Thursday, November 29, 2012

{36 reasons} I Love Books

I thought about doing "36 things I love" for the days leading up to my birthday. I figured I could write half the posts about books. Clearly, that didn't seem to be such a great idea.

But today I am here to give you a whole bunch of book reviews. Because as much as I love books, I might even love free books more. And one of my favorite parts of blogging is the book review offers. Every so often, they pop up in my email. More often when I'm actually better about doing the reviews. Sometimes...I get a little behind. So here I am today to remedy the situation, and write reviews for a bunch of books that have been hovering on my nightstand and mocking me in their un-reviewed state.

Next Year in Israel by Sarah Bridgeton - This is a young-adult novel about a high school girl who has been bullied for a long time. Following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, she heads off to a year-in-Israel program. She's a relatively uninterested Jew, but is looking forward to a fresh start in a new place where no one knows her. This was a pretty good book. I kept asking myself if it would have been the same if she had gone off to a year-in-France program - did the Jewish aspect matter? I think that the story and the bullying/acceptance issues that Becca faces are quite universal. And at $2.99 on Amazon, this is a good one for that new Kindle you're hoping to get for Chanukah.

Sown in Tears by Beverly Magid - In this story, Leah survives a pogrom with her two young children. As she rebuilds her life as a widow, she finds herself tangled up with the local Russian commander as well as the growing Communist/worker movement. I was very taken with Leah's story and found the book to be an engrossing read, but some of her actions and ideas seemed a little too modern for the day. Would a young woman in her situation have been as bold as Leah? That was the question I kept asking myself...but I concluded that she did what she had to do...and that is not limited by historical situation. I was a teensy bit disappointed by the abrupt ending - maybe there will be a sequel! (This one is actually a great deal on Kindle, too!)

Fire in the Ashes by Jonathan Kozol - I have not read all of Jonathan Kozol's books, but I know that I should. This is actually a continuation of two of his other books, which I have not (yet) read. It is so clear that Kozol is totally committed and connected to these children, and it shows in the way he tells their stories. Much of his writing is just a record of their communication, but it is so plain that he has opened the door for them to open their hearts and minds to him. I can only hope to have such connections with former students as he does! It's so much more than that, though. Books like this should be mandatory reading. The inequality....oy. It's painful to read but also inspiring...

Sipping From the Nile by Jean Naggar - Jean was born in Egypt, into a family and life of privilege and delight...I loved seeing the pictures and reading the descriptions of life in Cairo and other exotic spots, but I did find some of the story to be a little confusing. (The family tree was well-used to keep track!) In so many ways, the location doesn't matter. Stories of immigrants who have to leave everything behind always leave me with a feeling of such gratitude. To pack it all up and just...leave. Wow. (And, another good deal on Kindle, people.)

Road to Valor: True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation by Aili and Andres McConnor - I did not expect this book to be enjoyable. After all, it's about biking...a sport that I engage in only when the bikes are stationary. Who knew!? I had no idea that this guy even existed. It's a great story about a national hero of Italy, a cyclist, who not only won the Tour de France but saved a family of Jews in the process. It's totally readable and a compelling story. This is a good one for the cyclist in your house, but also for people like me who don't even own a bike helmet. These are the stories that we need to keep telling. There are so many stories that haven't yet been told...

Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Gude for Every Woman in the Tribe by Lisa Klug - I love irreverence and silliness. And this book has both. I'm not a huge fan of stereotype-based humor, though, but I tried to see through it to the irony and "coolness" of making fun of one's self...which this book has in abundance. I did giggle at "The Best Places to Nail a Husband" because "All of Jerusalem" was on the list and I might have, in fact, met my husband in that favorite city. Much of it made me laugh out loud, a lot of it made me cringe...and it's the perfect book to read out loud with a group of friends hanging around the table at camp late at night. I will make sure to pack it! (oh, and make sure to read Rebecca's review of this one too.)

Blessed are You, O God, who has given me a love of books and reading, and who has created authors and writers to fill the pages with inspiring words that help me to immerse myself in faraway lands and stories, and who has brought me to this day.

Disclosure: I received free review copies of each of these books but was not in any other way compensated.

Leave me a comment telling me which of the last four books sounds most interesting to you and I will send it your way! (The first two were Kindle reads, so I can't exactly drop them at the post office.)


Debbie J said...

Can you get the 'Next year in israel' in paper format? I want to order it for my madrichim on shnat with RSY-Netzer!
Shabat Shalom and loving the Shehecheyanu series of blogs!

Lindsay Litman said...

"Hot Mamalah" sounds great - I need to find more time to read.

SMA said...

Hmmm... The cyclist story does sound compelling... something I never would have picked up without a recommendation.

Shabbat Shalom to you and your whole family,

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

Debbie J

Thank you for your interest in my book. Israel is a very special place to me, and I’m thrilled to be sharing this story.

Next Year in Israel is only available in ebook format. For those who don't have a kindle, it can be read via iPad, cell phone or computer with the following application:

Would your madrichim be interested in it as an ebook? It is easy to purchase ebook copies through amazon. I’d be happy to send you instructions. Please feel free to email me at