The ProsenPeople

Book Cover of the Week: The Widow of Wall Street

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

If you enjoy dark fiction about family relationships and deception, keep an eye out for a new novel coming out this April from bestselling author Randy Susan Meyers:

You gotta love a glitzy book cover. The Widow of Wall Street opens in 2009 with a visit to the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution, where Phoebe Pierce’s husband, Jake, is imprisoned on fraud charges following the discovery of the elaborate Ponzi scheme upon which he built their fortune. The novel follows Phoebe from the beginnings of her relationship with Jake in the summer of 1960 through the present day, living with her husband’s notoriety and the world’s censure and suspicion, reminding readers with that sparkly city skyline that all that glitters is not gold.

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Book Cover of the Week: Breaking the Chains of Gravity

Thursday, January 05, 2017 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I’m not sure I can express how much I am looking forward to seeing Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures this weekend: the incredible true story of three black female mathematicians who helped NASA launch John Glenn into orbit in 1962 hits theaters tomorrow! While the film is based on a Margot Lee Shetterly book of the same title, I have my nose buried in a different relevant read:

Amy Shira Teitel’s Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight before NASA begins in the spring of 1930, following the German rocket program from the Wehrmacht through World War II and its postwar integration into the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the United States federal agency founded in 1915 and absorbed into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 under President Eisenhower—in response to the October 1957 launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union. This fascinating historical account is a an excellent companion to Michael Chabon’s recent novel Moonglow, which depicts many of the same events, programs, and engineers introduced here in Amy Shira Teitel’s nonfiction debut.

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Book Cover of the Week: E. L. Doctorow's Collected Stories

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

A year and a half after the passing of “the reigning godfather of historical fiction,” a new collection of fifteen stories written, selected, revised, and ordered by E. L. Doctorow himself comes out January 2017:

You have to admire the understated design of the book cover. The off-center positioning of the stylized initial heightens the impact of the graphic and lures the reader to follow the subtle arrow of the arc aligned with the volume’s edge and open the book. It captures a feeling of forward motion, throwing into relief Doctorow’s capacity to tell stories of the future by setting them in the past. Pick up a copy of Doctorow: Collected Stories and you'll see what I mean.

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Book Cover of the Week: The Menorah

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Perhaps one of the best religious traditions I have adopted for myself as an adult is hearing the Book of Lamentations read at Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue on New York’s Upper West Side, on the Eve of Tisha B’Av each year. It is a beautiful, eerie service held in the dark, followed by a lecture relating to the Jewish observance of the saddest day in the Hebrew year.

In his lecture this past summer, Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik brought up a custom of the Jews of Rome connecting Tisha B’Av to Hanukkah, which is nearly upon us now: members of this community read the Book of Lamentations by candlelight and preserve what remains of each taper, keeping the candle in their homes to use as the shamash on the first night of Hanukkah several months later. This practice is rife with symbolism, related to imagery and significance of the Arch of Titus—I wish I could go into more detail, but that would be plagiarism.

Instead, I am happy to direct readers to a short essay on the Yeshiva University blog, written by Dr. Steven Fine, the author of our Book Cover of the Week!

The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel focuses particularly on the Arch of Titus and Fine’s discovery of the original yellow ochre paint for the menorah in its relief, depicting Titus’s triumphal return from Jerusalem with the treasures of the Temple he destroyed at the end of a bicentennial of Jewish uprising against pagan enemies and oppressors that began with the Maccabees. So yes, I do understand the difference between a menorah and a chanukkiah, but this book still makes for a great Hanukkah read!

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Book Cover of the Week: Turned Inside Out

Thursday, December 01, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I was so taken with the content of Steven Shankman’s Turned Inside Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison I almost failed to notice the book cover, which certainly stands on its own:

Put Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vasily Grossman, and Emmanuel Levinas together in one sentence and I’m already hooked, but Shankman’s story is even more intriguing and important than a discussion of those three oeuvres: it’s an account of holding that discussion between university campuses and prison classrooms in the United States. Turned Inside Out promises to be a worthy successor to Andrew D. Kaufman’s Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Our Troubled Times and Avi Steinberg’s stunning debut memoir, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, and the artwork on this book cover is perfection: a graphic blend of literal and abstract representation of the story that strikes the appealing balance of spare clutter, painted in just the right colors.

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Book Cover of the Week: Judas by Amos Oz

Tuesday, November 08, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

It’s a great day for America: not only do we get to fulfill our civic duty and wear cool stickers (and even get free doughnuts, if you know where to go), but the English edition of Amos Oz’s newest novel comes out today!

