Literatour is a community-wide celebration in its third year with 14 exceptional events featuring authors, celebrities, and cultural influencers throughout Berks County from September 2021 to April 2022. Literatour is being presented by Jewish Federation of Reading in partnership with Exeter Community Library.

 

Programs will be held in-person and virtually depending on each event. All in-person events will be subject to procedures as determined by local health guidelines.

9/13/2021
7:00 PM
Exeter Community Library
Jonathan Santlofer
“The Last Mona Lisa”

 

A gripping novel exploring the secrets of the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa and the dark underbelly of today’s art world. A story of heart-stopping suspense as romantic and sexy as it is terrifying and thrilling, one that tips into our universal fascination with da Vinci, the authentic and the fake, and people so driven to acquire priceless works of art, they will stop at nothing to possess them, not even murder.

10/5/2021
12:00 PM
Virtual Event
Tracy Walder
“The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists

 

 

Tracy Walder, a Jewish American woman, was recruited by the CIA out of her sorority at the University of Southern California. On 9/11 she was tracking terrorists with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell looking over her shoulder. Drive to stop the new breed of terror that war created, Walder picked up her alias identity, flew overseas, and continued the hunt. Walder debriefed al-Qaeda’s top men, Jihadists who swore they’d never speak to a woman, particularly an American woman, and earned their trust, thus gaining critical and life-saving information. Walder held clandestine meetings in locales with spies and embedded civilians from other countries. She followed the trails she found across North America, Europe, and the Middle East.

 

She would eventually move over to the FBI working in counterintelligence where she faced rampant sexism. The Unexpected Spy is a powerful memoir about a woman who made her career in a maledominated field and what she’s taken away from it now that she’s no longer in government service. 

10/11/2021
7:00 PM
Exeter Community Library
Jai Chakrabarti
“A Play for the End of the World”

 

A dazzling debut novel—set in the early 1970s in New York and rural India—the story of a turbulent, unlikely romance, a harrowing account of the lasting horrors of WWII, and a searing examination of one man’s search for forgiveness and acceptance.

 

New York City, 1972. Jaryk Smith, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, and Lucy Gardner, a southerner, newly arrived in the city, are in the first bloom of love when they receive word that Jaryk’s oldest friend has died under mysterious circumstances in a rural village in eastern India.

 

Travelling there alone to collect his friend’s ashes, Jaryk soon finds himself enmeshed in the chaos of local politics and efforts to stage a play in protest against the government—the same play that he performed as a child in Warsaw as an act of resistance against the Nazis. Torn between the survivor’s guilt he has carried for decades and his feelings for Lucy (who, unbeknownst to him, is pregnant with his child), Jaryk must decide how to honor both the past and the present, and how to accept a happiness he is not sure he deserves

10/13/2021
7:00 PM
Virtual Event
Dr. James A. Grymes 
"Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust—Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour”

 

The violin has formed an important aspect of Jewish culture for centuries, both as a popular instrument with classical Jewish musicians and as a central factor of social life, as in the Klezmer tradition. But during the Holocaust, the violin assumed extraordinary roles within the Jewish community. For some musicians, the instrument was a liberator; for others, it was a savior that spared their lives. For many, the violin provided comfort in mankind’s darkest hour, and, in at least one case, helped avenge murdered family members. Above all, the violins of the Holocaust represented strength and optimism for the future.

 

Today, these instruments serve as powerful reminders of an unimaginable experience—they are memorials to those who perished and testaments to those who survived. In this spirit, renowned Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein has devoted the past twenty years to restoring the violins of the Holocaust as a tribute to those who were lost, including four hundred of his own relatives. Behind each of these violins is a uniquely fascinating and inspiring story. Juxtaposing these narratives against one man’s harrowing struggle to reconcile his own family’s history and the history of his people, this insightful, moving, and achingly human book presents a new way of understanding the Holocaust.

10/19/2021 1
2:00 PM
Jewish Cultural Center
David Page
“Food Americana: The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America’s Favorite Dishes”

 

A fascinating exploration of how America created a national cuisine from the foods of many other countries. Jewish-specific content includes the fascinating story of bagels and lox, from behind the counter at Russ & Daughters appetizing store on the Lower East Side, to Marvin Lender describing the history of Lender’s Bagels, to Mel Brooks reminiscing about lox as a once-a-week treat as a child. And there’s the real backstory of Jewish love for Chinese food. Safe treyf anyone?

