Bookmarks ready: Jewish Book Month right around the corner

With the economy in turmoil and the weather about to turn fireplace-worthy, there’s never been a better time to settle down with a good book and indulge in a little escapism.

So it’s fortuitous, really, that November is Jewish Book Month, an annual event that has been held throughout the country since 1943. And with several local JCCs staging numerous events — and a few all-day extravaganzas — to fête the written word, there will be plenty to celebrate even as the cold autumn winds blow.

The Contra Costa JCC will kick off its 20th annual Jewish Book and Arts Festival on Thursday, Oct. 23. The festival runs through Nov. 3 and will feature authors such as Gina Nahai (“Caspian Rain”); Lisa Alcalay Klug (“Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe”); political satirist Will Durst; and Aaron Cohen, a counterterrorism consultant and former Israeli Special Forces operative.

The CCJCC also will feature several book workshops on Oct. 26, covering topics such as publishing your book and a discussion of Israeli books in Hebrew.

In Foster City, the Peninsula JCC is hosting Turning Pages, a celebration of literacy that will last through the fall. The offerings begin with Center Read 2008, a community-wide book club that will read Maggie Anton’s “Rashi’s Daughters Book I: Joheved” and have a discussion with the author on Oct. 26.

The PJCC will also host an all-day book festival, the Fifth Annual Celebration of Jewish Authors and Jewish Book Fair, on Nov. 16. Featured authors will include John Rothmann, coauthor of “Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam”; Ellen Bass, author of “The Human Line”; and Ellen Litman, author of “The Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories.”

Turning Pages will continue through the end of December with a community book drive, a “Mystery Readers” program for preschoolers and discussions of books by Etgar Keret and Geraldine Brooks, among other events.

Like the PJCC, the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael will be hosting a Community Read. Community members are encouraged to drop by the JCC and pick up a copy of Karen Levine’s family-friendly “Hana’s Suitcase,” then hear the author speak about the book on Nov. 16. The JCC will also host Bob Morris, author of “Assisted Loving,” in late November, and Rothmann and Rabbi David Dalin, authors of “Icon of Evil,” in mid-December.

Another community read event, One Community One Book, will be hosted by the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos, focusing on Dara Horn’s “The World to Come.” The kickoff event will be Dec. 4. A bit sooner will be a Nov. 5 talk by Philip Spiegel, author of “Triumph Over Tyranny: The Heroic Campaigns That Saved 2,000,000 Soviet Jews.”

At the JCC of San Francisco, fans of the written word will have some tough choices to make Nov. 2 at Bookfest 2008. The all-day festival will start off with a keynote speech by beloved Israeli author David Grossman in conversation with U.C. Berkeley professor Robert Alter, then branch off into four sessions — which is where the decision-making comes in.

Each session will feature a number of talks and panels with writers such as Etgar Keret, Rabbi David Wolpe, Benjamin Disraeli biographer Adam Kirsch and Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Knesset. Panel discussions will take on themes as diverse as “California Moguls,” “Letting God In” and “Coming of Age in America.”

With a plethora of literature-loving events on the schedule, and with reading a book still the cheapest way to travel to a distant land, Jewish Book Month looks to be a welcome treat for all ages. The only hard part? Deciding what to attend — and, of course, what to read. But with events spread out from October to December, you’ll have more than enough time for both.

How to find Book Month events

Full schedules, information and registration for local JCC book events are available on the Web or by phone.

Addison-Penzak JCC: or (408) 357-7413

Contra Costa JCC: or (510) 839-2900 ext. 256

JCC of San Francisco: or (415) 292-1233

Osher Marin JCC: or (415) 444-8066

Peninsula JCC: or (650) 378-2751

Paging all readers: Bay Area JCCs celebrate Jewish Book Month