Literatour is a community-wide celebration in its second year with 28 exceptional events featuring authors, celebrities, and cultural influencers throughout Berks County from September 2020 to June 2021. Literatour is being presented by Jewish Federation of Reading in partnership with Exeter Community Library and Sinking Spring Public Library.
While this year’s Literatour season will begin virtually our goal is to resume in-person author events in 2021 as determined by local health guidelines. All programs through end of 2020 will be held virtually.
"Florence Adler Swims Forever"
Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery, where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence. Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bed rest for the duration of her pregnancy. When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.
The event on September 30 is presented as part of National Recovery Month. The panel conversation will be moderated by Rabbi Yosef Lipsker from Caron Treatment Centers.
“As Needed for Pain: A Memoir of Addiction”
As Needed for Pain chronicles Dan’s path from an awkward, magic-obsessed child in a predominantly Jewish suburb in Baltimore to the top of the magazine publishing world in NYC. He had an enviable high-profile professional life, but he had a secret…he was an opiate addict taking up to 60 pills a day. Peres’s career as an editor at W magazine and Details is well known, but little is known about his private life as a high-functioning drug addict. By turns humorous and gripping, Peres’s story is a cautionary coming-of-age tale filled with unforgettable characters and breathtaking brushes with disaster. But the heart of the book is his journey from outsider to insecure insider, what it took to get him there, and how he found his way back from a killing addiction.
“Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy”
Something was wrong with Peter. His ex-wife, Eilene, saw the dramatic weight loss, jaundiced skin, exhaustion, flu-like sickness. His behavior was erratic, his thinking nonsensical. Eilene assumed it was due to stress from his job as a senior partner at a prominent law firm. What she didn’t realize was that he was struggling with a serious drug addiction, one that would ultimately kill him. The reasons Eilene married a man like Peter (depressed, emotionally distant) has much to do with an early lack of confidence. Later in life, she lacked the confidence to question Peter, to push back, and instead watched him ostensibly killing himself in plain sight. Smacked tells Eilene’s story, Peter’s story, and the larger story of the ways white-collar competition and ambition are driving addiction and unhappiness..
Dr. Abigail Gewirtz
“When the World Feels Like a Scary Place : Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids”
An urgent and necessary book, When the World Feels Like a Scary Place brings solutions to a problem that is only going to get worse—how bad things happening in the world affect our children, and how we can raise engaged and confident kids in spite of them. Dr. Abigail Gewirtz, a child psychologist and leading expert on families under stress, now offers a clear and truly practical guide to having the kind of tough conversations with your kids that really help.
"Saving Free Speech…From Itself"
In an era of political correctness, race-baiting, terrorist incitement, the ‘Danish’ cartoons, the shouting down of speakers, and, of course, ‘fake news,’ liberals and conservatives are up in arms both about speech and its excesses, and what the First Amendment means. Speech has been weaponized. Everyone knows it, but no one seems to know how to make sense of the current confusion, and what to do about it. Thane Rosenbaum’s provocative and compelling book is what is needed to understand this important issue at the heart of our society and politics.
“The Firsts: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress”
In November 2018, the greatest number of women in American history entered Congress. From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “the Squad” to “the Badasses” with national security backgrounds, from the first two Native Americans in Congress to the first two Muslim women, all were swept into office on a wave of grassroots support diverse in background, age, professional experience, and ideology. In The Firsts, New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinheuer follows these women’s first year in the 116th Congress, chronicling their transition from running trailblazing campaigns to the daily work of governance.
“Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America”
In 1990, in a basement archive in Prague, two American historians made a startling discovery: a Nazi roster from 1945 that no Western investigator had ever seen. The long-forgotten document helped unravel the details behind the most lethal killing operation in World War II. In the Polish village of Trawniki, the SS set up a school for mass murder and then recruited an army of foot soldiers, 5,000 men strong, to help annihilate the Jewish population of occupied Poland. After the war, some of these men vanished, making their way to the United States and blending into communities across America, their terrible secrets intact. In a story spanning seven decades, Citizen 865 chronicles the harrowing wartime journeys of two Jewish orphans who outran the men of Trawniki and settled in the United States, only to learn that some of their onetime captors followed. A tenacious team of Nazi hunters pursued these men, and up against the force of time and political opposition, battled to the present day to remove them from U.S. soil.
