What are you reading this summer?

A New York Times bestseller, Industries of the Future examines the fields that will most shape our economic future, including robotics, cyber-security, the commercialization of genomics, and the impact of digital technology on money and markets.

At Holzer Books (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
At Holzer Books
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
It’s August. It’s hot. You own a beautiful villa in Caesarea with its own swimming pool. So, in between walking the dog and doing leisurely lengths in the water, what book are you going to reach for as you sit on your recliner, refreshing drink at hand and Cuban cigar nearby?
Well, if you’re our prime minister and if his Facebook page is to be believed, the Bible is at the top of the list this summer. Or in his words, “The Hebrew Bible,” just in case there are any fears he’s planning a never-too-late-in-life conversion to Christianity.
The Bible as summer reading? Really? As volumes of Talmuds are put to one side as the country’s parks and nature reserves fill up with haredi (ultra-Orthodox) families escaping cramped housing and mature yeshiva students enjoying their annual break from the rigors of not serving in the army or working for a living, our prime minister devotes his downtime to Bible studies? There are plenty of stories in the Bible I find hard to take at face value, but this comes close to topping the list.
At the same time, kudos to Prime Minister Netanyahu for actively looking to promote reading as a leisure activity. In so doing, he’s following in a well-established tradition for Israeli leaders.
David Ben-Gurion was a noted reader and avid book collector, using trips to London in the early days of the state to browse through the bookshops of Charing Cross Road, although often reportedly leaving it for his aides to settle the bills, a less admirable trait Netanyahu has also unfortunately chosen to emulate at times.
Former prime minister and president Shimon Peres is also a famed bibliophile, occasionally mocked for his notorious name-dropping of the heavy tomes or exacting fiction he had by his bedside table or on his office desk. Decades ago, when interviewing him in his role of finance minister, entering his office felt like entering a library which had just received a new shipment of books.
In his Facebook post (would Ben-Gurion have used Facebook if it had existed in his time?), Netanyahu says that “even prime ministers find time to read.
Here is a partial list of my summer reading” and then goes on to say that some of the books he’s reading for the first time and others are rereads. Note the element of elegant showmanship here: Netanyahu is providing us a list of seven books for his summer reading and this only a partial list; how many books can this man read over the summer? And which books is he hiding from us? What are his guilty reading pleasures?
Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s published reading list reveals little about the man as a person, as they mainly consist of solid historical, diplomatic or economic works. They do however contain one book by someone close to Hillary Clinton: Alec Ross, the author of Industries of the Future and Clinton’s technology policy leader on her presidential campaign and senior adviser on innovation when she was at the State Department.
A New York Times bestseller, Industries of the Future examines the fields that will most shape our economic future, including robotics, cyber-security, the commercialization of genomics, and the impact of digital technology on money and markets.
Continuing on this theme, Netanyahu is also reading Salim Ismail’s Exponential Organizations which, as its sub-title explains, is “why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it).” So if Netanyahu speeches suddenly begin to echo Peres and his futuristic prophecies of a brave new world of technology, we know where it’s coming from.
And talking of brave new worlds, the Aldous Huxley classic is also on Netanyahu’s list. First published in the 1930s, this dystopian tale is undoubtedly a classic, and while its concerns over the fear of losing individual identity certainly still resonate in today’s Google-dominated world, it’s still nevertheless a surprising choice for a 2016 summer read.
Other books include Ron Chernow’s well-regarded autobiography of Alexander Hamilton (perhaps Netanyahu is planning for his next US visit and wants tickets for the hit Broadway musical inspired by the book chronicling the life of the American founding father) and Henry Kissinger’s World Order which, among many other things, criticizes the nation-building project of George W. Bush in Iraq.
Finishing off the list is former Jerusalem Post columnist (among other things) Shmuel (wrongly named Samuel on the Facebook post) Katz’s history of the pre-state Nili spy ring, The Aaronsohn Saga.
So having poked fun at the prime minister’s summer book list, what have I been reading over the past few months? In Hebrew, Amos Oz’s Judas and A. B. Yehoshua’s The Extra, while in English I greatly enjoyed my favorite crime writer Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novel The Burning Room, Guardian newspaper columnist and thriller-writer Jonathan Freedland’s The 3rd Woman, and British novelist Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life.
What have you been reading?
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.