“Whether I take it out during the service depends on if I’m sitting within eye-shot of any kids I’ve tutored for their bar or bat mitzvah,” Ross said.
This year, Ross is on a dystopian fiction kick, something he says might be “related to present reality.” He’s currently reading Octavia Butler’s “The Parable of the Sower.”
Avi Allen, an attorney in Chicago, said he has fond memories of reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” on Yom Kippur. It wasn’t about the magic in the novel per se. Allen said he “found Snape’s behavior to be one true example of teshuvah” — repentence.
Besides secular novels, there are a few undeniable classics of the tallit-bag book club that draw readers every year. The Israeli novelist S.Y. Agnon’s “The Days of Awe,” an anthology of Jewish texts about repentance and spirituality, is a perennial favorite. Readers also often turn to Rabbi Alan Lew’s “This Is Real aAnd You Are Completely Unprepared,” a book about achieving spiritual clarity during the High Holidays, and Rabbi Simon Jacobson’s “60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays.”
The more erudite readers report flipping through older guides to the holidays, such as Maimonides’s “The Laws of Repentance,” called “Hilchot Teshuvah” in Hebrew. Rabbi Benay Lappe, head of the queer yeshiva SVARA, in Chicago, says that Maimonides’s 12th-century treatise is her “go-to book” for You Kippur.
“His Hebrew is simple and elegant,” Lappe wrote in an email. “And while there is some theology in it, Hilchot Teshuva is just that — a code of laws about how to engage in the mitzvah of doing teshuvah. It’s simple, it’s practical, it’s easy to see how it applies to your life.”
Though the classics remain in force, there have been a few breakout stars of the High Holidays reading period.
Ilana Kurshan’s book “If All the Seas Were Ink,” a memoir of learning the Talmud bit by bit for several years, was published only in early September but has already gained a small following. It recounts how Kurshan integrated the study of Talmud into her daily life, and how it provided perspective on her failed marriage and guided her to beginning a family.
Read more: http://forward.com/culture/books/383571/what-these-jews-will-be-sneak-reading-during-high-holiday-services/