12/1/2021
5:00 PM
Chabad of Berks 
2320 Hampden Blvd. Reading 

Joshua Jay
“How Magicians Think: Misdirection, Deception and Why Magic Matters”

 

There’s a saying: the door to magic is closed, but it’s not locked. In How Magicians Think, professional magician and bestselling author Joshua Jay not only opens that door, he brings us inside and turns on the light, revealing the artistry, inside history and fascinating traditions of a subject long shrouded in mystery. But above all, he reveals the mindset behind the magic—what it’s like to practice an art that so many love yet so few understand.

 

This is not a how-to book, nor a how-do-they-do-it expose. Written as a series of short, lively essays, How Magicians Think describes the making of illusions, the psychology behind them, and the characters who create them. He writes about how technology influences the world of magic; the aesthetics of performance; his contemporaries, including David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and David Blaine; and how magicians hone their craft, answering questions like “can a magic trick be too good?” and “how do you saw a person in half?” (It depends…)

1/10/2022
7:00 PM
Virtual Event
Joyce Zonana (translator)
“A Land Like You”


Cairo 1925, Haret al-Yahud, the old Jewish Quarter. Esther, a beautiful young woman believed to be possessed by demons, longs to give birth after seven blissful years of marriage. Her husband, blind since childhood, does not object when, in her effort to conceive, she participates in Muslim zar rituals. Zohar, the novel’s narrator, comes into the world, but because his mother’s breasts are dry, he is nursed by a Muslim peasant—also believed to be possessed—who has just given birth to a girl, Masreya. Suckled at the same breasts and united by a rabbi’s amulet, the milk-twins will be consumed by a passionate, earth-shaking love.


Part fantastical fable, part realistic history, A Land Like You draws on ethno-psychiatrist Tobie Nathan’s deep knowledge of North African folk beliefs to create a glittering tapestry in which spirit possession and religious mysticism exist side by side with sober facts about the British occupation of Egypt and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Free Officers’ Movement. Historical figures such as Gamel Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and King Farouk mingle with Nathan’s fictional characters in this riveting and revealing tale of an Egypt caught between tradition and modernity, multiculturalism and nationalism, oppression and freedom.

1/27/2022
7:00 PM
Jewish Cultural Center
Philip Boehm (translator)
“The Passenger”


Hailed as a remarkable literary discovery, a lost novel of heart-stopping intensity and harrowing absurdity about flight and persecution in 1930s Germany. Twenty-three-year-old Ulrich Boschwitz wrote “The Passenger” at breakneck speed in 1938, fresh in the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms, and his prose flies at the same pace.


Berlin, November 1938. Jewish shops have been ransacked and looted, synagogues destroyed. As storm troopers pound on his door, Otto Silbermann, a respected businessman who fought for Germany in the Great War, is forced to sneak out the back of his own home. Turned away from establishments he had long patronized, and fearful of being exposed as a Jew despite his Aryan looks, he boards a train. And then another. And another . . . until his flight becomes a frantic odyssey across Germany, as he searches first for information, then for help, and finally for escape.

2/7/2022
7:00 PM
Virtual Event
Mark T. Sullivan
“The Last Green Valley”


In late March 1944, as Stalin’s forces push into Ukraine, young Emil and Adeline Martel must make a terrible decision: Do they wait for the Soviet bear’s intrusion and risk being sent to Siberia? Or do they reluctantly follow the wolves murderous Nazi officers who have pledged to protect “pure-blood” Germans? The Martels are one of many families of German heritage whose ancestors have farmed in Ukraine for more than a century. But after already living under Stalin’s horrifying regime, Emil and Adeline decide they must run in retreat from their land with the wolves they despise to escape the Soviets and go in search of freedom. Caught between two warring forces and overcoming horrific trials to pursue their hope of immigrating to the West, the Martels’ story is a brutal, complex, and ultimately triumphant tale that illuminates the extraordinary power of love, faith, and one family’s incredible will to survive and see their dreams realized.

