What they’re reading



June 19, 2019

What’s a summer good for if not to relax by the beach, drink some iced tea and catch up on your favorite page-turner? From romance and religion to history and mystery, Hillel students and professionals offer their summer reading recommendations.

One Hundred Suggestions for Seekers & Spiritual ActivistsRabbi Joshua Bolton

One Hundred Suggestions for Seekers & Spiritual Activists by Rabbi Joshua Bolton, who serves as the executive director of Brown/RISD Hillel, is a truly inspiring and spiritually weird book! I highly recommend it. Rabbi Bolton gives the reader 100 ideas for spiritual moments, ranging from #1 Speak to the homeless to #53 Try and learn the personal story of one new individual every day. Josh Bolton has a weird and delightful sense of humor. He talks about times in his own life that were difficult, and he makes resolutions that will help him connect with himself and with the beauty in the world around him. Rabbi Bolton also give us prompts for small experiences that create deep conversation, such as #2 Throw a bagel to every person in the room. Ask: in what ways does this bagel represent and embody the Jewish experience and in what ways not? Consider in chevrutah (partner pairs). This is an easy to read book that you can read in one sitting or with friends late at night. It’s just wonderful.”-Rabbi Andrea Steinberger, University of Wisconsin-Madison

American Gods-Neil Gaiman

“Right now, I’m reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which is a wacky fantasy book that takes place across America and has gods of all kinds as main characters. One of the central conflicts of the book is between the “old gods” who came to America as fellow immigrants, and the “new gods” of technology, money, etc. I’m only about halfway through it, but it is so interesting to read almost 20 years after its publishing and reflect on how much the themes of the book are still relevant in contemporary American society — and, like most things, incredibly relevant to working on a college campus!” -Ana Levy, Hillel International Springboard Fellow at George Washington University Hillel

-Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a brilliant book that follows the descendants of two distant sisters, Esi, who is captured and sold into the American slave trade, and Effia, who marries her unknown sister’s colonial slave owner and remains on the Gold Coast of Africa. Gyasi crafts a beautiful and compelling narrative that left me wanting more at every turn, while simultaneously developing complex and meaningful characters in each successive generation. Homegoing is a book you will tear through and wish it went on forever.” -Lindsey Levy, University of Wisconsin-Madison ‘20 

Zero to One-Peter Thiel

“Zero to One
, written by Paypal founder Peter Thiel, starts off challenging the accepted worldview that everything that could be invented has already been invented. Because of this belief, we live in a world where technology is not moving forward. Peter Thiel presents a fresh view on the possible innovations of our future: The next Bill Gates won’t be starting a computer company, after all. It’s great for any person interested in how companies and organizations should run, and how to turn an idea into an actual reality. Going from big picture ideas to how a monopoly forms to small intricate details such as how to hire the best employees, Zero to One is a one-stop shop for everything entrepreneurial.”  -Yogev Ben-Yitschak, intern, Hillel International

Circe-Madeline Miller

“I have just started reading Madeline Miller’s Circe, a new work of fiction recommended to me by my bibliophile colleague, Ilana Ellison. Don’t be intimidated by the book’s subject, Circe, daughter of Helios and the sorceress in Greek mythology famous for changing Odysseus’ men into pigs. Miller may hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in Classics, but she’s a storyteller first and foremost, and this origin story about the goddess of magic is a surprising page turner. Think Wicked for grownups. Circe succeeds in making the gods and monsters of Greek mythology more relatable and psychologically interesting than any other book I’ve read. In a word, human. In doing so, Miller pulls off an impressive trick of her own – revealing what is godlike and monstrous in all of us.”-Geoffrey Melada, director of communications, Hillel International

The Tattooist of Auschwitz-Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an amazing story that mixes the reality of the Holocaustwith a classic love story. This book is based on the true story of a Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist, Ludwig Sokolov, who falls in love while in the camp. This is not your typical Holocaust novel and really shows the hope, courage and bravery it took for this couple to survive. I loved this book because it showed a completely new and different perspective on your typical Holocaust book. I couldn’t put it down and was rooting for a happy ending to this unusual love story of a couple who were fighting for their lives during the Holocaust.” -Ali Gugerty, associate vice president of immersive Israel experiences, Hillel International

Lean Out-Marisa Orr

“I was lured in by the provocative title, but soon discovered that Lean Out by Marissa Orr offers more than a rebuttal of Sheryl Sandberg’s best selling Lean In. Tracking Orr’s journey as a single mom of three climbing the ranks in the tech world, Lean Out takes you inside the executive suites of tech giants like Facebook and Google, while offering a different blueprint for women to succeed in corporate America. As a strong proponent of equality in the workplace, reading this book provided me with a fresh and interesting perspective on how to use your strengths to succeed instead of changing them. Fun fact: Orr and Sandberg went to the same high school I did, North Miami Beach High School in Miami, Fla.” -Jon Warech, director, Hillel at FIU

One Day in the Life of Ivan-

“One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is that last book I read in undergrad, and the first book I pick up to read when I have free time. It’s a novelized version of a personal account of Solzhenitsyn himself, from the time he wakes up in a Soviet Gulag camp, until the time he goes to bed that evening. It’s important on a personal level because I come from a family of Soviet Jewry, but it’s a story that everyone should be familiar with. It sounds all too familiar in history, and even around the work today—people are prevented from expressing themselves, at the cost of life. Soviet Gulag camps might not exist in the world, but repression, censorship, and an inability of expression still do. This work helps remind me where I came from, and where I want to see the world go.” -Ariela Rivkin, Boston University ‘21

-Compiled by Yogev Ben-Yitschak