Books On My Reading List This Week – March 29, 2022

Read Along with Me

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I am five titles away from my reading goal for 2022. And it’s March. How crazy is that?!

This week’s list includes two new releases in Jewish literature. The first, One-Legged Mongoose, is a memoir examining life in 1950s New York. The second, Chasing Hope, examines the various sources within Jewish tradition that inspire hope. I’d like to thank Stuart Schnee for free copies of these wonderful books in exchange for my honest review.

Also on my list this week are two audiobook selections. Once again, I’m checking out popular titles I’ve been seeing all over the Bookstagram community (follow me @hs.reads). First is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I enjoy the romance and drama of old Hollywood. The glittering gowns on the red carpet. So I’m looking forward to this book.

And I’ll be enjoying Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here. I’ve been seeing this cover everywhere! Plus I’m becoming a fan of Picoult’s work. Her books are well written and well researched. So I’m sure it will be great.

Join the conversation! Tell me what you’re reading this week in the comments.


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Books This Week

One-Legged Mongoose: Secrets, Legacies, and Coming of Age in 1950s New York by Marc Straus
Click the image to find it on Amazon

It’s June 1953, and 10-year-old Marc Straus is in his mother’s car, getting sick from her cigarette smoke on his way to a Hebrew lesson. He and his younger brother, Stephen, are transferring from public school to a Yeshiva. His parents haven’t said why they’re transferring – the family isn’t religious. So all Marc knows is he’ll have to protect his brother. Stephen’s a delicate kid other kids pick on. Marc’s a street fighter who knows how to wall off the pain.

So begins One-Legged Mongoose, Marc Straus’ vivid, compelling, you-are-there memoir of two years in the life of a precocious, scrappy Jewish kid carrying a dark secret as he embarks on the journey to young manhood in 1950s New York. When school starts, Marc begins commuting four hours daily to a different world, where kids are smart like him and fight with words instead of fists, and a caring principal takes the troubled truant under his wing. Marc works at his dad’s textile store on Sundays, learning about honor and hard work from his immigrant father. At home, he faces his volatile mother.

Straus encounters Anti-Semitism in public school, in the community, and even in the Boy Scouts. And it’s the Scouts that lend the book its title—a nod to a campfire story about a half-man, half-mongoose predator that’s almost the height of a full-grown man, and that Straus and the other boys of Troop 300 are tasked with locating. But, as Straus explains, “I was willing to face it. I know all about monsters.”

Marc starts rethinking his risk-taking way of life, often sidelined by injuries to his eye, polio, and a near-fatal hit-and-run. A voracious reader, he looks to books for insights – What would Santiago do? – and comes to accept that he’s not invulnerable. Life will wound him, but the rest is up to him.

An unflinching look at child abuse and one boy’s ability to rise above it, One-Legged Mongoose reminds us of the bonds between siblings and the power of family secrets.

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Choosing Hope: The Heritage of Judaism by David Arnow

Throughout our history, Jews have traditionally responded to our trials with hope, psychologist David Arnow says, because we have had ready access to Judaism’s abundant reservoir of hope.
              
The first book to plumb the depths of this reservoir, Choosing Hope journeys from biblical times to our day to explore nine fundamental sources of hope in Judaism: 

Teshuvah—the method to fulfill our hope to become better human beings

Tikkun Olam—the hope that we can repair the world by working together

Abraham and Sarah—models of persisting in hope amid trials

Exodus—the archetype of redemptive hope

Covenant—the hope for a durable relationship with the One of Being

Job—the “hard-fought hope” that brings a grief-stricken man back to life

World to Come—the sustaining hope that death is not the end

Israel—high hope activists work to build a just and inclusive society for all Israelis

Jewish Humor—“hope’s last weapon” in our darkest days

Click the image to find it on Amazon

Grounded in a contemporary theology that situates the responsibility for creating a better world in human hands, with God acting through us, Choosing Hope can help us both affirm hope in times of trial and transmit our deepest hopes to the next generation.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Click the image to find it on Amazon

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Click the image to find it on Amazon

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

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