Longtime NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg met Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 1970s, early in both their careers. Totenberg's thoughtful first book, Dinners with Ruth, traces their five-decade friendship. But it also provides broader meditations on friendship and building community, as well as a candid glimpse into Washington insider politics and the challenges of being a woman in that male-driven environment.
Totenberg begins at the end: "The last time I saw Ruth, it was for supper." She gives a brief overview of her long bond with Ginsburg, which lasted through grief, professional challenges, health struggles and the Covid-19 pandemic, and included many meals together. She then takes readers on a tour of her early life and family history as well as Ginsburg's, noting their similarities along with the deep differences in their backgrounds. The book continues in this way: it is primarily Totenberg's story, but she shares biographical information about Ginsburg, weaving the facts together with anecdotes from their friendship.
Ginsburg herself appears much as readers may have already seen her: a fierce intellect with a wry sense of humor and a deep commitment to the law. But Totenberg's warm recollection of their years together reveals a different side of Ruth: her love for shopping and French bouillabaisse, her appreciation of gossip, her tenacity in being there for friends despite illness, work and other challenges. Readers will come away with a fuller portrait of RBG, but also a wonderful rendering of Totenberg's friendships and perhaps a deeper appreciation for their own. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams