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Welcome to our recommendations for new, classic, and eclectic Jewish books
Sold at discount prices without sales tax. On August 1, merged with Please read our comments. To view more reviews and comments, to add your own, or to see the cover art, please click the listing.


Summer comes but once
a year, bringing with it SPF-36, Tisha b'Av, Elul, baseball, romance, and a yearning to read a significant or escapist book. Below are our comments on the latest Jewish books for Summer 1999.

[book] For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories by Nathan Englander
April 1999, Knopf, Hardcover - 256 pages. This is a DEBUT collection of nine stories, and already the book has been reviewed everywhere of importance and sales have skyrocketed. Englander, who reportedly received a $350K advance from Knopf, grew up in an Orthodox family on New York's Long Island, and now resides in Jerusalem. The stories all deal with fickle fate. Englander, whose long hair conjure up images of Rambo or Shimshon, may be the newest Malamud, Cheever, or Roth! Maybe the newest I. B. Singer. Maybe you've seen his pieces in The New Yorker? The stories focus on Jewish characters living around the world. Some are tragic, others comic. In one story a group of Polish Jews board a passenger train instead of the cattle car bound for Auschwitz. They are mistaken for tumbling acrobats who are to perform for soldiers. Does a reader laugh or cry? Another story is set in a taxi on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, another in Jerusalem, and another in the USSR under Stalin. In the Soviet story, a young writer is imprisoned, creates the greatest story he has every originated, but in a few hours he will probably be killed by a firing squad. What about the bearded rabbi who gets a job each year playing Santa? This is a great collection. Buy it!

[book] Run Catch Kiss: A Gratifying Novel by Amy Sohn
Hardcover - 256 pages (July 1999) Simon & Schuster. Amy Sohn, 25, is a Hadassah poster girl, the quintessential intelligent, sexy, literate, assertive, self-promoting, romantic Jewish woman. She may be familiar to New Yorkers as the NY Press "Female Trouble" columnist. Or if you went to Brown University, you may remember her from when she spoke out against anti-Semitism during her valedictory speech (her mother and her grandmother are Brown alums). Her book is intended for all of us who read the Sunday wedding announcements of our tribemen in The New York Times, and imagine how ours will be crafted; or those who sit in parks, bars, cafes, or synagogues and wonder with whom we are going to fall in love. The main character in this novel is a 22 year old named Ariel Steiner (same initials as the author). She, like the author, writes a column for a New York tabloid, a column that revolves around sex and relationships. The character Ariel is seeking her sexy and Jewish man. The book is filled with explicit sexual intercourse and wild relationships. As Amy Sohn wrote, "Some guys want to date Ariel so they can be written about, but others run the other way out of fear that Ariel will diminish their capacities. Her nice Jewish parents, Leo and Carol, who live in the city, too, read the column and totally wig out - because how many parents really want to know what their kids are up to horizontally?" What can I say, If you have a book group, put Amy's book on your list. Click to read more reviews of Amy's book.

[book] The Velveteen Father: An Unexpected Journey to Parenthood by Jesse Green
Hardcover - 224 pages (June 1999) Villard Books. In the Velveteen Rabbit, a rabbit comes to life due to the strong love of a child. This is the Velveteen Father, the story of a single man who becomes a father. At the age of 37, Jesse Green, a novelist and journalist (NYT) with a supportive Jewish family, was living the cool life in Manhattan's sometimes hedonistic West Village. But then he fell in love with a single Jewish man who worked for the Brooklyn school system, who had recently adopted a baby boy. Having long since made peace with his choice NOT to be a parent, Green now faced the shock and the responsibility of a fatherhood he had never imagined. When they adopt a second child, Green finally moves to Brooklyn, and takes on even more parenting responsibilities (but why isnt he named the guardian of the child in the will??) And then its time to send the kids to the Orthodox Jewish day school... Green offers the reader his candid, heartfelt, and often hilarious account of the formation and flourishing of a family. Click to read more.
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[book] 1185 Park Avenue - A Memoir by Anne R. Roiphe
Hardcover-256 pages (May 1999). The Free Press. Anne Richardson Roiphe, columnist, feminist, author of Up the Sandbox; Loving Kindness; and Fruitful: My Real Life as a Modern Mother, and mother of five kids, at least two of whom are authors (Katie Roiphe is one, Emily Carter the other), offers us her memoir of growing up in gilded, Jewish Manhattan. Just your average Jewish family -- brother, sister, mom, dad -- living on Park Avenue, playing Mah Jongg, having an xmas tree, going to tutors, mixing drinks, lighting mom's cigarettes, residing with the strict German governess and maids. Dad was a philanderer, mom was an insecure, weak heir to the Philips Van Heusen apparel fortune. Mom never cooked a meal or put a flower in a vase. There were maids who filled in for the maids who on their off-days. Anne's brilliant brother was emotionally scarred for life, and she despised him. All was not as it appeared in Apartment 8C. How will Anne escape? Will she soften her sibling rivalry? How will her parents and brother survive? Is it true that the second wife gets everything? Will her father disinherit her from her mother's fortune for revealing family secrets? Click to read more.

