A Year of Choices for Jewish Book Lovers

A Year of Choices for Jewish Book Lovers

Nine books for Jewish readers that are worth another look.

After his liberation from Auschwitz, teenager Thomas Geve drew 79 works based on a secret diary he had kept, describing daily life in the concentration camp. He never drew another picture.
After his liberation from Auschwitz, teenager Thomas Geve drew 79 works based on a secret diary he had kept, describing daily life in the concentration camp. He never drew another picture.

Although the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta — in partnership with the National JCC Literary Consortium — has provided readers with a wide-ranging, carefully curated sampling from leading publishers, book lovers can still find much more to appreciate.

Here are some additional titles for the Jewish reader to consider — books that didn’t make the festival’s cut this year.

Three Sisters: This is the third installment of Heather Morris’s best-selling Holocaust saga. Readers who have been fascinated by Morris’s previous offerings — “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” and “Cilka’s Journey” — will find much to appreciate in this brand-new novel. The story, which is based on interviews the novelist conducted with survivors of the Nazi death camps, follows three Slovak sisters, Magda, Livi and Cibi, as they start new lives in Israel after the Second World War. Their story of resilience in the face of adversity — both personally and in the new Jewish state — is another winner in this popular series.

The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz: The true story of Thomas Geve, who was only 13 when he was transported to Auschwitz, where his mother was murdered. Immediately after he was liberated in 1945, Geve drew 79 works based on a secret diary he had kept, describing daily life in the concentration camp as he experienced it. He never drew another picture. Now 91 and living in Israel, Geve has just published this beautifully written and illustrated testament to his tenacious will to survive — and the power of hope.

Andrew Porwancher’s book takes another look at the Jewish founding father, Alexander Hamilton.

The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton: Fans of the blockbuster Broadway musical might want to look for this eye-opening, deeply researched account of what is known about the life of Alexander Hamilton, the Jew. Andrew Porwancher, who teaches at the University of Oklahoma, spent years researching this fascinating account of one of America’s founding fathers and his connections to the Jewish community during the establishment of the American republic.

Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of American Culture: The first serious study by an American academic, Annalise Heinz, of one of the touchstones of modern Jewish America life. Heinz charts the rise of this popular game from its origins in Shanghai to the 1930s, when it crossed the Pacific to become the mass-produced game of choice for Hollywood starlets, Air Force officers’ wives and Hadassah members. In the process, it helped to remake women’s approach to leisure time, cemented social relationships, raised millions for worthwhile causes, and influenced American culture for much of the past 85 years.

Phillip Roth: The Biography and Here We Are: My Friendship with Phillip Roth: Two books about one of the greatest Jewish American writers. The first was sunk by accusations of sexual misconduct by the book’s author, Blake Bailey. Picked up several months later by another publisher, it’s generally considered the most complete portrait of Roth, a brilliant and controversial literary star.
“Here We Are” is an impressive memoir of Benjamin Taylor’s close friendship with the complex and sometimes difficult literary master. It was selected as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. An alternative for fans of Roth is a conversation with the writer that was first broadcast on PBS and is now available on Amazon Prime.

The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family: A hilarious book by Joshua Cohen, this is the story of a fictionalized visit — based on real events — by Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the future prime minister, and his family in pursuit of a job at a small college in upstate New York in the late 1950s. Too bad Groucho and his loony Marx Brothers aren’t around to option this satirical look at Jewish life. It would have made a fine Duck Soup.

Dara Horn’s new volume of essays is about how Jews approach their tragic history.

Why People Love Dead Jews: This collection of essays by Dara Horn, subtitled “Reports from A Haunted Present,” contain her reflections about how Jews approach their tragic history. There are discussions, among others, of Anne Frank’s diary, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan and the author’s observation that some people prefer dead Jewish heroes to their flesh-and-blood Jewish neighbors. Horn is not afraid to take on many of the deeply held beliefs about Jews and modern life and lacerate them with her wit and intelligence.

What’s Next?: Southern Dreams, Jewish Deeds and the Challenge of Looking Forward: The memoir of a life lived long and well by the 97-year-old Atlanta native, Janice Rothschild Blumberg. She has rightfully been called an Atlanta treasure. How many people do you know who have the power of recall and the deep sense of history to look back on a life of nearly a hundred years? This book is by one of the few living participants who were at the heart of the civil rights alliance between Jews and African Americans in the years following World War II. It arrives on November 7.

All of these titles can be ordered through A Cappella Books, a locally owned Atlanta bookstore, which is the preferred source for the Book Festival of the MJCCA. Visit www.acapellabooks.com.

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