21 November 2008

My reading habits in 2006

In March 2006, the Australian Jewish News published a column on my reading habits.

I am a lecturer in history and art history

On my bedside table:
A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz. After having read the book, I wanted to marry Oz and have his babies. His childhood and adolescence were depicted with love and great care.

A great recent read:
Love Me by Garrison Keillor. He travelled between his Midwest home and New York for another novel of midlife crisis, unstable sexual relationships, writers’ block and survival

A favourite from childhood:
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. My parents couldn’t buy enough Anne novels: I wanted to be that red-haired, high-spirited girl who lived on a farm in Canada’s least known province.

Two books that changed me:
The Women’s Room by Marilyn French. It is a gentle, feminist commentary about a woman’s emotional world that went silently amiss. So silently, the heroine almost missed it.

Jewish Women and Their Salons by Bilski and Braun radically changed the way I think about Berlin, the 19th century and powerful, intellectual Jewish women. The images are magnificent.

My favourite Bible story:
Queen Esther. The book’s feminism is ambivalent, but it still outshines all the other Biblical stories.

The Blue Mountain, by Meir Shalev. Published 1991

For a long plane trip:
Any novel by David Lodge, especially Nice Work. His writing is so lush, I forget the 25 sweaty, prickly, boring, smelly hours to London, cooped up in a flying sardine can. His novels Changing Places and Small World would also do the trick.

Where I like to read:
In the bath, along with aromatherapy, good coffee and no interruptions.

A Jewish book that speaks to me:
The Pity of It All: History of German Jews by Amos Elon was one of the best books EVER written on Jewish cultural history. I don’t need to avoid Salo Baron’s lachrymose versions of Jewish history; I just need uplifting.

A book I’ve always meant to read:
The Cultural Front by Michael Denning. A reassessment of the American culture that grew out of the labour movement, socialism, the Depression and Jewish migrants

Two all time favourites:
In The Blue Mountain by Meir Shalev, the relationships between a group of Russian pioneers powerfully influenced their children and grandchildren. The experiences of pre-1948 Israel, written richly, were highly evocative.

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach was also brilliant. A slim novel set in 1630s Amsterdam, it is about risk, art, illusion, tulips and love - my favourite subject

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