Off the shelf



June 12, 2017

With summer almost in full swing, people around the world are now finding some time to kick back and enjoy a good tale. We asked Hillel students, lay leaders and field professionals to share some of their summer reading recommendations. From thrillers to romance, and everything in between, we’ve found some great books to dive into this summer! 

Why Be Jewish by Edgar M. Bronfman validates that it is acceptable to be a modern, secular Jew. Bronfman’s attitude toward Judaism is that it is flexible and nonbinding. Bronfman’s book resonates with me, and likely will with many others of my generation, because it asserts that to be Jewish doesn’t require religious faith, but the embrace of Jewish community, culture and values.” –Paige Gutter, ’19 Hillel Foundation at Miami University

 “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon is a detective story set in an alternate-reality where the Jewish state isn’t Israel, it’s Alaska. The mystery is thrilling, if somewhat confusing, but Chabon’s prose and grasp of Jewish dialects makes this quite the enjoyable read.” –Zach Babins, Associate Director, Queen’s Hillel

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a breakout hit in the world of young adult fiction. It’s a social commentary that forces readers to consider how police brutality is portrayed in the media, and how each individual voice is important when standing up for truth and justice.” –Marissa Sherman, ‘18 Hillel Foundation at Miami University  

Next Generation Judaism by the University of Pennsylvania Hillel director Rabbi Mike Uram is a book I can’t put down. Not only is this book spot on for Hillels, but it reaches the audience of JCCs, synagogues, and other religions organizations about how the future will shape our work.” –Rachel Gordon, Springboard Fellow in social media at the University of Delaware Hillel

“Clay Travis’s Dixieland Delight explores the American South’s favorite Saturday tradition: college football. Travis, along with a few friends, visits every school in the Southeastern Conference, taking them on one Saturday after the next until the season is finished. He adds an interesting perspective to the religion that is football south of the Mason-Dixon Line.” –Joey Slovin, ’18 Cincinnati Hillel  

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance gives a great insight into the social conditions that haveled us to our current political situation. Written by an Ohio native with deep roots in Appalachia, the book illuminates a way of life that most of America has not been exposed to, or tried to understand.” –Izzy Zox, ‘19 University of Southern California Hillel Foundation

Home by Harlan Coben is the definition of the type of book you cannot put down. It’s a captivating mystery about a kidnapping that also includes life lessons about trust and friendship, and an ending which you will not see coming. I would 100% recommend this book for a thrilling summer read!” –Chloe Seletz, ’19 Indiana University Hillel  

Smart on Crime by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California is a book that makes me analyze everything about not only our criminal justice system, but the best way to create a healthy, mobile and thriving society. This book tackles crime myths and debunks historically harmful and short-ended ways of dealing with crime.” —Herbert Meisner, ’19 University of Iowa Hillel

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard reveals a lot of ancient documents and family histories in order to surmise why and how the city grew so fast. It amazes me how much research the author could do for a period of time in which there were few, if any books existing. She does a pretty good job of trying to separate myth from reality.” — Randy Slovin, president of Cincinnati Hillel Board of Directors

The Seven Good Years by Israeli author Etgar Keret was witty, personal and very relatable. I may not be a middle-aged father living in Israel, but I am a Jew in the world. Keret’s writing style was quick and entertaining, and the book was divided by personal short stories.” –Sarah Berger, ’17 Franklin & Marshall Hillel

Im Yesh Gan Eden by Ron Leshem is about an entire generation fighting in the name of deep friendship, coping with loss of friends and reflecting on the beautiful and difficultrealities of life in the Land of Israel.  This book shows a fascinating glimpse into the fighting in Lebanon, based on real events.” –Talia Ben-Lulu, ’21 Hillel Israel

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak is an optimistic book about the life of a 10-year-old girl during the Second World War. I read the book in one sitting. The language itself is very interesting. The book is complimented with vivid sketches of people and actions. Recommended for all the adventurers and those who don’t love moralizing.” –Maria Shumilina-Pavlova, Hillel Moscow

–Compiled by Paige Gutter