At The Betsy Hotel, every single one of our rooms has its own library. We provide a tote bag and encourage you to choose a favorite book before you venture out to the beach. We also have a property library where you’ll find hundreds more books on different subjects.
This summer, we’ve compiled a reading list that includes 16 books in total. Thirteen were penned by writers who’ve been in residence in The Betsy Writer's Room, our artist in residence program that has hosted more than 800 resident creatives since its opening in 2012. The last three books on the list (by Matthew Futterman, Martin Duberman, and Hyam Plutzik) were written by members of The Betsy ownership family – the Plutzik/Goldwasser Family – and represent just a small part of the family’s much richer literature legacy.
1. Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and Dinner Table (Memoir with Recipes) by Boris Fishman (HarperCollins Publishers)
It's on cuisine's role as a representative of culture. It’s a family story, an immigrant story, a love story, and an epic meal, this book explores the challenges of navigating two cultures from an unusual angle. Boris Fishman is a NY Times Bestselling author. Boris Fishman has become special friend of The Betsy Hotel, and completed his first residency in 2016 in association with the Exile Studies Program at Florida International University.
2. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love (Memoir) by Dani Shapiro (Knopf)
In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her. This is a book about secrets–secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. Dani has been in residence at The Betsy Hotel twice, in partnership with Books&Books, most recently in 2019.
3. THE JEWS OF KEY WEST: Smugglers, Cigar Makers, and Revolutionaries (1823-1969) (History) by Arlo Haskell (Sandpaper Press)
The Jews of Key West is an entertaining and authoritative account of Florida’s oldest Jewish community and is Illustrated with over 100 images, bringing to life a history that had long been forgotten. Haskell’s book won the Phillip and Dana Zimmerman Gold Medal for Florida Nonfiction from the Florida Book Awards and a President’s Medal from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. Haskell has twice had a writing respite at The Betsy Hotel most recently during National Poetry Month, 2019, in partnership with O, Miami Poetry Festival.
4. Brain Fever (Poems) by Kamiko Hahn (W.W. Norton and Company)
Brain Fever takes as its subject the mysteries of the human mind—the nature of dreams and memories, the possibly illusory nature of linear time, the complexity of conveying love to a child. Equally inspired by Sei Shonagon’s tenth-century Pillow Book and the latest findings of cognitive research, Brain Fever is a thrilling blend of the timely and the timeless. Read reviews from the New York Journal of Books, Boston Review, Pleiades, Post45.
5. Rayfish (Poems) by Mary Hickman (Omidawn Press)
Rayfish, masterfully adopts and synthesizes the genre conventions of lyric poetry, nonfiction, and criticism, and extends the possibilities of each, combining the urgency and vulnerability of the lyric with meditative autobiographical accounting and the voices of numerous artists to produce an uncanny chorus of voices. Mary Hickman was awarded the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets (AAP) or this book. The Betsy Hotel offers an annual residency to the winner of the Laughlin Prize, in partnership with the AAP.
6. Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (Memoir) by Joy Ladin (University of Wisconsin Press)
In this book, Joy Ladin asserts that she is "old-fashioned – a garden-variety transsexual, rather than a post-modernist shape-shifter”. Her memoir describes her family life, her transition, and her religious faith. Through the Door of Life was a finalist in the "Biography, Autobiography, Memoir" category of the National Jewish Book Awards. Joy writes to the experience of transitioning in the prime of her career, in a community not prepared to embrace her choices and her reality. She does it with grace and courage. Dr. Ladin was in residence at The Betsy in 2018 in partnership with Aqua Foundation for Women, a local LGBT organization.
7. Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish (Young Adult Historical Fiction) by Pablo Cartaya (Penguin Random House)
When you look like Marcus Vega, you're both a threat and a target. One boy's search for his father leads him to Puerto Rico in this moving middle-grade novel. Cartaya grew up between two worlds (born in the USA to Cuban immigrant parents). Through his characters shares his own journey gaining the confidence, pride, and self confidence to bridge two worlds into what can become one beautiful life. The author is a long time Betsy Hotel partner and has been in residence several times, most recently in 2018, to complete his next book, One Tiny Spark.
8. The World as It is (A Memoir of the Obama Whitehouse) by Ben Rhodes (Penguin Random House) El mundo tal y como es (translation)
From one of Barack Obama’s trusted aides, comes a behind-the-scenes account—and how idealism can confront harsh reality and still survive. This is a New York Times Best Seller. Mr. Rhodes was in residence at The Betsy in 2017 in partnership with Books&Books.
9. Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young (Graywolf Press)
Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young interrogates a post-factual world of “truthiness” where everything is up for interpretation and everyone is subject to a contagious cynicism that damages our ideas of reality. This is a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Mr. Young was in residence at The Betsy Hotel to participate in a program called ‘Under the Influence” for a reading and discussion, co-presented with O, Miami Poetry Festival, in 2017.
10. The Ruined House (Novel) by Rudy Namdar (Harper)
This original Hebrew language book, set in New York City by Jerusalem-born Ruby Namda tells the story of two houses: the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, host to the soul of a people, and Andrew P. Cohen, host to the soul of a man. Both houses flourished, until outside forces and inner flaws laid siege to their protective walls leaving them lying in ruins. The Ruined House is a NY Times Book Review Editor’s Choice Book. Mr. Namdar was an artist in residence at The Betsy Hotel in Fall 2018 in partnership with the Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Conference.
11. Ordinary Beast (Poems) by Nicole Sealey (Harper Collins Books)
The ranging scope of inquiry undertaken in Ordinary Beast is evident in each thrilling twist of image by the poet. Exploring notions of race, sexuality, gender, myth, history, and embodiment with profound understanding, Sealey’s is a poetry that refuses to turn a blind eye or deny. It is a poetry of daunting knowledge. This is a Publishers Weekly's top 10 and one of NPR’s most anticipated poetry books of 2017. Ms. Sealey has been a resident artist at The Betsy Hotel twice, most recently for a reading in April 2018 in partnership with Cave Canem Foundation.
12. Lolas' House: Filipino Women Living with War (Personal narrative) by M. Evelina Galang (Curbstone Books)
During World War II more than one thousand Filipinas were kidnapped by the Imperial Japanese Army. Miami-based writer, M. Evelina Galang, enters into the lives of ‘comfort women’ at Lola’s House, a respite for those that were violated during this terrible period in history. Ms. Galang is Outgoing Chair of the Creative Writing Department at University of Miami and current Board Chair of VONA Voices; she works closely with the literary program at the Betsy Hotel.
13. The Hundred Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List (Cook Book) by Alana Newhouse ( Artisan Books)
The Tablet’s list of the 100 most Jewish foods is not really about the most popular Jewish foods, or the tastiest, or even the most enduring. It’s a list of the most significant foods culturally and historically to the Jewish people, explored deeply with essays, recipes, stories, and context. This is the perfect book to dip into, quote from, cook from, and launch a spirited debate, with contributions from Ruth Reichl, Éric Ripert, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov, Dan Barber, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Colicchio, Maira Kalman, Melissa Clark, and many more!
14. Stonewall: The Definitive Story of the LGBT Rights Uprising that Changed America (History) by Martin Duberman (Penguin)
Fifty years after the riots, Stonewall remains a rare work that evokes with a human touch an event in history that still profoundly affects life today. Duberman is the founder of LGBT studies in America, winner of the National Book Award, multiple LAMDA awards, and is a member of the Plutzik/Goldwasser family.
15. Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed by Matthew Futterman (Penguin Random House)
Visionary American running coach Bob Larsen assembled a team of elite California runners to start a decades-long quest for championships, Olympic glory & pursuit of "the epic run." Matthew Futterman is a member of the Plutzik/Goldwasser Family.
16. Letter from A Young Poet by Hyam Plutzik (Books&Books Press)
Written on the eve of America’s entry into World War II, this remarkable Letter from a Young Poet discloses a young American man’s spiritual and literary odyssey through rural Connecticut and urban Brooklyn during the turbulent 1930s. In a finely wrought first-person narrative, young Plutzik tells his mentor, what it means for a poet to live an authentic life in the modern world. Like Joyce and Rilke before him, Plutzik ultimately strikes out on a path that can be blessed both by his literary muses and by his ancestral voices. Letter from a Young Poet is described as an early example of Holocaust literature for the way Plutzik challenges the menace of Nazism that he views looming from afar. Hyam Plutzik was a 3-time Pulitzer Prize Finalist, the father of Betsy owner, Jonathan Pllutzik, and grandfather of Betsy Managing Director, Zachary Hyam Plutzik.