My Year in Jewish Books (2019 edition)

For a number of years, I have found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” Here’s my attempt to do something similar for 2019.

blue Star of David on white background

Reviewing my reading for the past year, I can see that, again, I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” in the simplest terms as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as overtly Jewish. Occasionally, something may pop up that doesn’t seem to fit this description. I can be flexible.)

But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.

What you won’t find here: My own book (Birthright: Poems), which you can be sure I read this year! Nor will you find all the works that I reread in preparation for the course on 21st-Century Jewish Literature that I taught at Baruch College this past fall.

With all of that in place, I’m happy to present the list, complete with annotations that I’ve updated slightly since first writing them as “brief book reviews” immediately after finishing each book:

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Words of the Week

“At many American universities, mine included, it is now normal for student organizations to freely call Israel an imperialist power and an outpost of white colonialism with little pushback or discussion — never mind that more than half of Israel’s population consists of Israeli Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, and that the country boasts a 20 percent Arab minority. The word ‘apartheid’ is thrown around without hesitation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is repeatedly dragged into discussions ranging anywhere from L.G.B.T.Q. equality (where to mention Israel’s vastly better record on gay rights compared with that of any other country in the Middle East is branded ‘pinkwashing’), to health care to criminal justice reform.”

Source: Blake Flayton, “On the Frontlines of Progressive Anti-Semitism” (The New York Times)