Advice Needed


I set off for hospital last Sunday I took a couple of books with me. I knew I would have some time for reading but two seemed enough as I’d also spend a lot of time sleeping; which I did.

My first choice was Losing the Rat Race, Winning at Life by Rabbi Marc D. Angel. My friend Michael is a fan of Rabbi Angel’s and I reckoned that a short book on a topical issue would be a good start. It was a fine choice. The book is easy to read and contains numerous anecdotes and advice which makes it accessible and relevant.

The other one was The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg. I enjoy Scandinavian thrillers and I guessed I would need something easy that kept my mind off what was happening to my body and the pain I might feel. I was not disappointed. The book is not grand but it served its purpose quite nicely.

I now have about four full weeks on my hands – on my back (hope this doesn’t sound too rude) would be a more accurate description of my position lately – so I need your help. Can you advise me on books you have read recently and that you’d recommend?

Of course, I’ll also be visiting your blogs more often but I’m glad to have time for pleasurable book reading too.

26 thoughts on “Advice Needed

    • Leora, I’ve just ordered the book. thanks for the advice.
      I don’t feel too bad actually but the nurse who comes for the daily injection and the women I know who underwent the same operation say to take things easy and not move too much.

  1. If you like detective mysteries with great character work etc, get the Michael Connelly series. He even has his main characters meet up.

    My daughter is addicted and lets me read them.

  2. Funny that you should mention Scandinavia. I just finished “Out Stealing Horses” by the Norwegian writer Per Pederson.
    I also liked “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, about a serial killer who killed probably dozens of women during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

  3. “Snow Falling on Cedars” (David Guterson) and “Memoirs of a Geisha” (Arthur Golden) are two of the loveliest, most absorbing books I’ve read. I also loved “Cold Mountain” (Charles Frazier). I haven’t seen any of these movies–never felt a need to. For something, Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is delicate and complicated, a quieter novel than “Pride and Prejudice.” They are tied for my favorite Austen novels.

    A refuah shleimah to you, my friend.

    • Shimshonit, I have read “Memoirs of a Geisha” but not Guterson’s novel. I love Jane Austen and have read all her novels. I reckon my favorite is “Pride and Prejudice”.
      Thanks for your good wishes.

  4. What happened? You hurt your back, or….?

    Well, as you yourself can probably guess, I’d recommend everything by Rabbi Angel. I just read his
    — Loving Truth and Peace: The Grand Religious Worldview of Rabbi Benzion Uziel
    — Rabbi Haim David Halevy: Gentle Scholar, Courageous Scholar
    — Foundations of Sephardic Spirituality: The Inner Life of the Jews of the Ottoman Empire
    — The Rhythms of Jewish Living: A Sephardic Approach
    — Choosing to be Jewish (more ideological than practical)

    The first two are about some fantastic rabbis, the likes of whom tragically no longer exist. The next (Foundation) is a “nostalgic history”, as Rabbi Angel, and inter alia, it well presents many enlightening and inspiritual aspects of the Judeo-Spanish (Turkey, Greece, and other Ladino-speaking Jewish communities) weltanschauung. Rhythms too presents a Sephardic “joie de vivre” and connection to spirituality and nature. The final book is Rabbi Angel’s ideological and polemical argument for more lenient and humane conversion standards, containing also his philosophy of how rabbis should inspect converts, stories of converts with whom he has dealt, etc.

    I assume all his other books are fantastic, but I cannot say so definitively until I read them. Actually, pretty soon I’ll be receiving his The Jews of Rhodes: The History of a Sephardic Community in the mail…

  5. Refuah Shleimah. I’ve read Devil in the White City and thought it was amazing. It’s not a novel (it’s actually a history book, and if you look in the back, there are tons of primary sources), but it reads like one (except for some of the architectural details associated with the Chicago World’s Fair, but that was interesting, too). Larson also wrote a book called Thunderstruck, about the development of wireless communication (ala Marconi, not cell phones) and how that technology helped to capture a murderer.

    I’m a big fan of Jodi Picoult’s writing, although it is by no means light reading. Of the five books that I’ve read (she’s written about 12 or 14, I think), my favorite thus far is called Perfect Match. It is followed closely by My Sister’s Keeper and then Nineteen Minutes.

    Recently I read a piece of historical fiction called People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. It creates a history associated with the Sarajevo Haggadah, based on artifacts and evidence retrieved from the haggadah (e.g., an insect wing associated with a particular climate). Some of the details about the haggadah are true and have been researched by Brooks. Other aspects are pure speculation and imagination. I found myself wishing some of the vignettes, particularly the ones in set in Spain and Italy, were longer because Brooks pulled me into her story so completely.

    I gained a lot from reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemerovsky, but be forewarned, it is not an easy read, because it’s not actually finished. Nemerovksy was a secular Jew in France during the Holocaust and started to write this book, which is set during the Holocaust. She was captured and died in a concentration camp. Her descendants found this manuscript decades later, and it was published. As a result, the book is rather raw and has an unfinished feel. It also reads like a Russian novel in some respects (lots of characters, different “suites” in which certain characters reappear but you might not have seen them for a while, etc.). However, the most moving part of this book lies in the appendices. One of them includes her notes about story arcs and a very rough outline for a 5th (and maybe 6th – I read it over a year ago and loaned my copy to someone, so I can’t check it) suite that was supposed to tie things together a little bit. The other appendix is heartwrenching to read. It contains letters she and her editor wrote to each other during the war, some related to the book, some related to her desire to keep her children safe.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks Amy for taking the time to advise so many books.
      I had never heard of Larson (this one actually) before you two mentioned him.
      I have never read anything by Jodi Picoult but I have read “People of the Book” and “Suite française”.

  6. refuah shleimah!

    I just finished “All Other Nights” by Dara Horn – it was very good, and “The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square” by Rosina Lippi – which was a little fluffy but very enjoyable. Also “The Commoner” by John Burnham Schwartz was good….

  7. Try the Stig Larsson books – in French they´re called the “Millenium Trilogy” and they are simply fantastic. They´re crime books from a Swedish author. Really, really good.

    I am reading a lot about History, if this interests you let me know and I´ll give some recommendations.

    • Thanks José for chiming in with suggestions. I have read the Millenium Trilogy and really loved the series.
      Concerning History, I prefer contemporary or (even better) Jewish History.

  8. OK, then here is what I have read last on the subject.

    a) Saul Friedländer´s two volumes on Nazi Germany and the Jews (1st vol. up to 1939, 2nd vol during the War)

    b) The Lost (but maybe you have already read it)

    c) have you tried Melnitz by Charles Lewinsky ? I have just started and it seems interesting. There is a French translation (the original is German). It´s about a Swiss Jewish family through several generations and got excellent critics.

    d) one of my all-time favorites in Jewish-related literature is Isaac B. Singer´s small but very profound work, The Penitent (in Yiddish: Der Baal-Tshuve)

    e) back to history, Gershon Sholem´s book “Sabbatai Zvi the mystical Messiah” is huge, scholarly, but extremely interesting.

    Bonne nuit,

  9. Jose’s mention of Professor Scholem reminds me:

    I am quite critical and skeptical of Kabbalah, and of course, intellectual honesty demands that I know something about what I’m critical about. Scholem’s works are something I’ve been meaning to get to, but I haven’t yet been able to.

    In the meantime, I’ve sufficed myself on
    — “Kabbalah” and “Zohar”, by Scholem, in Encyclopedia Judaica. “Zohar” can be found online at
    — Jewish Mysticism, by (Title?) J. Abelson. Available online, in its entirety (it’s a book) at
    — Judaism, by Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein. This book is a FANTASTIC ideological history of Judaism, and it’s been printed more times than can be counted, and it’s only about $5 on Amazon. The chapter on Kabbalah is a very academic and historical one, and relies heavily on Scholem, based on the footnotes. I HIGHLY recommend this book in general.

    • Michael, I checked Amazon and found references to 2 boos with the same title by Isidore Epstein. One has 144 pages while the other one (in paperback) has 352. Which one do you mean?

    • Michael,

      you could try Sholem´s seminal works, “Origins of the Kabbalah”, and “The Major Currents of Jewish Mysticism” (my translation, in German it´s Die jüdische Mystik in ihren Hauptströmungen).

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