On a Shabbat evening in June, I customarily offer my annual Avi Awards for the best books I have read in the past year. However, this June I am going to approach this occasion differently.
During the course of a year, I do not deliberately set out to read books on a particular subject. Generally speaking, I seek out books based on favorable reviews or if the author is someone I like.
Yet this past year has been different. In the midst of ceaseless turmoil generated by the tweets and actions of the president, I have found myself striving to gain perspective about where we are as a country. Are we living through unprecedented times? Are there other periods in our nation’s history when we have lived through chaos and polarization?
Time and again this past year, I have found it helpful to read works about politics and history. Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America and Michael Beschloss’s Presidents at War have been particularly beneficial. Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s slender yet potent volume entitled, On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century addresses how to identify and respond to threats to our democracy. Journalistic accounts of our most recent presidents, Ben Rhodes’s, The World as it is and Bob Woodward’s Fear bring out in stark detail the contrasts between the Obama and Trump presidencies.
Given the threads tying together these books, I am going to review them next Friday, June 7 as part one of my Avi Awards. Part two, reviewing other books I read, will take place either June 14 or 21.