Bibliophile

An English Bookshop

 

 

2017 Sandra Selects

 

August 2017

 

Two She-Bears, Meir Shalev

Three farmers commit suicide around the same time in a small village. Do you believe that? The novel depicts rural life of a moshava in 1930s British Palestine and also transports you to the present. Varda, a young woman who is writing a history of the moshava, interviews Ruta, who has lived there since she was a child. Ruta tells a story that is markedly different than that found in the moshava archives. The book is smart, wise, funny, and Shalev even gives us a great tip on how to make limoncello....the lemon tree makes the difference. I enjoyed the biblical illusions, but don't be concerned- they are explained in the text. They add to the book's warm tone. The novel is violent at times as murder and revenge are present in the incredibly quiet, pastoral atmosphere. There is a strange feeling as the reader sympathizes with a murderer and is drawn in as the cycle of revenge takes over. As usual, Shalev does not disappoint his faithful readers.

 

David recommends:
Montreal's Street-Art Galllery: The Best of the City's Graffiti and Wall-Art, Archie Feinberg

This book, timed to coincide with Montreal's 375th anniversary, celebrates the urban art of the city. Feinberg's interest in this was piqued about ten years ago by the intricate images and social commentary of these works of art. The author also notes that these modern tapestries reflect the talent of the many men and women of our city. The collection of photographs tells you where you can find the art, which was one of the author's main goals in cataloguing it in the first place. The book makes a great gift whether you live here or not.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Under Earth – Under Water, Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

This is a large, beautiful, educational children’s book that can also teach adults a thing or two about what’s going on below the surface of the earth. The book's design is striking and innovative. Each 2-page spread is a colourful infographic depicting, on one half of the book, something that is underground, and on the other half, something that is underwater. It covers everything from tunnels made by wildlife to man-made installations. The text is in the form of speech bubbles next to what it is describing, so reading this book is a dynamic and fun activity. Enjoy it with the curious children in your life!

 

July 2017

 

The Noise of Time: A Novel, Julian Barnes

This is a most unusual novel- it is in the form of a memoir. It's hard to imagine one could be executed for writing an opera but that was a real possibility in 1936 Soviet Russia, the night Stalin went to the opera and wrote a review. The composer, young Dmitri Shostakovich, fears for his life, his family, his music. This is a struggle that will continue throughout his life. Shostakovich has constant "conversations with Power," i.e. Stalin, the bureaucracy, and its petty officials. At one point, he is so terrified of being taken away, he sleeps on the landing outside his apartment door with a packed suitcase so his wife won't see him being dragged away. The novel about the place of art in society is built on three "conversations with Power:" 1936, when he writes his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, his 1948 trip to America during which he extols the virtues of the Soviet Union, and finally, 1960, when he agrees to join the Party. Each one involves great shame, humiliation, fear, and profound feelings of cowardice. At the same time he is lauded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Will his music endure above The Noise of Time? Read the book, listen to his 5th symphony, or go to the opera. You decide.

 

David recommends:
Toscanini: Musician of Conscience, Harvey Sachs

Arturo Toscanini is regarded by many as one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century, and this definitive biography by Sachs, a Toscanini scholar, is a must for any lover of classical music or well-researched books. He had a complex personal life alongside his famous musical successes, but his bold defiance against the tyrants of the era stands out in any time period. In 1922, Toscanini refused to allow his La Scala orchestra to play the Fascist anthem "Glovinezza," despite much pressure from Mussolini. As well, when tens of thousands of Jewish refugees streamed into Palestine in the late 1930s, he traveled there to establish an orchestra of refugee musicians. The author had access to family archives and interviewed many relatives and associates in order to complete this monumental work.

 

Estelle recommends:
The National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space, Catherine D. Hughes

This is an excellent reference book for 4-8 year olds. The colourful, eye-catching pages and short, simple text make it a perfect introduction to the solar system and exploration into space. The book’s shape and thickness is ideal for little hands and reading aloud or for beginning readers to enjoy on their own. On Canada Day of this year, Prime Minister Trudeau introduced Canada’s two newest astronauts; Jennifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk. Both were inspired at an early age to follow space careers. I highly recommend this book. Perhaps it will inspire our next generation of scientists or astronauts.

 

June 2017

 

Waking Lions, Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

"He's thinking that the moon is the most beautiful he has ever seen when he hits the man." The first sentence throws you into the middle of the story and you feel compelled to continue reading to know what happened before and after. Gundar-Goshen, winner of the Sapir Prize for best debut fiction, One Night, Markovitch, has written a novel which takes place in Israel, but it isn't about Zionism, or Judaism, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our main characters are African immigrants, Eritreans, Sudanese, and a brilliant neurosurgeon, Eitan Green, and his beautiful wife, who is a police detective. Eitan's connection to his two young boys is so deep in ways not usually described in a father. There is plenty of humiliation, guilt, and love in this book. There is also extortion and shame. So many interesting themes in this fast-paced novel! If I had only one word to describe this novel it would be intense.

 

David recommends:
The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today's Israel, Lin Arison and Diana C. Stoll with a photographic portfolio by Neil Folberg

This is an incredible box of treasures on Israel. Included are four books covering a multitude of cultural and intellectual fields; four DVDs featuring different aspects of what makes Israel special and unique; a photographic portfolio of 25 frameable prints celebrating wondrous landscapes; a USB flash drive featuring vignettes about Israeli achievements and innovators; and a limited-edition scarf designed especially for this project by Philip Blau and Helena Blaunstein. This makes a great gift.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Amazing Water: An Introduction to Classical Music, Ana Gerhard

This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book, meant to be the first step in introducing young listeners to classical music. It comes with a CD of 20 excerpts from recordings of important pieces written by well-known composers, ranging from Beethoven to Britten. All the music is selected because it is reminiscent of water, which the written parts of the book emphasize. The biographies of the composers and definitions of musical terms are adapted for children. This is a great gift for the children in your life.

 

May 2017

 

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

This is one of the best novels I have ever read. The novel opens on April 12, 1861. President Lincoln and his wife are hosting a ball; their young son Willie, upstairs, is deathly ill and dying. The Civil War is raging and casualties are mounting. With this background, Saunders gives us one of the most beautifully written, sensitive accounts of love, grief, and endurance one can imagine. And that is even before we talk about slavery and ghosts! Yes, ghosts; not usually to my taste but this novel is at once a feat of imagination and utterly realistic. Even though we are among ghosts in the Bardo (a transitional state in the Hindu religion) for two hundred pages, it's amusing, funny, and at times, hilarious. Each voice, each character, has his or her own distinctive tone. It is fun to guess who is speaking before you see the source, which brings me to the unusual collage structure of this novel, not always a straight narrative but always entertaining, with many voices, some contemporary newspaper or diary accounts, and a main character, Lincoln, to whom the reader needs no introduction. The ghosts are like a chorus commenting on Lincoln's grief, the tragedy of the Civil War, and the human condition, for any of us that still care.

 

David recommends:
Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry, Stephen Brown and Georgiana Uhlyarik

New York in the first half of the twentieth century was an explosive time for art. There is currently a new exhibit of the work of Stettheimer, one of the great American artists of the century. The beautiful book combines reproductions of her artwork and poetry. The exhibit is at The Jewish Museum in Manhattan from May 5, 2017 to September 25, 2017 and will be at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto from October 21, 2017 to January 28, 2018.

 

Estelle recommends:
Dragons Love Tacos, Adam Rubin; illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

This is a humourous picture book for children aged 3-7. If you want to make dragons happy and get them on your side, throw a party and serve tacos. It can be any kind; chicken or beef, big or small. Warning!! Do not serve the tacos with spicy salsa. This will cause havoc- ears to smoke, sparks to fly, and definitely stomach upset. Unfortunately, the young boy in the story hosting the party didn't read the fine print on a jar of mild salsa. Too late to stop the DESTRUCTION. The playfully coloured illustrations with dragons of various sizes, shapes and colours enhance the amusing text and provide some clues that are not present in Rubin's words. This light-hearted, laugh-out-loud book is sure to entertain.

 

April 2017

 

A Horse Walks into a Bar, David Grossman

This story will make you laugh, smile, and think. If you have read Grossman before, you might wonder at a main character, Dovaleh Greenstein, who is a stand-up comic, but Grossman, among all his other talents, is superb at stand-up comedy. Regarding the soul, which requires "nonstop upkeep," he doesn't have the resources to maintain one: "Every single day, all day long, you gotta haul it in for servicing", so forget soul searching. The humor is painful at times; in a riff on Mengele, you will find yourself smiling inside and fearful at the same time, wanting relief from this joke, but one is unable to stop reading as this comedy speeds toward tragedy. We continue on to explore how damaged one can be when brought up by parents who are survivors or escaped "seconds" before Mengele could "declare his short consultation: right, left, left, left..." This is made clear when Dovaleh and his mother take a different route to preschool each day to confuse the enemy. You will laugh out loud as you realize how a sweet kid became a bully and an abused kid became an abuser. What does this imply for a country and its soul? Or is that too big a leap? Some reviewers have called it "shocking, raw, eloquent." and "strange, painful, urgent." Its brilliance creeps up on you.

 

David recommends:
Option B: Finding Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook and the author of Lean In, and Grant, a psychologist and Wharton professor, have written an eloquent book on tragic loss and the need to find a way to continue living. Option B is much more than just a personal story, though. Through the telling of many others' stories, it is also an exploration of the uncanny human ability to persevere through emotional trauma and regain happiness. I expect that this book will offer reliable comfort to many people.

