When summer rolls around, I try to carve out some quiet moments to catch up on my reading. At AJWS, it’s become a tradition for me to share my summer reading list with the staff. This year, I wanted to share it with the whole AJWS family. And even though summer is winding down, I hope you’ll still find time to breeze through a few more books before Labor Day.
The list is in no particular order. Happy reading!
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin: Brilliant, detailed history of Lincoln, his rise to the Presidency and his shaping of his Cabinet.
Transatlantic by Colum McCann: A brilliant new novel weaving together several stories of and about Ireland, Frederick Douglass and George Mitchell. An amazing book!
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: First of a trilogy of historical novels, this one is about Sir Thomas More, Oliver Cromwell and that era of 16th century British history.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: Second volume of the trilogy, which I found in a local bookstore after liking Wolf Hall so much. This one deals with the life of Henry the VIII and Cromwell in the years after Wolf Hall, starting about 1535.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman: A new novel, Times bestseller, set in Australia a hundred years ago, very emotionally rich story.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: The new novel by the author of The Kite Runner, this is a fascinating tale of Afghanistan, families and relationships covering some 60 years of recent history.
The Interestings by Meg Wollitzer: New novel about a group of young people coming of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s captures much of the culture of these times.
The Wife by Meg Wollitzer: An early novel by this author, dissecting a modern relationship with a few clever twists and turns.
Harvard Square by Andre Aciman: New novel, brilliantly written, story of an Egyptian immigrant to the U.S., university student, relationships across lines of class, gender, and nationality.
The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow: The story of the success of a colleague organization, The One Acre Fund in Kenya. It’s also an amazingly poignant description of what life is like for four smallholder farm families. Recommended for anyone involved in this work.
Cheating Justice by Liz Holtzman: An indictment of Bush and Cheney on the issues of the Iraq war and torture. Makes the case for their criminal indictment, but it is a bit too heavy on the legal details and particulars to be a great read.
Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman: Yes, it is the name of a new TV show, but the book is the true story of one woman’s year in the federal prison in Danbury on a drug charge. Very interesting description of conditions and relationships. It’s straightforward and not sensational.
Broken Harbor by Tana French: I read her book, Faithful Place, last year; this is another complex crime book set in contemporary Ireland and may be the most brilliantly constructed, least predictable murder mystery I have read in years.
In the Woods by Tana French: Picked this up in a bookstore during a trip, as my supply was running low and I so loved Broken Harbor.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander: Famous contemporary Jewish writer, this is a book of well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable short stories.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed: Recent nonfiction account of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail; engaging.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor: Totally upbeat and interesting autobiography, dramatic story of how far she came to get to the Supreme Court.
Chasing Chaos by Jessica Alexander: Chronicle of the life of a post-disaster humanitarian aid worker written by a former AJWS employee. Graphic descriptions of the work, thoughtful comments about the aid establishment and about the challenge of making change.
The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin: This is his book of several years ago about the Supreme Court, tracing the evolution of the modern court and detailing the vagaries of several of the justices and their decisions. He recently wrote a second book on the Obama court, which I read this past year, and both are excellent.
Ruth Messinger is president of American Jewish World Service.