My sister attended Conservative rabbinical school here in L.A. back when I was a California greenhorn, still getting confused because the ocean was to the west instead of east, that people called flip-flops slippers and jimmies, sprinkles. At the time, I was exploring Orthodoxy, but shared many of my sister’s friends from the UJ (now American Jewish University) and her Conservative synagogue. Despite my move to Orthodoxy, I remain friendly with many of her friends and colleagues.
Recently, one of my sister’s classmates came out with a book. Naturally, I was excited, so I checked read the synopsis on Amazon.
Within 30 seconds, I decided that I couldn’t and wouldn’t read the book.
I felt terrible. We’re talking about a really nice person. A person whose congregants rave about. The person is really and truly a doll, with a lovely spouse and kids. But the book they wrote is based on an old theological conceit that does not hold up against any rigorous questioning, reflecting the same lack of intellectual honesty that caused me to leave the Conservative movement in the first place.
But I still feel guilty.
There are other books I can’t bring myself to read: I very much enjoyed Randa Abdel-Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big in This? and Ten Things I Hate About Me but can’t bring myself to read Where The Streets Had A Name because previously I’ve read books by Muslims about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found them completely unbalanced in their depiction of the situation (frankly, almost all Jewish written books about the conflict disappoint me, as well).
I can’t bring myself to read any Thomas Pynchon book longer than The Crying of Lot 49 because I can’t deal with that level of weirdness for too long.
I read almost nothing in the Romance genre, except the odd Georgette Heyer (although don’t get me started about how much I hate the extremely antisemitic The Great Sophy, and would hate it even if there were no antisemitism present).
When people rave about Philip Roth, I just don’t get it. I have never successfully completed one of his books, so at a certain point, I gave up. Definitely a matter of taste and philosophic disagreement.
Despite a love of Neil Gaiman, I can’t bring myself to read The Sandman series. Too dark. Too creepy.
Many books go into my personal rejection pile because they simply drop too many F bombs.
I feel no guilt whatsoever about not reading 50 Shades of Grey.
There’s also a whole host of books that I always mean to read — The Red and the Black, Ulysses — but somehow never get around to it. They’re long, or the jacket material sounds boring, or they get forgotten when I’m selecting my next library book.
But tell me that a new book is coming out by Philip Reeve or Dara Horn, and I’m eagerly watching the New Release shelves at that aforementioned library.
My choices in reading material reflect a whole host of prejudices and proclivities that probably reveal a lot about my personality, my place in society, and so on.