 

Estelle recommends:
We're All Wonders, R.J. Palacio

This book, beautifully illustrated and written by R.J. Palacio, features Auggie from her bestselling chapter book, Wonder. The theme of acceptance will be easily understood by younger children. Auggie, the narrator of the story, is a ten-year-old boy who does ordinary things, but looks very different from others. He is stared at, made fun of, and bullied by other children. In order to cope and feel normal, he escapes into the world of space with his dog, Daisy. Despite how poorly he is treated by others, he is not discouraged, but seems encouraged and hopeful about human capabilities. From the cover to the illustrations to the words, the story makes the point that we are all "wonders" and the importance of seeing beyond an individual's physical appearance. It evokes much discussion and is a must-read for children 4-8 and their parents.

 

March 2017

 

A Gentleman In Moscow, Amor Towles

This novel is quirky, fun, sad, and elegant. As my friend Jackie, who recommended the book, said to me, "Sometimes you don't want the page to end, it's so delicious." Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is the center of the story, confined to the Metropol Hotel in central Moscow in June 1922. If he steps outside, it will be off to Siberia. So he stays for over 30 years. One of the best parts of the book is the many, many colorful characters who pass through the Count's life during his confinement. Nina, age nine, who calls him your Countship, is my favorite. Home is the big theme of this story. As Towles says, the Russians who love their land so much are the first people to send a person into exile at home! Though the Grand Metropol, an Art Nouveau palace, is not the Gulag, the Count is still a prisoner. This is a novel to enjoy and relax with. The horrors of the era are still there but understated. The Count confronts injustice and the insane bureaucracy using authority, order, and manners to ward off the chaos. Most pages will bring a smile to your face.

 

David recommends:
Passover Made Easy: Favorite Triple-Tested Recipes, JayLeah Schapira & Victoria Dwek

If you were playing a word association game, and someone said the word 'Passover,' the first word out of your mouth will probably not be 'easy.' Most cookbooks, even modern Passover cookbooks such as this one, are filled with creative recipes and inventive uses of traditional foods. What sets this book apart is the friendliness of the authors; you feel as if they are in the kitchen with you helping you through the preparations for the seder meals.

 

Estelle recommends:
Yours Sincerely, Giraffe, Megumi Iwasa

This new book by the Japanese author Megumi Iwasa is a delightful, simple, and funny tale about long-distance friendship. Letter writing, quite a rarity in our digital world, is key to the development of the story. The black ink illustrations add action and humour to the text. Giraffe, who lives in the African savanna, is bored and lonely and wants to share things with a friend. He wonders what is on the other side of the horizon. Giraffe writes a letter and gives it to Pelican, who operates a delivery service. After a while, Pelican returns, but without a response. However, a letter soon arrives from Penguin, and with Pelican's help the two become pen-pals. Since they know nothing about each other, their letters are full of questions about appearances, habits, and surroundings. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 will learn, enjoy, cherish, and want to share this chapter book.

 

February 2017

 

Judas, Amos Oz

The latest novel by this great Israeli writer poses the questions, "Are traitors always bad?" and "Could betrayal be a form of loyalty?" Perhaps the so-called traitors are simply people who have changed their minds or turned away from their group. This is a novel of ideas, an allegory and a love story, take your pick! We meet three people from three generations. We find ourselves in Jerusalem in the winter of 1959, not the chaotic, bustling government center of today but a sleepier dusty backwater. Samuel Ash, a young university drop-out, is hired by Atalia, the beautiful daughter-in-law of Gershom Wald, an old member of the founding Zionist generation. Atalia hires him just to sit, talk, and argue with Wald. Shmuel is writing his thesis on the Jewish views of Jesus. In a few months of living together they change each other. Oz is a supreme storyteller and here his story is somewhat disturbing. The concept of the founding of the State as a questionable idea is contemplated, but then through Wald, Oz asks why Israel should be the first country to divest itself of the "sin" of nationalism? This novel, which considers the contemporary meaning of Judas and whether all Jews are considered Judases in the eyes of the world, is a reminder that the author's political views have led some Israelis to call Oz a traitor. The quandaries and dilemmas are what make reading this book such a rewarding experience.

Click here to hear an interview of Amos Oz

 

My granddaughter Tali recommends:
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why is an extremely powerful novel and I was mesmerized while reading it. I was so engrossed in the story I practically read the book in one sitting. I could not put it down. The tale begins when Clay Jensen receives and plays the cassette tapes he received in a mysterious package. It turns out he is one of 13 people who together are the cause of his classmate Hannah Baker’s suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and night listening to Hannah's voice and following it around town. There is no question that Hannah’s tapes change people and perhaps make the characters and readers consider their actions. The strong message of the impact, that even seemingly inconsequential actions and words can have on others, is universal. Thirteen Reasons Why will have you glued to your seat and reading throughout the night.

 

David recommends:
Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan, Naomi Duguid

This will be my shortest cookbook review ever. Duguid's cookbook is one of the most beautiful you will ever see. The presentation reminds me of Claudia Roden's seminal cookbooks, with history, stories, and photographs among the recipes. You will not regret owning this wonderful book.

 

January 2017

 

Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien

Music is at the heart of this beautiful, powerful novel, winner of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. Politics and art run through it as well. You don't need 10 pages to get into the novel; the opening sentence will suffice: "In a single year, my father left us twice." Three of the main characters, active at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, live for music but history, the Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen Square enter their lives. One of the central questions of the novel is how individuals can continue to express themselves when expression is forbidden. The author is Canadian and a Montrealer; what more do we want!

 

David recommends:
The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, Uri Bar-Joseph

Ashraf Marwan was a high-ranking Egyptian official who secretly worked for the Mossad. As President Nasser's son-in-law and an adviser to his successor Anwar Sadat, Marwan had access to the biggest Egyptian secrets. His Mossad handlers called him "the Angel," tipping Israel off in advance of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Marwan escaped detection until his suspicious death in 2007. Bar-Joseph, a professor of political science at the University of Haifa and a respected expert on Israeli intelligence, has written a riveting book which discusses Marwan's motives, how his secret identity was exposed, and how the information he provided was properly and improperly used. Espionage is in the news on a daily basis and still has the ability to change history.

 

Estelle recommends:
Garbage Delight, Dennis Lee

This is an engaging, sturdy board book for preschoolers by celebrated Canadian children's poet Dennis Lee. Lee, a prolific author is best known for "Alligator Pie," "Jelly Belly," "Bubblegum Delicious," and "Melvis and Elvis." The verses are short, humourous, and appeal to all the senses.

"With a nip and a nibble
A drip and a dribble
A dollop, a walloping bite."

The clever rhymes are enhanced by Sandy Nichols' delightful coloured artwork which features a cute bear cub who feasts on a heap of garbage. Fun to listen to and a delight to look at, this board book gets top marks!

 

2016 Sandra Selects

 

December 2016

 

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, Michael Lewis

If you want to read a book about a most unusual collaboration in the annals of science, this is the book for you. If you want to read a book about one of the most unusual love stories ever recorded, this is the book for you. If you want to read a book about two young Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who are completely opposite in temperament and personality, whose extraordinary relationship is destroyed because of envy, here it is. But, this is also a captivating personal story, and an examination of the groundbreaking work they did on how monumentally unreliable our intuition can be and how our biases distort our decisions.

 

My daughter Ronit recommends:
The Silver Platter Simple Elegance: Effortless Recipes with Sophisticated Results, Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz

If you enjoy cooking and are challenged by your family to make new and interesting dishes on a regular basis, Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz’s new cookbook is for you. It will certainly be a hit in your home. Better yet, buy it as a gift for someone! Seasoned cooks and those that prefer simple and easy recipes will both be awed by the interesting tastes and textures. What makes the cookbook particularly unique are the beautiful photos that accompany so many of the dishes and the tidbits on variations and shortcuts provided by award-winning cookbook author Norene Gilletz for every recipe. The cookbook has something for everyone including gluten-free recipes. At the moment, my family’s favourites are Yum Drums (a chicken recipe) and the Chocolate Chip Popcorn Blondies (a dessert).

 

David recommends:
The Fifty-Year Mission- The First 25 Years: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek, Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman, With a Foreword by Seth MacFarlane

Often truth is stranger than fiction, or even science fiction, and that is true of this well-researched book on one of the most enduring television and film series of all time. One of the most interesting features of the book is the recollections of hundreds of television and film executives, programmers, writers, directors, creators, and cast members. Reading this book provides insights not just into the making of these classic dramas but also into the often intense collaborative efforts of the making of any artistic endeavour.

 

November 2016

 

The Go-Between: Memoir of A Mideast Intermediary, Stephen P. Cohen with Oren Rawls

Many of you are old friends of Steve Cohen and others have heard him speak on television or at a local venue. Now we have a concise memoir with some of the background to those intriguing Middle East encounters. The book once again emphasizes the importance of continuing the dialogue, no matter how difficult and intractable the political situation. In the afterword, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Egyptian diplomat and the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations, makes it clear, "Today, the need for a new generation of Steve Cohens - individuals outside the traditional positions of power...is as great, and arguably greater, than it was in the years before we reached peace with Israel." Each chapter of the book focuses on a different individual who played a key role in seeking regional peace. People always ask me why they should read a particular book; we are in the room, so to speak, when the Scud missiles hit Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War. Yitzhak Rabin refused to go into a sealed room. There was panic in Tel Aviv and an exodus to Jerusalem. The damage was limited but it was a moment when Rabin realized, "Before the Arabs got their hands on weapons of mass destruction, Israel had to find a way to make peace." Peace with Arafat and the PLO became necessary for Israel's security. He was also prescient, "The Arabs would absorb the lesson from the Gulf War, as he had, and make the development of missile-borne chemical or biological weapons a high priority in the coming years."

