It seems fitting that the People of the Book, known for these words of wisdom—“essen epes” (eat something)—should open a book fair with a banquet. The 28th annual Austin Jewish Book Fair, held November 3-12 at the Austin Jewish Community Center (JCC), started with the Book Lovers Luncheon, featuring five-time National Book Award nominee, Melissa Fay Greene, discussing her memoir: No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (Sarah Crichton Books, 2011).
What a feast it was—for the palette, the eyes, the heart and the mind! Tables set for 230 attendees, a cornucopia of books for sale, and colorful banners all around. After brunch (broiled chicken breast on salad greens, babaganoush, blueberries, and bread), Greene delighted the audience with her wit and the wisdom she and her husband gained in adopting five foreign orphans (one at a time) just as their four biological children were “aging out” of school. She was hilarious, brilliant, charming, and genuine.
Dubbed Austin’s largest Jewish bookstore, the fair continued at the JCC with another seven author presentation/book signing events and 36 hours of book shopping time. I’m guessing there were 100 titles for sale, including children’s books, cookbooks, history, holidays, memoir and biography, politics, religion and spirituality, technology and fiction.
Author presentations for the 10-day affair included:
- Martin Fletcher, The List: A Novel
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism’s 5,000-Year-Old Tradition
Joe Gelman, Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon – Arnon Milchan
Alick Isaacs, A Prophetic Peace: Judaism, Religion and Politics
Sharon Pomerantz, Rich Boy
Michael David Lukas, The Oracle of Stamboul
Alicia Oltusky, Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family and a Way of Life
Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
Steven Levy: In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives
Johnathon Spyer, Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict
Joseph Braude, The Honored Dead: A Story of Friendship, Murder and the Search for Truth in the Arab World
Jewish Book Month was established in 1943 by the Jewish Book Council, and is celebrated throughout the U.S. with book festivals and fairs in November, usually one month before Hanukkah. As stated on its website, the mission of the Jewish Book Council is: “Promoting the reading, writing, publication, distribution and public awareness of books that reflect the breadth of the Jewish experience.” The Austin Jewish Book Fair did all this and more in a festive and celebratory fashion.