Books On My Reading List This Week – November 30, 2021

Read Along with Me

And just like that, November is coming to an end. I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday and the start to the winter holiday shopping season. And of course, Happy third night of Hanukkah!

I spent some time this past weekend, doing some reorganizing in my study, grouping my unread books together so I have a better visual of how many I have on the shelf to read. I also updated my Goodreads ‘Want to Read’ list. I’ll admit, I was shocked to discover there were twenty (yes, twenty) titles on my shelves that were not on cataloged on my list. That’s a lot of books! So ‘Want to Read’ is fully updated and I have plenty of books to enjoy in the coming weeks and months.

The first book on my reading list, this week, is a newly released memoir by Miranda Portnoy. This two-part book begins with detailing Portnoy’s traumatic childhood and journey to finding faith. In the second section,

Portnoy challenges the reader to explore their own beliefs.

The rest of my reading list consists of audiobooks. The first pick, Them, seems like a timely choice as the political divides in America have only continued to increase. The book argues that much of the hostility we’re experiencing is the result of our increasing social isolation from each other. A problem that has only grown worse in the age of Covid.

My second pick went on my list a few years ago when it was recommended to me by a fellow passenger on a plane. I was settled into my seat, engrossed in a book on my Kindle, while waiting for the boarding process to be completed when the woman in the row in front of me asked what I was reading. And in the course of our conversation, she recommended Less. So, to the woman on my flight to Tel Aviv, two years ago, I’m finally getting around to reading your recommendation. Thank you!

And finally, my third choice, After the Flood, is set one hundred years in the future, after America has been lost in a flood. The synopsis of the story intrigues me!

What’s on your reading list this week?


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Books This Week

Making Meaning Out of Madness by Miranda Portnoy
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Making Meaning Out of Madness: A Jewish Journey contains Miranda Portnoy’s memoir plus her appeal to her Jewish peers. In the second section, following her story, Portnoy challenges agnostic assumptions with three well-researched, provocative essays. Taking aim at the spiritual skepticism fostered by contemporary academia, she offers an utterly novel, commonsense proof of classic Jewish principles. One cannot walk away from her essay “Solving the Jewish Mystery” unchanged. This memoir and essay collection is bound to capture the hearts and minds of Jews who have wandered too far from the God who loves them—compelling them, and all of us, to not only reexamine our convictions but perhaps, rediscover our souls.

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Arctic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.

A compulsively readable novel of dark despair and soaring hope, After the Flood is a magnificent, action packed, and sometimes frightening odyssey laced with wonder—an affecting and wholly original saga both redemptive and astonishing.

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer
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Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” Less shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.

Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal by Ben Sasse

Something is wrong. We all know it.

American life expectancy is declining for a third straight year. Birth rates are dropping. Nearly half of us think the other political party isn’t just wrong; they’re evil. We’re the richest country in history, but we’ve never been more pessimistic.

What’s causing the despair?

In Them, bestselling author and U.S. senator Ben Sasse argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, our crisis isn’t really about politics. It’s that we’re so lonely we can’t see straight―and it bubbles out as anger.

Local communities are collapsing. Across the nation, little leagues are disappearing, Rotary clubs are dwindling, and in all likelihood, we don’t know the neighbor two doors down. Work isn’t what we’d hoped: less certainty, few lifelong coworkers, shallow purpose. Stable families and enduring friendships―life’s fundamental pillars―are in statistical freefall.

As traditional tribes of place evaporate, we rally against common enemies so we can feel part of a team. No institutions command widespread public trust, enabling foreign intelligence agencies to use technology to pick the scabs on our toxic divisions. We’re in danger of half of us believing different facts than the other half, and the digital revolution throws gas on the fire.

There’s a path forward―but reversing our decline requires something radical: a rediscovery of real places and human-to-human relationships. Even as technology nudges us to become rootless, Sasse shows how only a recovery of rootedness can heal our lonely souls.

America wants you to be happy, but more urgently, America needs you to love your neighbor and connect with your community. Fixing what’s wrong with the country depends on it.

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