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  • Say it with song: Children’s books for the Festival of Lights

    3 weeks ago

    “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel” by Caryn Yacowitz, illustrated by David Slonim (Arthur A. Levine Books). 

    It seems that old ladies don’t just swallow flies anymore. Comical illustrations, all satirizing famous paintings, are the stars of this funny book, beginning on...

  • Ferreting out the truth about a complicated King David

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 25, 2014 | 1:13 pm

    King David is like no other figure in the Hebrew Bible. “We know David as majestic king and lowly shepherd, as valiant warrior and soothing singer, as ruthless killer and passionate lover, as enraptured dancer and pious saint,” observes Jacob Wright in “David, King of Israel, and...

  • Holiday season brings authors to SoCal

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 24, 2014 | 1:25 pm

    From the Bible to the Broadway stage, readers and gift-buyers can find a wealth of new books in the bookstores, and it’s the time of year when authors, too, are out in the world to talk about their work. Here are five choice opportunities in Southern California.

    It’s the year...

  • Leaving religious life: The ‘un-Orthodox’ path

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 21, 2014 | 12:09 pm

    The path between the secular world and highly observant Judaism is a two-way street. The baal t’shuvah travels in one direction, but he or she may be taking the place of someone who has abandoned Orthodoxy.  It is these so-called “defectors” whose lives are explored with color and...

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  • Do Jews need more chutzpah? Does Judaism?

    By Michael Berenbaum

    November 19, 2014 | 1:46 pm

    I began reading Rabbi Edward Feinstein’s “The Chutzpah Imperative: Empowering Today’s Jews for a Life that Matters” (Jewish Lights) with two conflicting emotions — admiration and skepticism. Every time I have been in the presence of Feinstein, I have learned something — large or...

  • From Tehran to Tel Aviv

    By Gina Nahai

    November 12, 2014 | 9:47 am

    So there we were, two Israelis, an Iranian Jew and an Iranian Muslim, all writers, sitting on a stage at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman building. The occasion for the gathering was the publication of two anthologies of short stories, “Tehran Noir” and “Tel Aviv...

  • The diaspora debate: Is it good for the Jews?

    November 5, 2014 | 3:34 pm

    I’m 58, and I still don’t know what kind of Jew I am or really want to be.  I know that in spite of a complete lack of formal training, I remain a loyal Jew; devoted to Jews of all stripes everywhere.  I think I inherited this surety of feeling from my 90-year-old mother whose...

  • Anita Diamant’s ‘The Boston Girl’: An immigrant’s tale, hanging onto the old ways

    October 27, 2014 | 8:46 am

    From the opening of Anita Diamant’s heartwarming novel, “The Boston Girl,” (Scribner), when Addie Bauman, an 85-year-old grandmother recounts her life story to her granddaughter, I was struck by the similarities between the Jewish cultural beliefs and mores in Boston in 1915, when...

  • Carter, Begin and Sadat — Nostalgia for hope of peace

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    October 14, 2014 | 2:35 pm

    Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker, is attracted to moments of high drama and historical significance. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his account of Osama Bin Laden and the events of Sept. 11 in “The Looming Tower,” for example, and he penetrated the inner workings of...

  • Home is where ‘The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.’ is

    October 8, 2014 | 9:49 am

    Gina B. Nahai’s new novel, “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.” (Akashic Books) is a wildly inventive story of the Soleyman family that travels back and forth in time between 1950s Tehran and present-day Los Angeles. This Iranian Jewish clan was thriving in Iran before Ayatollah...

  • Excerpt from: “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.”

    By Gina Nahai

    October 8, 2014 | 9:38 am

    That word, aabehroo, is one of those for which no equivalent exists in the English language. It alludes to the impression that others hold of an individual’s virtue and respectability. To have aabehroo means that the world regards a person in high esteem. To lose it — or, more...

  • “The Golem of Hollywood”: A grisly L.A. mystery

    October 1, 2014 | 11:02 am

    They have a way of scaring you, of chasing sleep away, these psychological thrillers that send your heart thumping. Imagine, then, what you are in for when two masters of the genre decide to collaborate. The result is “The Golem of Hollywood,” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) by bestselling...

  • Three books, three opinions about The Lubavitcher Rebbe

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 23, 2014 | 2:48 pm

    The 20th anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994) has inspired no fewer than three new biographies, a fact that attests to his enduring importance even outside the Chasidic community he led for four decades. Even more telling, however, is the fact that he is...

  • Noteworthy books for the new year

    September 22, 2014 | 11:59 am

    In my 20s, I studied French culture and became enamored of what the French call “la rentrée littéraire.” Along with their returns to work, school and politics that follow the summer lull, the French immerse themselves in a wave of new books for the season. Here in the United...

  • Three new kids’ books, and some poetry for adults

    September 18, 2014 | 12:01 pm

    “Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story” by Allison Sarnoff Soffer. Illustrated by Bob McMahon (Kar-Ben, 2014)

    Every year at holiday time, Katy looks forward to making applesauce with her mother. When she shares her excitement with her religious school classmates, she also mentions...

