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The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature
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W. W. Norton & Company 2016
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An accessible introduction to the classics of Jewish literature, from the Bible to modern times, by "one of America's finest literary critics" (Wall Street Journal).


Jews have long embraced their identity as "the people of the book." But outside of the Bible, much of the Jewish literary tradition remains little known to nonspecialist readers. The People and the Books shows how central questions and themes of our history and culture are reflected in the Jewish literary canon: the nature of God, the right way to understand the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to their Promised Land, and the challenges of living as a minority in Diaspora. Adam Kirsch explores eighteen classic texts, including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, and the Zionist manifestoes of Theodor Herzl. From the Jews of Roman Egypt to the mystical devotees of Hasidism in Eastern Europe, The People and the Books brings the treasures of Jewish literature to life and offers new ways to think about their enduring power and influence.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
10/04/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393608311
ASIN:
B01BX7S1CW

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Citations

APA Citation (style guide)

Adam Kirsch. (2016). The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Adam Kirsch. 2016. The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature. W. W. Norton & Company.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Adam Kirsch, The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature. W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Adam Kirsch. The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature. W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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fullDescription

An accessible introduction to the classics of Jewish literature, from the Bible to modern times, by "one of America's finest literary critics" (Wall Street Journal).

Jews have long embraced their identity as "the people of the book." But outside of the Bible, much of the Jewish literary tradition remains little known to nonspecialist readers. The People and the Books shows how central questions and themes of our history and culture are reflected in the Jewish literary canon: the nature of God, the right way to understand the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to their Promised Land, and the challenges of living as a minority in Diaspora. Adam Kirsch explores eighteen classic texts, including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, and the Zionist manifestoes of Theodor Herzl. From the Jews of Roman Egypt to the mystical devotees of Hasidism in Eastern Europe, The People and the Books brings the treasures of Jewish literature to life and offers new ways to think about their enduring power and influence.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Dara Horn;Wall Street Journal
      • content: [A]n astute and accessible introduction to 18 Jewish literary classics... [Kirsch's] laser focus on these works' most topical themes makes them feel so urgent that curious readers of any religious persuasion will want to read them all.
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content: Lucid, vivid and likely to provide helpful instruction... [Kirsch] has, like Simon Schama, a keen eye for the revelatory detail in discussing his historical subjects.
      • premium: False
      • source: Jewish Book Council
      • content: Anyone looking for a single-volume introduction to Jewish civilization... will find nothing better in print... A deeply serious meditation on the meaning of Jewish existence.
      • premium: False
      • source: Cynthia Ozick
      • content: [A]n entertaining and enlightening review of eighteen classic works and, at the same time, Judaism's most important ideas and ideals. It deserves to be on the Jewish bookshelf along with the eighteen books it opens for its reader.
      • premium: False
      • source: Rabbi David Wolpe, author of David: The Divided Heart
      • content: Through profiles of eighteen indelible figures and chronicles...Adam Kirsch uncovers the unfailing excitements of a living, creative, and abiding civilization. And more: in this superbly clarifying panorama, he illumines how in the history of ideas Jews, despite so many permutations of approach, have faithfully adhered to a single sublime Idea.
      • premium: False
      • source: Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University
      • content: The people of the book are often unaware of the books of their people. Kirsch opens, unfurls, and illuminates the great works of Jewish tradition and history; he is our intellectual Sherpa, guiding us sure-footedly through the heights.
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from August 8, 2016
        In this insightful and comprehensive volume, Kirsch has chosen 18 classic works of Jewish literature through which he tells the unique story of the Jewish people and of Jewish thought throughout the ages. The books segue seamlessly from one work to the next, each classic building upon the last in terms of history and Jewish tradition. A timeline puts people and locations into perspective, while brief summaries precede every analysis to familiarize those new to the work. His goal is to “open up these texts to the interested reader—to show what they contain, how and why they were written, and what they can tell us about Judaism and Jewishness.” Among these is The Book of Esther, The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl, The Jewish War by Flavius Joesphus, The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), and Tevye the Dairyman by Sholem Aleichem, the sheer variety of which gives voice to many fascinating and distinctive perspectives. Kirsch’s writing is eloquent and articulate, and his ability to pull together the social, intellectual, religious, and political threads of every era results in an intelligent and engaging foray into Jewish
        literary history.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        How to read the Jewish past.Poet and critic Kirsch (Director, Jewish Studies Master's Program/Columbia Univ.; Rocket and Lightship: Essays on Literature and Ideas, 2014, etc.) takes a reflective look at what his Jewish religion has been and can be via some of its greatest books. His ambitious survey spans more than 2,500 years and offers a "panoramic portrait of Jewish thought and experience." The books focus on four central topics: God, the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Jewish people. Kirsch begins pretty much at the beginning with the book of Deuteronomy. Devoted to law and history, it's concerned with the major subject of the Israelites' relationship to the Land of Israel. He next turns to the book of Esther, which is best read as "historical fiction." Kirsch is fascinated with its "paradox of Jewish power in a condition of Diaspora." Jump ahead some 500 hundred years to the Jewish general captured by the Romans, Flavius Josephus, and his The Jewish War, a firsthand account of "perhaps the greatest calamity in Jewish history." After an account of the Zohar, a 2,400-page compendium that "enchants the universe like no other Jewish book," comes Gluckel of Hameln's transformative Tsenerene from the 1590s, "one of the most popular Yiddish books of all time." It did the most to "connect Jewish women to Judaism's traditional sources," while her Memoirs is the first autobiography by a Jewish woman. From the 1890s, Kirsch singles out the visionary Viennese writer Theodor Herzl as one of the "most important figures in Jewish history." The Jewish State, a nonfiction pamphlet, "laid out a detailed plan for the relocation of Europe's Jews to Palestine," while his novel Old New Land helped to create Zionism. Kirsch ends his list in 1914 with the Tevye stories of Sholem Aleichem. Although a mere 120 pages long, "no work of Yiddish literature has been more influential or more widely loved." A fascinating, impeccably written, personal tour of the great books of Judaism. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from August 1, 2016

