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Book Cover of the Week: Poems That Make Grown Women Cry

Friday, February 05, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

It's already February, and with a certain day dedicated to romance on the greeting card calendar falling over a weekend this year, the pressure is on, for many, to curate a truly stellar activity or expression of love for those dear to them. Fortunately, there's still time to prepare.

It's hard to go wrong with poetry—I take that back: it's hard to go wrong with good poetry. And if you're not sure how to identify it yourself (or brave enough to try composing your own), might I suggest:

If you think poetry is cliché, you haven't encountered the verses selected by the writers, actors, translators, and song writers included in Anthony Holden and Ben Holden's dual anthologies. Poems That Make Grown Men Cry came out last spring; the companion, Poems That Make Grown Women Cry, follows this April from Simon & Schuster. Discover the poems that reliably reduce 100 women—including Ellena Ferrante, Francine Prose, Nikki Giovanni, Judi Dench, Yoko Ono, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Janet Suzman, Ruth Ozeki, and Ursula K. Le Guin—to tears: everything from the Romantic poets to Rumi to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to Gwendolyn Brooks to Jang Jin-Sun.

There's much to admire in the simplicity of both book covers, but I'm especially enamored by the typography gracing the forthcoming sequel. There's something reminiscent of a worn paperback novel inherited from one's mother in the filigreed Art Deco typeface, nearly-gold lettering simultaneously bold and wispy against a solid white background.

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Book Cover of the Week: Wildwood

Friday, January 22, 2016 | Permalink

Tu Bishvat, the Jewish festival for trees and their fruits, begins Sunday night! In its honor, each year I like to feature books that depict or impart new knowledge on the stately denizens of the world’s forests, groves, and orchards.

This year I was delighted to stumble upon Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, the last book written by Britain’s celebrated environmentalist and nature writer and documentarian, published after his death in 2006. Rather than a personal meditation on secluded romps through the woods (ahem, Walden), Wildwood explores how the people Deakin encountered on his travels through Europe, Kazakhstan, Australia, and his native Britain interact with wilderness around them, probing “what lies behind man's profound and enduring connection with trees.”

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Book Cover of the Week: Fire and Ice

Tuesday, January 05, 2016 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

If you had to guess which month of the year sees the highest cookbook sales, you might place your bet on one boasting a bountiful season harvest or a holiday feast. I would!

Fun insider tip from the publishing industry: most cookbooks are sold in January each year. Motivated by culinary, dietary, or weight-loss resolutions for the New Year, consumers stock up on titles introducing new foods and lifestyles—complete with step-by-step instructions. Indeed, my first personal achievement for 2016 was building a new home for my cookbooks (you can see it here!) and I'm itching to fill it with new ones! Including:

How does Scandinavian cuisine fit in a kosher kitchen, you ask? Well, for one, Fire and Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking is lovingly written by Darra Goldstein, founding editor of the James Beard Award-winning journal Gastronomica and the author of several academic articles and essays on Jewish food and culture. Also, I had a taste of Swedish pizza—topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese—in Crown Heights over the weekend and found it alarmingly scrumptious. So I'll skip the shellfish, but sign me up for smoked arctic char, saffron buns, chanterelle soup, raspberry-rose petal jam, and other culinary gems from the Nordic lands!

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Book Cover of the Week: The Question of the Animal and Religion

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Jewish Book Council is just beginning to pack up our table at the 47th Annual Conference of the Association for Jewish Studies in Boston, where we've spent the past three days showcasing nearly 150 titles by AJS members published in the past year alone, and discovered some interesting titles and book covers while we're here! One in particular caught my eye:

University of San Diego professor of theology and religious studies Aaron S. Gross investigates the large-scale scandals at Agriprocessors, one of the world's largest kosher slaughterhouses located in Postville, Iowa, in The Question of the Animal and Religion: Theoretical Stakes, Practical Implications. Kudos to Columbia University Press for enhancing a book of serious scholarship with such a creative design for the cover!

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Book Cover of the Week: The End of Days

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Looks of concern and alarm were exchanged around the office when managing editor Becca spontaneously exclaimed, "Oh good, the End of Days has arrived!" Then we saw what she meant.

