Off the Shelf

off the shelf | New short story collections are dispatches from outposts of Jewish life

New short story collections are dispatches from outposts of Jewish life - J.

Although I treasure authors whose fiction can vault us into places that strain our imagination, I am equally appreciative of those who are able to distill meaning from lived experience. Such is the case with three new volumes of stories grounded in their authors' own backgrounds.

off the shelf | Arab Jews, Latino Jews and other complicated identities

New books: Arab Jews, Latino Jews and other complicated identities - J.

The attention paid to identity politics in the past decade has made the word identity a fraught one. But questions of identity are very real and deserving of discussion, and notably for Jews.

off the shelf | Two new books give Zionist feminists a well-deserved place in history

Two new books give Zionist feminists a well-deserved place in history - J.

As women have all too often been written out of history, I am always pleased when books emerge that cast light on women who might otherwise escape our attention. Such is the case with two new releases depicting the lives of two remarkable women, both ...

off the shelf | spiritual disquiet and atonement in Nathan Englander’s Kaddish.com

Spiritual disquiet and atonement in Nathan Englander's 'Kaddish.com' - J.

I do enjoy lighter reading, but I'm disposed toward works of fiction that leave me asking questions and thinking about ideas. Two new novels have done just that. At the center of Nathan Englander's just-released "Kaddish.com" is Larry, a 30ish bachelor who left the Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood of his childhood to lead an avowedly secular ...

off the shelf | new memoirs explore home, food, and family

New memoirs explore home, food and family history - J.

For those attuned to the Torah reading cycle, now is a time of prolonged wandering in search of home - a theme that will remain powerful throughout Jewish history, long after the Israelites have made it out of the desert wilderness.

off the shelf | new books on what we receive from our parents

How our parents keep telling us who we are, even after they're gone - J.

Our relationships with our parents abide well after they are gone. Two wonderful new books mark the enduring connection between generations in very different ways. Dani Shapiro's parents had already figured prominently in two of her popular memoirs: in "Slow Motion," which captures the impact ...

off the shelf | new books on Hannah Arendt and Franz Kafka

Tale of Kafka's writings and a graphic novel on Arendt's life show intellectual world destroyed by Nazis - J.

It is difficult to overstate the modern world's debt to the Jewish minds of early 20th-century Central Europe who helped transform science, psychology, literature, philosophy and other fields. Two new books renew our understanding of this rich world of intellectual ferment which was destroyed by ...

Howard Freedman chooses some of his favorite Jewish books of 2018

The best Jewish books of 2018: feminism, seltzer, race and beyond - J.

This has been a great year for Jewish books, and I'm thrilled to share some of my favorites of 2018 in several areas of interest, helping to shine much-deserved light on books that haven't always received the attention they deserve. Among religiously oriented titles, I am drawn to two, partially for their potential to break ...

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.