  • Jules Feiffer’s ‘Kill My Mother’: You’ll Die Laughing

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 17, 2014 | 3:41 pm

    Last week, I happened to catch the 1971 movie “Little Murders,” adapted by Jules Feiffer from his stage play. It’s a black comedy, mordant but full of insight into the American psyche and the zeitgeist of the era, and it reminded me of the role that Feiffer, and especially his...

  • When David slays Goliath

    By Rabbi David Wolpe

    September 10, 2014 | 9:10 am

    An excerpt from the chapter titled “Young David” from Rabbi David Wolpe’s biography of King David, “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press). Reprinted with permission.


    Divested of armor, David is ready. Goliath takes him for a harmless lad, an insult to his own...

  • Amidst celebrity, Daphne Merkin is wishing still for mother’s love

    August 26, 2014 | 9:09 am

    If you were the wild child among more submissive siblings, who refused to be silenced and cried continually, and fought with all the others about their glaring hypocrisies; chances are you were not your parents’ favorite child.  If you sometimes made disturbing comments about...

  • Providing books to Jaffa preschoolers makes Israel stronger

    August 6, 2014 | 3:16 pm

    The children at the Arabic-speaking Ofek preschool in Jaffa spent a lot of time this past year thinking about a mouse named Samsoum, the character in a picture book all the kids have read at home with help from their parents.  

    In class, the kids did a range of Samsoum-related...

  • Fear of the apocalypse and Edan Lepucki’s ‘California’

    July 15, 2014 | 2:07 pm

    Fear of a publishing apocalypse, to be precise. Most of us never would have heard about Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, about a post-apocalyptic Golden State, except for a battle between Amazon and book publishers.  Here’s a short version of a long story: California’s...

  • How to organize your books

    By Marty Kaplan

    June 30, 2014 | 1:34 pm

    It’s a sin to throw away a book.

    I don’t mean e-books.  If they’re cluttering your e-reader, all you have to do is delete them, and you don’t even have to do that, since you can pretty much fit the Library of Congress on a thumb drive.

    But physical books – the creepy retronym...

  • Thrilling days of yesteryear

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    June 11, 2014 | 11:26 am

    Nothing links the three books described below except that each, in its own way, is so charming that I couldn’t resist opening it up and, having done so, couldn’t put it down.

    One of the treasures of American-Yiddish journalism was “A Bintel Brief” (“A Bundle of Letters”), an...

  • World of adventure for the bookshelf

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 28, 2014 | 2:16 pm

    The summer season offers some remarkable opportunities for face-to-face encounters with authors who are celebrated not merely for their celebrity but for the quality of their written work. To be sure, Kendall Jenner will be touting “Rebels: City of Indra: The Story of Lex and...

  • The making of a real spy

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 14, 2014 | 11:23 am

    Our idea of what spies actually do is deeply tainted by a century or so of novels and movies, some better than others but all of them fictional. “The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames” by Kai Bird (Crown, $26), by contrast, is the real thing.  And yet, for all of its...

  • Archaeology, truth, Jerusalem

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 3, 2014 | 2:06 pm

    Archaeology is more than a science when it comes to Jerusalem, a place where the turn of the spade may reveal an artifact that has political and theological overtones. Katharina Galor and Hanswulf Bloedhorn, authors of “The Archeology of Jerusalem: From the Origins to the Ottomans”...

  • Eight books to light your Chanukah season

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 27, 2013 | 12:12 pm

    The early arrival of Chanukah coincides with Jewish Book Month, which suggests a convenient shopping list for gift-giving. Here are eight books I am planning to give this year to the book lovers among my family, friends and colleagues. Some of these books already have been reviewed...

  • After the fall

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 27, 2013 | 11:47 am

    Perhaps no single Bible story is quite as familiar as the fateful encounter in the Garden of Eden between God, Adam and Eve, and that damned snake, an episode that entered Western theology as “the Fall.” It may appear to be a kind of biblical fairytale, but Ziony Zevit reveals the...

  • Chanukah shopping: Revisiting some classics

    By Julie Bien

    November 25, 2013 | 4:18 pm

    Take time this holiday season to slow down and catch up on your pleasure reading. We’ve gathered a list of classic books to suit everyone’s taste  — from spine-chilling science fiction to classic modern novels. Whether you’re looking for a humorous Sunday afternoon read, an...

  • Favorite childrens’ books old and new

    November 21, 2013 | 4:14 pm

    Remember “The Chanukkah Guest” by Eric Kimmel? Those 20-somethings who consider their favorite Chanukah stories from childhood would no doubt recall the tale of the 97-year-old woman who “did not see or hear as well as she used to, but she still made the best potato latkes in the...

  • Amos Oz: Alone among friends

    September 26, 2013 | 1:52 pm

    I believe Amos Oz desperately wanted to become a better man than his father was.  It feels as if he has spent his lifetime trying to nurture inside himself an empathy that he believed his father lacked.  The famous, 73-year-old Israeli author of more than 30 books, including his...

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