 

Robbie recommends:
They May Not Mean To, But They Do, Cathleen Schine

This novel explores the trials and tribulations of the Bergman family: Joy and Aaron, the elderly parents, and their two children, Molly and Daniel. Joy, 84 years old and still working full-time at a small museum in New York City, is caring for her ailing husband Aaron, who is dealing with dementia and the after-effects of bowel cancer. She loves him so much that she cannot bear the thought of a nursing home, so she hires someone to help her at home. Joy’s decisions concern and frustrate Molly, who lives in California with her wife, and Daniel, who lives in New York with his wife and two children. With strong character development and wonderful humor, the author explores Joy’s struggle in dealing with her husband’s death, her desire to age in her own way, and her feelings of loneliness. As Molly and Daniel deal with the challenges, frustrations and fears of their aging mother and her oftentimes disturbing behaviors and desires, we meet Molly’s father-in-law and his hilarious escapades in the nursing home, along with Daniel’s children, and their comical adventures with their grandmother Joy. This is a tender, funny, inter-generational story about searching for where you belong as your family changes with age.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The First 1000 Days: A Baby Journal by Nikki McClure

This is a beautifully illustrated baby book in which parents can record their infant's first tooth, first words, and other milestones in their baby's life. It is formatted a bit like a scrapbook with a lot of space for crafting and collages. The journal provides two pages for every month in the first two years of the child's life in addition to many more quirky sections such as the baby's first boat ride or favourite songs. This little portable volume is a great gift for a new parent!

 

October 2016

 

Here I Am: A Novel, Jonathan Safran Foer

First of all, it's a big book, not just in size but the myriad of comic and serious situations thrown at us. The main character, the Bloch family, 21st century American Jews in crisis, both personal and social. Where exactly are they and where does Israel of today fit into their lives and identities? If Israel is destroyed by an earthquake, what does it matter to any of them? Foer exposes the possibility of a schism between Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews that we are just beginning to recognize with some of our youth questioning the older generations' loyalty. The writing is very funny, ironic, and smart, even brilliant.

 

Montrealers: A Story in Portraits , Jean-François Nadeau

People always ask me if there are any new books on Montreal. This new coffee table book is sure to please you, with many historical photographs, some by famous photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and William Notman. Nadeau, a local historian, provides an introductory essay and annotates a selection of photographs as well.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos, Deborah Heiligman; illustrations by LeUyen Pham

This is a very special children's picture book. It tells the story of Paul Erd?s, a Jewish-Hungarian mathematician who contributed a lot of research to contemporary mathematics. The book tells a simplified version of his life and follows Erd?s from his childhood with his mother and nanny all the way to his death. Erd?s probably had autism, and is depicted as such in the book, even though it is never mentioned by name, which could be very affirming for readers who are on the spectrum as well. The illustrations are full of numbers and mathematical symbols and the background images are often based on prime numbers.

 

September 2016

 

The Extra: A Novel, A.B. Yehoshua

Noga, a concert musician with an orchestra from the Netherlands, selected to play the harp in Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp, is called to Israel for the funeral of her father. Honi, her brother, convinces their mother to try a retirement home in Tel Aviv for three months. Noga must occupy her mother's rent-controlled apartment in Jerusalem or the family will lose it. Noga gets a job in Israel as a movie extra, which provides a bit of money as well as some strange and exciting experiences such as the celebrated April 2012 concert of Carmen at Masada. On another occasion, Noga plays a wheelchair-bound patient in a TV pilot while her real-life ex-husband is pursuing her despite divorcing her because of her decision not to have children. He is still in love with her. What does it mean to be an extra? Is Noga an extra in her own life? My favorite scenes are her encounters with the grandchildren of the Haredi neighbors who shimmy down a drainpipe, break into the apartment, and make themselves comfortable on the sofa to watch forbidden TV. At times funny and absurd, this latest novel from iconic Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua doesn't disappoint.

 

One of our loyal customers, Suzi Lipes, wanted to tell all of you about one of her favourite cookbooks:
The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular, Wholesome Family-friendly Recipes, , from the kitchen of Daniella Silver with tips & techniques from Norene Gilletz

If I could own only one cookbook - and I do have well over 100 - I would choose my latest purchase, The Silver Platter. Daniella Silver and Noreen Gilletz have authored a book of delightful recipes...easy to follow and beautifully photographed, the recipes include alternate ways of preparation and notes to cover any questions that might come to mind. An index in the back has all of the nutritional information and a line under each recipe indicating if it is gluten-free, easy to freeze, good for Passover, etc. This is not a Passover-only cookbook; as soon as I purchased the book, I began to make the cookie recipes. This book is an outstanding choice for a gift - wedding, birthday, or otherwise. My first gift was to myself. My daughter and daughter-in-law came next, and both agree with my recommendation.

 

Estelle recommends:
A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

This is a unique and visually beautiful picture book for all ages. Two children, a girl and a boy, take the reader on a journey across various landscapes around the world with the message that reading is beneficial and the sharing of stories is important. The uniqueness of the book is that typeset words which are titles of and lines from children’s literary classics become, among other things, a mountain to climb, waves on the ocean, and branches in a forest of trees. The titles of the well-known classics are also in typeset on the front and back insides of the cover. Younger children will enjoy the book being read aloud, while older children and even adults will recognize and relate to the titles and the uniqueness of the presentation. A Child of Books is a winner.

 

August 2016

 

 

A I Saw a Man, Owen Sheers

One of my new favorites, and it is now in paperback! Sometimes you start a book and it feels intriguing from the very first pages and so it was for me with this novel. At first, the separate story elements seem completely disconnected but very subtly they are woven together. Michael Turner, the main character, has moved to London after the death of his wife. He is, of course, distraught and grieving. His acquaintanceship with the couple next door and their two young daughters, is an opening to living again. And then he is contacted by Major Daniel McCullen, a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or drone) pilot. We even get to be in the control room when missiles are launched as the suspense, fear, and, tension build. This book has multiple themes but at the top of the list would be revenge, survival, rage and profound guilt. It is also a very good story.

 

My daughter Ronit recommends:
Pumpkinflowers, Matti Friedman

After finishing high school in Toronto, Matti Friedman decided to move to Israel. Like all citizens, he was required to join the army. The book Pumpkinflowers reads like fiction, and even if you know nothing about Israel ’s challenges in the late 1990s, you will empathize with Friedman, who tells of his time as a 20-year-old Israeli soldier assigned to a remote outpost on a hill called “The Pumpkin,” in the “security zone,” a narrow strip of Lebanese land along the northern border between Israel and Lebanon, stretching from Mount Hermon in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Radio reports back to Israel referred to casualties as “flowers” and the dead as “oleanders.” The book’s title, Pumpkinflowers, denotes those damaged at The Pumpkin. Friedman arrived there in 1998. He recounts the plight of all soldiers in combat everywhere, long periods of boredom when nothing happens, punctuated by hours of terror, when carnage is king. He tells of mediocre television shows from Israel, books passed from one soldier to another, video cassettes, a guitar. But Friedman used his time keeping watch from the trenches, greasing guns, and filling ammunition crates. He makes it clear, without being explicit, that a soldier loves the man fighting next to him and will give his life to save his buddy. Pumpkinflowers is the haunting and honest depiction of one soldier’s experience protecting a small hilltop with a big impact on the soldier, his friends, and his country.

 

Estelle recommends:
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, Jennifer Berne

This is a beautiful soft-covered picture book written and illustrated for children 6-9 years of age. This moving story is filled with many facts about the brilliant physicist, from how his parents worried about him as a toddler to how his father's gift of a compass influenced his way of thinking, to his favourite personal things and his scientific contributions to the world. From an early age, Einstein was very curious, always asking multiple questions to the point of being a disruption in class and annoying his teachers. His thoughts went from huge things to microscopic things. The simple, whimsical pen and ink drawings by Vladimir Radunsky further illustrate Einstein's personality. The text in black and red on a yellowish mottled paper resembles atoms. At the end of the book, Berne has additional facts about Einstein and an online resource. On a Beam of Light has received numerous accolades, from a New York Times Editor's Choice to a Junior Library Guild Selection. I highly recommend this book, especially for the curious, questioning youngster.

 

July 2016

 

 

A Hero of France, Alan Furst

Furst's latest historical spy novel opens in occupied Paris on the tenth day of March 1941 and concludes with the liberation of the city in August 1944. These are the early days of the resistance when escape lines are being planned to guide downed British pilots out of Vichy France to Spain and safety. Our focus is on a small cell in Paris. We get to know a diverse group of unlikely spies, including: an arms dealer/night club owner, Max de Lyon; Daniel, a Jewish school teacher; Chantal, a woman of taste and sophistication; Annemarie, an aristocrat; and Lisette, a 17-year-old student. There are narrow escapes, lucky breaks, and betrayal. This is the juicy stuff of a noir novel, of which Furst is a master. The author's fine writing helps build the suspense to the final pages of this very entertaining historical thriller.

 

Estelle recommends:
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, Kelli Estes

Inspired by true events in the late 19th century, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the 1892 Geary Act, Estes's debut novel tells the story of two young women determined to right an injustice. It is told as two parallel stories 130 years apart. In 1886, Mei Lien, a young Chinese American mysteriously disappears from her Seattle home and is later rescued from the freezing water of San Juan Island by Joseph, who nurses her back to health. Mei Lien's story is tragic and compelling. Her relationship with her son is emotional and powerful. In the present, Inara Erickson, daughter of a shipping tycoon, inherits her aunt's estate on Orcas Island, built by her great-great-great grandfather. While renovating, she discovers a carefully wrapped embroidered sleeve hidden beneath a staircase. On her journey of discovery, Inara uncovers an unspeakable truth that forces her to make an impossible choice.

 

David recommends:
Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader, Edited by Maura Reilly

Nochlin, a pioneering art historian, wrote a provocative essay in 1971 entitled "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" Art history was altered forever as a result of the article's publication. This book collects thirty essays about women in art throughout her career, including two new essays, and begins with a new interview in which Nochlin revisits her life's work and contemplates how much has changed for female artists today. There are many colour photographs of the art discussed. Nochlin, still going strong at eighty-five, is uniquely positioned to look back and look ahead. This book is not to be missed.

