Stacks, Piles, and Shelves

Week One.

In this time of uncertainty, the best advice I have heard is to lean in to the possibilities. Wanted or not, we have each been granted newly found time and a little bit of breathing room to make the most of it. So… nu, what to do?

[Before we go any further, a very important disclaimer: Breathing room, maybe, but we most certainly do *NOT* find ourselves right now with nothing to do. We are actively and rapidly reinventing nearly every aspect of our lives. Couples are reconfiguring the parameters of marriage; every routine and practice associated with work is being reimagined; parents are — oh my goodness, parents are wearing gauze mittens to keep from pulling our hair out. And those who are truly physically isolated, with neither companionship nor work in the home, face their own daunting sets of challenges. So, yes, by all means, let’s lean into the opportunities of this challenging moment with all that we have — but let’s also be gentle with ourselves and cut ourselves some slack. The garage and that pantry didn’t get cleaned out under the best of circumstances — is it really fair to face up to them now?]

If I were the superstitious sort, I would offer my apologies. I can recall several times I have faced the many (many) books on my shelves at home and at work, in piles on my desk, in stacks by my bed, and thought to myself: You know, it might be nice to be home-bound for a bit, with nothing to do (see the naïveté there?) but read through what I’ve been collecting over the past several months; catch up a bit.

Actually I am the superstitious sort — and I am very, very, very sorry.


And yet, here we are… So! For as long as this reality is with us, I am committing to reading at least one of those books each week, and sharing some insights and reflections with you. I’m focusing on the Jewish books I’ve accumulated, but scanning the options, they’re fairly diverse — new titles and old, fiction and nonfiction, long and not so long. (I am not committing to reading The Source, however — which, no, I have never read; and, yes, I know is beloved by many. At least not yet; we’ll see how long this goes.)

I am sharing these reflections on my blog with the hope that they might become interactive. This platform allows for comments at the end — so a few questions for you, dear readers:

  1. How are you leaning into this unstructured time? Have you set any goals? Begun any projects? Renewed any old hobbies? Found any unexpected silver linings that are brightening your spirit?
  2. Any books calling to you from your own shelves, piles, and stacks? Just a few weeks ago, my son discovered Chaim Potok’s The Chosen sitting on our shelves. When, after two nights of reading, he (a) quoted the Baal Shem Tov, and (b) called me an “apikoros,” I decided I had to reread it myself. That one book sparked me to track down others, and I followed with The Promise and My Name Is Asher Lev… There really is magic in rereading old books, not just new ones. A classic like The Chosen helps us tap into, not only its own narrative, but the Jewish community (and beyond) of the time that embraced the story of these two boys and their divergent worlds. It also gives us a glimpse into one of our own personal formative experiences — like opening up a diary or journal. If we remember a book fondly (and if it’s still sitting on our shelves, there’s a good chance that we do), then it probably helped shaped us, at least in some small part, into the person we are today. So scan the books around you… What might you like to pick up and revisit in the days and weeks ahead?

I invite you to answer any of those questions below, and respond to the answers and comments of others (at the very end of all of the comments, where it says “Leave a Reply” and in the box below that: “Enter your comment here…”).

Also, looking for a new book not on your shelf? The Jewish Book Council has a host of wonderful reading lists, like American Jewish Southern Experiences, or Bible & Biblically Inspired Stories, or even Jewish Banned Books. And if you don’t want to go the Amazon route (though if you do, please go to and select KKBE to receive the proceeds — we would be deeply grateful), check out the online holdings in our Charleston County Public Library, or even the New York Public Library.

This meme popped up nearly as soon as coronavirus-related restrictions were promulgated:Not all of us are introverts, and even those of us who are find ourselves wholly unprepared for this unparalleled moment. Nevertheless, here we are. So….. will you join me? Into the shelves, piles, and stacks we go!

2 thoughts on “Stacks, Piles, and Shelves”

  1. Stephanie,
    As always, your writing is delightful. I feel you have role modeled to your son and us that there is a world of exploration , learning , and other benefits ,like distraction ,to your son and to us. The Chosen was indeed one such WONDERFUL BOOK to peruse.

    I have my basket of new books to take me to this “Wonderland “. However, as I “self-isolate”, I find my concentration ability has been dimmed. I’m feeling a reread of Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” might help me refocus and rediscover the purpose of this path I’m on currently. Finding meaning in this journey would definitely help me on this challenge course.

    That might bring me closer to the basket of new books-or at least bring me closer to the reality that I’m doing all I can do; and that is probably all I can do.

    Sending Misheraberet Prayers to all in need of healing, including myself, that I will explore and find my purpose and meaning in this “self-isolation “!

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re in good company, Rosalyn — I’ve heard from a couple of people, and seen reference made by others, that Frankl’s book has been a source of comfort before and might be a tool for guidance now. Have moved from my office shelves to my home shelves now, but will have to take a look tomorrow and see if I have a copy laying around here myself!


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