Rabbi Schwartz's Winter Reading List
As the nights get longer and the days colder one might be tempted to spend time on the couch or in a favorite chair, sipping tea (or perhaps brandy, or whisky!*), and reading. Here are a few suggestions for winter reading as we usher out 2018 and welcome in a new year:
The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey. This short novel (294 pages) describes in colorful detail life in the medieval village of Oakham during four days in February of 1491. The village priest, John Reve, is the story’s main protagonist. Part theologian, part pastor, part Sherlock Holmes, he struggles to understand how the body of a villager ended up in the river, drowned. Fate or misfortune? A Divine Decree fulfilled or a human plot gone awry? The author’s beautiful prose will lead you backwards in time towards the answer to this delightful mystery.
These Truths, A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore. Critics have called this one volume (932 pages) history of the United States a ‘masterpiece.’ Lepore, a professor of American History at Harvard, analyzes key moments in the history of our nation, and ultimately creates a lens we can use to contextualize our current troubled and divisive times. George Harrison, in his song Any Road (paraphrasing Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) includes the lyric ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.’ Lepore’s point is exactly the opposite – it is by knowing where we’ve come from that we understand where we are, and gain insight into where we should be going.
And last, but by no means least...
The Death of Truth, by Michiko Kakutani. This series of short essays explores the way truth has historically been both understood and manipulated. Read together, the chapters provide a devastating critique of the Trump administration’s attempt to reshape how Americans understand what is real and what is not, and where actual truth resides.
*May I suggest a dram of Lagavulin 16 as the perfect match for a cold night, a warm blanket, and a good book.
Enjoy the reading!