Books Help Us Inspire and Grow During Lockdown

Books Help Us Inspire and Grow During Lockdown

Jewish Atlanta shares the books they recommend during quarantine.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Bedridden Emily Dickinson declared, “There is no frigate like a book.” Emory professor and author Joey Reiman lends a more modern perspective, “What you read when you don’t have to determines what you will become. Quarantine for me has been a mystical journey into my magic library.”

During this mini AJT survey, some told of virtually conducting their book clubs. Educator Milton Crane said, “Zooming requires no host, travel nor refreshments. No need to shave, but a nice way to connect.” Crane’s May book club is on “Olive, Again” by Elizabeth Strout.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

He Zoomed his April book club “Beneath A Scarlet Sky” by Mark Sullivan, saying it is an ”outstanding read based on a true story starting in Italy during the 30s.”

Read on to marvel at the variety of titles that Jewish Atlantans are sharing.
Michael Weinroth just finished “The Liar,” a book selected by his book club, saying his group has come up with some really great books: “Among the Living,” “The Emperor’s Shoes,” and “The Last Watchman of Cairo.”

Author Bev Lewyn said, “I love biographies, and as a lead up to Jewish holidays, this year I am reading a long-awaited biography of Rabbi Noach Weinberg, founder of Aish HaTorah, the incredible Jewish outreach organization.

“Weinberg was also the uncle of Mrs. Miriam Feldman (the founder of Temima High School and the wife of Rabbi Ilan Feldman); so it has fun local connections.”

Caterer Sandra Bank chimed in, “To be honest, I have at least eight new recipe books plus ‘Always Home’ by Fanny Singer, Alice Water’s daughter from Chez Panisse.”

Chances Are

Attorney Steve Labovitz touted “Chances Are” by Richard Russo, which is fiction about college friends reuniting after many years. ”Really enjoyed it!” he said.

Larry Gold, another lawyer, said, “I am reading Erik Larsen’s new book, “The Splendid and the Vile” about England during World War II and Churchill’s leadership. There’s a lot of ink about the British people’s day-to-day life during the Blitz and remainder of the war. It’s especially fascinating in today’s pandemic climate. The sacrifices we are making pale in comparison to what the British endured. It shows how important, indeed critical, leadership and self-sacrifice are.”

Joey Moskowitz, an actuary, goes for old reliables:

“Exodus” by Leon Uris followed up by watching the movie.

“Eye of the Needle” by Ken Follet and anything by Wilbur Smith.

Attorney Sam Olens just finished reading “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit.” He said, ”I love history books, particularly those that describe the forced exodus of Jews. We must learn from the past.”

Hadassah exec Margo Gold finished “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah. “I had no idea how prescient a title it would be! She creates compelling stories with characters you care about. It begins in the 60s, an era I can relate to. The book is set in Alaska ‘before the cruise ships,’ a rugged place with people I hadn’t met before.

“Currently reading Hilary Mantel’s ‘The Mirror and the Light.’ Read the first two parts of the trilogy and was excited to see the third arrive. I love historical fiction. You may know what ultimately happens, but the imagination-rich opportunity to be there as it unfolds is always a treat.

“Also read ‘Abigail’ by Magda Szabo, a new author to me. Written in 1970, it was recently translated from Hungarian and is described as the most widely read of Szabo’s books. The story is set in World War II Hungary and follows the experiences of a teen sent away to boarding school by her father, a Hungarian army general.”

Esther Levine said, “I’m happy to report that our book club is meeting by Zoom. Last month we read and discussed ‘The Dutch House’ by Ann Patchett, and now reading ‘Disappearing Earth’ by Julia Phillips.”

Media celeb Nadia Bilchik surfaced three:

Elie Wiesel, “Night,” “The Choice,” Edith Eger, and “Talking to Strangers,” Malcolm Gladwell.


Orthopedic Dr. Frank Joseph enjoyed “Endurance” by Scott Kelly, about the American astronaut’s year in space. Joseph said, “It’s oddly interesting and entertaining, and my daughter, who is not into science, loved it.” He described ”The Bastard Brigade” by Sam Kean as a true World War II story about our race to stop the Nazis from making an atomic bomb. ”A lot of colorful characters with a little science thrown in.”

Doris Goldstein revealed, “I don’t read much in the way of fiction, so here are some of my titles: ‘Lost in America’ by Sherwin Nuland, a poignant memoir of an immigrant family who did not ‘make it big’ in America.

