Our Kind of Traitor
By Amy Newman Smith for Jewish Review of Books
"I am not a fan of spy thrillers,” Uri Bar-Joseph said recently. “The only good spy novel author is John le Carré.” That gives readers fair warning not to expect exploding wristwatches and car chases from the Haifa University professor and former intelligence analyst’s latest book, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. Even the subtitle might be a bit inflated, he said, since there’s no way of really knowing what the outcome of the Yom Kippur War would have been without the spy code-named The Angel. What Bar-Joseph does offer is a comprehensive account of how a well-placed Egyptian became Israel’s most valuable intelligence asset, and how disagreements between Israeli spymasters over the information he provided ultimately led to his death.
The 26 Books We’re Sure To Be Reading This Year
Talya Zax for The Forward
Winter is theoretically a fabulous time for curling up with a hot drink and a book, although that’s a peculiar sentence to write on a 60-degree day in New York. Still, the cold weather will inevitably return, and with it the need to read, read, read. Our favorite picks for the endeavor —in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — below.
By Andre Aciman
Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel “Call Me By Your Name” — imagistic, languid, perceptive — has long been admired for its depiction of queer sexuality; reviewing the book in The New Yorker, Cynthia Zarin pronounced Aciman “an acute grammarian of desire.” His new collection of linked stories promises to be a similarly deft examination of love and lust, tracking a man named Paul’s affairs throughout his lifetime.
Inaugural Book Club Award Winner and Finalists
Jewish Book Council
Every month, JBC Book Clubs offers weekly email subscribers a dedicated email with special book club features that will enhance a book club or add to your personal reading experience.
Whether your book club is formal or informal; social or educational; interested in reading only books of Jewish content, just a few Jewish books throughout the year, or good literature that happens to have Jewish themes, JBC has a book for you and the resources to take you to the next level.
Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis
Review by Philip K. Jason for Jewish Book Council
Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards - Book of the Year
Daniel Gordis’s new history of Israel should become a standard for years to come, perhaps even a classic. At 576 pages, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn can indeed be considered concise, as so much more could be and has been written about each era and associated issues addressed in the book. Clear, forceful, frank, and often inspiring, this mighty tome of both academic and personal writing explores the ups, downs, and turning points in a history that begins with Theodore Herzl’s vision and ends with tomorrow’s challenges.
Long, Long Ago in a Jewish Fantasyland Far, Far Away
Raphael Magarik The Forward
The Book of Esther; By Emily Barton
The medieval kingdom of Khazaria has long been used as a Jewish Zembla, or fantasyland, a shadowy alternative to unpleasant realities. In the 12th century, the Spanish philosopher Judah Halevi dreamed up a Khazar king who converted to Judaism, imagining an upside-down world in which Judaism trumped its regnant rivals, Christianity and Islam. In 1940, the Zionist poet Shaul Tchernichovsky wrote a Hebrew ballad about the fall of the last Khazar king to the emperor of Rus, wishfully reimagining the Jewish victims of the Holocaust as militant heroes. More recently, the Hungarian Jewish writer Arthur Koestler serendipitously “discovered” the Khazar roots of modern Jewry, an unlikely genealogy that he hoped would disarm anti-Semitism by showing Jews never to have been Semites (for Koestler, conveniently, we were instead Hungarians).