2/22/2022
7:00 PM
Virtual Event
Andrew Feiler
“A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America”


Born to Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald rose to lead Sears, Roebuck & Company and turn it into the world’s largest retailer. Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912, the two men launched an ambitious program to partner with Black communities across the segregated South to build public schools for African American children. One of the earliest collaborations between Jews and African Americans, this initiative drove dramatic improvement in African American educational attainment and fostered the generation who became the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement.

Of the original 4,978 Rosenwald schools built 1912 – 1937 across fifteen states, only about 500 survive. To tell this story visually, Andrew Feiler drove 25,000 miles, photographed 105 schools, and interviewed dozens of former students, teachers, and preservationists. The book includes 85 photographs capturing interiors and exteriors, schools restored and yet-to-be-restored, and portraits of people with compelling connections to these schools. Brief narratives written by Feiler accompany each photograph. The book’s foreword is by Congressman John Lewis, a Rosenwald school alum.

3/7/2022
7:00 PM
Exeter Community Library
Elyssa Friedland
“Last Summer at the Golden Hotel”


In its heyday, The Golden Hotel was the crown jewel of the hotter-than-hot Catskills vacation scene. For more than sixty years, the Goldman and Weingold families – best friends and business partners – have presided over this glamorous resort which served as a second home for well-heeled guests and celebrities. But the Catskills are not what they used to be – and neither is the relationship between the Goldmans and the Weingolds. As the facilities and management begin to fall apart, a tempting offer to sell forces the two families together again to make a heart-wrenching decision. Can they save their beloved Golden or is it too late?

Long-buried secrets emerge, new dramas and financial scandal erupt, and everyone from the traditional grandparents to the millennial grandchildren wants a say in the hotel’s future. Business and pleasure clash in this fast-paced, hilarious, nostalgia-filled story, where the hotel owners rediscover the magic of a bygone era of nonstop fun even as they grapple with what may be their last resort.

3/20/2022
10:00 AM
DoubleTree by Hilton Reading
Jenna Blum
“Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Dog”


Woodrow on the Bench is the story of New York Times’ bestselling author Jenna Blum’s last seven months with her beloved black Lab, Woodrow‚ who had been by her side through many life transitions, including her mom’s passing. Every day, when Woodrow could no longer walk, Jenna carried him to the bench across from her apartment, and there Woodrow and Jenna’s neighbors taught her new lessons about life and love, including the power of community to carry a person through troubled times.

4/11/2022
7:00 PM
Exeter Community Library
David Biro
“This Magnificent Dappled Sea”


In a small Italian village, nine-year-old Luca Taviano catches a stubborn cold and is subsequently diagnosed with leukemia. After an exhaustive search, a match turns up 3000 miles away in the form of an unlikely donor: Joseph Neiman, a rabbi in Brooklyn, New York, who is suffering from a debilitating crisis of faith. As Luca’s young nurse, Nina Vocelli, risks her career and races against time to help save the spirited redheaded boy, she uncovers terrible secrets from World War II — secrets that reveal how a Catholic boy could have Jewish genes.

Can inheritance be transcended by accidents of love? That is the question at the heart of “This Magnificent Dappled Sea”, a novel that challenges the idea of identity and celebrates the ties that bind us together.

4/24/2022
4:00 PM
Exeter Community Library
Melissa Stoller
“Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom”


“Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom” is about three girls from three faith traditions who cultivate understanding and connection through a planting project on the first day of school. The co-authors are from the same faith traditions as the girls. A related website offers themed projects, discussion questions, and resources for interfaith relations.

Exeter Community Library

4565 Prestwick Dr. Reading, PA 19606

 

Jewish Cultural Center

1100 Berkshire Blvd. Suite 125

Wyomissing, PA 19610

 

Berkshire Mall

1665 State Hill Rd. Wyomissing, PA 19610

 

DoubleTree by Hilton Reading

701 Penn St. Reading, PA 19601

Become a Patron

For program inquires contact Literatour Berks Coordinator Amanda Hornberger at AmandaH@jfreading.org .

 

For sponsorship inquiries contact Director of Development, Laurie Waxler at 610-921-0624 or email LaurieW@jfreading.org