As intriguing as the book cover looks on the screen, it doesn’t fully capture the glory of the physical hardcover. That bronze color you see on the lettering for Judas? It’s actually a lustrous gold in real life, and the overall effect of this juxtapositional gilded simplicity is practically breathtaking. (And the content of the novel ain’t bad, either.) So stop in your local bookstore and grab a copy to read while you’re waiting in line at your polling place—because you are voting today, right? RIGHT???

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Book Cover of the Week: All Grown Up

Thursday, September 29, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

First you hear that Jami Attenberg, the author of The Middlesteins and Saint Maizie, has a new novel in the works, and you think: yes. Then you see the book cover, and you think: YES.

All Grown Up is a novel told in a series of vignettes from the perspective of Andrea Bern, a single woman in her late thirties whose notion of adulthood differs drastically from the choices of her closest friends—and those of her brother and expectant sister-and-law. But the arrival of Andrea’s niece brings about an upheaval no one in her family could ever have imagined, and Andrea’s untethered self-identity is thrown into utter chaos.

The artwork for the book cover is sure to catch browsers’ eyes when All Grown Up hits the shelves March 2017. Great color blocking and clean lines, contrasted with the squirrelly text across our hero’s bangs and forehead above an outline of the New York City skyline in a solidly two-dimensional image. Looking forward to reading this one come spring!

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Book Cover of the Week: A Hat for Mrs. Goldman

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

It’s rare that a children’s book about doing a mitzvah tugs at adult readers’ heartstrings, but a new story by Michelle Edwards nearly reduced me to weeping at the office this morning:

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love is about a friendship between a young girl from a Mexican American family named Sophia and her neighbor, the eponymous older Jewish woman who knits hats for newborns, children, and adults in their community. “Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,” Mrs. Goldman tells Sophia, “and a mitzvah is a good deed.”

Sophia makes pom-poms for Mrs. Goldman’s hats and accompanies her on walks with Mrs. Goldman’s besweatered dog, Fifi. But as the weather turns cold, Sophie begins to worry: Mrs. Goldman doesn’t have a hat of her own! “Mrs. Goldman’s keppie must be very cold,” Sophia frets, and decides to knit her neighbor a hat herself—but when she finally casts off, her hat for Mrs. Goldman is full of lumps and bumps and holes!

You can guess how the story ends, but Edwards adds a couple unexpected, tender details to the story’s resolution that adults, too, will find touching—I actually sighed aloud reading it on my own! The book includes knitting instructions for making a hat and pom-poms just like Sophia’s, and lovely illustrations by G. Brian Karas.

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Book Cover of the Week: These Are the Names

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I've been haunted by Tommy Wieringa's These Are the Names since picking up an advance copy last month. The original edition of the Dutch novel deservedly won the 2013 Libris Prize, but before I knew that or anything else about the book the the cover alone instantly captured my attention:

Of course, once I opened its pages I was spellbound by Tommy Wieringa's masterful (and eerie) storytelling. These Are the Names balances the mundane and the mysterious between two seemingly inharmonious stories—the famine-swept journey of a pack of wanderers trekking thought the Eurasian wilderness and a solitary policeman's investigation into the death of a rabbi, leaving only one other Jew remaining in their reduced border town—without ever striking a discordant note.

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Book Cover of the Week: Fascinating—The Life of Leonard Nimoy

Thursday, August 25, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

I always have an eye out for good books for young Jewish readers—stories that break the mold of what we consider "Jewish children's literature" and introduce interesting ideas along with evocative imagery that appeals to the artistic sensibilities of kids and adults alike. Combine those qualities with my love for all things Leonard Nimoy, and you can see why I'm excited for Richard Michelson and Edel Rodriguez's new illustrated biography:

Accessible to readers of all religious or Trekkie affiliations, Fascinating: The Life of Leonard Nimoy delivers strong Jewish content without overpowering the universal story of first-generation achievement in the United States. Exploring Nimoy's childhood in Boston's West End, Fascinating depicts the assiduous actor's decision to take on his iconic half-Vulcan role in light of the alienation his parents experienced as American immigrants from Iziaslav—reflected in the cover illustration of Mr. Spock's profile superimposed with the face of young Leonard.

Intrigued? Richard Michelson will share more about the book as a Visiting Scribe here on The ProsenPeople over the first week of Elul—the week after next!

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