        In this enthralling meditation on the written foundations of the Jewish faith, Kirsch (Jewish studies, Columbia; Emblems of the Passing World) profiles 18 works encompassing both the secular and sacred while offering a dissection of Jewish "commentary and codification." The choices are surprising in their breadth and originality. The expected biblical books segue into pluralistic pieces from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Spanish authors. The significance of rabbinic scholars is balanced by the cultural importance of Jewish fiction. Works are placed within their historical context and their current relevance to world Jewry and scholarship. Similar in treatment to Barry Holtz's Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, Kirsch's work offers not only updated scholarly content but a systemic analytical approach to the whole text rather than only dissecting certain passages. The book is clearly geared toward academic use, with a time line showing the selected works within a relative historical timeframe and bibliographic references for each chapter. A map would have facilitated further comprehension, but short of this singular misstep, Kirsch has authored an intellectual masterpiece. VERDICT A challenging read for the uninitiated yet insightful and worthwhile for an enthusiastic exploration of the Jewish faith. A definitive purchase for readers with a Jewish heritage, practicing or not.--Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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An accessible introduction to the classics of Jewish literature, from the Bible to modern times, by "one of America's finest literary critics" (Wall Street Journal).

Jews have long embraced their identity as "the people of the book." But outside of the Bible, much of the Jewish literary tradition remains little known to nonspecialist readers. The People and the Books shows how central questions and themes of our history and culture are reflected in the Jewish literary canon: the nature of God, the right way to understand the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to their Promised Land, and the challenges of living as a minority in Diaspora. Adam Kirsch explores eighteen classic texts, including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, and the Zionist manifestoes of Theodor Herzl. From the Jews of Roman Egypt to the mystical devotees of Hasidism in...

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