November was a great month for reading, mostly right before bed. I’m already into two new and excellent soul-stirring works to tell you about in the next update. Enjoy! Oh, and I really do love when you recommend books to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is so absorbing… a world unto itself that I enjoyed entering and did not want to leave. I enjoyed the characters, especially Alma, the main character, who lives an unconventional life for her time. There is so much to learn about by reading this book: botany, illustration, 19th century travel or the roles of women, languages, and so much more. The characters are strongly drawn and left me wanting more. Highly recommend this one.
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One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them by Ammiel Hirsch and Yosef Reinman
I read this one for our synagogue’s book club. A Reform Rabbi (Ammiel Hirsch) and an Orthodox Rabbi (Yosef Reinman) are introduced by a mutual friend and begin an e-mail correspondence on the fundamental principles of Jewish faith and practice.
A few months back, our rabbi had a sermon about some of the Orthodox policies in Israel and I was shocked that their actions could be justified to them as holy. Some of the Orthodox positions he described seemed violent and something only people who were completely isolated from the modern world would consider.
I was disappointed by this book in that it didn’t always seem that the two rabbis were on the same topic. I think these two rabbi’s willingness to become friends and to debate the opposing arguments is wonderful, really. Maybe had their conversation taken place in person it would have been more consistent. I thought Reinman brought up references that Hirsch either didn’t respond to or answered with more of an emotional story, either because he didn’t know them or didn’t want to get into it, which made him look less scholarly to me. Any reference to Torah or Talmud that Hirsch discussed was expounded upon by Reinman much better, in my opinion. An Orthodox Rabbi, or the Orthodox Movement in general, is still unlikely to recognize Reform Judaism and that only leads to resentment, which I thought came out in Hirsch’s writing.
I don’t know that these two will come to much agreement. Rationalizing Reform Judaism to an Orthodox rabbi seems pointless to me. Someone Orthodox would probably believe without question that God sets our laws through the Torah and we should not go about reinterpreting them at will.
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The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D.: A Novel by Nichole Bernier
This was such a fun and quick read! A woman inherits her best friend’s journals and learns about who her friend was behind the mask of motherhood and politeness. You never really know what your legacy will be once you’re gone. How do you want to be remembered? Do you think what people perceive of you is the truth?
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Listening to Whales: What the Orcas Have Taught Us by Alexandra Morton
I was captivated by Morton’s interest and research in dolphins and whales. Her stories are fascinating. I love learning about how these magnificent mammals communicate, mate, and feed. Morton has lived an interesting life so far as a scientist and lover of nature. This book was an engaging story well-told. Since reading so many books about Orcas in captivity and in the wild, I don’t honestly know if I can go to Sea World again. Ignorance was definitely bliss.
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Light Years by James Salter
I wish I could remember where this book was recommended so I could go back and see why I wanted to read it. Salter is an extraordinary writer, but the two main characters in this novel were so unlikeable to me that I could not read past page 94. With a tall stack of other books waiting to be read, this one just didn’t hook me. The way the text flowed felt to me like I was reading it with a fever or something… I couldn’t always follow it… probably my own issue.
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I bought my copy of this book when Brené gave a talk here in Houston, where she’s from anyway, and I was impressed and engaged more than enough to want to read more. In this book, her third, Brené shares ten guideposts “on the power of Wholehearted living—a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.” Prompted by this book, I wrote about my struggles with perfectionism here last week.
To read previous posts on books, please click here.