It’s summer, although if you live in New York City, you’ve likely been somewhat too rain-bedraggled to tell. But no matter how many recent days we’ve spent sloshing around in waterproof shoes, it really is the season of days at the beach and lazy afternoons in the park with nothing to do but read. (Yes, really!) Here are recommendations from the Forward’s staff to guide you through the season, on rainy days and sunny alike.
Adam Langer, senior editor
So far my favorite books I’ve read this year include Maxine Hong Kingston’s “Tripmaster Monkey,” which reads like a lost classic of the 1960s, even though it was published in 1989; Patti Smith’s forthcoming “Year of the Monkey,” which intersperses dream and memoir to create a work that I found even more moving and memorable than “Just Kids”; and Edna O’Brien’s “Girl,” an incredibly harrowing novel about a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram — it’ll be out in the fall.
What I’ve been lately recommending to everyone is Dana Czapnik’s “The Falconer,” a coming-of-age novel set in the 1990s, which is probably the most entertaining New York novel I’ve ever read. And, for sheer entertainment value, keep an eye out for “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols,” an immensely clever and entertaining adventure about Sherlock Holmes’s efforts to discover the authors of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” It’s written by Nicholas Meyer, author of “The Seven Percent Solution,” and it’s pretty brilliant.
Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, life editor
I just ordered Bethany Ball’s “What To Do About the Solomons,” a 2017 novel about a kibbutznik family in Israel: A domineering father, unhappy mother and five children choosing drastically different journeys. I’m curious about how an American novelist portrays Israeli culture. And I’m always in the mood for a novel that switches perspectives.
Ari Feldman, staff writer
“Chernobyl” was my first HBO miniseries. Did you know that they come with syllabi? To stay abreast of the required texts I’m going to be reading Svetlana Alexievich’s “Secondhand Time,” an oral history of the transition from communism to capitalism in Russia. And if my girlfriend is able to find a reasonably priced paperback copy of Alexievich’s “Voices of Chernobyl” — apparently a difficult thing to do, even on the internet — I’m probably going to read that this summer, too.
Jordan Kutzik, Yiddish Forverts staff writer
Chava Rosenfarb was not only one of the greatest Yiddish writers of the late 20th century, but likely also the era’s best essayist. A collection of her essays, from recollections written upon her liberation from Bergen-Belsen to literary criticism, has recently been published in an English collection “Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays,” edited by her daughter, Dr. Goldie Morgentaler. When I worked at the Yiddish Book Center I digitized recordings of several of Rosenfarb’s lectures based on essays in this collection and was mesmerized by them.
Helen Chernikoff, senior news editor
I’m on book four of Sarah J. Maas’ eight-volume young adult fantasy series “Throne of Glass.” At the Forward, I aspire to create a “literature of fact” by weaving information into irresistible stories. After a long day at that, it’s bliss to take my turn as the reader and trade facts for amulets, fairies and terrifying beasties, all wrapped in a sexy package that’s perfect for summer — and tied up with a #girlpower bow to boot.
Talya Zax, deputy culture editor
I’ve been taking a slow and happy saunter through Michael Massing’s “Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther and the Fight for the Western Mind.” An 800-odd page work of history may be a non-traditional summer read, but Massing’s look at the conflict between these monumental figures — and that conflict’s impact on modern battles over life, thought and faith — is gripping. Come for the 15th-century arguments about the role of Hebrew in Bible interpretation, stay for Luther’s surprisingly inventive writings about bowel movements. You wouldn’t imagine they would be entertaining; you would be surprised.
Alyssa Fisher, news writer
I just got my copy of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut novel, “Fleishman Is In Trouble,” so that’s what I’ll be pouring over the next few days. I’ve been a fan of her writing for years — she’s on staff at The New York Times Magazine and formerly wrote for GQ — so I’m eager to read her fiction. Another debut novel, “Say Say Say” by Lila Savage, is next up on my list. It seems like a beautifully sad book for summer, about love, loss and longing.
Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor
I just finished reading Ben Howe’s excellent “The Immoral Majority.” Ever wonder why Evangelicals love Trump? Ever wonder how they could come to forgive his many sins and pull the lever for him? Howe’s got answers. Equal parts personal narrative (Howe is Christian), political mystery and salient analysis, Howe’s book is also an ethical treatise, both devastating and inspiring in its demands on its reader, and reminiscent of the great works of the 19th century Mussar movement. One line will stick with me for a long time. A young Howe asks his dad why so many people hate Christians. “Because a lot of Christians are jerks,” his dad answers. What a lesson in menschlichkeit.
Jenny Singer, deputy life editor
“Eyes to the Wind,” the upcoming memoir by the terminally ill 35-year-old activist Ady Barkan, has my heart beating at a hummingbird’s pace. Forget murder mysteries, forget romance novels, this — the story of a nice Jewish boy using his final breaths to make the world a better place, even as ALS paralyzes his body — is your summer read. Between a coast-to-coast campaign to campaign to galvanize voters before the 2018 midterms, constant congressional lobbying and raising a toddler with his wife Rachael, Barkan managed to dictate 279 feverish, floating pages that will inspire you to stand up and do something with your sorry life. I’m reading an advanced copy; yours will have a forward by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Arielle Kaden, opinion intern
I highly recommend reading “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. The book tells the story of Vance’s journey, from living in poverty-stricken rural Ohio to becoming a marine and eventually going to Yale Law School. The book was beautiful and engrossing, both a love letter to Vance’s home culture and a critique of it. I read the book for the first time last summer and have started to re-read it; I think it’s essential for anyone who wants to understand the dilemmas facing rural America or so-called “Trump Country.”
Adrianna Chaviva Freedman, social media intern
I grew up with a love of musical theater, and “The Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux is a novel with appeal for anyone drawn to the arts. The story of a love triangle coupled with the search for a figure haunting Paris’s famed Palais Garnier opera house, it’s an old-school mystery with lots of unexpected twists. You’ll understand why it made sense for the story to be turned into a piece of theater — and a top-grossing one, at that.
PJ Grisar, culture fellow
Since it was announced that Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” was getting the miniseries treatment from HBO, I’ve been looking forward to finally taking the book off my nightstand. So far, so terrifying. Its alternate history, in which Charles Lindbergh wins the presidency in 1940 on an America First ticket, has chilling resonance today. And as far as its place in Roth’s oeuvre, it’s a surprisingly loving tribute to his parents.
This story "Summer Book Recommendations From Ady Barkan To Ben Howe" was written by Talya Zax.