Dan­ny Fin­geroth orig­i­nal­ly shared his Jew­ish Book Month read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions with JBC’s email list this past week. Below is the letter.

Dear Read­ers,

Look­ing at my book­shelves, I find it both inspir­ing and intim­i­dat­ing that there are so many good Jew­ish-themed (to one degree or anoth­er) books that exist. They were good com­pa­ny while I was writ­ing my lat­est book, Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assas­sinHere are a bunch that I’ve read, am read­ing, or hope to read as we make our way through Jew­ish Book Month.

I’ve just fin­ished Nicholas Meyer’s The Adven­tures of the Pecu­liar Pro­to­cols, a Sher­lock Holmes mys­tery by the author of the Sev­en-Per-Cent Solu­tion and direc­tor of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is a fast-mov­ing Holmes sto­ry that uses as its sto­ry engine the infa­mous anti­se­mit­ic forgery The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion. Mey­er drew some of his research from the last book by the late, great graph­ic nov­el pio­neer — Will Eis­ner, writer and artist of The Plot: The Secret Sto­ry of the Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion. (Full dis­clo­sure: I work as a con­sul­tant to Will Eis­ner Studios.) 

If you’re not famil­iar with Eisner’s oeu­vre, I would high­ly rec­om­mend his most famous graph­ic nov­el—A Con­tract With God and also To The Heart of The Stormalong with his many oth­er works about Amer­i­can Jew­ish life in the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Some (includ­ing Eis­ner him­self) have thought of him as the Bernard Mala­mud of comics, and with good rea­son. Eis­ner first made his mark with his series The Spir­it, which ran as a part of a news­pa­per com­ic book sup­ple­ment from 1940 to 1952. Reprint­ed in many for­mats, The Spir­it has much below-the-sur­face Jew­ish con­tent, sprin­kled into the dra­mat­i­cal­ly-ren­dered action and tongue-in-cheek humor. Jules Feif­fer start­ed his career as Eisner’s assis­tant in the 1940s when the for­mer was still a teenager.

Speak­ing of Feif­fer, the still-active nine­ty-four-year-old satirist/cartoonist/screenwriter/children’s book author’s graph­ic nov­el tril­o­gy, with the over­all title Kill My Moth­er, is a com­pelling homage to mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry pop­u­lar cul­ture and pol­i­tics, seen through a dis­tinct­ly Jew­ish lens. And his years work­ing with Eis­ner — and much, much more — are cov­ered in Feiffer’s engross­ing mem­oir, Back­ing Into For­ward.

Is Bob Dylan Jew­ish? Chris­t­ian? Some­thing else alto­geth­er? What­ev­er his reli­gion, he’s still going strong, per­form­ing more than 100 nights a year, mak­ing steel sculp­tures, and remain­ing (for those on a cer­tain wave­length) a fig­ure of fas­ci­na­tion. His 2022 book, Phi­los­o­phy of Mod­ern Song, is Dylan’s take on dozens of songs as seen through the eyes of this unique cul­tur­al observ­er, who had the biggest bar mitz­vah in the his­to­ry of Hib­bing, Min­neso­ta. It is a book that will alter­nate­ly elate, amuse, and tick you off! And just recent­ly, a book of anno­tat­ed high­lights from his archives — did I men­tion there’s a Bob Dylan Cen­ter in Tul­sa where his 100,000 amassed items are housed?— called Bob Dylan: Mix­ing Up the Med­i­cine was released. No, it’s not about Dylan wish­ing I’d been a doc­tor,” as he once sang, but a close look at some of the many arti­facts of his six-decades-long career that he’s pro­vid­ed for us to decipher. 

Round­ing out my list are two books: The first is Michael Benson’s Gang­sters vs. Nazis: How Jew­ish Mob­sters Bat­tled Nazis in Wartime Amer­i­caThis book offers up the his­to­ry of a fraught era from a unique per­spec­tive. And if you’re inter­est­ed in an unfil­tered mem­oir of Rod­ney Dan­ger­field – born Jacob Cohen – clas­sic Jew­ish enter­tain­er, then check out his mem­oir It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me, a look at how Rod­ney became the late-bloom­ing mas­ter of the self-effac­ing one-liner. 

Best wish­es,


Dan­ny Fin­geroth was a long­time writer and edi­tor at Mar­vel Comics. His prose work includes Dis­guised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics and the Cre­ation of the Super­hero (Con­tin­u­um, 2008), A Mar­velous Life: The Amaz­ing Sto­ry of Stan Lee (St. Martin’s Press/​Macmillan, 2019), and his recent book, Jack Ruby: The Many Faces of Oswald’s Assas­sin (Chica­go review Press, 2023). For more info: www​.dan​nyfin​geroth​.com