A few recommended Summer 2021 reads (for those in the Northern Hemisphere)
From a #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely novel of mystery, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship. (Ms. Weiner wrote this novel during #MeToo, The Kavanaugh hearing, testifying about a rape that happened years ago during high school, and having her own daughter apply for a job and remembering how Weiner’s first job was filled with incidents of harassment.) In THAT SUMMER, Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the lovely Philadelphia suburbs, Daisy should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful, her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial. She has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. But then why is she up all night? Does she just need some Melatonin?
While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling (another DS), whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence.
When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?
A collection of simple reads: funny personal essays from actor / writer — one of the writers of Superbad (Sammy Fogell) and Pineapple Express and that Pickle film. Yearbook is a collection of true stories that Seth hopes are just funny at worst, and life-changingly amazing at best. He is the sort of Jewish guy who tells you being Jewish isn’t important to him but constantly talks about being Jewish. haha.
He writes about his grandparents (Chapter 1: Bubby and Zaidy), Canada, doing stand-up comedy as a teenager (a lot of Bubby and Zaidy jokes), bar mitzvahs/Bnai mitzvot parties (slow dancing), writing jokes for a mohel, and Jewish summer camp (where a counselor tells him “Even if you don’t believe in Judaism, you, my friend, are still a Jew.”) Also be sure to note that Rogen was residing in Pittsburgh in 2018 during the murders at the Tree of Life synagogue, and his reaction to the attack and to Twitter.
You can read a free excerpt from it about the BAR MITZVAH PARTY CIRCUIT from THE NEW YORKER HERE
Quinn Berkowitz’s parents are wedding planners. Quinn attends many of the weddings to play harp and help out. Tarek Mansour’s parent won a wedding catering company. Their families have been in business together for years. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email — and then Tarek left for college without a response.
Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings.
When Tarek shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman. Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher. Did I also mention that the issues of mental health, OCD, depression, faith, Judaism, LBTQA weddings and more will come up?
Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.
by Joshua Henkin
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Can love overcome the ravages and stresses of illness? When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976 after graduating from Yale, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. She is escaping the strict Orthodox Jewish family in Ohio. When she falls in love with Spence Robin, her hotshot young Shakespeare professor, her life takes a turn she couldn’t have anticipated.
Thirty years later, in 2006, something is wrong with Spence, now 57.
The Great Man can’t concentrate; he falls asleep reading The New York Review of Books. Is it early onset Alzheimer’s? With their daughter Sarah away at medical school, Pru must struggle on her own.
One day, feeling particularly isolated, Pru meets a man, and the possibility of new romance blooms. Meanwhile, Spence’s estranged son from his first marriage has come back into their lives (he did spend two years with them as a teen, and loved his father and his hip Yalie, step-mother). Arlo Zackheim, a wealthy entrepreneur who invests in biotech, may be his father’s last, best hope (his mother, was a narcissistic vagabond who left Arlo with a deep void, always seeking love.) “Morningside Heights” is a sweeping and compassionate novel about a marriage surviving hardship. Plus it mentions the Hungarian Pastry Cafe. It’s about the love between women and men and children and parents, about the things we give up in the face of adversity, about what endures when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.
An Account of a Minor and Ultimately
Even Negligible Episode in the History
of a Very Famous Family
by Joshua Cohen
Publication Date: June 22, 2021
Publisher: NYReview Books
From the author of 2017 novel
MOVING KINGS, about post-IDF Israelis working in the moving truck industry… a funny novel based on a comment by the late Yale professor Harold Bloom, who once showed Netanyahu around campus.