“The Last Interview: A Novel”
A writer tries to answer a set of interview questions. At first, they stick to the standard fare: Did you always know you would be a writer? How autobiographical are your books? Usually his answers in these situations are measured, calculated. But this time, when his heart is about to break and his life is about to crumble, he finds he cannot tell anything but the truth. The naked, funny, sad, scandalous, politically incorrect truth. Every question the writer tackles opens a door to a hidden room of his life. In exploring the many, often contradictory facets of an Israeli author’s identity, Eshkol Nevo, also gives us a nuanced, thought-provoking portrait of a country at odds with itself.
Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks Maimonides Society Presents
“All the Horrors of War: A Jewish Girl, a British Doctor, and the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen”
Following Rachel Genuth, a poor Jewish teenager from the Hungarian provinces, and Hugh Llewelyn Glyn Hughes, a high-ranking military doctor in the British Second Army as they move across Europe in the final year of World War II. All the Horrors of War tells the powerful story of their convergence in Bergen-Belsen, where the girl fights for her life and the doctor struggles to save thousands on the brink of death. In the ensuing months, as Rachel gradually recovers and as Belsen survivors mourn grave losses and form a vibrant community, Glyn Hughes experiences a watershed: moved by the rebirth he witnesses, he becomes (against the stance of British officialdom) an advocate for survivors with whom he forges lifelong friendships.
Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks Women’s Philanthropy Presents
“Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as Told to Me) Story”
Bess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and The New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother, Bobby Bell, ever left her. Bobby was a force—irrepressible glamorous unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life. Recounting both family lore and family secrets, Bobby brings us four generations of indomitable women and the men who loved them. Her grandma Bobby was the light of Bess’s childhood and her fiercest supporter, giving Bess unequivocal love even if sometimes of the toughest kind.
“The Ninth Night of Hanukkah”
A heartwarming picture book with a fresh twist on a Hanukkah celebration: celebrating a ninth night with new neighbors and friends!
PJ Our Way of Reading Presents
"Letters from Cuba"
The situation is getting dire for Jews in Poland on the eve of World War II. Esther’s father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It’s heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they’re reunited. And she does, recording both the good—the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery of a valuable hidden talent—and the bad: the fact that Nazism has found a foothold even in Cuba. Esther’s evocative letters are full of her appreciation for life and reveal a resourceful, determined girl with a rare ability to bring people together, all while striving to get the rest of their family out of Poland before it’s too late.
"Careful What You Wish For"
Emily Harlow is a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives; she’s married to a man who can’t drive past a yard sale without stopping. Like other professionals who make a living decluttering peoples’ lives, Emily has devised a set of ironclad rules. When working with couples, she makes clear that the client is only allowed to declutter his or her own stuff. That stipulation has kept Emily’s own marriage together these past few years. But the larger his “collection” becomes, the deeper the distance grows between them. Emily has two new clients to distract her: a widow whose husband left behind a storage unit, and a young wife whose husband won’t allow her stuff into their house. Emily’s meeting with the wife takes a detour when the women end up fantasizing about how much more pleasant life would be without their collecting spouses. But the next day, Emily finds herself in a mess that is too big to clean up.
“In Case You Get Hit By a Bus: How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later”
Sadly, too many people have had the experience of Abby Schneiderman: Her brother was killed in a car accident, and the family was left with no idea of what he wanted, he hadn’t left any plans behind. No will, no health proxy, and no one, including his wife, knew his passwords. Out of this tragedy came the focus of Everplans, a digital company Abby co-founded to help people of all ages organize their lives and legacy now, so that their loved ones won’t have to later. Drawing on the wealth of experience from Abby and the Everplans team, this book presents a clearly designed and easy-to-follow program to help even the most disorganized reader take control of modern life’s burgeoning mess of on- and off-line details. Breaking the job down into three levels, from the most urgent to the technical to the nostalgic, In Case You Get Hit By a Bus takes the anxiety and stress out of putting your life in order.
Rabbi Laura Geller
“Getting Good at Getting Older”
In 1945, Dr. Hannah Weiss, an Austrian-Jewish physicist, is removed from her essential work with the Critical Assemblies Team at the Los Alamos National Laboratories and is taken for interrogation. Major Jack Delaney, a rising star in the shadowy world of military intelligence, is convinced that someone in the top-secret Manhattan Project is a spy; the captivating, brilliant and mysterious female scientist soon becomes his primary suspect. Is Hannah a Nazi spy, or is she protecting a far more personal and dark secret of her own? As World War II reaches its crescendo, the Allies and the Germans are racing to complete and test the atomic bomb—a weapon powerful enough to end WWII and, perhaps, all future wars. A weapon that, in the wrong hands, could destroy the world. A vivid, page-turning, and inspiring re-imagination of the final months of World War II, and the brilliant researchers behind the first atomic bomb.
