Some people meditate. Or listen to music. Or run.
One thing I recently read on Huffington Post said that the benefits of meditation include lower blood pressure, decreased stress levels, and an increased sense of empathy. And that maybe meditation can even make you smarter.
For me, reading does all these things and more. Sometimes reading validates my own experiences and sometimes it provides avenues to other perspectives. Either way, it offers a frame of reference outside of my own circumstances and my own personal way of viewing the world.
I will read in any format. Classics wrapped in plastic dust jackets from the public library. Memoirs on Kindle or iPad. Magazines, especially some quirky publication I've never seen, left behind on a table at Starbucks. Backs of product packages. Tweets.
And I know I'm not reading alone. In fact, this may be especially true in terms of my fellow Jews. A somewhat dated Gawker post beautifully titled Stuff Jews Like: Chinese Food and Books, cites Stuart M. Matlins, editor-in-chief of Jewish Lights Publishing, as saying that "Jews as a group buy 23 percent of all hardcover books printed."
Which brings me to actual books and the desire to find and share ones I love, ones that make me laugh out loud on the train, ones that challenge me, ones that are like taking a vacation to another place or time, and especially ones I hope you'll enjoy.
Fortunately for me, part of my job involves reading the Jewish press. And the Jewish press (perhaps because of all us Jews who read) often writes about books.
Here are some recent reads and titles on my "to read" list, discovered via messages in my inbox, conversations with colleagues, and my own book-hunting adventures.
Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde
A recent email from JTA (the global news service of the Jewish people) featured an article that described author Rebecca Dana as "a disgruntled fashion reporter for The Daily Beast who is forced to seek shelter in Crown Heights." Other than that, I refuse to give away a thing. It's funny, witty, and thoughtful. The Spertus Shop has a batch of fresh-off-the-press copies in stock. Enjoy.
Jews and Magic in Medici Florence: The Secret World of Benedetto Blanis
The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi
In advance of the March 19 appearance at Spertus by historian Edward Goldstein, I've been reading his new book. Goldstein is an archival sleuth and through discoveries found in the letters of Benedetto Blanis, an aspiring Jewish businessman and Kabbalist seeking a position at the Medici Court, Goldstein sheds new light on Jewish life in 17th-century Florence.
Which reminds me of a book I enjoyed many years ago. Also set in Renaissance Florence, Jacqueline Park's historical novel about Grazia dei Rossi tells the surprising tale of the educated daughter of a Jewish banking family and her complicated role in the Medici dynasty.
The Middlesteins: A Novel
I haven't yet read Jami Attenberg's latest, but I'm hearing lots of interesting things (including that the author will be in Chicago in April for a benefit for ORT). So I end with a request. If you've read The Middlesteins, email me at email@example.com and let me know your thoughts.
And of course feel free to email your recommendations for what I should read next.