 

June 2016

 

Father's Day is around the corner. We have many great gift ideas, such as This Old Man (All in Pieces) by Roger Angell, Abba Eban: A Biography by Asaf Siniver, and Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin. Please let us know if we can help you choose the perfect present.

Harry Potter has a sequel of sorts based on the new West End play. The play will be published in book form on July 31. Please let us know if we can reserve a copy for you.

We received something special at Bibliophile. The Esther Scroll of 1746 is a stunning facsimile of a German illuminated scroll in a mahogany case with a lavish cloth book in four languages. Please come to the store to see it. The Esther Scroll (Limited Edition)


 

The Hilltop, Assaf Gavron

Gavron is one of Israel's new literary stars. It is always wonderful to meet an author and I was very fortunate to meet him when he was in Montreal last week reading and talking about his novel The Hilltop. His curiosity and intelligence are evident in person as well as in the book. With humor and irony he tackles the difficult subject of the settlers in the West Bank, especially a hilltop community called Ma'aleh Hermesh C. Don't look for this settlement on a map because it doesn't officially exist, yet it and many others have been there for years and have roads, water, and protection from the IDF. Even if there is an order to evacuate, the tactics are simply to ignore the order, or delay as long as possible as their experience shows that the authorities will do nothing. Nevertheless, if you have ever been in the desert at night and experienced the special silence and the radiance of the stars, the opening chapters of this book will take you back to that time. You will also appreciate the fun and satire of this most original novel. Gabi and Roni are brothers four years apart in age; Gabi's army service was disastrous while Roni's was disappointing. We can see the quality of a young generation face-to-face with the dilemma that they will not be able to do the impossible. They won't build a country or create kibbutzim; as Roni says, "We won't create history." For them, fighting and making the deserts bloom doesn't seem enough, so they turn inward to self-fulfillment. As young people everywhere, they question their future and their purpose. Gavron shows a love for Israel's wonder and complexity but without the usual flag waving. As for the other characters, which include frumie (fervent) hippies, they are fascinating to watch. Their everyday language is woven with biblical flourishes and the characters don't even realize it.

 

Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This beautifully designed and illustrated book features not only stunning photographs of the cast of the blockbuster play but also features the entire libretto. Photographs of the playwright's notebooks and notes on the musical score give you a bird's eye view of the creative process. Even if you haven't yet seen the play, this book is a treasure to own.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Friendshape, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

This simple and colorful picture book is all about shapes. And friendship, of course. Basic geometric patterns are the characters of this tale, and they visually show you (or the kids in your life) just how awesome friends are. They make you feel at home, they say, showing a triangle on top of a square. They play together, they say, next to an image of Rectangle and Circle playing with a kite in the shape of their friend Triangle. Puns accompany the small story, such as "Friends Shape Who You Are" or "Here's to a Great Circle of Friends!" This is a bright and fun book for children you are learning both their shapes, and how to interact with friends around them.

 

May 2016

 

Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow

I have a confession to make: all the excitement around the Broadway musical Hamilton brought me back to this extraordinary biography. What had inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda? Hamilton's story is simply incredible, yet elements seem familiar to us because it is an immigrant story. Surprises crop up in every chapter of this big book. Hamilton had an affinity for Jews, maybe because one of his early teachers was a Jewish woman who taught him the Decalogue (10 Commandments) in Hebrew! He did not have formal schooling; because of his "illegitimate" birth, he and his brother would not be welcome in the local Christian school. Hamilton's early exposure to violence, cruelty, and the sadism of slavery on the docks of Nevis probably contributed to his firm abolitionist stance. Among the "Founding Fathers" he was the only one who owned no slaves. So to be clear, by age 14 he is an orphan, has experienced bankruptcies, his parents' marital separation, death, scandals, disinheritance, and will be by age 22 secretary to George Washington i.e. Secretary of State, in a country he has not set foot in. There must be a history buff among you to appreciate this great book. See the play and check out the beautiful sound design for the song "Helpless" that Miranda calls "Nevin [Steinberg]'s masterpiece."

 

Estelle recommends:
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe, Dawn Tripp

In this well-researched and well-written novel, author Dawn Tripp takes the reader into Georgia O'Keefe's mind. Readers will follow O'Keeffe from a quiet, almost introverted, art teacher to a passionate, creative, strong-willed, and independent woman and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. O'Keefe believed in and held on to her bold vision of art, despite sometimes negative reviews from art critics. The focus of the novel is on her intense, highly sensual, and often tumultuous relationship with photographer and art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz. An absorbing story told as Dawn Tripp imagined it.

 

David recommends:
The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home, Joyce Goldstein

Goldstein is that rare cookbook author; she is also a culinary historian. In her preface, she says, "Many people lump Jewish food that is not Ashkenazi under the broad term Sephardic, but this blanket designation is inaccurate from both a culinary and a cultural point of view." She also mentions that "the recipes in the book are not museum pieces. Recipes must be alive, open to change, adaptation, and personal interpretation." This is a serious cookbook but accessible to anyone.

 

April 2016

 

The Yellow Diamond: A Crime of The Super-Rich, Andrew Martin

This is an intriguing murder mystery, what some might call a page-turner. The many suspects include Russian oligarchs, members of sophisticated Mayfair society, and of course, the beautiful Anna Samarina, daughter of billionaire Andrei Samarin, who has a missing finger on his left hand, or is it his right? Our detective Blake Reynolds is clearly out of his social depth but soon learns to appreciate Montecristos, Ferraris, and superb claret as he investigates the shooting (in the eye) of a super sleuth, Detective Chief Superintendent George Quinn and the murder of hedge fund analyst John-Paul Holden, who has just confessed to insider trading. Maybe you can solve the mystery faster than I could. Have fun.

 

My grandaughter Talia and my daughter Ronit recommend:
The Sisters Weiss, Naomi Ragen

Rose and Pearl are two sisters living in the 1950s in a very strict Orthodox household. Rose meets a girl from France, and her world completely changes as she discovers photography. Rose tried hard to follow the rules but ultimately she cannot live within the confines of such a strict household and is eventually exiled from everything she knows. Decades later, her sister Pearl’s daughter Rivka finds her long-lost aunt and cousin. Teens and adults will empathize with Rose, Pearl, and their daughters as they try and sort through their feelings of betrayal, their loyalty to their families, and their deep-rooted connection to their Jewish values and traditions.

 

David recommends:
Kosher by Design Brings It Home: picture-perfect food inspired by my travels, Susie Fishbein

This is the ninth and final cookbook in Fishbein's popular series, which has sold nearly half a million copies. In this book, she offers recipes from her travels over the last fifteen years to countries such as Israel, Italy, France, and Mexico. I especially enjoyed the anecdotes preceding many of the recipes and it should go without saying that the photographs are gorgeous. I also liked that the recipes are helpfully labelled dairy, parve, and meat. The breadth of the recipes and the exotic spices used throughout really set this book apart from Fishbein's other cookbooks.

 

March 2016

 

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

I never use words like 'uplifting' to describe a book, but there were times when I was tempted. This novel is a love story rooted in friendship, but even extraordinary friendship can have its limits. As much as I liked the book, it comes with a warning- there is a damaged person here who is struggling with unimaginably horrific abuse in his past. His three friends try to heal him over the course of their lives, from college to middle age. However, the book has lightness to it; the naturalness of contemporary New York, actors, artists, gay men, lawyers, is multi-layered, and the friends enjoy each others' successes despite everything. Due to the sensitivity and artistry of the writing, you will find yourself caring a great deal about the characters. A Little Life is relentless but always surprising, right up to the end of this long story. There is great pleasure in reading this book despite the sometimes sickening brutality described. The author questions the nature of psychotherapy and healing; can severe trauma be resolved? It is a book one can't put down, not because it is a thriller but, because you are under its spell, you have to keep reading. It's addictive because the story is so compelling. The novel features some of the most beautiful thoughts that I've ever read on the delicacy and intimacy of friendship.

 

Passover: Festival of Freedom, Monique Polak

This is Monique Polak’s first work of non-fiction for young readers. Monique is a longtime teacher at Marianopolis College and a prize-winning author of 19 novels for young adults. Chock-full of interesting information about Passover’s history and how it is celebrated in different ways by Jews around the world, Passover: Festival of Freedom also has a unique Montreal flavour. The book includes testimony from two Holocaust survivors who re-made their lives in Montreal. There is also a lively chapter called "Passover in Action,” which looks at how young people, several of them living in the Montreal area, mark the Passover holiday by doing good in their communities. Monique also shares the moving story of her own discovery of Passover. Though she never celebrated the holiday as a child, Monique made her first Seder while doing the research for this book. The informative text is accompanied by many photographs, drawings, and recipes.

 

My grandson Josh recommends:
100 Things Canadiens Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, Pat Hickey (foreword by Jacques Demers)

Although this season has been slightly tough to endure for us Habs fans, this book will remind you of our glorious past and the rich-filled history of the Montreal Canadiens while teaching you some new things along the way. It is full of obscure and interesting stories about the history of the Habs. The book includes informative tales about the players before, during, and after their tenure with the team. It doesn’t even stop there! The book also includes loads of stories about the coaches, general managers, owners, and even some broadcasters. From the moment I received the book I couldn’t put it down and was constantly sharing fun stories with my family. Who knew that unknown Canadiens player Herb Gardner was one of only two players to win the Hart Trophy for league MVP in his rookie season? The other player, you might have guessed, was Wayne Gretzky. It was unusual facts like this one that kept me glued to the book. If you are looking for a great gift, I highly recommend this book for Habs fans of all ages.

 

February 2016

 

But You Did Not Come Back: A Memoir, Marrceline Loridan-Ivens with Judith Perrignon (Translated From the French by Sandra Smith)

Memoirs of Holocaust survivors are all significant, but not all of them can exhibit exquisite writing or pack a strong political punch relative to the contemporary scene. In my opinion, this best-seller in France is on a par with the writing of Primo Levi, especially The Drowned and the Saved. Loridan-Ivens, a film-maker, essayist, and actress, was interviewed recently on French television. It was expected she would praise the response and efforts of French society and government in the wake of recent events. Instead, she told the audience they hadn't learned much since the day she and her father were arrested and sent to Auschwitz. The book is in the form of a letter to her father recalling the last moment they had contact and the world to which he did not return.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

This is a novel in fragments, almost like a collection of prose poetry that makes up a story. The little paragraphs add up to form the narrative of a couple’s life, through their ups and downs, told from the point of view of the wife. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this is the kind of novel that you will want to read in one sitting.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams

Ms. Williams is usually a wildlife author and activist, but this is a memoir written in short, almost poetic chapters. In it, she recounts moments of her life where she thought her voice as a woman was needed, or lost, or important. She starts off by telling the reader about how her mother gave her all of her journals to read after her death, only for her to discover that they were all empty. From there, she explores voice, femininity, nature, aging, and much more. This is the perfect gift for the women in your life.

 

Estelle recommends:
Princess Pistachio, Marie-Louise Gay

Princess Pistachio, by award-winning author Marie-Louise Gay, is a picture book series written in chapter book form. Early readers ages 6 and up will chuckle and relate to Pistachio's interactions with the adults in her life, being teased by friends and feeling out of place. Illustrations, also by Gay, are simple, amusing, and enhance the descriptive text. Pistachio, red-headed and feisty, believes she is a real princess. Her parents are the king and queen of the kingdom of Papua, an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and not Mr. and Mrs Shoelace of 24 Maple Street. Penny, the pest, is definitely not her little sister. Upon receiving an anonymous birthday card and a gold crown in the mail, she knows she is truly a real princess and demands to be treated as such. Her parents and friends do not appreciate her behavior and her claim to royalty. She is teased by her classmates when she wears the gold crown to school and is disciplined by her parents when she refuses to do ordinary everyday tasks. Unfortunately for Pistachio, her "heart sinks" when her grandfather asks her if she received his present. She now knows that the king and queen of Papua will not coming for her. Readers will also enjoy the second book of the series, Princess Pistachio and the Pest.

 

January 2016

 

The Rocks, Peter Nichols

I knew I was going to love this book before I finished the first paragraph. The atmosphere evokes the warm, beautiful climate and special light of the Mediterranean. If you try, you can even smell the sea. This is a romantic, intriguing, and complex love story intertwining two generations and unfolding over 57 years. It opens in 2005 and moves back in time to 1995, 1983, 1970, 1948. The characters develop and change but the best part of the book is the writing: there are alluring descriptions of ordinary activities. Mistaken judgments and misperceptions give the novel real poignancy. This is one of the best novels you will read this year; you will want to take it on a holiday.

 

Estelle recommends:
Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies, selected by Julie Andrews & Emma Walton Hamilton

Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies selected by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton is a beautifully illustrated anthology suited to preschoolers and up. The book is divided into nine themes featuring 150 works of poems and lyrics from over 75 well-known poets and songwriters. Julie Andrews introduces each of the nine themes with personal stories relating to her family, as well as her own feelings and connection to that particular theme. This anthology is sure to become a family favourite and instill an appreciation and enjoyment of poetry and song. The beautiful paintings by James McMullan are a wonderful addition.

 

My granddaughter Tali recommends:
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

I loved the Rosie Project. It was entertaining, amusing and I found myself literally laughing out loud on almost every page. The book is about Don Tillman, an awkward but brilliant professor who is searching for the perfect wife. Along comes Rosie, the exact opposite of his ideal mate. Don gets sidetracked helping Rosie and then forgets all about The Wife Project. Through this book they face many challenges but seem to have the most memorable time of their lives at every turn. Teens and adults alike will fall in love with Don and Rosie.

 

2015 Sandra Selects

 

December 2015

 

The Complete Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (Volumes I, II, and III)

I can't resist telling you about this spectacular set of the complete works of Primo Levi. Many of you, I'm sure, have read some of his work, but the depth and breadth of his humanity and genius come to full realization with this wonderful collection. Levi would not compromise with principle, even in the "Lager" (concentration camp). This work shows us that it is possible to retain one's humanity even in the darkest times- a lesson for today. Philip Roth called Levi "a twentieth-century titan." The slip-cased volumes are perfectly priced for a holiday gift.

 

My daughter Ronit recommends:
Orphan 8, Kim van Alkemade

Orphan 8 is an historical novel which describes the challenges and cruelties faced by one family living in a crowded tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her family and sent to an orphanage where a doctor is conducting medical research. Although she eventually escapes, the medical research leaves her disfigured. Many years later, Rachel, who is now a nurse, realizes that this doctor is now her patient. The story is based on true events and although the plot is seemingly sad and depressing, the novel is actually uplifting. Despite the incredible hardships she faced, Rachel survives and finds her own strength. The characters are real and the reader will be rooting for them to “win.”

 

Estelle recommends:
Saving Sophie, Ronald H. Balson

Saving Sophie is a fast-paced, suspenseful page turner from the author of Once We Were Brothers. Balson takes the reader on a journey from Chicago to Hawaii to Hebron with Russian mobsters, the FBI, and an Israeli agent. This is an ambitious novel with several story lines, from a multi-million dollar embezzlement to child kidnapping to basketball gambling to Middle Eastern terrorists. Jack Sommers, a finance expert, is willing to do anything, even sacrifice his own life, in order to save his young daughter Sophie from a captive life in Hebron, while Dr. Arif-Al-Zahani, his late wife's father, is a controlling, heartless murderer whose political beliefs and desire for revenge replace family bond and love.

 

November 2015

 

Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship From Truman to Obama, Dennis Ross

Ross has been at the center of Middle East policy-making for four U.S. administrations, including the present one. With his long view and wide experience, he helps us understand and sort out some of the key tangled issues: ISIS; the war in Syria; Lebanon, which is less and less capable of balancing its conflicting minorities; and the dangers to Jordan. He examines each president's attitude to Israel and the region, which informs his point of view and policy decisions. Ross discusses the initial distancing of the Eisenhower-Nixon-George H.W. Bush administrations from Israel, which resulted in failed policies, i.e. no peace treaty. The quagmire never abates, yet the relationship between America and Israel has evolved and deepened. For example, Truman and Eisenhower would not supply weapons to Israel, then Kennedy did. The principle is not questioned anymore; it is even rumored that there were joint cyber attacks on Iran's nuclear installations. Ross reminds us that every current crisis is merely another form of a previous one. It is wise to remember this when trying to understand today's low point in the relationship. Ross has successfully exposed any doubt concerning the controversial viewpoint, held in U.S. diplomatic circles, that an Israel-Palestine peace treaty is a prerequisite for solving other Middle East problems. Unlike most diplomatic relationships, this one is fraught with turbulent emotions.

 

The Complete Works of Primo Levi, Primo Levi

This beautiful three-volume, slipcased edition of the complete works of Primo Levi finally gathers all fourteen of Levi's books- fiction, memoirs, essays, poetry, and commentary. Levi was an Italian-born chemist and Holocaust survivor and is acknowledged by many as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Some of this work has never appeared before in English. Thirteen of the books feature new translations. This will make an excellent gift during this holiday season.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin; Illustrated by Irina Maununen

This children’s book has just been translated into English and is already a bestseller. At face value, it is a simple story of a little rabbit who suffers from insomnia and just wants to fall asleep. He goes with his mom to see Uncle Yawn, who is reputed to make anyone fall asleep fast. But the genius of this book is the way it is written. This story is meant to be read out loud and it uses specific vocabulary to bring the child into a soft meditation that helps them fall asleep. Forssén Ehrlin uses repetition and suggestion to influence the listener’s unconscious mind and help them let go and sleep. And it works for adults, too. I can guarantee that reading about falling deeper and deeper into sleep and hanging out with Uncle Yawn and Heavy-Eyed Owl will make you feel rested and calm as well.

 

October 2015

 

The Cairo Affair, Olen Steinhauer

This up-to-date thriller and modern spy novel is a page turner in the old-fashioned sense. The themes are mystery and deception; nobody knows who is going to betray whom next. Indeed, the word 'affair' has sexual and political connotations. It is 2010. The Middle East is again unraveling. The period of the Arab Spring started on December 18, 2010. Wikileaks was first published on November 28, 2010. Gadhafi and Libya are crumbling soon after. The CIA and Egyptian intelligence are trying to figure out who may be running a regime change operation called "Stumbler." Everyone is checking Wikileaks.org. The novel takes us back to 1991 when a young, idealistic American couple, Emmett and Sophie Kohl, honeymoon in Yugoslavia and are captivated by what they see and experience there. Nearly twenty years later, after leaving his posting in Cairo, Emmett is a U.S. diplomat in Hungary, and Sophie is the beautiful wife. While dining in a posh restaurant, Emmett reveals he knows about Sophie's affair and a few moments later is shot dead.

 

Estelle recommends:
Henna House, Nomi Eve

This moving and gripping family saga begins in Yemen in the 1920s. Five-year-old Adela is the ninth child and only daughter of a gentle, but sickly Jewish cobbler and his cunning wife. The family lives in fear of “confiscation” under the Muslim “Orphan’s Decree’” should her sick father die prematurely. Like her mother, cousins, and sisters-in-law, Adela’s days are filled with mundane tasks, but when she meets her aunt Rahel and cousin Hani she is drawn into the ritualistic art of henna tattoos. As Adela grows, we follow her, her family, and community through their journey to the prosperous port of Aden; marriages and deaths; and finally their departure for Israel in the famous airlift, Operation On Wings of Eagles. Through the strong, forceful women in the novel, Nomi Eve gives us a glimpse of this period in history and Yemeni culture.

