Staff picks: What we’re reading this summer

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Woman reading a book on the beach
Woman reading a book on the beach (travnikovstudio / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

They say that great readers make great writers, and we at the JT like to think our writing is at least pretty good. Here’s what we’ve been reading this summer.

“Spinning Silver”


By Naomi Novik

Armed with my new library card, I recently picked up a copy of “Spinning Silver” from the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

“Spinning Silver” is a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale “Rumpelstiltskin.” This version follows three young women in a fantastical Eastern European land. One of those women is Miryem, the daughter of a poor Jewish moneylender. One day, Miryem decides to take over her father’s business. She is incredibly successful and brags to her mother that she can turn silver into gold. But she is overheard by the king of the Staryk, a race of fae creatures who torment the humans. The other two women the book follows are Wanda, Miryem’s family’s servant, and Irina, the daughter of a duke.

One of the most intriguing parts of this novel is how it reclaims Jewish stereotypes. Fairy tales are rife with antisemitism and Jewish-coded villains. In Miryem’s case, her Jewish community gives her strength, and her powers derive from her superb skills as a moneylender and a businesswoman.

I thought “Spinning Silver” was a fun read, and I raced through it. It’s definitely a great pick for anyone who likes fantasy novels or fairy tales.

— Selah Maya Zighelboim, editor

“Waiting for Godot”

By Samuel Beckett

While looking for an extra option with which to while away the summer hours, I picked up a copy of Samuel Becket’s 1953 play, “Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts.”

The plot focuses on a pair of impoverished and irritable vagrants whose long friendship has taken a turn for the grouchy, waiting outdoors for someone, or something, they think may be called Godot. Neither is sure what time Godot is coming, or if it’s coming that day, or the next day, or if it came yesterday, or if they are waiting in the spot where they are supposed to be waiting, or even what day it is at that moment or where they were and what they were doing yesterday. While passing the time, they discuss scripture, tell bawdy jokes, complain about the turnips and the carrot they have to eat and consider hanging themselves for the thrill of it.

All in all, not a bad read for someone looking for the road less traveled.

One last note, while at first I considered ordering a copy from Amazon, in the end I decided Mr. Bezos already has more than enough funding for his rocket ships, so I picked one up at the local library instead.

— Jesse Berman, staff writer

“The Emperor of All Maladies”

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

Like most young people, I am on a continuous search for the perfect future career. While I know that I love to write, I’m not quite sure what profession I truly belong in. Recently, when I met a really cool oncologist, I decided that I was going to medical school. After talking with him for a few minutes, he noted that if I was thinking about oncology, I should read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Pulitzer-Prize winning biography, “The Emperor of
All Maladies.”

Even though my dreams of medical school probably lasted about the same length of time it took you to read the title of this issue, the book was incredibly fascinating. You do not have to know anything about cancer or medicine. Also, if you’re scared of blood and other bodily functions, don’t worry; Mukherjee doesn’t delve into too many of the gory details.

“The Emperor of All Maladies” takes you on a journey from one cancer patient to the next. This book tells true patient stories while readers learn the ins and outs of different types of cancer. Cancer can be a scary word, but maybe part of the fear is that most people don’t know anything about it.

As I turned the pages, I felt like I was living through each challenge alongside the patients. The book was not a barrel of laughs, but if you are ready for something serious and intriguing, I highly recommend “The Emperor of All Maladies.”

— Shira Kramer, intern

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