July’s winding down and it seems like everyone’s going on vacation. For those heading out alone, in pairs or with the whole family, it’s often a great opportunity to get in some extra reading, whether on a flight, en route or if need be, in the john, escaping from your loved ones. There’s always a little extra time on vacation; you’re willing to stay up later reading a good book, or indulge in the luxury of sitting somewhere and reading, hopefully on a comfortable lounge chair by the pool, beach or lake.

I spoke to a few locals about their summer reading; more than one person said they hadn’t had any extra time in recent weeks, but were hoping to catch up on their reading soon. In the meantime, a selection of recent books, read and relished:

Ronen Chen (Courtesy Israel21c)

Ronen Chen (Courtesy Israel21c)

1) Designer Ronen Chen first laughed when asked what he’d read lately; he listed the many things he’s had to work on this summer, including an additional summer collection for an upcoming trip to London and some designs for next spring. That said, he loved Ha’aretz writer Benny Ziffer’s recent book, “The Levantines Among Us” (Beineinu HaLevantinim), not yet translated into English, about his travels in Istanbul. “It’s anthropological,” said Chen, “lots of archeology, people’s homes, all great and enticing for me. It’s like reading about another world, very far from what I do.”

Rabbi Roberto Arbib, moving one of the Torah scrolls into the new synagogue (Courtesy Rabbi Roberto Arbib)

Rabbi Roberto Arbib, moving one of the Torah scrolls into the new synagogue (Courtesy Rabbi Roberto Arbib)

2) Rabbi Roberto Arbib, the spiritual leader of Kehillat Sinai, a Masorti congregation in Tel Aviv that recently moved to a new home in Neve Tzedek, is clearly getting ready for Tisha B’Av, as he has a fairly heavy reading list at the moment. At the top of the pile is “Suffering Religion,” by Robert Gibbs and Elliot Wolfson, a selection of essays by theologians and philosophers, examining the eternal question of, why do we suffer? Second on the list is “Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation” by Professor Moshe Idel, a discussion of Kabbalah with different visions of the text and ways of interpreting it.

Erez Komorovsky in the kitchen (Courtesy Erez Komorovsky)

Erez Komorovsky in the kitchen (Courtesy Erez Komorovsky)

3) Chef Erez Komorovsky was jetting off to France, taking some time off from his Galilean cooking school, and hadn’t had time to download any new books. But he just finished Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” for the “fifth or sixth time,” he said, calling it an “endless book that helps me go through life.”

BGU President Rivka Carmi (Courtesy BGU)

BGU President Rivka Carmi (Courtesy BGU)

4) Down south, Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said that she was reading Amos Oz’s newest book, “Among Friends” (Bein Haverim), a fitting choice, given that the Arad resident is a professor emeritus of Hebrew literature at BGU. Oz returns to kibbutz life in the book, describing the intense loneliness one can feel among friends, in a community meant to banish that kind of feeling.

Olympic pole-vaulter Jillian Schwartz (photo credit: Aaron Kalman/Times of Israel)

Olympic pole-vaulter Jillian Schwartz (photo credit: Aaron Kalman/Times of Israel)

5) American-born Olympic pole vaulter Jillian Schwartz, who made aliyah in 2010, and competes for Israel, commented that she has “actually been reading a couple of books recently (although it’s been slow going as I haven’t had too much time).”  Her current books are “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, discovering achievement and success and “Let There Be Light: Electrifying the Developing World with Markets and Distributed Energy,” by a friend, Drew Sloan and his colleague Rachel Kleinfeld.  For “some light reading,” crime fiction “Arctic Chill” by Arnaldur Indridason. “I usually don’t read more than one book at a time, but for some reason I’ve ended up with three right now!” (You can watch Schwartz competing in the Olympics starting August 4; the preliminary round begins 8:20 a.m. Israel time.)

Finally, a great listen from Salon.com during a visit to NPR about reading options for the season: Listen here: