cover image The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature

The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature

Adam Kirsch. Norton, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-24176-1

In this insightful and comprehensive volume, Kirsch has chosen 18 classic works of Jewish literature through which he tells the unique story of the Jewish people and of Jewish thought throughout the ages. The books segue seamlessly from one work to the next, each classic building upon the last in terms of history and Jewish tradition. A timeline puts people and locations into perspective, while brief summaries precede every analysis to familiarize those new to the work. His goal is to “open up these texts to the interested reader—to show what they contain, how and why they were written, and what they can tell us about Judaism and Jewishness.” Among these is The Book of Esther, The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl, The Jewish War by Flavius Joesphus, The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), and Tevye the Dairyman by Sholem Aleichem, the sheer variety of which gives voice to many fascinating and distinctive perspectives. Kirsch’s writing is eloquent and articulate, and his ability to pull together the social, intellectual, religious, and political threads of every era results in an intelligent and engaging foray into Jewish literary history. (Oct.)