Archive | Listing

Fur People Books

Check out anyone’s social media feed, and chances are good it’s as full of pets as it is of kids. In the last few decades, we have developed an unprecedented intimacy with our domesticated animals; we give them human names as opposed to the Smoky and Spot of yesteryear, and their diets are often as organic and carb-conscious as our own. As an unabashed cat lady – though I prefer the sultrier title of “cat woman” – I see no problem with this trend. Animals provide unconditional love; animals remind us to stay present; animals never ignore our text messages. Judging from these wonderful books about the relationships between humans and animals, I’m not alone in my animal passions.

My Dog Tulip–J.R. Ackerley, Introduction by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
British writer and editor J. R. Ackerley didn’t even like dogs much until he found himself the kept man of Tulip, a German shepherd with tastes as particular as his own. Droll, dry, and tenderhearted (aka eminently British), this memoir will hurt the heart of anyone who’s lived alone with a dear pet.

Flush–Virginia Woolf
A well-known animal lover (her friends called her Goat), Virginia Woolf was so charmed by poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel Flush that she wrote an autobiography about him. Yep, you read that right. The author of Orlando and A Room of One’s Own wrote a whole book from a pup’s perspective. Whimsical and warmhearted, this is easily Woolf’s most loose-limbed literary effort. Continue Reading →

Dear Delia: A Reading List of Dissent and Love

Recently, my fourteen-year-old goddaughter, Delia, asked for a reading list. I knew she was serious because she sent the request by snail mail – the millennial equivalent of engraving a message in stone. “I didn’t even vote for this president and he’s ruining my future,” she wrote. “I need books to get woke.” Obviously, an equally serious response was in order – one that acknowledged the gravity of our national turmoil without exacerbating her fears. So with the help of far smarter friends, I assembled a primer of essential “consciousness-raisers” that are neither condescending nor obtusely phrased, and I organized them into three categories I thought might appeal to her. I think this list will support resisters of all ages, for one of literature’s greatest services is to re-rear the scared, angry kids we each carry inside us. But in the spirit of James Baldwin’s epistolary essay, “Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation,” the “you” to whom I refer is my goddaughter in the wake of the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. Continue Reading →

Reading Pesach: 5 Favorite Passover Books

Gentiles may be forgiven for thinking Chanukah is the biggest holiday of the Jewish calendar. Certainly it gets the biggest billing in mainstream culture, no doubt because it usually occurs around Christmas. But for practicing Jews, Passover is one of the holidays that looms largest. Beginning on the fifteenth day of the Jewish month of Nissan – typically sometime in April – it lasts seven days and is a festival to celebrate the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian enslavement. The name “Passover” is derived from the Hebrew word Pesach, which in turn is based on the root “pass over” – a reference to the belief that God “passed over” the Jews when punishing Egypt; essentially, it’s a festival that celebrates the Old Testament story of Moses and the Exodus. It often dovetails with the Christian holiday Easter, and Jesus’s final supper is widely accepted as a seder, a Passover meal eaten by Jews everywhere since Moses’s time. For Pesach this year, I’ve assembled a menu of our own – one comprised of books about the holiday. Chag Pesach Sameach!

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
One of my favorite young adult series of all time, the All of a Kind Family was a fictional Jewish clan living in a small railroad apartment on New York’s Lower East Side around the beginning of the twentieth century. All the Jewish holidays figure prominently in the books, but Pesach plays an especially important role in the first one. In it, all five children are stricken with scarlet fever except second-oldest Henny. The family tomboy, Henny must ask the questions traditionally posed by the youngest child at a Seder while her quarantined sisters listen from their bedroom piteously. Like the rest of the book, this chapter is plaintive, sweet, and funny, and it breathes life into a timeless tradition like few YA (or adult) books ever have. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy