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Jun 2 2014

Top 12 Summer Reads of 2014

By at 10:33 am

Welcome to the Third Annual Jordana Horn Summer Reading List! This list is by no means conclusive, but it’s a list of books I’ve read in the past six months that I thought were particularly terrific. Please put your own ideas and suggestions for great reads in the comments, and friend me on GoodReads (I’m “Jordana Horn Gordon” there) so we can keep talking books, which I love passionately. Without further ado, here are some great reads that should sit on your shelf or device this summer, in no particular order.

to-rise2

1. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris 

This one is demanding and intellectually ambitious, but well worth your time. It’s the story of dentist Paul O’Rourke, who is bored with his life, dental practice, and his relationship to the world at large–until his online identity begins to be recreated by strangers. These strangers claim to be the descendants of Amalekites, the ancient enemy of the Jewish people–which is interesting enough without including the fact that they claim that Paul is one of them, and he just might believe them. This is a book about identity–what it means to be part of a people and a person. It’s jaw-droppingly good. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 9 2013

The Night I Realized I’m Really Not an Outsider

By at 10:15 am

Photograph by Bridget Badore

This post is about Kveller’s recent live storytelling event, “What’s the Matter?” To learn more and watch video from the event, click here.

I walked in to the small dark theater at the 14th St Y in Manhattan a few days before Thanksgiving and found myself surrounded by women wearing stylish dresses or skinny jeans and boots. I looked down at the sweater my grandmother gave me when I was still in college and my circa-2008 boot-cut jeans (I keep meaning to buy a new pair, but then, you know, a little girl is up all night puking or I forgot to prep the Hanukkah craft for her preschool class or maybe I just looked at my thighs and decided today wasn’t the day to go jeans shopping) and once again I felt like an outsider.

Of course, I thought to myself. How appropriate. After all, I was there to participate in a reading about Jewish motherhood, an aspect of my identity that is both central to who I am and yet continually confusing and somewhat elusive. Nonetheless, I had agreed to read an essay about the legacy of patrilineal descent that I am passing along to my daughters.

Needless to say, I was pretty ambivalent about it. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 5 2013

Here’s to an Evening of Jewish Mamas, Storytelling, Wine & A Boobie Chair

By at 2:03 pm

"what's the matter?" kveller and laba house of study

On the night of Monday, November 25th, Kveller and LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture teamed up at the 14th St Y in Manhattan to present, “WHAT’S THE MATTER? A night of storytelling with your favorite Jewish mamas.”

The audience was ushered into the theater, welcomed by a “Eve –  Chair of all Mothers,” a “boobie chair” designed by artist Mirta Kupferminc, and 10 beautiful, sincere, modern-day mamas, all ready and willing to bare their varying emotions and experiences with motherhood for a packed crowd.

Kveller editor Deborah Kolben enjoying her time in the boobie chair.

Kveller editor Deborah Kolben enjoying her time in the boobie chair.

Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 22 2013

My Son is a Bookworm & It’s Sort of a Problem

By at 10:25 am

5-year-old reading big book

Last night, very suddenly, my 5-year-old told me that he was worried about the 14-year- old boy who was missing in the subways. My heart stopped. I asked him how he had heard about that and he replied that he had seen a sign posted in the subway.

My son started reading by himself at age 3. He’ll read anything: storybooks, chapter books, his younger sister’s books, cookbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. We’re ecstatic that he is such an avid reader. We simultaneously celebrate it and find it challenging. He can read grocery lists to us when we go to the store, bedtime stories to his sister, and can amuse himself for an hour and a half during rest time. However, as exemplified by last night’s conversation, we long ago learned that just because he can read everything doesn’t mean he should read everything.

Even starting at 3, he would suddenly say strange quotes (“Blistering barnacles!” from The Adventures of Tintin) and ask questions about books that were not age-appropriate that we didn’t know were in his room. When he started asking about mummies, ghosts, and pirates (though he pronounced it pi-rayts), we discovered that he had happened upon the first four Magic Treehouse books. There are no parental control passwords or buttons on what he can read, only what is in his environment (and sometimes, not even then). Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 11 2013

Friday Night: If It Weren’t For Shabbat, I’d Never Read an Actual Book

By at 2:39 pm

shutterstock_143441467 (1)

Sometimes (OK, so often), I look at my kids playing on their various devices: PCs, iPads, etc., and I want to take a hammer to them and smash them to smithereens (the devices, not the children). I want to see them outside PLAYING. I want them READING BOOKS.

But really–what right do I have to feel this way as I sit at my desktop, writing this piece during the ninth hour of this day spent at my computer?

I used to read like a fiend. That was before we purchased our first personal computer. I could read seven to 10 books a week–fat ones.

Back then I was always in the thick of one high risk pregnancy or another or possibly in the postpartum phase. The used bookstore lady dreaded my husband coming into the story, sent to find me MORE BOOKS. “There is nothing here,” she would say, “that your wife hasn’t read!” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2013

Ten Great Books to Read This Summer

By at 3:36 pm

Welcome to the Second Annual Jordana Horn Summer Reading List, in which I recommend books for your summer reading pleasure. Some are new releases; some you may have missed because you were “working” or “taking care of children” or some other time-consuming endeavor. If you do get a few peaceful moments this summer, though, any one of these reads would be worth your while. My list last year was deemed “too intellectual,” so I’ve thrown in a few suggestions of lighter fare as well. Please feel free to add recommendations in the comments as I am always reading and always excited to find new books!

karen joy fowler we are all completely beside ourselves1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

I read a review before reading this book. While I wouldn’t say the review “ruined” the book for me, it was definitely a spoiler. This book hinges on one key fact which I would think would work better as a surprise, so I will leave you in suspense. Suffice it to say that this book rocked my world: my perception of family interactions, and what a fiction book can accomplish were changed by it. I am so glad I read it, and think you will be, too.

2. Schroder, by Amity Gaige

Beautifully written story of what happens when an East German-born man who has appropriated a new American, Kennedy-esque identity decides to make a post-separation run for the Canadian border with his young daughter. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 10 2013

Busy Parents: You Do Have Time to Read

By at 9:51 am

“HOW do you have time to READ??” Whenever I mention a book I’ve read or am reading, this is usually the response I get from other mothers.

I assume this reaction of disbelief is because I have articulately/accurately described the chaos involved in raising four children/one relationship/one self.

But do you notice how no one ever says, when you mention Matthew and Mary, “YOU watch TV??? HOW do you have the TIME?” (on Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS, FYI). And yet, I know for a fact that most of you parents out there watch non-kid-oriented TV. I have nothing against TV (particularly not if it is Downton Abbey, Homeland, Girls, Mad Men or Game of Thrones). TV is fun. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 9 2013

Special Education Speed Dating

By at 9:43 am

I’ve heard it said that you don’t know how good you’ve got something until it’s gone. This is a story about the opposite. How I didn’t know how lacking something was until I left.

As the Yiddish saying goes, change your location, change your luck.

When we picked up and moved more than three thousand miles away from our home in order for me to stay home full-time and be a better care giver to our son, who is on the autistic spectrum, I anticipated many positive changes. The most pleasant surprise, however, has been the school system. I now realize, with that ever-clear hindsight, that our old school system was lacking. Sorely lacking. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

The Better Way to Read to Your Kids

By at 1:46 pm

siblings reading to each otherSometimes, while all four children are seated at the table, shoveling cheerios down their o-shaped mouths, I have tried to limit breakfast battles by reading a book.

It does not seem to matter what kind of book I read in the early hour; they all listen and concentrate on the tale at hand. With my children ranging from teen, tween and post-tot, it fascinates me that each child is able to enjoy the story, no matter what their reading level is. This has led me to think about the power of picture books and early reading comprehension. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 12 2012

Ten Books You Should Read This Summer

By at 12:07 pm

My husband Jon has frequently commented that my cooking might taste better if I did not regularly read novels while I cook. I tell him that this is a charming detail about me that will elicit loving laughter when he mentions it during his eulogy at my funeral. He finds this annoying, for whatever reason. He then says something like, “A smoke alarm should not be what makes you put down the book,” or that normal people do not have books in the drawers under the stove. Well, I never said I was normal, hon.

Here are some recommendations for those few-and-far-between moments you might snatch for yourself this summer. This list is both newer books and older ones, paperbacks and hardcovers, fiction and non, spanning various levels of intellectual rigor–though you will note that a certain bondage fantasy has conspicuously been left off the list!

Please feel free to add suggestions (along with a little topical blurb) in the comments. A friend of mine mentioned she was going on a no-television-summer…and now that Mad Men and Game of Thrones are over, I may join her. Kveller book club, anyone?

gone girl gillian flynn1. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn: This one is why my family’s dinner will be burnt tonight. I just bought it this morning and am riveted. It’s the story of a man whose beautiful wife, Amy, goes missing in a foul play scenario on their fifth anniversary. As the reader, you’re hooked as you go between the husband, Nick’s, retelling of what’s happening in the investigation, and journal entries from Amy. It’s not just a “whodunit,” though you’ll be dying to know, but it’s also an intelligent and piercing look inside the wildly weird and dysfunctional world of a marriage. Terrific.

Read the rest of this entry →

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