Post­ed by Nat Bern­stein

Back when we first start­ed the Eight Nights of Sto­ries series here on The ProsenPeo­ple, I men­tioned a child­hood friend’s fam­i­ly tra­di­tion of gath­er­ing to hear sto­ries read aloud by the light of the shamash after light­ing the oth­er can­dles each night of Chanukah. (You should read it, real­ly, it is a love­ly post. There’s a Har­ry Pot­ter ref­er­ence in there for the true fans and everything.)

That same child­hood friend is about to be a pub­lished author. His debut nov­el, Anna and the Swal­low Man, comes out Jan­u­ary 2016 from A. A. Knopf, and friends, it is a very, very good book. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either: Jew­ish Book Council’s entire staff has been cov­et­ing our shared advance copies since they arrived from the edi­tor, and lauda­to­ry reviews are begin­ning to roll in across the pub­lish­ing playground.

What I have per­son­al­ly enjoyed most in read­ing Anna and the Swal­low Man, from the first man­u­script to the first edi­tion, is how much of the author’s boy­hood imag­i­na­tion is present in this sto­ry. Enter­ing the novel’s realthe­re­al” uni­verse , in each moment of scin­til­lat­ed mag­ic I rec­og­nize the make-believe games the author con­jured under the crabap­ple trees and twist­ed mul­ber­ry boughs of our youth, fan­tasies culled from the works of Tolkien, Lewis, Bar­rie, Gaiman, Jacques, Dahl, and Rowl­ing — and plen­ty of non-fan­ta­sy writ­ers besides.

Beyond my own nos­tal­gia, what I love most about those moments of recog­ni­tion is how they emblema­tize the influ­ence of expo­sure to great lit­er­a­ture from an ear­ly age, not only through read­ing but from hear­ing books read aloud. Michal Hoschan­der Malen, Jew­ish Book Council’s children’s edi­tor and (new­ly retired) school librar­i­an, has writ­ten edi­to­r­i­al after edi­to­r­i­al on the impor­tance of read­ing to and with chil­dren even through ado­les­cence: her proof is in the count­less stu­dents trans­formed into read­ers from the moment she put her voice to Charlotte’s Web in a class­room vis­it; mine is in the emerg­ing lit­er­ary career of an old friend — and many more, I hope, like him to come.

Anna and the Swal­low Man sad­ly does not come out until sev­er­al weeks hence, but I would encour­age you to entice read­ers 12 and up — adults very much includ­ed — with a pre­order of this spell­bind­ing nov­el as a Chanukah gift.

In fact, there’s a full sea­son ahead of great titles to await, so here’s a quick list of books to look for­ward to read­ing over the Fes­ti­val of Lights:


Relat­ed Content:

Nat Bern­stein is the for­mer Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Con­tent & Media, JBC Net­work Coor­di­na­tor, and Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and a grad­u­ate of Hamp­shire College.