 

David recommends:
Montreal Cooks: A Tasting Menu From The City's Leading Chefs, Jonathan Cheung and Tays Spencer

I always tell my students that you can tell how cosmopolitan a city is by the breadth, depth, and sheer variety of its restaurants. This book celebrates the diversity of Montreal's cuisine. Each restaurant and chef is briefly profiled and two of their favourite recipes follow. Of course, a cookbook allows you to make these dishes at home, but what dishes! The book is organized in an ingenious way, with the restaurants featured alphabetically. There is also a metric conversion chart so you do not have to look online all the time. This book is a celebration of one of the primary reasons Montreal is still considered a great city.

 

September 2015

 

A Murder of Magpies, Judith Flanders

Published as Writers' Block in Great Britain, there are many wonderful things going on in this novel. We get a glimpse into the world of British publishing. There are parallels to the theater world, the nuts and bolts of how it is done, not the final product, the book or the play on stage: things like contract negotiations, editing, advertising, marketing. And we have an investigation of a possible murder, including a missing person, international intrigue, and money laundering, as well as corporate infighting- very juicy stuff. I loved the writing; sentences speed along with time for a wry smile on every page. It was enjoyable being immersed in the way the Brits express themselves. Flanders, who usually concerns herself with nonfiction, has given us a terrific novel.

 

Recommended by my daughter Ronit:
The Boston Girl, Anita Diamant

If you enjoyed The Red Tent you will most certainly enjoy The Boston Girl. It is a wonderful story of a spirited daughter of Jewish immigrants to the United States in the early 1900s. Addie, the protagonist, is in her 80s when her granddaughter asks her what it was like growing up and Addie is anxious to share her story. From the one-room tenement apartment in which she lived with her sisters and parents to the library group where she meets other intellectual young women to finding the love of her life, Addie describes a new world: one of movies, celebrities, and opportunities for women her parents can neither fathom nor understand. You cannot help but want to cheer Addie on in her pursuit of love, happiness, and a career. Addie’s strong family ties and dedication to her friends make her an inspiring character. The Boston Girl is a moving tale of historical fiction with an attention to detail.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The Day the Crayons Came Home, Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The crayons are back! One of the best children's books of the past two years was The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. The crayons have now gone on vacation, and are sending postcards back to their owner. Illustrated with the same childlike and heartfelt art that made the first book so interesting, this picture book is sure to please the children in your life!

 

August 2015

 

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah

The time and place: France during World War II; you may have read a few of those. I liked this one for its fast pace and wonderful characters. At the center of the story is two sisters who could not be more different in temperament and worldview. The war, deprivation, resistance, Nazis, danger for Jews: it's all here. The author skillfully offers powerful insights which inform women's thinking, their durability, and strength. Life under Nazi occupation in this quiet village of Carriveau is not easy or calm. There are powerful scenes that take place in the Ravenbruck concentration camp, whose inmates were all women, just 60 miles from Berlin. The women must make daily calculations and difficult choices concerning the survival of their children. This is a book in which women are at the center in crucial, complicated situations involving life and death, whereas most war stories of this type usually feature men.

 

Estelle recommends:
Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf

Our Souls at Night is Haruf's final novel and was finished just before his death in November. Like his other novels, it is beautifully written and captures the essence of relationships. Addie Moore and Louis Waters live in the same neighbourhood in Holt, a fictional small town in Colorado. Both are lonely 70-year-olds who have outlived their spouses and have children and grandchildren living out of town. One day, Addie knocks on Louis's door with an unusual proposal. She wants him to come to her house at night to sleep with her- to be a companion; to talk; not to have sex. Louis accepts and so begins a relationship that reveals past mistakes, leads to adventures, and highlights the importance of the time that remains. Unfortunately, things become complicated with family, friends, and neighbours. This mature, beautiful love story is a joy to read.

 

David recommends:
The New Kosher: Simple Recipes to Savor & Share, Kim Kushner

Kushner, a former Montrealer, is back with a new cookbook. In her lively introduction, she talks about growing up in a modern Orthodox home eating her mother's Moroccan and Israeli cuisine and adds the best explanation for the joys of eating kosher foods that I have ever read. You will find recipes here that are fairly unique, such as Pomelo Salad with Red Onion, Mint & Cilantro. Also, there is not simply a recipe for challah, but Perfect Challah; there is one critical instruction that will make all of your challahs perfect from now on as well. I would be remiss not to mention Kate Sears' perfect, full-page photographs. Many cookbooks stay unopened and unused, but I can say with confidence that you will return again and again to this one.

 

July 2015

 

The Long Way Home, Louise Penny

One thing about loving books and reading is that there is always something new to discover. For me this month it was mystery/crime fiction. As is often the case, it was a book recommended by a customer. Well, now Louise Penny, author of The Long Way Home, has come into my life. Many of you may be familiar with her wonderful characters, especially Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir, his son-in-law and second-in-command. Gamache has retired to a small, no, tiny Quebec village but mystery still follows him. He brings his deep, warm, but sharp intelligence to the situation at hand, however reluctantly. Of course, local settings, customs of Quebec and Montreal, language, food, and culture add to the pleasure of reading this terrific novel. A famous artist has disappeared. So what happened? Was it murder? Suicide? I was hooked. As background, we are exposed to the rich life, history, and creativity of Quebec art and artists amidst the backdrop of the fictional town of Three Pines and the villages in the Eastern Townships.

 

David recommends:
Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible?, Alan Rusbridger

Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, has a busy work schedule in today's world in which news must be transmitted every moment of every day. His mid-life crisis involves learning Chopin's magnificent but formidable Ballade No. 1 in G minor, a piece which many concert pianists fear. Rusbridger gives himself a year to master it. Little did he know that the twelve months he chose began with WikiLeaks and ended with the News of the World phone hacking scandal. With only twenty minutes to spare each day, he demonstrates that with desire, focus, and discipline, anything is possible. As a nearly-middle-age person and a music lover, Rusbridger's message was inspiring. The appendix features the full score with commentary by the author and several great pianists.

 

Estelle recommends:
IF: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, David J. Smith

The author demystifies indecipherable huge numbers in the world by scaling down the gigantic concepts into more meaningful units. For example, David J. Smith represents all the energy in the world to 100 light bulbs; all known species of living things on Earth by a tree with 1,000 leaves; all the wealth in the world by a pile of 100 coins; all the food produced around the world in one year with 25 slices of bread. There are numerous other scenarios. Steve Adams' whimsical illustrations clearly translate Smith’s information into comprehensible visualizations. Creative, curious children aged 6-12 years old will find this picture book fascinating and will likely read it many times. Some adults might also be so inclined.

 

June 2015

 

My husband Zave and I both read a superb new book but we each liked it for different reasons.

Zave recommends:
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, Bill Browder

This is one of the most exciting, page-turning books I've read in a long time. Browder, one of the earliest and most successful heads of an international mutual fund specializing in Russia, confronts the kleptomaniacs and Russian oligarchs in a massive fraud and murder of one of his colleagues, Sergei Magnitsky. His pursuit of justice involving the bureaucracies and legal systems of both Russia and the U.S. makes for fascinating reading.

 

Sandra recommends:
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, Bill Browder

Red Notice is the closest thing we have to an international arrest warrant. I could easily describe this hard-nosed, taut thriller as fiction except it is a true story. Browder was the founder and CEO of the largest foreign investor in Russia. His lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was tortured and murdered in prison after discovering a $230 million fraud committed by Russian officials all the way up to Putin. Browder's mission to expose endemic corruption and abuse is the focus of this political thriller, which is as much of a page turner as any mystery on the bestseller list today. The atmosphere he creates of a modern state emerging from a crumbling empire moves the story forward and makes the reading so exciting; a notable example is that one of the companies he looks at is Sidanco, which was trading at 15 cents per barrel of oil where the market price that day was twenty dollars per barrel and fortunes were made as a result. Unbelievably, Browder manages to inject humor into what is a very serious book; just for fun, we have ex-Mossad agents doing security for Browder.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, Sydney Padua

This is a very special graphic novel. The author starts by telling us, both in drawings and in a ton of footnotes, about the real events surrounding the lives of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage and the invention of the first computer. But then, since their story is short and not as exciting as it could be, Padua transports us to an alternative universe where all their dreams come true. This book is smart, funny, and full of historical references.

 

Estelle recommends:
Any Questions?, Marie-Louise Gay

Award-winning author and illustrator Marie-Louise Gay writes and illustrates the fictional story she is telling and at the same time the creative process necessary to bring it to fruition. She shows how ideas are tried and eliminated until characters and setting come into place and the story gels. Inspired by questions often asked by youngsters at her readings, the last two pages of the book are devoted to the questions and Marie-Louise Gay’s answers. Different from her other books, this charming interactive story within a story is bound to stimulate and inspire the minds of those ages 6 and up.

 

May 2015

 

One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore

Imagine a tragedy in which teenagers are killed in a duel acting out scenes from Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. This is horrible and sad, one would think, but the children in our story are members of the ruling families of Soviet Russia. The time is 1945 and Stalin is at the peak of his paranoid rule. Accused of conspiring to overthrow the government and kill members of the Politburo, a group of youngsters are arrested and interrogated in the Lubyanka. Even a ten-year-old is imprisoned! In Soviet society there is much secrecy but no privacy. Based on a true incident called the Children's Case, Montefiore weaves a tale of conspiracy, betrayal, loyalty, and love while intermingling real historical figures with fictional characters. The atmosphere throughout the novel is so authentic that you feel you are there.