”‘How We Age’ by Marc Agronin, M.D., a psychiatrist whose practice is in nursing homes and VA hospitals. Interesting case histories of how a variety of people deal with the ups and downs of aging.

”‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ by Yuval Harari, a series of chapters addressing all the challenges of this century. Not light reading, but so interesting.

“’Calypso’ by David Sedaris, much lighter than all of the above.”

Joey Reiman

Joey Reiman is a professor at Emory University, an author and co-founder of Brand New World Studios.

My children grew up loving our library more than any other room — just as I did.
Here are some of my recent faves:

Jill Santopolo’s 2017 novel, “The Light We Lost,” begs the question: can we ever truly get over our first love? I am still in love with my first — my college girlfriend.

In this story, continents and unexpected events try to keep our lovers apart, but like my first romance, their love for one another never fades.

Bright Star

“Bright Star” is a must! A collection of love letters from John Keats to Fanny Brawe will inspire testaments of the heart to soul mates.

“Love Poems” by Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda will teach how words can become fingers to caress another’s heart! A verse from any of the works in here is an antidote to the loneliness that often comes with isolation.

I reread “On Caring” by eminent philosopher Milton Mayeroff. This work should be required reading for every human. It speaks more about the importance of caring than any other trait.

Pam Morton, director of author events for the Book Festival of the MJCCA, is a fountain of ideas.

The bright side of being in quarantine is that I’ve had more time than usual to dig into the tall stack of books on my nightstand. I just finished a few novels: “In Five Years” by Rebecca Serle is a very clever and intricately constructed love story that asks the question: What if you went to sleep one night as one person, but woke up the next morning living a completely different life? It’s several love stories in one, both heartbreaking and poignant and has a true twist.

Pam Morton

I’ve been a fan of Emily St. John Mandel since her apocalyptic 2014 international bestseller, “Station Eleven” (a prophetic story about a worldwide swine flu pandemic called the “Georgia flu”) and her new book, “The Glass Hotel,” is equally as fascinating: a Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme, a woman who disappears from a container ship at sea, and siblings caught in the middle of it all.

My Dark Vanessa

“My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell is arguably one of the spring’s most talked about debut novels: an unsettling and disturbing story about a precocious young woman whose relationship with her former high school English teacher is brought back into her adult life when he is accused of sexually molesting a former student. With shades of another controversial bestseller from years ago, “Lolita,” this book is a page-turner, but not for the faint of heart!

For pure escapism, I laughed my way through film and television director Barry Sonnenfeld’s hilarious memoir, “Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother.” From his bar mitzvah in a Catholic church to carrying around a picture of a perfectly cooked steak in his wallet to educate waiters, Sonnenfeld is the very funny definition of neurotic. I also love Samantha Irby and her new book of bite-sized, easy-to-read essays, “Wow, No Thank You,” a gift in the middle of this health crisis.

Call Your Mother

I am currently deep into Colum McCann’s amazing novel, “Apeirogon” (an infinitely-sided polygon), about two men – one Israeli and one Palestinian – both trying to live with the loss of their young daughters, killed by violence. The book is inspired by the true story of the two men at the center of the story.

Here are a few others that I haven’t gotten to:

“The Mirror & the Light,” Hilary Mantel; “The Silent Patient,” Alex Michaelides; “Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family,” Robert Kolker; “Untamed,” Glennon Doyle; and “Hollywood Park,” Mikel Jollett.

Wendy Heller is the wife of Rabbi Joshua Heller and manager of Deloitte Consulting Real Estate Transformation.

Wendy Heller

“Finding Dorothy” by Elizabeth Letts. This is an origin story about the making of the “Wizard of Oz” movie told from the lens of Maud Baum (the wife of L. Frank Baum, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”). It is a wonderful story that weaves the history of the late 19th century into snippets of Hollywood in the 1930s.

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. After finishing “Finding Dorothy,” I had to revisit this classic. I’m reading it out loud to two of my kids, who, despite being tweens/teens, are just as into it as I am.

I also recently read gripping, fast paced, fascinating and disturbing books by journalists:

“Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou, about the rise and fall of the life sciences company Theranos. “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators” by Ronan Farrow, about Farrow’s pursuit of the Harvey Weinstein story, and the way NBC tried repeatedly to silence him and quash the story.

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