Every June, I customarily share the favorite books I have read in the past year in a top ten format. However, this year my kudos falls into three major categories, without prioritizing 1-10.
First category - Americana:
The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For, David McCullough
This collection of speeches by a preeminent historian takes the long view of what truly makes America great. During this turbulent time in our nation, McCullough offers an uplifting reminder of the enduring values of our nation.
TRIBE: On Homecoming and Belong, Sebastian Junger
This short book articulates the human yearning for connection and meaning. In particular, it focuses on the challenges faced by American veterans reintegrating into society after experiencing the closeness of wartime combat.
Grant, Ron Chernow
Yes, I know the author’s biography of Alexander Hamilton was the basis for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash. I don’t expect a similar production from this exhaustive study of an ordinary man who rose to greatness.
Second Category - Culture
The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, Jenna Fischer
All of us face rejection at times. However, for actors, failure is the norm rather than success. Fischer has written a fascinating, entertaining account of what it takes to succeed in Hollywood, with lessons that can be applied more broadly.
Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies, Ann Hornaday
The film critic of The Washington Post has written a very readable account of how to understand the many aspects of a movie. This book will give you a greater appreciation not only of actors and directors, but screenplays, cinematography, and film score.
The Monk of Mokha, Dave Eggers
You would think that this is a work of fiction because the story is so phantasmagorical. But it is a true life account of a young Yemini-American who brings the coffee of his homeland to the attention of the world.
Paul Simon: The Life, Robert Hilburn
I am biased because the first concert I ever attended was Simon & Garfunkel – and my most recent was Paul Simon on his Homeward Bound tour. I was all in reading this authorized biography of a musical giant.
Third category - Judaica
Rabbi Akiva, Sage of the Talmud, Barry Holtz
This is a masterful portrayal of the greatest rabbi of his time and one of the most influential figures in Jewish history. Part of Yale’s Jewish Lives series.
Dinner at the Center of the Earth, Nathan Englander
This novel conveys with emotional power the complexities of the Middle East and the enigma that remains within the human heart.
The Relational Judaism Handbook, Ron Wolfson, Nicole Auerbach, & Lydia Medwin
Relationships are the foundation stone for synagogues. The authors point the way for how we can deepen our connections to one another and transform Temple Beth Torah from the inside out.