Let’s pretend that there was a famous Israeli professor who came to the USA to teach and brought his family. He is interviewing for a position at Corbin College in not-quite-upstate New York. It is Winter 1960, Eisenhower is president, Kennedy and Nixon will be running for the White House. Sexual rebellion is nascent, times they are a changing. Ruben Blum, a retired professor, a Jewish historian — but – as he will stress – NOT an historian of the Jews — is co-opted onto a hiring committee to review the application of an exiled Israeli scholar specializing in the Spanish Inquisition. Professor Benzion Netanyahu shows up for an interview. Netanyahu brings his family (the Yahu’s as Blum will call them with derision), unexpectedly. Blum (the campus Jew) must play host to them in Corbindale, and their body noises and diapers, and jewelry borrowing reluctantly. Blum, by the way, is a Jew of poor heritage, while his wife (Edith)’s family are of elite German Jewish stock. (In real life, Professor Netanyahu taught at Dropsie in Philly in 1959, and then at Denver, and then at Cornell, where he received tenure. He died at age 102).
Corbin is that type of school like Alfred where comedian Robert Klein studied, where when he played Shylock on stage, people yelled Jewboy. The Netanyahu’s (Benzion, Tzila, Yonatan, Benjamin, Iddo) – obsessed with the Inquisition and a world of Jew hatred – proceed to lay waste in an undignified way to Blum’s American complacencies. Imagine having a daughter who hates her big Jewish nose interacting with a proud Israeli family who see Jewish history as 2000 years of holocausts. Mixing fiction with non-fiction, the campus novel with the lecture, “The Netanyahus” is an inventive, comedy of blending, identity, and politics.
Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose returns with a dazzling new novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing, the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg — an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world: NY Publishing.
It’s 1953, and Simon Putnam (a WASPy Jew with the surname of an austere publishing house), a recent Harvard graduate is newly hired by a distinguished New York publishing firm. He has entered a glittering world of three-martini lunches, exclusive literary parties, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits, a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island (He was hired specifically since he is Jewish and a greenie newbie to publishing, since no one else would take this job to edit this crappy novel that he has been assigned).
Simon’s first assignment — editing “The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic,” a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm’s failing finances — makes him question the cost of admission.
Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg’s. His parents mourn Ethel’s execution and death.
Simon’s dilemma grows thornier when he meets The Vixen’s author, the startlingly beautiful, reckless, seductive Anya Partridge, ensconced in her opium-scented boudoir in a luxury Hudson River mental asylum. As mysteries deepen, as the confluence of sex, money, politics and power spirals out of Simon’s control, he must face what he’s lost by exchanging the loving safety of his middle-class Jewish parents’ Coney Island apartment for the witty, whiskey-soaked orbit of his charismatic boss, the legendary Warren Landry. Gradually Simon realizes that the people around him are not what they seem, that everyone — of course — is keeping secrets, that ordinary events may conceal a diabolical plot—and that these crises may steer him toward a brighter future.
At once domestic and political, contemporary and historic, funny and heartbreaking, enlivened by surprising plot turns and passages from Anya’s hilariously bad novel, The Vixen illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment. Meanwhile it asks timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of love, family, art, life and loss?
The Cult of We:
WeWork, Adam Neumann,
and the Great Startup Delusion
by Eliot Brown, Maureen Farrell
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
In 2001, Adam Neumann arrived in New York after five years in the Israeli Navy/IDF. Just over fifteen years later, he had transformed himself into the charismatic CEO of a company worth $47 billion — well, at least on paper it was worth that.
With his long hair and feel-good mantras, his Zohar/Kabbalah inspirations, the 6’5″ Neumann, who grew up in part on a kibbutz, looked the part of a messianic Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The vision he offered was mesmerizing: a radical reimagining of work space for a new generation, with its fluid jobs and lax office culture. He called it WeWork. Though the company was merely subleasing “amenity”-filled office space to freelancers and small startups, Neumann marketed it like a revolutionary product–and investors swooned. He positioned it as a TECH FIRM when, when it was perhaps just a Real Estate firm that offered networking and amenities.
As billions of funding dollars poured in, Neumann’s ambitions grew limitless. WeWork wasn’t just an office space provider, he boasted. It would build schools, create WeWork cities, even colonize Mars. Could he, Neumann wondered from the ice bath he’d installed in his office, become the first trillionaire or a world leader? In pursuit of its founder’s grandiose vision, the company burned – spent – money faster than it could bring it in. From his private jet, sometimes clouded with marijuana smoke, the CEO scoured the globe for more capital. In late 2019, just weeks before WeWork’s highly publicized IPO, a Hail Mary effort to raise cash,
everything fell apart.