[book] One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi by Rabbi Alan Lew and Sherril Jaffe
Hardcover - 320 pages (August 1999) Kodansha.
Whenever I am in San Francisco, that City by the Bay, I leave my heart at Congregation Beth Shalom, the friendliest shul West of Nevada. So when I saw this book authored by its rabbi, I immediately purchased it. Rabbi Alan Lew, the popular Rabbi of San Francisco's Congregation Beth Shalom discusses his rich Brooklyn childhood, his family's move to the vacuous (and at the time anti-Jewish) suburbs of Westchester, his studies at Penn, his marriage, his move into Zen and ten years in monastic contemplation to fulfill his spiritual yearnings, and his return to Judaism and the rabbinate. This is the story of his integration of the East with the West. It's about Jewish karma, baby, and the reclamation of spirituality. It's about why so many Jewish youth turn East in their spiritual quests, experiment with Eastern religions and worship the exotic, it's about the twisted Yakov in all of us who yearns to wrestle with god and come out Yisrael (yashar/straight). It's about an Iowa Writers Program grad who practiced Zen for a decade, happened upon a synagogue, became its lay leader, enrolled in rabbinical school at age 38, and six years later graduated as a valedictorian and prize winner. Rabbi Lew's tale is similar to that of last Summer's book by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (With Roots in Heaven), in that both heard an inner voice of their grandmothers' which returned them to their birth faiths. Thankfully, Lew's ill-gotten Everlast Boxing shorts and gloves were stolen in his childhood, so he became a teacher instead of a boxer. But seriously folks, this book is both easy to read and interesting. Who else do you know who traveled alone from Penn to DC for the March on Washington, but left right before Rev. Dr. M. L. King gave his "Free At Last" speech, because he thought he should call a friend at a pay phone to tell her that he wouldn't be able to make it for dinner? I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you want to see some of his sermons, click this.

[book] Kosher Sex :A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Hardcover - 224 pages (March 1999) Doubleday. Didn't you see the excerpts in Playboy? Did you see him on NBC's The Today Show? Rabbi Boteach's (Bo-tay-ach) greatly anticipated book about Jewish sex and intimacy. I expect he will do for Jewish sex, what he did for Jewish life at Oxford..., namely shake it up. But seriously, folks, Rabbi Boteach (who plans to return to the uSA from the UK in 2000) offers some interesting anecdotal views on how sex should not be repressed and how it can be used to build fulfilling, intimate relationships of lasting emotions. How do you find a soulmate that is both a friend and a sensual partner? And, yes, he does discuss the use of sex toys, and some kosher sexual positions. So buy a box of "koshering salt" and get a copy of this book, too.

[book] The Wedding Jester by Steve Stern
Paperback - 224 pages (June 1999). With The Wedding Jester, Steve Stern, 51, a former Hippie, and Skidmore teacher has infused this collection with the Jewish, Yiddish, and Southern folklore he knows so well and has recreated a magical Jewish otherworld of his earlier award-winning titles. Just as Chagall painted flying cows and townfolk, Stern writes of flying rabbis. The New York Times has called Stern a prodigiously talented writer who arrives unheralded like one of the apparitions in his own stories." In one tale a bride is possessed by a long-dead Jewish comic; in another a succubus emerges from a mirror to seduce a scholar. Click to read more reviews.

