An April Shower (of Books)

Courtesy of Paul Dry Books

Another month, another slew of exciting new Jewish books. We wish we could review them all, but the space available is finite, and there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on.

As a consolation prize, we’re highlighting five new releases coming out this month that we think you’ll enjoy. Happy reading!

“Reading Ruth: Birth, Redemption and the Way of Israel” (April 6)
Leon Kass and
Hannah Mandelbaum

Kass, a conservative bioethicist, has written a few of these close-reading volumes that deal with Tanach texts. This newest iteration, written with his granddaughter Hannah Mandelbaum, explores the Book of Ruth. The pair found a rich vein in which to both blast and chisel, and their reading is, if not particularly novel, at least a clearly rendered introduction to the text and the traditional questions that surround it.

Courtesy of Knopf

“Antiquities” (April 13)
Cynthia Ozick

The physical “Antiquities” — the book itself — lends itself to the feeling that you’re reading a curious little fable as much as the text does. It’s on the smaller side, just 179 pages, with almost nothing in the way of pre- or postscript, and a spare cover.

“Antiquities” takes the form of a sort of dramatic monologue from Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, an elderly man who once served as the trustee of a long-defunct school, now preparing his memoirs. “Antiquities” is best encountered knowing that and no more; its quiet subtlety demands it.

Courtesy of Metropolitan Books

“The Passenger” (April 13)
Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz; translated by Philip Boehm

The text of “The Passenger” is translated into English for the first time, and we’re lucky to have it. Written in haste in 1938, the book follows Otto Silbermann, a Jewish businessman in Germany who finds his country shunning him at every turn. Determined to find answers, he begins boarding train after train, crisscrossing the place he once thought of as home.

Thus, the story has some eerie insight into the centrality of the train in what was to come. The sometimes-frantic prose is a testament to the period of its composition — the weeks after Kristallnacht — but there are fully formed ideas, characters and stories here.

Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers

“The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art” (April 20)
Written by Cynthia Levinson; illustrated by Evan Turk

This is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book. Turk takes Shahn’s art as a clear inspiration without mimicking the source material too closely, and Levinson’s story of a growing political and artistic conscience seems pretty accessible to young readers. For the budding Ben Shahn in your life.

“At The End of the World, Turn Left” (April 20)
Zhanna Slor

Courtesy of Agora Books

I came into this book knowing nothing about the writer or her work and came out wanting to know a lot more about both.

Slor’s novel is about a pair of Jewish sisters born in the USSR but still trying to find their place in the world. One of them thinks it’s Israel, and the other one has no idea what it might be, except that it isn’t her hometown of Milwaukee. A mysterious message from a stranger throws it all into flux.

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