PJ Library Presents
Jill Ross Nadler
“Such a Library: A Yiddish Folktale Re-imagined”
Stevies craves quiet until he meets Miss Understood, a magical librarian whose books come to life and wreak havoc in this modern-day twist on an old Yiddish folktale.
LaNitra M. Berger
“Imra Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art: Audacities of Color”
South African artist Irma Stern is one of the nation’s most controversial modern figures. The book explores how Stern became South Africa’s most prolific painter of black, Jewish and coloured (mixed-race) life while maintaining a neutral position on apartheid. Spanning from the Boer War, to Nazi Germany, to apartheid South Africa, Irma Stern’s life and work document important cultural and political moments in modern history.
“Wandering Dixie: Dispatches from the Lost Jewish South”
Wandering Dixie, a travel-through-history work of literary-nonfiction, explores how the history of Jewish southerners converges with the region’s complex, conflicted present. In the process, she discovers the unexpected ways that race, religion, and hidden histories intertwine. Throughout the Deep South, she visits small towns where Jewish people once lived and thrived. She talks with the only Jews remaining in some of the “lost” places and goes to areas with no Jewish community left—except for perhaps an old temple or overgrown cemetery. Eisenfeld follows the trail of her distant cousin, civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, who was murdered during Freedom Summer in 1964. She follows her curiosity about Jewish Confederates and casts an unflinching eye on early southern Jews’ participation in slavery. Her travels become a journey of revelation about our nation’s fraught history and a personal reckoning with the true nature of America.
Community Brunch Featuring
Jason B. Rosenthal
"My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me"
An inspiring memoir of life, love, loss and new beginnings by the widower of bestselling children’s author and filmmaker, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, whose last act of love before her death was setting the state for her husband’s life without her in a column in The New York Times. On March 3, 2017 Amy Krouse Rosenthal penned an op-ed piece for The New York Times’s “Modern Love” column—“You May Want to Marry My Husband”. It appeared ten days before her death from ovarian cancer. A heartbreaking, wry, brutally honest, and creative play on a personal ad—in which a dying wife encouraged her husband to go on and find happiness after her demise—the column quickly went viral, reaching more than five million people worldwide. In My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, Jason describes what came next: his commitment to respecting Amy’s wish even as he struggled with her loss. Surveying his life before, with, and after Amy, Jason ruminates on love, the pain of watching a loved one suffer, and what it means to heal—how he and their three children, despite their profound sorrow, went on. Jason’s emotional journey offers insights on dying and death and the excruciating pain of losing a soulmate, and illuminates the lessons he learned. As he reflects on Amy’s gift to him—a fresh start to fill his empty space with a new story—Jason describes how he continues to honor Amy’s life and her last wish and how he seeks to appreciate every day and live in the moment while trying to help others coping with loss.
PJ Library Presents
Brianna Caplan Sayres
"Asteroid Goldberg: Passover in Outer Space"
When Asteroid Goldberg and her parents get stuck in outer space for Passover, Asteroid plans a Passover Seder for herself and her family that is truly out-of-this-world. With Jupiter’s moons for matzoh balls and the Big Dipper for a ladle, you’ve never seen a Passover Seder like this one!
Esther Safran Foer
“I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir”
For Esther Safran Foer, the Holocaust loomed in the backdrop of daily life, felt but never discussed; her parents were each the sole survivors of their respective families. Years later, when Esther’s mother casually mentions an astonishing revelation—that her father had a previous wife and daughter, both murdered in the Holocaust—Esther resolves to find out who they were and how her father survived. Armed with a black-and-white photo, a hand-drawn map, and a handful of leads that only came to light after the publication of her son Jonathan’s novel Everything is Illuminated—she travels to Ukraine to find the shtetl where her father hid during the war. What she finds reshapes her identity and gives her the opportunity to finally mourn. I Want You to Know We’re Still Here is the poignant and deeply moving story of four generations—of survivors, storytellers, and memory keepers—living in the shadow of the Holocaust, determined to not just keep the past alive but also imbue the present with life and more life.
“The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos”
One of the most important stories of World War II, already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture: a spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters — a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now. Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland — some still in their teens — helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis. With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these “ghetto girls” paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They flirted with German soldiers; bribed them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking; used their Aryan looks to seduce them; and shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up a town’s water supply. They also nursed the sick and taught children. Powerful and inspiring, featuring twenty black-and-white photographs, The Light of Days is an unforgettable true tale of war, the fight for freedom, exceptional bravery, female friendship, and survival in the face of staggering odds.