Neumann was ousted from his company–but still was poised to walk away a billionaire.
Calling to mind the recent demise of Theranos and the hubris of the dotcom era bust, WeWork’s extraordinary rise and staggering implosion were fueled by disparate characters in a financial system blind to its risks, from a Japanese billionaire (Softbank) with designs on becoming the Warren Buffet of tech, to leaders at JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs who seemed intoxicated by a Silicon Valley culture where sensible business models lost out to youthful CEOs who promised “disruption.” Why did some of the biggest names in banking and venture capital buy the hype? Was it the Shabbat dinners and retreats? And what does the future hold for Silicon Valley “unicorns”? Wall Street Journal reporters Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell explore these questions in this definitive account of WeWork’s unraveling.
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
by Elyssa Friedland (Yale)
Publication Date: May 2021
Publisher: Berkley paperbacks
DIRTY DANCING meets SCHITT’S CREEK meets THE MARVELOUS MIRS MAISEL Catskills scenes.
BYOB: Bring Your Own Borscht – Kirkus Reviews
In its heyday, The Golden Hotel was the crown jewel of the Catskills vacation scene. Why, they even made the World Records book by smoking the largest sturgeon. For more than sixty years, the Goldman and Weingold families – best friends and business partners – have presided over this glamorous resort which served as a second home for well-heeled guests and celebrities. (It was founded in 1960 by Brooklyn College buddies Benny Goldman and Amos Weingold. For reference, Kutsher’s, Grossinger’s and others date back to before WWI)
But due to air conditioning, air travel, and assimilation, the Catskills are not what they used to be – and neither is the relationship between the Goldmans and the Weingolds. As the facilities and management begin to fall apart, a tempting offer to sell forces the two families together again to make a heart-wrenching decision. Can they save their beloved Golden or is it too late?
Long-buried secrets emerge, new dramas and financial scandal erupt, and everyone from the traditional grandparents to the millennial grandchildren wants a say in the hotel’s future. Will the husband who is a physician be arrested as a pill miller? Will the gay son tell his parents before the sale occurs? Will Phoebe post a picture of avocado toast? Will snobbery undermine a betrothal? Business and pleasure clash in this fast-paced, hilarious, nostalgia-filled story, where the hotel owners rediscover the magic of a bygone era of nonstop fun even as they grapple with what may be their “last resort.”
If Inglorious BastERDs Was for real, and British.
The incredible World War II saga of the German-Jewish commandos who fought in Britain’s most secretive special-forces unit—but whose story has gone untold until now
June 1942. The shadow of the Third Reich has fallen across the European continent. In desperation, Winston Churchill and his chief of staff form an unusual plan: a new commando unit made up of Jewish refugees who have escaped to Britain. The resulting volunteers are a motley group of intellectuals, artists, and athletes, most from Germany and Austria. Many have been interned as enemy aliens, and have lost their families, their homes—their whole worlds. They will stop at nothing to defeat the Nazis. Trained in counterintelligence and advanced combat, this top secret unit becomes known as X Troop. Some simply call them a suicide squad.
Drawing on extensive original research, including interviews with the last surviving members, Leah Garrett follows this unique band of brothers from Germany to England and back again, with stops at British internment camps, the beaches of Normandy, the battlefields of Italy and Holland, and the hellscape of Terezin concentration camp—the scene of one of the most dramatic, untold rescues of the war. For the first time, X Troop tells the astonishing story of these secret shock troops and their devastating blows against the Nazis.
PERSONALLY, I AVOID
Historical fiction based on the Holocaust
and death camps, since I fear it cheapens and
fictionalizes what was real.
the following book is very popular this
Summer (I mean… don’t you want your Holocaust novel tote bag?):
From the author of The New York Times bestselling The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Before dying, her kidnapper has trainer her to survive and if necessary, to kill a person (hint hint). Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Inspired by incredible true stories (The Bielski’s, not the kidnapped girl) of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).