Selected reads for those with vacation plans and everyone else:


The Turbulent Life and Times
of Benjamin Netanyahu
by Anshel Pfeffer (Haaretz, The Economist)

Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Basic Books

A biography of Israel’s first Israeli-born leader, self-assured, lip-hiding, “the state is me” Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

No matter what one thinks about the man as a leader and politican, he continues to dominate Israeli public life. How can it be explained? Journalist Anshel Pfeffer details the formative influence of Netanyahu’s grandfather (Nathan, who changed the family name) and father (standoffish, unyielding Benzion, who thought Ben Gurion was a wimp), who bequeathed to him a brand of Zionism integrating Jewish nationalism and religious traditionalism.

Pfeffer’s argument is that to understand Netanyahu you have to realize that he thinks he is leading the underdogs over the secular liberals who founded Israel. If you read just one chapter, read about his first meeting with Barack Obama.

My Country, My Life:
Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace
by Ehud Barak

Publication Date: May 8, 2018
St. Martin’s Press

A memoir by soldier-statesmen and one-time Israeli Chief of Staff of the IDF and Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, and what he thinks about the prospects for peace.
It was one of many in a life intertwined, from the start, with that of Israel. Barak offers assessments of his fellow Israeli politicians, of the American administrations with which he worked, of a messianic Netanyahu, and of himself.

Also included is an account of the Camp David meeting in 2000 among Bill Clinton, Yasser Arafat, and himself, which mainly failed over the issue of Jerusalem (Arafat insisted on total Palestinian control of the Old City.)

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor
by Yossi Klein Halevi

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

Klein (Helevi) gained fame as the subject of a documentary about growing up in NYC as the child of a Holocuast survivor and a cutting edge writer of New Jewish journalism. He made aliyah and has authored several books while raising a family in Israel. In this book, he writes to his Palestinian neighbors, empathizing with their suffering and longing for reconciliation as he explores how the conflict looks through Israeli eyes. I call you “neighbor” because I don’t know your name, or anything personal about you. Given our circumstances, “neighbor” might be too casual a word to describe our relationship. We are intruders into each other’s dream, violators of each other’s sense of home. We are incarnations of each other’s worst historical nightmares. Neighbors?

Yossi Klein Halevi explains what motivated him to leave his native New York in his twenties and move to Israel to participate in the drama of the renewal of a Jewish homeland, which he is committed to see succeed as a morally responsible, democratic state in the Middle East. Halevi’s letters speak not only to his Palestinian neighbor, but to all concerned global citizens, helping us understand the painful choices confronting Israelis and Palestinians that will ultimately help determine the fate of the region.

Born Trump:
Inside America’s
First Family
by Emily Jane Fox

Publication Date: June 19, 2018

Who is Donald J. Trump? To truly understand America’s 45th president, argues Vanity Fair journalist Emily Jane Fox, you must know his children, whose own stories provide the key to unlocking what makes him tick.

Born Trump is Ms. Fox’s dishy, deeply reported, and richly detailed look at Trump’s five children (and equally powerful ‘bashert’ Orthodox Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner), exploring their lives, their roles in the campaign and administration, and their dramatic and often fraught relationships with their father and with one another. Born Trump is full of surprising insights, and untold stories. Did any of the kids believe their father would win the election? Do they want to be America’s Royal Family? Does Ivanka (registered trademark) overrule Melania? What was the effect of the Ivana/Donald divorce on this kids and the summers in Eastern Europe? Did Jared quietly but with compressed anger stop the rise of Chris Christie? Did the campaign help to bring the siblings together or break them apart?

Donald used to tell friends that he wanted at least five children, so at least one would be just like him. Ivanka is media-savvy, emotionless and self-promotional; Don Jr. has the most contentious relationship with his father yet seems prone to endlessly repeat his mistakes; Eric embraced the family’s real estate business but has, in surprising ways, charted a more independent course than his siblings (and monetized Make American Great Again by pushing the braind into the Heartland); Tiffany, who grew up separate from her father, inherited his assurance mixed in with insecurity; and Jared Kushner and his ambition is critical to the story. I really didn’t care the Don Jr was called The Diaper Don at Penn due to wetting his pants, or that Jared – shanda – worked on the Sabbath during a campaign emergency. These are the dishy snacks. The main courses are the insights to understand how the family, and the Oval Office, operate.


Secrets of a Kosher Girl:
A 21-Day Nourishing Plan
to Lose Weight and Feel Great
(Even If You’re Not Jewish)
by Beth Warren, Registered Dietician, Nutritionist
with a Foreword by Joel Kahn M.D.

Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Post Hill Press

Beth Warren shares her expertise on healthy living… using mindful eating and a kosher diet. She emphasises whole foods (the type of food, not the Amazon supermarket chain) and “clean eating.”

Something Old, Something New:
Classic Recipes Revised
by Tamar Adler
Illustrations by Mindy Dubin
Foreword by Mimi Sheraton

Publication Date: April 2018

Something Old, Something New, Adler continues her preservative quest by rekindling classic recipes. There were times past when cooking was careful, important, economical, inspired. Other than occasional kitschy throwbacks, however, like Buttered Tomatoes on Toast, Deviled Eggs, Green Goddess Salad and Orange Blossom Merengue, or Turnip Gratin, Alligator Pear (avocado, almond, onion, tuna) Salad, Chicken a la Montmorency, or Limas and Eggplants a La Creme many dishes that first excited our palates have disappeared. Beneath their fussy garnishes, gratuitous sauces, and outmoded techniques, Adler unearthed great recipes worth reviving. In Something Old, Something New she presents over 100 she loves best. She rescues and revives them, she simplifies them… she revivifies them.