“Red Sea Spies: The True Story of Mossad’s Fake Diving Resort”
In the early 1980s, on a remote part of the Sudanese coast, a new luxury resort opened for business. Catering to divers, it attracted guests from around the world. Little did the guests know that the staff members were undercover spies, working for the Mossad—the Israeli secret service. Written by longtime BBC Middle East correspondent Raffi Berg, this page-turner tells the true story that inspired the recent Netflix drama The Red Sea Diving Resort. What began with one cryptic message pleading for help, turned into the secret evacuation of thousands of Ethiopian Jews and the spiriting of them to Israel.
“The Misadventures of Rabbi Kibbitz and Mrs. Chaipul: A Midwinter Romance of Laughter and Smiles”
She owns the only restaurant in Chelm. He’s the wisest man in the village of fools. Together, they make an unlikely and lovable pair. They’ve known each other forever. Finally they manage to connect. This is not your grandfather’s village of Chelm. Yes, the people are often foolish, but their hearts are in the right places. Chelm is a vibrant community with vivid and colorful characters and problems that are relevant today. With chapters centering around weddings and celebrations, Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Passover, this joyful novel has it all.
"Sadie's Shabbat Stories"
Sadie loves listening to Nana’s tales, especially about the traveling candlesticks, Kiddush cup, and challah cover they use every Friday night. Will Sadie ever be able to tell her own special Shabbat stories, just like Nana? Based on true stories, this picture book celebrates family history and connections.
Susie Orman Schnall
"We Came Here to Shine"
Vivi Holden is closer than she’s ever been to living her dream as a lead actress in sun-dappled L.A., but an unfair turn of events sends her back to New York, a place she worked so hard to escape from. She has one last chance to get back to Hollywood by performing well as the star of the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair. Everything seems to be working against her, but her summer in New York will lead to her biggest opportunity to find her own way, on her own terms.
Maxine Roth wants nothing more than to be a serious journalist at the iconic New York Times, but her professor has other plans. Instead, she’s landed a post at the pop-up publication dedicated to covering the World’s Fair and even then, her big ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts. Max didn’t work this hard to be the only—and an unheard one at that—woman in the room.
When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that shows them to be the daring, bold women they are, and one that teaches them to never stop holding on to what matters most, in the most meaningful summer of their lives.
The Blue Dove Foundation
Nearly one in five Americans, 18 years and older, experienced a mental illness in 2018. One in five Americans older than 12 used an illicit drug, which includes misusing prescription opioids. These statistics apply to the Jewish community as well as the general community. #QuietingTheSilence is a collection of personal stories and perspectives related to life-changing experiences involving mental illness and addiction. Through these stories of struggle and loss, we hope to show individuals they are not alone and to work toward eliminating the shame and stigma many feel around these topics. The writers help provide insights and tips to educate people looking for some wisdom. In addition to the powerful stories, there are multiple resources for self-care, improving gratitude and joy, Jewish prayers for healing, national help hotlines, and a mental health glossary.
Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibovitz, Mark Oppenheimer
“The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between”
Deeply knowing, highly entertaining, and just a little bit irreverent, this unputdownable encyclopedia of all things Jewish and Jew-ish covers culture, religion, history, habits, language, and more. Readers will refresh their knowledge of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the artistry of Barbra Streisand, the significance of the Oslo Accords, the meaning of words like balaboosta, balagan, bashert, and bageling. Understand all the major and minor holidays. Learn how the Jews invented Hollywood. Remind themselves why they need to read Hannah Arendt, watch Seinfeld, listen to Leonard Cohen. Even discover the secret of happiness (see “Latkes”). Includes hundreds of photos, charts, infographics, and illustrations. It’s a lot.
"The Faberge Secret"
Like most gentiles in Russia, Prince Dimitri Markhov, a member of the Imperial Court, cares nothing for Jews. But when he sees the carnage of the Easter Sunday pogrom in Kishinev in 1903, he wonders what these people had done to deserve such brutality. His close friend, Tsar Nicholas II, tells him that the Jews brought it on themselves because of their innate avarice. Dimitri meets a Russian doctor, Katya Golitsyn, who also knows of the slaughter of the pogrom. This has an even bigger impact on Katya when she finds out that her great-grandfather had converted from Judaism to Christianity. She now feels a personal connection to these oppressed people. Dimitri and Katya fall in love and both are transformed by the revolutionary movement to overthrow the tsar and his autocracy. Dimitri comes to realize that tsarist rule is responsible for Russia’s misery, including the pogroms. He must make a choice between his loyalty to Nicholas and the revolution that will bring justice to millions of Russians.