Moment Staff Picks: The Best Books We Read in 2017
Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
—Diane Bolz, Arts Editor
I was fascinated with the issues of disconnection, memory, belonging, imagination and alternative lives embodied in the novel and was challenged to consider choices not made. I was also intrigued by the setting of Israel and the questions raised about the art and work of writing itself.
Casting Lots by Susan Silverman
—Suzanne Borden, Special Projects Manager
Susan shares stories about her family and their journey of raising both biological and adopted children (from Ethiopia) beautifully intertwined with Jewish teachings. An inspirational story.
Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing up between Cultures—A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl by Carmit Delman
—Marilyn Cooper, Culture Editor
Delman’s moving memoir depicts her life as a woman uncomfortably caught between two identities. As an Indian Jew, she felt at home in neither the Jewish nor the Indian community. The subplot about Delman’s grandmother Nana-bai, who was a second wife to her sister’s husband, is especially intriguing as well as troubling.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
—Tanya George, Associate Publisher
In the 1920s members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma became some of the richest people in the country after oil was found under their land. Then they began to be killed off, dying under mysterious—and suspicious—circumstances. The death toll became so high that the FBI, a relatively young office at the time, finally took over. After badly mismanaging the case, they put together an undercover team whose work helped launch the FBI we know today. This is a page-turning true story about evil, greed, racism and conspiracy that never made it into my —or any of my friends’—school history books.
Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory by Elizabeth Rosner
—Dina Gold, Senior Editor
At this critical time—when nationalism and xenophobia is rearing its ugly head once again in multiple countries—this book resonated with me. The author examines how those—or their descendants—who have witnessed and survived traumas such as the horrors of the Holocaust, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Vietnam war, African American slavery, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Armenia, the Balkans and the terror attacks of 9/11 as well as many other shattering events, cope both individually and collectively. She looks at how legacies are retained in objects and stories and asks how best to meet the challenges of preserving authentic voices from the past to safeguard our future. And she discusses innovative brain research into epigenetics—the science of how the brain processes memory and the intergenerational transmission of PTSD.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
—Terry Grant, Senior Editor
Performed with flair by the author, this autobiography by South African late night TV host Trevor Noah is removed enough from our American racial mishegas to be funny and entertaining, yet close enough to provide illumination and painful recognition.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
—George Johnson, Senior Editor
The best book I have read on the soldier who fought in the Vietnam War. Reveals the inner life of young Americans, like the author and myself, who were sucked into fighting this war. Great writing.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
—Eileen Lavine, Senior Editor
A different take on the Holocaust, with no specific Jewish angle, this debut novel nevertheless conveys a powerful story of concentration camps, medical experimentation and the empathetic role of an American woman. It is told via three stories: First, the American woman is based on fact, about a New York socialite actress who was helping French children and who ends up after the war bringing a group of Polish survivors to America for medical treatment. The second story evolved from the author’s talks with two Polish survivors and follows a Polish girl captured for her work with the underground in Lublin and sent to Ravensbruck. The third, a bit more implausible, follows a German woman doctor who is sent to the camp and performs medical tests on prisoners. Although the switching back and forth among the stories, and the last chapters taking place after the war, are a bit confusing, the stories are graphic and compelling.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
—Debra Sann, Director of Community Affairs
The writing was funny and entertaining, and you really felt like the writer was talking to you. The topics, so serious and moving, were dealt with carefully and personally and were so thought-provoking that you were left wondering what you would do if it was you who had to make those choices. Lastly, it provided a rich taste of Ukranian folklore, superstition, custom and life.
The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow
—Amy Schwartz, Opinion Editor
A modern take on the epic novel—a multigenerational saga about a mysterious manuscript, spanning centuries of musical history, the World Wars and the fall of the Communism in Eastern Europe. Though modern, it has a nice, old-fashioned feel.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
—Ellen Wexler, Eugene M. Grant Fellow
The book tells the story of Stevens, an English butler as dedicated to his profession as he is to maintaining his many self-deceptions. He is an expert at constructing deeply skewed versions of reality, a man whose polite reserve will never fail him—until, just once, it does.
Hit Refresh, The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone by Satya Nadella
—Laurence Wolff, Senior Editor
The story of how he has renewed and strengthened Microsoft, including changing the corporate culture and moving into cloud computing, is compelling. Equally important, his personal life is moving. He describes how he dealt with the birth of two handicapped children as well as his Hindu faith. His life reflects the extraordinary gains the United States has made through welcoming immigrants. It makes me sad to see that under Trump we are cutting off the supply of the innovative and dynamic spirit of immigrants that we have depended on for our entire history.