Note: I have not read most of the books on this list. They have been recommended by colleagues (the annotation came from the recommendation or from book reviews). Please comment on this post – suggest other worthwhile summer reads, or let us know what you think of any of the books on this list.
Choosing My Religion: A Memoir of a Family Beyond Belief by Stephen Dubner.
The free world: A Novel, by Bezmozgis, David. A novel tracing refusenik family who gets an exit visa and finds themselves in Rome waiting to get a visa to America or Canada. The story has a sense of reality, as told by someone who knows the experience from the inside.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem – James Carroll. The History of Jerusalem.
The God Who Hates Lies: Confronting and Rethinking Jewish Tradition, David Hartman. The struggle between commitment to Jewish religious tradition and personal morality.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot. It’s about race, and gender, and poverty and science, education and love. The story of the HeLa cells, taken from her cancerous tumor and used for medical research, becoming a multi-billion dollars industry – without the knowledge or consent of family, and without any renumeration.
Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism, Shaye Cohen. The connection between Brith Milah and Jewish Identity considering Jewish and Christian sources on the question.
You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother, Joyce Antler. It has some fun sections as well as serious scholarship about the stereotype of the Jewish Mother.
Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe, Elisheva Carlebach. Would you believe that a book about Jewish calendars and almanacs of the 15th to 18th centuries can be a gold mine of information about Jewish values and beliefs and their interaction with the external Christian society?
Sacred Treasure, The Cairo Genizah: The Amazing Discovery of Forgotten Jewish History in and Egyptian Synagogue Attic, Mark Glickman, and Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, Adina Hoffman, Peter Cole. The compelling story about the discovery of the Cairo Genizah, and the subsequent fate of its collection and the people who have studied them.
I’m God, You’re Not: Observations in Organized Religion and Other Disguises of the Ego, Lawrence Kushner. A wonderful collection of essays.
Hope Will Find You: My Search for the Wisdom to Stop Waiting and Start Living, Naomi Levy. Quite moving and inspiring.
Hush, Eishes Chayil. Eishes Chayil is of course a pen name. Hish is a book about the sexual abuse that goes on in the Orthodox community. Fiction, based on the facts that no one talks about.
Subversive Sequels in the Bible, Judy Klitsner. 2009 National Jewish Book Award winner. Close reading of the Biblical stories – for example, it shows how the story of the Hebrew midwives builds upon, and is based upon, the Tower of Babel story in Genesis.
The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson. Interesting, probably thoughtful, definitely quite funny, and it evokes a lot of questions and conflicting feelings.