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10 Jewish Reads for Your Beach Vacation

10 Jewish Reads for Your Beach Vacation

Silhouette of a person reading a book in a hammock at sunset

We may be well into summer, but there are still plenty of beach days (or sitting-outside-days) ahead. If you’re looking to infuse your outdoor reading with some Judaism, here are our tried-and-true recommendations. Don’t see your favorite on the list? Share your recommendation in the comments!

The New Rabbi by Stephen Fried

When Har Zion Temple began its search for a new rabbi, award-winning journalist Stephen Fried chronicled the extraordinary behind-the-scenes process of hiring a new clergy member. This touching, unique, and riveting read explores what a congregation can mean to its members, the tensions between embracing modernity and tradition, and of course, faith.

The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Miris

When free-spirited Batsheva moves into Memphis, TN’s tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community with her 5-year-old daughter, she is warmly received. But, as she grows close with the community’s teenage girls, the women of the ladies auxiliary become skeptical of Batsheva’s intentions. Funny, warm, and skillfully written, this novel illuminates the tensions between mothers and daughters, the outside world and closed communities, and religion and personal discovery.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Dinah is only mentioned briefly in the Torah, but in The Red Tent, midwife Dinah takes center stage. Diamant, who will be a speaker at the upcoming URJ Biennial (the largest gathering of Reform Jews in North America), imagines the traditions of biblical women and the relationships that are similar to those of women today.

After Long Silence: A Memoir by Helen Fremont

Raised Catholic, Helen Fremont discovers as an adult that her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors who created new identities after their liberation. Her moving memoir explores her family’s secrets, the price of hiding the truth, and the steps that people take for protection. It’s a real page-turner.

The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman

When a terrible crime is committed at the mikveh (ritual bath), Detective Peter Decker is called in. Rina Lazarus, an Orthodox Jewish woman and witness to the crime, works with Detective Decker to solve the case. This riveting mystery, with some forbidden love thrown in, is the first book in a series you won’t be able to put down.

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Andrea Bern is a designer, a friend, a daughter, and a sister. She’s also alone, a drinker, a former artist – and she feels like her life is crumbling. When her niece is born with a heartbreaking and fatal ailment, she’s forced to confront her values, her relationship with her family, and what it means to be an adult.

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner

Author Jennifer Weiner has mastered the art of popular fiction, and her memoir doesn’t fall short. Her book of personal essays cover sex, weight, her mother’s coming out as lesbian, parenting her own children, and feminism. They’re hilarious, intelligent, and honest – and any fan of her novels will agree.

Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

When a murder is committed in a self-sustaining Jewish community that is set to revert to Alaskan control, it’s especially devastating. Detective Meyer Landsman is asked to drop the case immediately, and he finds himself contending with the forces of faith, obsession, and evil. This popular novel explores mystery, love, and exile – and it’s one of Michael Chabon’s bests.

My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew by Abigail Pogrebin

Many of us can relate to Abigail Pogrebin’s realization that although she grew up following some Jewish holiday rituals, she didn’t actually understand their meaning or relevance. That’s why she embarked on a year of research, holiday observance, and documentation. Funny, relatable, and educational, My Jewish Year is a great read for any Jew, strictly observant or not. For more from Abigail Pogrebin, listen to her interview on ReformJudaism.org’s podcast On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

A catastrophic earthquake escalates conflict in the Middle East, and its intense effect on one Jewish family in Washington, D.C. causes them to fracture in new ways. Questioning the meaning of home, life, and identity, Jonathan Safran Foer’s newest novel is poignant, hard-hitting, and extremely entertaining.

Marissa Solomon is the digital communications producer for the Union for Reform Judaism. Based in New York, she is originally from Ann Arbor, MI, and has a degree in public policy from the University of Michigan.

Marissa Solomon
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