Saturday, May 15, 2021

I didn’t get to visit my mom at the beach this year, but I did get a fantastic view from the cliffs in Cornwall, just as I practically felt sand in my shoes as I walked the shores of the lowlands in South Carolina. We couldn’t make our trip to see my mother-in-law in Vienna, but I channeled a magnificent performance of Vivaldi. Sadly, I didn’t get to finish Masechet Eruvin with my fellow Daf Yomi enthusiasts (I’ll get there next time around, God willing!), but I truly enjoyed an introductory compilation of the masechta’s most important ideas in a book by our columnist Rabbi Haim Jachter. Books this year were my escape, my travel and my chinuch.

My children, too, have not been able to see their cousins to play pirates and monsters, but they have learned all about Captain Hook, visited a secret world accessible only through a closet, entertained dragons, fought the Ickabog, identified the traits of mythological Greek gods, and done so many other exciting things in their forays into the works of J.M. Barrie, C.S. Lewis, Ursula Vernon, J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. My son has even been taken away, albeit briefly, from his intensive study of the Dav Pilkey oeuvre, to visit Mystery Island and read stories of heimishe graphic novel heroes, and of course has enjoyed and shared with his sisters the inspirational stories of tzaddikim from the Marshmallow comics.

The point is, this is the year for books and their writers. While we always love all the wonderful books we receive and have the opportunity to review and highlight here at The Jewish Link, this year we appreciate our authors the most. It’s not just Faygie Holt, our hometown cover author of this issue’s Literary Link; it’s also all the writers published by ArtScroll, Koren, Kodesh, Feldheim and others; and those hard at work right now, creating and making books for us to enjoy in the future. In a year characterized by the most alone time many of us have ever faced, these writers fill our quietest hours with wonderful ideas and new concepts, sharing their memories, fantastical stories and deepest hopes and dreams with us.

In a year in which everything has changed, one thing remains the same—our relationship with books. And perhaps this year, that relationship has become more important than ever before.

We are as disappointed as many to have heard this past week that the 2021 YU Seforim Sale will not be held, even online. And yet, as “people of the book,” we persevere. Even in 2020, we must continue to strike out and seek new authors, new publishers and new ideas. To make the best use of our time in our pursuit of ever greater knowledge.

Our purpose in presenting a regular special section on books is to promote the joy and value of reading and lifelong learning, and of course to bring you the most interesting and exciting books of the season, this time with an eye to Chanukah gift-giving and enjoyment. We hope that our tri-annual Literary Link accomplishes that and more. Happy reading!

By Elizabeth Kratz