[book] The Times of My Life and My Life With the Times (New York Times) by Max Frankel
Hardcover - 432 pages (March 1999). Max Frankel, like Kissinger, escaped from Nazi Germany as a child and grew up, detached, in Washington Heights. It was a painful exile for him. Frankel rose to become the executive editor and shake up the tone and hiring practices of the NY Times and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Along the way he knew Presidents and PM's and did time in Cuba, DC, and Moscow. He doesn't hold back one bit, and even discusses his wife's depression. Quite an absorbing read.

[book] Turn of the Century by Kurt Andersen
Hardcover - 659 pages. A top Summer seller. In the Eighties, the hot thing to be was a BSD on Wall Street. In the late Nineties, at the turn of the Century, it is best to be involved in television and software. This biting, funny, satirical novel from Andersen, a SPY co-founder and New Yorker writer, which opens in the future world of February 2000, where buses are shaped like Absolut bottles. George Mactier, a Newsweek writer, becomes a producer for MBC's show NARCS in which actors team up with cops on drug busts. Lizzie Zimbalist, George's Jewish wife, is a software entrepreneur. They jet between the coasts and tag-team parent their three kids (Sarah, Max and LuLu). Take a mint flavored Prozac (for Kids) and read more about what happens, by clicking through to Amazon.

[book] Lexus and the Olive Tree. Understanding Globalization by Thomas L. Friedman
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "From Beirut to Jerusalem" offers a brilliant investigation of globalization, the most significant socioeconomic trend in the world today, and how it is affecting everything we do--economically, politically, and culturally--abroad and at home.

[book] Waging Peace: Israel and the Arabs at the End of the Century by Itamar Rabinovich
June 1999, 224 pages, FS&G. With Barak and Clinton approaching Syria, it's time to look at this book. Itamar Rabinovich, scholar, author, and senior Israeli diplomat, known to students from California to Penn to Tel Aviv University, sets out a plan for Mideast peace in time for the June elections. The conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors have lasted for more than 50 years. His new formula is.... Rabinovich is most insightful in his analysis of Syria, as well as the goals of Arafat, Hussein, al-Asad, and Mubarak. Of course, remember, that since he was a diplomat, he makes use of diplomacy when he holds back in discussing the nitty details. Click the icon to read more expansive reviews.

[book] Heroic Diplomacy: Sadat, Kissinger, Carter, Begin and the Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace by Kenneth W. Stein
Hardcover - 352 pages (July 1999) Routledge. HEROIC DIPLOMACY traces American involvement in the Arab-Israeli negotiations from the brink of nuclear confrontation during the October 1973 Middle East war to the outbreak of peace four years later at Camp David. Kenneth W. Stein of Emory University chronicles the evolution of these negotiations, analyzes the personalities of Sadat, Kissinger, Carter and Begin, and charts the complex and often contradictory goals of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, the U.S. and the USSR. Through never-before-collected interviews with more than eighty participants in the peace talks, this engaging and unique book provides unparalleled insight into this critical period of recent history and Arab-Israeli relations.
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[book] The Holocaust in American Life. The Holocaust Comes To America. How The Murder of the Jews of Europe Moved from the Margins to the Center of Our Culture by Peter Novick.
Houghton Mifflin, June 1999, $27 before 30% discount. Professor Novick (University of Chicago Professor of History and Vichy specialist) takes a groundbreaking, provocative look at Holocaust memory in America. Has the Holocaust become a salient symbol in America? Is it a cornerstone to Jewish identity in the late 20th Century? Novick is a specialist in Historicity. While ordinarily historical memories are most vivid in the immediate aftermath of an event and fade with the passage of time, the Holocaust has acted in the reverse. In the decades after the Shoah, no one spoke about it. Novick explores why even Jews were silent about the Holocaust during the 1950's. Was it due to the Cold War? Or did the optimism of the 1950's hush the past tragedies and sweep it under the rug? Was it due to the state of American anti-Semitism in the 1950's? Why and when did the Holocaust become central to current Jewish identity? Was it the 1967 War and precarious state of Israel that got American Jews talking about the Holocaust? Are there lessons of the Holocaust that must be learned? What is the cost that Jews will pay for making the Holocaust a central moral and defining symbol? Must the Jews define themselves as victims? If you have any interest in the Shoah-business, you better read this.