The Lost Family:
A Novel
by Jenna Blum

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

In 1960s Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket Wellington, and to admire its dashing owner and head chef, Peter Rashkin, a surviver of Auschwitz. He is married to the restaurant. He has no time for women or dates…. He has survivor’s guilt. His daughters and his wife (Masha) were killed by the Nazis. When June, a model, arrives at the eatery, however, they embark on a passionate affai, which leads to a pregnancy… The story of a man in mmourning, a new wife who cannot compete with a dead wife, and a child that, like a sponge, must soak up the pain of her parents.

We Are Gathered
A Novel
by Jamie Weisman

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

A debut novel by Jamie Weisman (MD, Dermatology). Set in Atlanta Georgia at an interfaith wedding that Michael Chabon would enjoy. There are 150 guests, the bride and the groom. Elizabeth Gottlieb, proud graduate of the University of Virginia and of Emory University School of Law, is par tof one of Atlanta’s wealthiest Jewish families. They are machers. Hank Jackson, her groom, is not. We meet the guests, who are the focus of the novel. Over a dozen narrate their chapters; the best is the first, by Carla Lefkowitz. There is Bubbie Ida, who taught kids to cross their legs at the ankles to avoid varicose veins; Carla Lefkowitz, Elizabeth’s witty but less than pretty (port red wine stain, limp) best friend turned Hollywood film scout; Elizabeth’s great-aunt Rachel, a Holocaust survivor from Germany who is still navigating a no-man’s-land between cultures and identities decades after escaping from the forests of Europe; Elizabeth’s wheelchair-bound grandfather Zaydie Albert Myerson, who considers his legacy as a man, both in the boardroom and the bedroom (and how Home Dept destroyed his business legacy); and Annette, the mother of the bride herself, reminded now of her youthful indiscretions in love and motherhood.

Playing with Matches:
A Novel
by Hannah Orenstein

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

Playing with matches, a girl can get burned. I am a fan of Orenstein’s tweets and essays. In her novel, we meet a young matchmaker who wants to find her clients their bashert, but also gets mixed up in hijinks when her “true love” is not as faithful as expected. Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his phone. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss. When Jonathan is found to be cheating, Sasha ends up with a former client with Southern charm.


Siren Song:
My Life in Music
by Seymour Stein
with Gareth Murphy

Publication Date: June 12, 2018
St Martin’s Press

The autobiography of America’s greatest living record man: the founder of Sire Records and spotter of rock talent from the Ramones and Talking Heads to Madonna, Lou Reed, Ice-T, Seal, and Depeche Mode. Seymour Stein grew up in an Orthodox, Brooklyn Jewish family. At the age of 15, in 1957, he flew to Ohio for a summer internship at King Records under the tutelage of Syd Nathan, who recommended that Stein change his name from Steinbigle. He remained in the biz for 6 decades, and not only signed and nurtured more important artists than anyone alive, and remained a hip dude.

Harvey Milk:
His Lives and Death
(Jewish Lives)
by Lillian Faderman

Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Yale University Press – Jewish Live series

Harvey Milk gets attention from the Yale Press’ Jewish Lives series. An energetic wise-ass, he worked as a schoolteacher, a Wall Street securities analyst, a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, an assistant at a Broadway theater, a hippie, and the owner/operator of a small camera store in San Francisco. He then found his calling as an organizer of the local business community, an activist, and a politician. In terms of his religiion… he rejected Judaism as he saw it practiced, but embraced what were seen as Jewish, liberal values. Before being assassinated, he fought for the rights of gays, racial minorities, women, working people, the disabled, and senior citizens.

Failure Is An Option:
An Attempted Memoir
by H. Jon Benjamin

Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Dutton Books

H. Jon Benjamin–the lead voice behind ARCHER and BOB’S BURGERS – helps us all feel a little better about our own failures by sharing his own in a hilarious memoir-ish chronicle of failure.
He failed with his birthname.. named for an uncle who passed away too early. (Harry).
He failed at his Bar Mitzvah party, with its disco ball but Sinatra music.
He failed with using his time wisely when away from school due to colitis.
He failed at his Master’s degree at Northwestern in Holocaust Studies (its only student in the program).
He lived in Paris but didn’t learn French.
… so perhaps COMEDY was THE ONLY OPTION.

Most people would consider H. Jon Benjamin a comedy show business success. But he’d like to remind everyone that as great as success can be, failure is also an option. And maybe the best option. In this book, he tells stories from his own life, from his early days (“wherein I’m unable to deliver a sizzling fajita”) to his romantic life (“how I failed to quantify a threesome”) to family (“wherein a trip to P.F. Chang’s fractures a family”) to career (“how I failed at launching a kid’s show”). As Jon himself says, breaking down one’s natural ability to succeed is not an easy task, but also not an insurmountable one. Society as we know it is, sadly, failure averse. But more acceptance of failure, as Jon sees it, will go a long way to making this world a different place . . . a kinder, gentler place, where gardens are overgrown and most people stay home with their pets. A vision of failure, but also a vision of freedom.

With stories, examples of artistic and literary failure, and a powerful can’t-do attitude, Failure Is an Option is the book the world doesn’t need right now but will get regardless.

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