The End of Days is an award-winning bestseller by German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, newly translated into English by Susan Bernofsky and released in the last couple weeks from New Directions Publishing. The novel is comprised of five distinct stories following the same protagonist at different stages of her life in twentieth century Europe, each leading to a different untimely death.

The book cover designed by Rodrigo Corral for this English edition is genius: the vintage green cloth binding gives the impression that the volume is from long ago, discovered on a grandparent's bookshelf or in dusty shop of yellowing, old titles; the stark letters and floral embossing catches the reader's eye, obscuring at first glance that they take their shape around foretelling tombstone. Chilling, enticing, and beautiful, The End of Days's design unquestionably suits the contents of the book.

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Book Cover of the Week: Notorious RBG

Thursday, November 05, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Yesterday, a book released last week hit The New York Times's best sellers list:

If you are not already familiar with the blog/meme Notorious RBG, regardless of your political leanings, check it out, it's hilarious. The creators selected some of their best content and interspersed the images and thoughtful essays on how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg changed the world—and won the internet, much to the feisty octogenarian's own amusement. If you're looking for a gift for anyone with an interest in American politics and social history, feminist heroes (and ladies who rock, in general), or a sense of humor, I think you just found it.

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Book Cover of the Week: The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God

Thursday, October 29, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Fourteen years after its original publication in English translation, Etgar Keret's seminal collection of short stories was reissued earlier this month—with a brilliant book cover:

The works collected in The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories were some of my earliest encounters with Keret's incomparable craft, and I'm thrilled to see them revisited—and for some readers discovered anew! Don't miss The Bus.

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Book Cover of the Week: The Hours Count

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Don't you kinda wish all books about the Rosenbergs looked like this?

I'll be honest, Historical Fiction does not always appeal to me—but now I'm thinking that might have something to do with the template book covers of that genre. The design for The Hours Count, however, is lovely: simultaneously stark and subdued, and utterly compelling. Jillian Cantor's latest novel is told from the fictionalized perspective of Julius and Ethel's neighbor—the young mother with whom Ethel left her two sons the day she was arrested on charges of treason in 1950. Reviewers are loving the book, which comes out today from Riverhead Books!

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Book Cover of the Week: Wait

Monday, September 21, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner C. K. Williams succumbed to multiple melanoma yesterday at the age of 78. One of America's greatest poets of the turn of the twenty-first century, Williams built his renown on deep social consciousness and environmental awareness. Composing, critiquing, and translating into his seventies, Williams remained constant in the moral dedication espoused throughout his work— including his last collection of poetry, published only four years ago:

The titular poem to Wait: Poems was published by the Poetry Foundation in 2009 and can be read in their online archives, but it is only a glimpse of the strength of the 2011 National Jewish Book Award-winning collection—or Williams's oeuvre as a whole.

Do I need forgiveness for my depression? My being depressed like a Jew?
All right then: how Jewish am I? What portion of who I am is a Jew?
I don't want vague definitions, qualifications, here on the bridge of the Jew.

I want certainty, science: everything you are, do, think; think, do, are,
is precisely twenty-two percent Jewish. Or six-and-a-half. Some nice prime.
Your suffering is Jewish. Your resistant, resilient pleasure in living, too,

can be tracked to some Jew on some bridge on page something or other
in some city, some village, some shtetl, some festering shvitz of a slum,
with Jews with black hats or not, on their undershirts fringes or not.

— from "Jew on Bridge" by C. K. Williams, Wait: Poems, 2011

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Book Cover of the Week: Street Smart

Wednesday, September 09, 2015 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

Were you aware that over the past decade Americans have been driving fewer total miles each year—a pattern that hasn't trended since 1945?

Former NYC Traffic Commissioner Samuel I. Schwartz—a.k.a. "Gridlock Sam"—presents the millennial revolution of the urban landscape and the rise of the pedestrian, the cyclist, and the public transportation commuter. And what a phenomenal book cover to go with it! A grid in white over blue, green, and grey, with tiny silhouettes of every means of getting around the American city, from buses and taxis to pedicabs and tandem bicycles to strolling or jogging solo or in company. Color me compelled!

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