[book] On Burning Ground - A Son's Memoir by Michael Skakun
Hardcover - 256 pages (June 1999) St Martins Press. Skakun was born in Jaffa and came to the US as a child. He was an assistant to Alfred Kazin. This is considered to be one of the best and most gripping Holocaust memoirs. This is the story of Michael's father, Joseph, a Talmudic scholar with blue eyes and blond hair, who tried to save his mother in Navaredok/Novogrudek Poland, failed, and fled to the forests and to Vilna. In Vilna, he took on the identity of a Muslim Tatar, studied Islam, and became a foreign laborer in Berlin. Joseph then enlisted in the SS to avoid suspicion. Quite an amazing story. Click to read more expanded reviews.

Who Says Jews Control the Media ??

[book] The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times by Susan E. Tifft, Alex S. Jones
Who among us can wait until September 1999 when this is published? Excerpts from it already appeared in The New Yorker (April 19, 1999) and (July 20, 1999). The two authors spent seven years writing this book which explores the history of the Ochs and Sulzberger families, and how being Jewish shaped this dynasty that runs The Times. Adolph Ochs bought the bankrupt Times over 100 years ago. Jacob Schiff actually owned most of the shares of the bankrupt firm. Did you know that Adolph Ochs' father (Julius) was a Hebrew scholar in Tennessee, who came to the US in 1845? Or that Adolph's wife Iphigenia was the daughter of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise? That Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, Adolph's son-in-law (he married Iphigene Ochs) and successor, attended the first Zionist Congress as a child, and was the son of Rachel Peixotto Hayes, a Sephardic Jew whose family arrived in the US prior to 1776. These are just tidbits. The book gets into how religion affected the family and its management and creation of The Times.

Take a look at this one below. Isn't it noteworthy that only two publications in the USA earn $1 billion - The Times and TV Guide. One is owned by the Sulzberger's, the other was founded by the Annenberg's.
Both were German/Prussian immigrants.
Both ancestors were forced into work to support their families.
Both amassed fortunes in publishing, and the progeny of both left the religion of their births.

[book] Legacy: A Biography of Moses and Walter Annenberg by Chris Ogden
Hardcover - 576 pages (June 1999) Little Brown & Co. The book's cover says it all, a son overshadowed by his father. In this engaging double biography, Ogden recounts in rich detail how immigrant Moses Annenberg enacted a rags-to-riches ascent worthy of a Horatio Alger novel. When Moe was six, his father Tobias went to Chicago, leaving Moe to fish for his family. The Kalvishken (East Prussia) born Moe came to the USA at age 13 and later emassed enough money from wire services, newspapers, parking garages, and real estate to to buy the prestigious Philadelphia Inquirer. Moe was not a squeamish. But when Moe's questionable business and legal dealings put the newspaper in jeopardy (In 1940 Moe was sentenced to prison for tax evasion after a witchhunt by FDR and the White House), it was the previously irresponsible son, Walter, who recovered the family fortune by launching TV Guide (once, the nation's only billion-dollar-a-year publication) and Seventeen. Walter Annenberg, the only son of Moe and Sadie (the only family member who practiced her religion, according to Ogden, the men tried hard to evade their Jewishness), was an unpromising stuttering playboy, born on Friday the 13th, with the deformed ear and stutter. But he had remarkable financial success, and sought to redeem his father's name. He was elevated to circles of political influence and given the means to collect fine art and to practice philanthropy on a grand scale. But in chronicling Walter's rise to the top, Ogden does more than reveal a curious melding of financial shrewdness and aesthetic sensitivity: he also depicts the contours of power and privilege in late-twentieth-century.

Leave the media behind you and consider some of these books.

[book] Yiddishe Kop:
Creative Problem Solving in Jewish Learning, Lore, and Humor by Rabbi Nilton Bonder
Paperback - 112 pages (July 1999).
How do you think and solve problems using a Jewish head? The fourth translated book from the American trained, South American rabbi, Nilton Bonder, Brazilian media sweetheart and the author of The Kabbalah of Envy , The Kabbalah of Food, and the Kabbalah of Money. The title says it all. Using parables, tales, and Yiddish humor, Bonder shows us how to reach the hidden truths of problems by breaking decision making down into four levels: information; understanding; wisdom; and reverence. From his book we learn to question and reframe the problem to better solve it. I guess you can call it the Jewish version of "Thinking out of the Box." This study is based on the four dimensions of the Alter Rebbe (1745), namely finding that which is apparent and that which is hidden in the apparent, and that which is apparent and hidden in the hidden. Click to read more.

