocaust.
Skipping from the Holocaust to the Middle East, I recommend “King’s Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage and Diplomacy in the Middle East,” by Jack O’Connell. The author was CIA station chief in Amman, Jordan and was King Hussein’s attorney. The book takes readers on an insider’s tour of the Hashemite Kingdom and its relationship with Israel and the U.S.
On the lighter side, I loved comedian Joel Chasnoff’s memoir about his year in the Israeli army. “The 188th Crybaby Brigade” is a hilarious retelling of some hair-raising tales about life in the IDF, with some touching moments. Another enjoyable read about a family is “No Biking in the House Without a Helmet,” by Melissa Fay Greene. Mother of four children, she and her husband adopt five more (one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia). Predictably, chaos ensues.
Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford says goodbye this month to Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, who is leaving as its spiritual leader to head the international organization, World Union for Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Fuchs is ready to publish a book, “Judaism’s Message to the World,” which I had the honor of helping to edit. In less than 150 pages, he shares his philosophy on being a Jew. The book is insightful and inspirational.
Finally, I want to tell readers about “The Dovekeepers,” by Alice Hoffman. The book will not be out until October (I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy). I read it straight through in one sitting. The book takes place atop Masada. As the Jews flee the Romans, the hardships of life in the desert unfold in magical detail as told through the eyes of three women. It’s riveting and gracefully written.


Rose Myers
Librarian, Temple Israel of Westport

Looking in the Temple Israel Library catalog by doing a search on “summer” yields an interesting variety of results. We have Allegra Goodman’s “Kaaterskill Falls: A Novel,” nominated for a National Book Award; “Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem, Summer 1842” by W.H. Bartlett, a memoir of his travels in Palestine and Jerusalem, complete with historical background, descriptions of three walks, maps and drawings, written over 100 years before Israel become a modern nation; “Marie Syrkin: Values Beyond the Self” by Carole S. Kessner, a biography of the poet, teacher, journalist, Zionist, and “idiosyncratic feminist” who lived through most of the twentieth century and interacted with many (other) well-known writers; Nothing Makes You Free: Writings by Descendants of Jewish Holocaust Survivors,” edited by Melvin Jules Bukiet, a collection of thirty powerful short stories and excerpts, both fiction and nonfiction, about the Holocaust as told by the children of survivors; Sonia Levitin’s “Strange Relations,” a young adult novel about a young adult whose summer visit to her aunt’s family in Hawaii turns out very differently than anticipated as she learns about their Hasidic life and herself.


Joel Blatt
Associate Professor, UConn Stamford Department of History

Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin” is one.
Manning Marable’s “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” is another. For semi-relaxation, I will look to see if Alan Furst and John Le Carre have published anything recently.  In the same fiction genre, I would recommend Alan Furst, The Foreign Correspondent,” and the classic Eric Ambler, “A Coffin for Dimitrios.”


Laura Blum
Director, JCC of Greenwich

Hands down the best read I’ve come across recently is Incognito” by David Eagleman.  I also loved  The Architecture of Happiness” by Alain de Botton.  I’m looking forward to “Sacred Trash” by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Heart of the City” by Ariel Sabar and “The Lost Wife” by Alyson Richman.


Pat Kazakoff
Honorary Chairman, Jewish Book Festival
Mandell JCC, West Hartford

I recommend “The Legend of Cosmo and the Archangel” by Joseph Kaufman. In an LSD induced haze at Woodstock, two friends pledge a covenant of loyalty. But when Cosmo goes AWOL from the army and NIck betrays another member of their group, both NIck and Cosmo embark on odysseys to find themselves. Nick’s motivation,  to be percieved as the golden boy, doesn’t quite live up to who he imagined himself to be, whereby Cosmo’s quest, pursues booze, drugs, revenge and fame. Eventually the two friends find themselves both seeking spiritual enlightenment. However their youthful indiscretions and expectations haunt their abilities to move forward.  I loved the book;  it is a poignant story of people revisiting their choices. A finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Joseph Kaufman is a masterful storyteller. Although the book is described as fictional, I would swear that there is something auto-biograghical about this novel – too real! Full of jewish insights – all about coming home, all about getting back to the core of the person. Incidentally, Joseph Kaufman eventually became a Rabbi!

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