Off the Shelf

off the shelf | Sci-fi visions of future and alternate Israels

Sci-fi visions of future and alternate Israels - J.

The quest for Jewish nationhood is entwined with the exercise of imagination. Theodor Herzl's best-known words, "If you will it, it is no dream" (or, translated more accurately from the original German, "it is no fairy tale") attest to the nature of Zionism as the fulfillment of a fantasy.

off the shelf | Two books explain how Israel became what it is

Two 2018 books explain how Israel became what it is - J.

When faced with a vexing situation, I tend to think that part of the answer lies in finding out how we got there. And this is particularly so in the case of Israel, whose history is complicated and contested. The title of Michael Brenner's "In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea" is fitting.

off the shelf | Three books to put you through (Jewish) law school

Three books to put you through (Jewish) law school - J.

Many Bay Area Jews engage in spiritual exploration and Torah study, but my impression is that there tends to be far less interest in studying Jewish law. This is likely because our Bay Area community is generally less observant than other large American Jewish communities, ...

off the shelf | Three solid additions to your end-of-summer reading list

Three solid additions to your end-of-summer reading list - J.

With school about to begin and only six weeks left until the official start of autumn, it's time to get that summer reading done! Here are three new novels, each with a pronounced Jewish dimension, to consider.

off the shelf | Three connections to secret Jewish pasts

Three books about characters connecting to secret Jewish pasts - J.

For some, summer reading represents the prospect of an escapist treat to help free the mind from worries. And for others, it means finally having the time to take on a challenging book otherwise pushed aside by the demands of everyday life.

off the shelf | Why audiences plotzed over these forgotten performers

Why audiences plotzed over these forgotten performers - J.

The passage of time is not particularly kind to performers of bygone eras, with few of us able to expound on the singers and musicians that thrilled our grandparents. Two new books profile entertainers who commanded exalted positions in the first half of ...

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read - J.

As we mark Israel's 70th anniversary, I remain awed that a small country with a reconstructed language should produce a literature that is so rich. Below is a sampling of 11 varied titles that give a taste of Israeli literature at its best. 1. "Only Yesterday," S.Y.

off the shelf | 3 new books ponder eternity in new light

3 new books ponder eternity in striking new lights

The common adage that we should "live each day as if it's our last" presupposes that knowledge of our impending demise might cause us to act differently. It's a question I am thinking about in relation to three new works of fiction: To ...

off the shelf | Nazis in Hollywood and Jewish refugees who returned to fight Hitler

New books: Nazis in Hollywood; and Jewish refugees who returned to fight Hitler - J.

I have enjoyed reading three recent books that give readers unprecedented insight into lesser known episodes during the Nazi era. Laura B. Rosenzweig's "Hollywood's Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles" (a Jewish Book Award finalist) and Steven J.

off the shelf | New biographies tell the stories of Jews who aren’t as famous as they should be

New biographies of Jews who should be better-known

Although we tend to read biographies of people we care about, I just finished reading two books about figures who meant little to me - and I'm glad I did. It was not long ago that I first learned of Julius Rosenwald, the former head of Sears, Roebuck and the subject of "Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World ," historian Hasia R.

off the shelf | Three newly translated works are a blast from the past

Three newly translated works are a blast from the past - J.

We are all familiar with the modern tradition of time capsules, created with the intention that they will be opened far in the future, enabling the people of tomorrow to glimpse a bygone moment in history. There are books that, although not by design, function similarly.

off the shelf | Tales of divorce: seven years of Talmud + new Tova Mirvis memoir

Divorcees: seeing life through Talmud + new Tova Mirvis memoir

This fall has seen the publication of two remarkable memoirs from writers reflecting on life transitions through the most Jewish of lenses. Tova Mirvis became a celebrated figure in the Jewish literary world with " The Ladies' Auxiliary," published in 1999 when she was in her early 20s.

Off the Shelf: Two Important New Books on the Hebrew Bible

Two new books anatomize heavy-duty Torah concepts - J.

I try to use this time of reaching the end of the annual Torah reading cycle, and beginning again, as a reminder to keep my relationship to our core book from stagnating. Lacking formidable interpretive skills myself, I'm highly dependent on the insights of others to keep myself engaged and growing.

Off the Shelf: New tales of Jewish families in Ireland, England, Middle East

New tales of Jewish families in Ireland, England, Middle East - J.

With much attention awarded to immigration-related issues in recent months, many of us have considered increasingly the Jewish immigrant experience in the United States, particularly since it reflects many of our families' histories. It was in that light that I enjoyed reading three recent novels that focus on the experience of Jewish immigrants in three ...

Off the Shelf: Summer reading

End-of-summer reading that's not too heavy, not too light - J.

For many, "summer reading" connotes light fiction. For me, it means the prospect of having a bit more time to read whatever it is that we want to read. Because everyone is different, I'll discuss a few new titles that may be possibilities for readers of varying tastes as the season winds down.

Off the Shelf: Four new Jewish books that serve as tour guides to old ones

Four new Jewish books are tour guides to old ones - J.

Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger wrote memorably in their book "Jews and Words" that "ours is not a bloodline, but a text line." But how many of us make the effort to claim our enormous inheritance of centuries of Jewish writing? Fortunately, four excellent recent books help us approach this shared text line.

Off the Shelf: Three new short story collections

Short-story collections: Three for the road or the nightstand - J.

In transit, on a nightstand or kept close for stolen moments of leisure, collections of short fiction provide a perennial source of pleasure. These three anthologies, which mark their authors' debuts, remind us that short can offer incredible breadth. "The Worlds We Think We Know" contains 20 short works by Dalia Rosenfeld, who was raised ...

Off the Shelf: Three new novels on life in Israel

Three new novels - unusual takes on life in Israel - J.

The strength of Israel's literary scene became evident last month when two Israeli titles appeared among the 13 nominees for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, the world's most prestigious award for literature translated into English. In tribute, I'd like to share a few new novels set in Israel.

Off the Shelf: Hebrew, Esperanto have amazing stories to tell

Hebrew, Esperanto have some amazing stories to tell

In 1957, Noam Chomsky's father, William, published " Hebrew: The Eternal Language," but in the five decades since then, we haven't had a similar effort in English to create a concise history of the Hebrew language. Until now.