 

The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular- Wholesome Family-Friendly Recipes, Daniella Silver with tips & techniques from Norene Gilletz

We are so happy to have a new book with Norene Gilletz's tips and techniques. Silver phoned Gilletz because she felt a close connection to her as have so many people who have grown up with her cookbooks, including Second Helpings Please. The modern recipes here include Mango Chicken With Leeks and Red Peppers; Halibut, Grapefruit & Spinach Salad; and Heavenly Halvah Cheesecake. Every recipe in this beautiful cookbook features notes and tips from Norene.

 

David recommends:
Studio Grace: The Making of a Record, Eric Siblin

Siblin, the local bestselling author of The Cello Suites, returns with a sprightly book about his newfound passion for the songs spinning around in his head and the state of modern music recording and distribution. By chance, he meets both an old college acquaintance and a real estate agent. They inspire him to record an album of his songs. Siblin keeps things light, with short chapters, but it is his keen eye for detail about people and their stories that will propel you along his journey. The book provides a password to access the album's songs on the author's website.

 

April 2015

 

Ben-Gurion, Anita Shapira (Yale Jewish Lives series)

I surprised myself when I got into this book as I didn't think another Ben-Gurion biography was on my wish list right now. Ben-Gurion isn't that popular these days. Despite his mistakes, some of them with hurtful and lasting consequences today, his leadership and ability to focus on the nation's needs seems monumental. Let your mind go back to a time before the Israel the "start-up nation" and high-tech wonder of today. The spotlight is on 1948, the War of Independence, and the truces before each ceasefire. One man was the architect of the maneuvering of arms purchases, food, housing, and shelter. At the height of the economic crisis, he fires off a letter to the Finance Minister requesting funds to microfilm Hebrew manuscripts from all over the world to be archived at Hebrew University. All the while, his main problems are monumental: the defense of a country and the food and housing needs of the new refugee citizens. The main concern is the nation, not just its security, which is always paramount, but also its moral and ethical foundation. Some of the things I enjoyed reading about were the calculated risks Ben-Gurion took later, such as the secret meetings with Adenauer, which paved the way to the reparations agreement, and the decision to move the capital to Jerusalem. On May 23, 1960, the nation and the entire world were stunned when Ben-Gurion announced to the Knesset that Eichmann had been captured and brought to Israel to stand trial. This must be viewed as visionary, especially since the destruction of the Jews had never been brought to any legal international forum.

 

Robbie recommends:
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

A truly suspenseful novel until the very end! This is the story of three women and three men whose lives are intricately connected in a web of love, hate, infidelity, and lies. The story begins with Rachel, a young woman struggling with alcoholism and the emotional turmoil of her recent divorce. Her daily train commute takes Rachel past her old neighborhood. From the windows of the train she looks out at the familiar houses, one in particular, where she watches the daily activities of Jason and Jess, the names she has bestowed on the loving couple that she sees day after day as her train speeds by. One day she witnesses something strange occur on their terrace. The story unfolds with incredible tension and acute characterization to an ending that is definitely not expected!

 

Estelle recommends:
Everybody Says Shalom, Leslie Kimmelman

This picture book takes the reader on a tour of Israel while explaining the meaning of the word 'shalom': "It's a little word with a lot to say." The story follows a family's adventure in Israel visiting historical sites, holy sites, Roman ruins, and experiencing fun activities in the old city of Jerusalem; modern, bustling Tel Aviv; the desert; and the sea. Children ages 3-7 will enjoy and appreciate Leslie Kimmelman's clever rhymes such as, "Munching dates, lifting crates while exploring ancient gates" as well as the cheery illustrations by Talitha Shipman.

 

March 2015

 

Love & Treasure, Ayelet Waldman

I was fortunate to hear Ayelet Waldman speak in Montreal a couple of weeks ago. She was lively, funny, and intelligent. The book opens in Maine in 2013 and takes us back to the chaotic aftermath of World War II in Salzburg; Natalie Wiseman is given a necklace by her grandfather Jack, who, as a young officer in the U.S. Army, was charged with guarding the so-called Gold Train. The train contained the stolen art, jewels, and entire households (silver, china, tablecloths...) of Hungarian Jewry. In her search for the owner of the necklace, Natalie is exposed to the complex world of art dealers, historians, government officials, and the thorny ethical issue of provenance. Waldman is a good writer who makes us question the real value of this treasure and the dilemma faced in returning it to its rightful owners. Intrigue, lies, stealing and two wonderful, parallel love stories will keep you glued to the story.

Canadian Haggadah, compiled and edited by Rabbi Adam Scheier and Richard Marceau

We are fortunate, finally, to have a trilingual haggadah, with text in Hebrew, English, and French, and commentary from Canadian rabbis across the religious spectrum. If you are one of the many customers who has asked me for a French haggadah, here it is. The haggadah is filled with photographs from across Canada showing the rich Jewish Canadian experience. One notable photograph features hockey legend Ken Dryden on the ice at the Canada Centre in Metulla, Israel. With so many interesting photographs and unique texts, your seders will never be dull again.

 

David recommends:
The New Passover Menu, Paula Shoyer

Formally trained as a pastry chef with two excellent kosher baking cookbooks under her belt, Shoyer's latest book is definitely not your grandmother's Passover cookbook. Contemporary recipes and modern updates on classic Passover dishes with global flavours will make you return again and again to this book. There are 65 recipes and menus for the two Seders, Shabbat, and Yom Tov dinners. Many of the recipes are gluten-free and nut-free, but what is notable are the recipes labeled gebrokts, which is a Yiddish word for any matzoh or matzoh product mixed with liquid because of the chance that the liquid might cause any unbaked flour in the matzoh to become chametz; some Jews will not eat gebrokts during the holiday. What a great attention to detail! Chag sameach.

 

February 2015

 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid

When was the last time you read a book where no character has a name and it gets better and better as you go along? This slim novel is an account of a man's life from his earliest childhood memories to old age and death. With a flowing pace, we, the reader, are tasked with filling in some of the "blanks" in the story. If I had to choose one word to describe the experience, 'riveting' would sum it up nicely. The author gives us a good look at the underpinnings of this society/culture, family loyalty, tolerance, and especially tolerance for corruption. The book portrays government corruption, especially in the water department. All of this is within the framework of a self-help book. The language is inventive; we can smell the rust in the water pipes before we see it and understand "love that flows one way, down the generations, not in reverse."

 

David recommends:
The Light of Jerusalem, Jean-Michel Berts (Introduction By Elie Wiesel)

I opened this book when I was in the store a few weeks ago, and I was transfixed by the artful photographs Berts took in Jerusalem at daybreak. Whether you have been to the city many times or not, you have likely never seen the city like this. The next time you're in the store, be sure to have a look. As a bonus, all of the photographs are annotated at the end of the book.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

I rarely read fantasy novels, but Neil Gaiman is the exception for me. This novel tells the story of a man who comes back to his childhood home for a funeral and relives a magical part of his childhood. It explores the feelings of powerlessness children experience when their parents make mistakes, the power of female solidarity (through very charming witch characters), and most importantly, how many adults lose the magic in their life as they grow up. Literally magical, very beautiful.

 

January 2015

 

Mary Coin, Marisa Silver

Book groups, take note: this is a gem. It has a rich historical setting; the story is set in Depression America, during the drought. Mary Coin is the powerful center of the book. She is the fictional character inspired by the subject of Dorothea Lange's famous photo, Migrant Mother. Lange's iconic photograph from the period (featured on the cover of the novel) leads to consequences for a contemporary California family. Walker Dodge is a social historian who sometimes bores his teenage children with forgotten stories he has uncovered. Vera Dare, the photographer, now the subject of a college symposium, is the link, the thread that allows Dodge to explore his family history. The writing is graceful and effective. I hope you enjoy it.

 

David recommends:
Gathered Around the Table: A Modern Cookbook of Treaures and Traditions, A Project of Netivot Hatorah Day School

For those of you who remember Gatherings, a cookbook published about ten years, here is a new book lovingly compiled by parents of the school in Toronto. As they say, kosher cooking has become more than a trend, but a lifestyle choice. The pictures are beyond beautiful. I also appreciated the Passover Recipe Index and Sample Menus list. Make sure to add this to your cookbook collection even if you aren't kosher.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi

Oyeyemi is a young British author who uses magical realism to explore the themes of identity and race. In this superb novel, she loosely based the story on the Snow White tale to create her narrative, though it is not a fairy tale at all. This is the story of Boy Novak, a young Caucasian woman who escapes her abusive family and moves to small-town Massachusetts to marry a widower and adopt his daughter, Snow. When Boy and her husband have their own child, however, the child's race is questioned. What follows is a sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, story of family, race, passing, and identity.

 

2014 Sandra Selects

 

December 2014

 

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin

In his latest book, Levitin, the acclaimed cognitive psychologist and James McGill Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience at McGill University, quickly and easily draws us into what could have been a complicated subject while demonstrating the importance of developing an organized mind in order to deal with all the information that we are bombarded with daily. The reader can relax; this reading experience is not homework, but enlightening and enjoyable. It was fun to read the description of the modern cell phone as a Swiss Army knife-like appliance that can act as a GPS, flashlight, weather forecaster, guitar tuner, and on and on, which is more powerful than the most advanced computer at IBM 30 years ago. No wonder we need help organizing our minds! One of my favorite sections is when Levitin turns to multitasking, but the "fly in the ointment" is that it makes us less efficient. He covers topics like our passwords. Who doesn't have too many? The final chapter is Everything Else: The Power of the Junk Drawer; it's not what you think. Read the book and argue with your friends.

