Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

Three quick things.

1. This past week brought a stunner of a review of Birthright from Jewish Journal‘s Jonathan Kirsch.

Screenshot from the review linked immediately below.

I’m verklempt just attempting to write about it. Please go read it for yourself, if you haven’t already. (Because, yes, you can bet that I have been sharing it elsewhere!)

2. Also new this week: a playlist of music to accompany Birthright. To paraphrase what I’ve said on Twitter: Where else are you likely to find Debbie Friedman and Matisyahu alongside Billy Joel and U2? Big thanks to the wonderful Largehearted Boy for giving me the opportunity to assemble and share this.

3. Yes, I have so much to be thankful for (many things, happily, even beyond my new book and the response that it’s been receiving to date). But to stay on the topic of Birthright: I am supremely grateful to everyone who has taken the time to rate and/or review the book over on Goodreads and Amazon. (Reviewers have been especially prolific and generous over on Amazon—just take a look.)

As a token of my gratitude, and in recognition of the beginning of Jewish Book Month (the month preceding the Hanukkah holiday; this year, Hanukkah will begin on the evening of December 22), I would like to offer a signed copy of Birthright as a “grateful giveaway” to one lucky reader.

Here’s how to enter: Please leave a comment here, on this post, about one book you’re grateful to have read this year. (Let’s lift up some more authors, shall we?) Please do so no later than noon (NYC time) next Tuesday, December 3. I’ll randomly select one commenter and announce the winner in this space the next day. (United States addresses only, please.) UPDATE: As announced here, LYNNE SHAPIRO has won the giveaway!

I’m wishing everyone a good, peaceful, satisfying Thanksgiving, however you may be observing it (or not observing it). Catch you back here on Friday!

23 thoughts on “Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

  1. Grateful for your column…am reading (have not yet finished) the much-acclaimed-when-it-was-published-in-1960 The Country Girls, about a pair of young women in Ireland and their misadventures – and I like it so far! For some reason never came across it before although it’s a much-lauded work – I’m reading it because The New Yorker magazine recently profiled its author, Edna O’Brien. Good luck with your own book, Erika!

  2. Among the many good books that I had the pleasure of reading this past year, one that stands out is Dani Shapiro’s book, Inheritance. Her lovely, thoughtful prose deftly explored how we define and, sometimes, redefine family as well as ourselves. Her story of unveiling a family secret and its effect on her sense of identity is one that lingers with me.

  3. J. C. Todd says:

    One book I’m grateful I have read this year: Heather Thomas, Vortex Street.

  4. I’m grateful for the book Memoir While the Memory Lasts by Richard Hoskin, who taught my OLLI memoir class.

  5. Jean F says:

    Kudos to you for your book and the highly positive responses to it. This must make you feel you have chosen the right path for your life – and what more could anyone want during this gratitude season?
    The book I read this year that I didn’t want to end was A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It gave insights into another world and time and explored how unexpected relationships can shape lives.

  6. Michele Chabin says:

    I read City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement by Sara Hirschhorn. It’s interesting to see how prominent American-born Jews are in the settler movement (though they’re a small minority of the settler population).

  7. Jenna says:

    Congratulations! And thank you for your regular columns and updates. I’ve been a regular reader for about a year now and I really appreciate what you do for the writing community.

    *The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded* by Molly McCully Brown — an absolutely amazing debut collection of poetry published in 2017 that I only just read earlier this year. And *everrumble* by Michelle Elvy — published in 2019, this is a short novel told in flash fiction; the mysterious and poetic life story of Zettie who stops talking and starts listening. Both of these have stuck with me long after reading them.

  8. Lorri McDole says:

    I finished Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow while on a trip to NYC last month. When I found out he had written another book set in 1930’s Manhattan, Rules of Civility, I knew I had to read it next. I loved NYC (it was my first trip!) and it was so fun coming across references to places I’d just been.

  9. Was much delighted and surprised by “In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist” by Ruchama Feuerman. Thoroughly enjoyed the ensemble of characters, the various POVs that come together at the end. Tamar’s spirit. The streets of Jerusalem. All of it. There seems to be a nice mix of the reality of the struggle and volatility of Israel, and the fantasy of what could be.

  10. Bram Presser’s Book of Dirt was one of the best Holocaust books I’ve read in a long while- raw, authentic, touching, heartbreaking.

  11. Angie Bell says:

    It’s hard to pick just one, but I’ll say Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg was one of my favorites.

  12. Mazel tov to you!
    I’m grateful to have read “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” by Rabbi Alan Lew z”l. It’s a book I know I will return to many times.

  13. Congratulations on the book. I thoroughly enjoyed Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik recently.

  14. Laura Martin says:

    Congrats on your book and thank you for your generosity to other writers. I’m grateful for Lily Hoang’s A Beastiary, which surprised and inspired me with it’s vulnerability and insights. It’s a book of big heavy themes as tiny playful fragments, a combination that works delightful magic.

  15. Eric Whinston says:

    I truly enjoyed Yossi Klein Halevy’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor for acknowledging the need to recognize each other’s narrative. The book offers a jumping off point to civil dialogue both within the Jewish community and between Jews and Muslims.

  16. I passed out to friends and synagogue members who were interested xeroxes of parts of Yossi Klein Halevy’s “Letters to My Palestinian Neightbor.” I’m enjoying your blog very much. I’m grateful to have read “The Library Book” by Susan Orleans – a history of and paean to the modern public library which also reads like a whodunit…

  17. Sarah Snider says:

    I’m grateful to have read “Lake Success” by Gary Shteyngart! I always find his work insightful and darkly amusing.

  18. Congrats on the book! As an adoptee and memoirist I loved Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance. She sure knows how to craft a story.

  19. Sandra Soli says:

    Perhaps because my hometown library saved my life in so many ways while growing up, I want to thank Susan Orlean for writing The Library Book. It is more than the history of libraries and a fire that consumed one particular library. This book celebrates the smell of the stacks, the curious and joyful who discover a book they will treasure forever, and the secret maguc of readung that all writers share.

  20. Sandra Soli says:

    Sorry for my typo!

  21. Lynne Shapiro says:

    I am currently reading Barry Lopez’s magnificent HORIZON and am loving every minute. A profound read.

  22. Rick Blum says:

    As a former Brooklynite, you might enjoy one of my favorite reads this year “Bensonhurst: A Market for Murder”. Set in Brooklyn in the early 70’s, it is an engaging story with a colorful cast of characters from simple shop owners to a rogue FBI agent to mob hit men, and filled with intrigue and surprises – right to the last page.

  23. Sari C. Cunningham says:

    There were quite a few good reads in 2019, but one which I am particularly grateful for is the debut novel of Karen Havelin, “Please Read This Leaflet Carefully”. It is a gripping story told in reverse chronology about a Norwegian woman living with endometriosis in New York city. The writing is beautifully crafted, and as a novel it stands out for taking up chronic illness in women – a subject matter not often written about.

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