Monday, November 5, 2007

What's in the book stack?

Starting at the bottom...

The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, Yitzhak Buxbaum
This is an excellent book to read to see the grand start of Chasidism should the blog wars among their present day adherents make you wonder if there's any purpose to it. The short answer, YES.

Hebrew for Dummies, Jill Suzanne Jacobs
Like the Rosetta Stone products, I rarely get anywhere with a language taught in a ...For Dummies book, but this one has a definite place in learning spoken Hebrew as practiced in Israel, or at least in the tourist industry catering to visitors to Israel.

Webster's New World Hebrew Dictionary
If you don't have this, and are learning Hebrew, I guarantee you need this. Hands down, the most thorough inter-language dictionary you can find for Hebrew to English and back again translating.

Discourses on Livy, Niccolo Machiavelli
What is this doing in there? Well if you think you've got mental whiplash from seeing it in that stack, then I suggest reading it after you're read The Prince. Talk about a paradigm shifting without popping the clutch!

Hasidic Tales, Rami Shapiro
This is a definite book for beginners on understanding the legends of early Chasidism because it comes with an overview for each story explaining basic Jewish cultural and religious points as well as a very quick explanation of the unstated or implied nuances those who aren't familiar with the area might not understand.

The Jewish Way, Irving Greenberg
This one book gives more time to shabbat than anything short of a book on the subject by itself and goes on to cover the rest of the temporal concerns of Judaism regarding holidays and times of the week. Very well written and engaging, but might make you feel your present shabbat so lacking as to make you cry in shame for the lack of warm homey folksiness and take up knitting to make a cozies for your best place settings.

Embracing Judaism, Simcha Kling
The Rabbinical Assembly puts this book out and when you check their website for information on conversion, this book comes up first. For those considering converting within the conservative/Masorti way, this and The Jewish Way are a sure way to find comfort and belonging in Judaism.

Tales of the Hasidim, Martin Buber
This is the paperback two-in-one version of Martin Buber's classic, but be prepared: it is no simple easily penetrable thing. You have to read some of the stories several times to realize they were meant to be amusing and others twice as much to figure out the lesson. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Jewish Americans, Robert Stein
I bought this at the local dollar store believe it or not, which somewhat disturbed me since I didn't see any of the other Coming to America books for other ethnicities there. What? Jewish history in America doesn't sell? Shame on those of you (in not-so-strict) Jewish households not buying such books for your coffee table where the kids can see them. There's much to remember about America and Jewish culture's contributions and though quick and simple, this book hits you with several dozen.

The Chosen, Chaim Potok
What can be said about this book not said ten dozen times and which I could do a better job with? Nothing, but I will give you my take: EXCELLENT. I played little league baseball so the connection between the boys via that first baseball game is especially poignant. I would put this on public high school English literature lists in place of Catcher in the Rye and other junk (yes, I read it and I read Breakfast of Champions and neither clocked me in the face like The Chosen).

The Torah, G-d
JPS translation to English for my Hebrew-challenged noggin and if you want to quibble over the translational and historical accuracy then go argue with JPS and not me. An excellent beginner's copy so as to not be completely lost when whatever Chasidic blogger you're reading is babbling about Amalek and you won't be thinking the trains aren't running.

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