[book] The Gentle Weapon: Prayers for Everyday and Not-so Everyday Moments by Moshe Mykoff, S. C. Mizrahi, and of course, Nahman Likute Moharan, Breslov research inst. and Rebbe Nachman
Paperback - 128 pages Deluxe edition (June 1999) Jewish Lights Publishing. The Hassidic master, Rabbi Nahman of Breslov (1772-1810), knew alot about suffering and illness, prayer and spirituality. This is an inspiring collection of his prayers, addressing topics such as action, words, feelings, thoughts, and will. Click to read more.

[book] Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina Barkhordar-Nahai
Hardcover - 384 pages (1999) Gina B. Nahai lives in Los Angeles and is a lecturer in Persian/Jewish history. This, her second novel, is a magical-realism book about family and love, destiny and choice in the Tehran Jewish ghetto and in modern Los Angeles. The main character is Roxanna, who at age 8 is told that she carries bad luck, and is thus given to Alexandra, an eccentric Russian refugee. When Alexandra dies, Roxanna flees the ghetto, but finds herself trapped by love in a house on the "Avenue of Faith." Roxanna marries Sohrab in order to be close to his father, whom she really loves. When their affair is discovered, shes kept a prisoner in the house, and in desperation runs away. Click to read more extensive details on the story.
Click here to read more about it, see the cover art, to review it, or to purchase it from Amazon (net proceeds are donated to charity)
Click here for information on her first novel, The Cry of The Peacock.

[book] Haikus for Jews by David Bader
Hardcover - 96 pages (September 1999).

So you thought I would
Write a Jewish haiku to
Sell this book. Guess not
Bader, a Hahvahd Lawyer, and the author of "How to Be an Extremely Reform Jew" provides us with the essence of the faith in 5-7-5 / 17 syllable portions. Like the Japanese ahiku, the Jewish haiku includes 'a kigo', or a 'season word' hinting at a time of year. For example, a Japanese haiku would use "russet" in Fall, and "dragonfly" in Summer. A Jewish haiku may use "extra sweater" in Winter or "Gefilte Fish" at Pesach. Some samples?

No fins, no flippers
The gefilte fish swims with
some difficulty

Heimlich. Is that a
Jewish name? I wonder as
a diner turns blue.

Monarch butterfly,
I know your name used to be

Cherry blossoms bloom
Sure, it's beautiful, but is
it good for the Jews?

Click here to order this book from, read more reviews, or to add your own review.

[book] The Pigskin Rabbi by Willard Manus
Hardcover - 304 pages (June 1999). A hilarious Summer novel that is great for weekend reading. Rabbi Ziggy Cantor loves that Jewish heretic (secularist) Spinoza, but loves football even more. Off in the Netherlands, far from his father's gaze, Rabbi Cantor (not to be confused with JTS grad Rabbi Debra Cantor) is discovered by a scout for the NY Giants, recruited, and becomes a star quarterback at the super bowl, who calls his plays in Yiddish. That's when Judaism begins to pervade American culture. Will he play on Yom Kippur? What about his non-Jewish girlfriend? Will his teammates convert? Click to read more.

[book] A God In Ruins by Leon Uris
Hardcover - 800 pages (June 1999). Leon Uris gave the Jews Exodus, Qb VII, The Haj and Mila 18. He is a master storyteller about Jews and the Irish (Trinity). Now he gets to mix them both. He offers us "A God In Ruins," the story of Quinn O'Connell, an Irish Catholic candidate for the Presidency of the United States in the year 2008. After 400 scouts were killed by a militia group, the primary campaign issue is gun control. One week prior to Election Day, O'Connell discovers that he was born to Jewish parents, but adopted by a Catholic family. He has a Jewish half-brother. So what? So what if he was born to Jewish parents? Will voters care? How will this affect the tensions between the black and Jewish communities, the neo-Nazi's. Will a Kristallnacht occur in 2008? Click to read more expanded reviews.

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