Books I’m Excited to Read in February

Read Along With Me

Today, I’m excited to share with you the books I’m looking forward to reading in February. These are the titles that will be appearing in my weekly book review posts throughout the month.

What books are on your list this month? I hope you’ll add your suggestions in the comments.

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The Interpreter by AJ Sidransky

In the heat of wartime Manila, 23-year-old American GI Kurt Berlin is recruited by the OSS to return to Europe to aid in the interrogation of captured Nazis. A refugee from the Nazis himself, Berlin discovers the Nazi he’s interpreting is responsible for much of the torment and misery he endured during his escape. And that very same Nazi may hold the key to finding the girl he left behind. Will the gravitational pull of revenge dislodge his moral com-pass? From the terror of pre-war Vienna to the chaos of occupied Brussels, through Kurt’s flight with his family through Nazi-Occupied France, to the destruction of post-war Europe, The Interpreter follows Kurt’s surreal escape and return. How much can a young mind absorb before it explodes?

Letters from Planet Corona by Chaya Passow

The Covid-19 epidemic exploded in Israel on the heels of the joyous Purim festival in mid-March 2020. Trying to make sense of the ensuing insanity, Chaya Passow, a resident of Jerusalem, soon began to share her thoughts and reflections with friends and family in the form of a letter from the new Planet Corona, formerly Planet Earth. What began as an attempt at personal catharsis grew to a collection of 70 letters describing seven tumultuous months in 2020 culminating in the Jewish High Holidays.Letters from Planet Corona is unique, the result of an intelligent, strong feminine voice which combines witty, satirical, and humorous narratives with thought-provoking, uplifting, and inspirational insights. The author has an engaging style which makes her often penetrating and incisive observations accessible to all as she describes her personal journey from initial bewilderment and occasional despair to a deeper understanding of what it means to truly put your faith in God in the midst of a pandemic that tested human endurance.Reading Letters from Planet Corona will open your mind and touch your heart.

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Private Good Luck by Sherwin Gluck

It’s February 1940, and four siblings triumphantly overcome two years of bureaucratic hurdles and flee to America. The youngest brother begins to pursue his American dream, only to have it interrupted. Not yet a citizen, he’s inducted into the army and chooses to serve in the infantry to defend his newfound American freedom, champion the honor of his people, and save the family he left behind. Small serendipities repeatedly safeguard him from almost certain death. Join him on his transformative journey and be inspired by his courage, kindness, and optimism in the face of unspeakable tragedy. Documented by extensive primary sources, this memoir precedes an upcoming, remarkably comprehensive, special online collection of correspondence, documents, photos, and artifacts at the US Holocaust Museum (ca. 2021).

Be Wild Be Free by Amber Fossey

Do you hear the beasts scratching at the door? They’ve been sleeping too long, and now they’re getting feisty. 

Through a mash-up of poetry, comic fiction and watercolor illustrations, this beautiful picture book for adults weaves a narrative of how we can all become wild and free again. Looking at life through the eyes of Sloth, Bear, Koala, and even Blob Fish, these animals tell the stories of the raw beauty of life on our planet, encouraging us to let go of fear, stick our fingers/paws up at societal pressure, and love ourselves and one another with abandon.

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River Queens by Alexander Watson

The river-any river-is another planet, with its own language, rules, and culture. River Queens is a story of the unlikeliest of fellows (and a dog) coming to the river-and what happens to them once they arrive. At first glance, it seems to be a how-to manual for any adventuresome (but perhaps foolhardy) type who’s ever thought of restoring a wooden yacht and sailing it halfway across the country. Second glance, however, shows that it’s a classic travel narrative in which two intrepid (but perhaps foolhardy) explorers head out to tour what is usually called “a distant, alien world.” To Alexander Watson and his partner, Dale Harris, the river is as exotic as any foreign locale they’d previously traversed. There is danger, of course- unpredictable nature, lurking water hazards, quickly rising human squalls but the initial difficulty is language: can they become fluent in the argot of harbormasters, helmsmen, navigators, and the various deck hands, skippers, and swabbies? The language of river people is gloriously colorful and idiosyncratic, and Watson has a gift for capturing it. River talk is the animated essence of River Queens, in which these typically hard-working people are rendered so specifically, in all their salty humanity, that they become a kind of tribe, passing Watson and Harris along from outpost to outpost, encumbered by their hospitality. This is the genius of River Queens, in which Watson’s sensibility is so adroit that he captures perfectly the two sides of America that seem elsewhere on permanent outs. Here on the river, though, they become assembled in a near-perfect unity, displaying a charity that seems to be missing on the inland geography. With happy authority and never a condescending glance (well, only where one is deserved), Captain Watson gives us a striking, often hilarious picture of river life, elevating its savvy inhabitants into the first rank of admirable Americans and showing us finally how little divided America actually can be. River Queens is at once a romance of men and the river, a fantasy come to life, an unparalleled adventure story, one of the best travel journals around and a glad picture for our turbulent times.

Swords of the Vatican by Severyn Ashkenazy

Told by an eye witness to evil, author Severyn Ashkenazy, himself a Holocaust survivor, lays out in great detail a fact based scathing critique of the Vatican and the Church’s history of persecution, falsehoods and underhanded support of mass murderers including Hitler and Mussolini as one edge of the sword to allow for millions of innocent people to be lead to horrible deaths only so the Catholic Church and the Vatican could maintain world wide dominance.

The author asks the reader to use this book as their own jumping off point for further reading. So many passages will make one want to explore the horror further because it seems so unbelievable when all these horrors are collected in one book.

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My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own Words “showcases Ruth Ginsburg’s astonishing intellectual range” (The New Republic). In this collection Justice Ginsburg discusses gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who introduce each chapter and provide biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted.

How to Stay Human in a F*cked-Up World: Mindfulness Practices for Real Life by Tim Desmond

Tim Desmond–an esteemed Buddhist philosopher who has lectured on psychology at Yale and leads a mental health project at Google–offers a path to self-growth, connection, and joy like we’ve never seen before.

Despite an absent father, childhood homelessness, and losing a wife to cancer, Desmond has emerged with not only inner strength and joyful resilience, but also a deep understanding of human suffering necessary to advocate for those hurting all over the world. Through his work, Desmond realized the truth: we don’t need a mindfulness practice for productivity or sleep, and it shouldn’t come from religion, philosophy, or hypothetical situations. Instead, mindfulness should be rooted in the pain, sadness, loneliness, and trauma of the here and now, because it is the only true antidote for this sometimes-miserable world we call home.

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