Winter’s coming to an end here in DC, but that doesn’t mean we cut down on our reading time—we just take our books outside with us! Here are the titles we’re looking forward to reading in the upcoming weeks.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is the 2021 debut novel by American poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. It explores the history of an African-American family in the American South, from the time before the American civil war and slavery, through the Civil Rights Movement, to the present. It’s pretty brilliant but really, really long, and probably could’ve been edited a bit. Still, highly recommended!
I just started a new type of book for me—a historical non-fiction book called Such Splendid Prisons by Harvey Solomon. It follows select high-ranking Axis Power diplomats and their families, who were rounded up and sequestered in remote luxury hotels when the US joined WWII. Solomon jumps between their stories deftly, with a tinge of sardonic wit that comes with the dramatic irony of a historical narrative. I’m especially invested in the relationship between a Japanese diplomat-turned-spy and his American wife, as well as the antics of the Americanized teenage daughter of a German military attache.
I have begun to explore an ancient piece of Jewish wisdom literature, the Pirkei Avot (or Avos), which is one of the tractates of the Mishna. It is the source of the three famous questions of Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Another well-known saying from the Pirkei Avot is the advice of Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” And there are many more treasures waiting to be discovered! The Jewish Study Center here in Washington is offering a series of four free Zoom classes on the Pirkei Avot, led by a dynamic local rabbi. The class is a high point of my week.
James Acaster is a brilliantly funny English comedian whose program “Repertoire” on Netflix is worth every minute of the four one-hour shows. I’m reading his book James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes on my daily commute, trying to stifle the laughter, as I sit in the quiet car. Thankfully, the mask helps muffle me when I fail.