 

David recommends:
You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes, Chris Hadfield

Hadfield's time on the International Space Station, which completes an orbit of Earth every 92 minutes, made him many fans. He took about 45,000 photographs. This book is full of fascinating photographs taken from the dozens of cameras on board the ISS, most of which are reproduced here for the first time. Besides the beautiful pictures, though, are many insightful comments on how little most of us know about our planet and its long history. This makes a terrific gift.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Mix It Up!, Hervé Tullet

This children’s book is a treat for both parents and kids. Tullet teaches children how to mix up paint to create new colors. The pages are full of photos of paint splatters, very similar to a young child’s own art. Instructive, vibrant and fun, this book will surely make you want to try mixing your own paint to see what happens.

 

November 2014

 

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, Eve Harris

This delightful, often humorous novel, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, takes us on a journey into the life of Chani Kaufman, a nineteen-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl in London who is preparing for an arranged marriage. The character development is remarkable, making the reader feel an insightful connection with each character. The Rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife) teaches Chani how to be a good Jewish wife while at the same time struggling with her own identity crisis. The shadchan (matchmaker) must find an appropriate match for Chani, all the while manipulating situations for her own benefit. Baruch, the chosen Hossen (groom), balances his insecurity, fear, curiosity and intrigue with what is about to happen to him. Then there is also Chani herself, along with her mother and several other characters that complete this wonderful story about life and the traditions of the ultra-Orthodox Jews. I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining, informative and thought-provoking book.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
An Untamed State, Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a prolific essayist and social commentator. She is funny, incisive, and readable. This is her début novel, published this year. It tells the story of a woman kidnapped for ransom in Haiti and her husband who will do anything to help her. Unfortunately, our protagonist’s rich father refuses to surrender and give the money to the kidnappers. This is a suspenseful novel about poverty, politics, and life in Haiti.

 

Estelle recommends:
One Big Pair of Underwear, Laura Gehl & Tom Lichtenheld

The bears, yaks, seals, cats, and numerous other animals have trouble sharing something they want. One of the group is always left without. It takes twenty pigs and their ability and desire to “piggyback” to teach the other animals that sharing is possible and can even be fun. Gehl's words flow beautifully with alliterations and rhymes. Lichtenheld's illustrations are delightful and funny. Not only is this picture book fun to read, listen to and look at, but it is also a counting book and one that teaches a valuable lesson about sharing. One Big Pair of Underwear is sure to delight children 4-8 and even their parents.

 

October 2014

 

David: The Divided Heart, David Wolpe

This is a biography about a complicated individual; the book is one of the latest in the distinguished yet accessible Jewish Lives series from Yale University Press. Someone who inspired Michelangelo who sometimes behaved like a rock star; after all, he was a poet and a musician. He lived a life of power, lust, friendship and hints of homosexual love, even murder. Added to this there is his political and military acumen. He sees possibilities and perspectives that today we call "thinking outside the box." Since it is obvious Goliath can't be defeated with conventional armor and sword, especially by a small boy like himself, why not try a slingshot! David and his men, a ragtag gang, move in on Nabal, a wealthy man, and offer "protection." As Wolpe says, Nabal hasn't seen the Godfather movies and doesn't recognize an offer he can't refuse and thus David is operating a sort of pastoral protection racket. Despite all of this, Wolpe helps us understand his divided heart: he is simultaneously Israel's greatest, most beloved king as well as a human and tragically flawed individual. The outlines of the story are familiar to all of us but the author makes it exciting, vibrant and contemporary with his lively prose and wry sense of humor. The storytelling is compelling; in short, I loved it.

 

Robbie recommends:
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is the story of a young woman, Ifemelu, who leaves her native Nigeria and Obinze, the love of her life, to attend university in America. It is there that she discovers what it means to be “black.” After many stressful and unsuccessful attempts to find gainful employment, she begins writing a blog about the subject that has deeply touched her heart, mind and soul: racism in America. Several years later, following significant success and several romances, she finds herself longing for her homeland and returns to Nigeria. Ifemulu and Obinze meet again in their homeland and thus continues this remarkably told story of love, race and identity.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel, Virginia Morell

This is the perfect book for an animal lover. Morell, a journalist, travels around the world to interview animal cognition specialists in the hope of convincing the reader that animals are intelligent, emotional and important beings. Each chapter focuses on a different species and describes experiments that researchers put in place to discover how animals think and behave.

 

September 2014

 

The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, Tom Rachman

Tooly Zylberberg is in her early thirties when we meet her. She has been traveling most of her life, having been whisked away by her father at an early age. From Bangkok to Brooklyn and back again, Tooly picks up various cool and crazy characters, who in effect raise her, each for a time. My favorite is Humphrey, a Russian book lover who knows the Cold War was/is over (it's the 1980s) but won't concede the U.S. won; as a lapsed Communist, the most he'll give it is a draw. By 2011, Tooly is living a comfortable if unconventional life as the proprietor of a run-down book shop in Wales. Then a letter draws her back into her past and she must face others' long-buried secrets in order to find her place in the world. Above all, the novel is witty, funny, and very well-written.

 

David recommends:
The Morning After: The 1995 Quebec Referendum and the Day That Almost Was, Chantal Hébert with Jean Lapierre

Like most of you, I vividly remember the night of October 30, 1995. I was twenty-one at the time and was speaking with an American friend on the telephone. I told her, "This is the night that Quebec may separate from the rest of Canada." If you think you know everything about the events leading up to that day and what Jacques Parizeau had planned in the event of a majority Yes vote, think again. Each chapter features a major player in Canadian politics and their stance with respect to an independent Quebec. You will find yourself racing through the book. Your heart will probably be racing too.

 

Estelle recommends:
The Paris Architect, Charles Belfoure

This is an historical novel set in 1942 Paris during the German occupation. Lucien Bernard, a skilled architect with financial problems, is approached by Manet, a wealthy Gentile industrialist, to design invisible hiding spaces for Jews on the run. His first response is to decline. He has no empathy for Jews, prefers not to be associated with them, and has no desire to risk his life aiding them. However, with the promise of a commission to design a factory and the challenge to deceive the Nazis, he agrees to help Manet. Lucien faces several obstacles. His childless marriage to Celeste is in crisis. Adele, his mistress, is involved with a Nazi officer. One of his hiding spaces fails, resulting in the deaths of a hidden Jewish couple. His new young employee, Alain, a nephew to a German officer, is suspicious of Lucien, and is playing detective. Although this is Belfoure's first novel, he knows of what he writes. He is an architect whose practice is in historic preservation. I highly recommend The Paris Architect. It is a well-written, engaging page-turner with many tense moments.

 

August 2014

 

Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel, Anya Ulinich

Some of you may see the play on Bernard Malamud's well-known book of short stories. This is an intelligent, moving, and hilarious take on a divorcée's attempts at dating by the author of Petropolis.

 

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast

The celebrated New Yorker cartoonist and illustrator has written a memoir in graphic book form. Whether you are already laughing or have yet to discover her, you have never read anything like this.

 

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, Liana Finck

Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century, many of whom struggled to adapt to their new lives in the United States, wrote letters in Yiddish to The Forward. Finck selected and adapted some of these letters in an utterly unique book.

 

Farm 54, Galit & Gilad Seliktar

This graphic novel features young people who live on a kibbutz in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

The Property, Rutu Modan

This graphic novel by the author of Exit Wounds tells the story of Regina Segal, who takes her granddaughter to Warsaw, hoping to reclaim a family property lost during World War II.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, Beth Moncel

This is an easy-to-use cookbook which features recipes with low-cost ingredients that result in meals which do not skimp on taste. This book is about saving money while making fast, delicious meals that will satisfy all kinds of palates. It includes a list of pantry staples and items every kitchen needs to enter the world of cooking. This is my most used cookbook at home.

 

Estelle recommends:
Julia, Child, Kyo Maclear

Inspired by Julia Child, Canadian author Maclear and illustrator Julie Morstad created a whimsical tale in picture book format suitable for all ages, 4 to 99. Julia and Simca are best friends who share a love of cooking and a desire to remain children forever. They take cooking and baking classes together and spend weekends practicing and practicing. The girls notice that grown-ups are usually worrying, hurrying, and seldom taking time to enjoy eating and the simple things in life. Together they create recipes for "growing young," resulting in their cookbook "Mastering the Art of Childhood." Regardless of our age, we can all appreciate and hope to achieve Julia's and Simca's philosophy of life.

 

July 2014

 

Longbourn (Pride and Prejudice: The Servant's Story), Jo Baker

The setting is Regency England and the world of Jane Austen, but this "original and charming" story takes us below the stairs into the servants' hall and the world of the orphan housemaid Sarah. The characters of this novel are minor characters or hardly present in Pride and Prejudice. It's fun if you remember them but unnecessary to enjoy this well-researched historical novel. Each chapter starts with a phrase or a few words from the original and then seems to grow into a riff on the quote and expand on it. We are witness to a beautiful love story as well as Mr. Bennet's secret. Turn another page and you're in another part of Austen's world, one she does not explore, the war in Spain and Portugal, Napoleon, and the cruel reality of service in the great British Navy. I enjoyed it, and hope you will too.

 

Estelle recommends:
The Sleeping Dictionary, Sujata Massey

This is a historical novel spanning several decades. It is well-written with well-defined characters and a spellbinding story. It is 1930 and a West Bengali village is obliterated by a tidal wave, leaving Pom, a young girl of the low caste, as the only survivor. The story follows her journey through several life and name changes. As a maidservant at a British boarding school for girls, she becomes Sarah and discovers a love of books and languages. Mistreated and wrongfully accused of stealing, she escapes. Her dream to go to Calcutta to become a teacher is quelled when she accidentally arrives in Kharagpur. Hungry, homeless and gullible, she is lured into a brothel and the world of prostitution. Eventually she makes it to Calcutta and renames herself Kamala. As India struggles for independence, Kamala fights for a life of happiness and fulfillment free from all her past secrets.

 

David recommends:
The Gaspé Peninsula: Land on the Edge of Time, Linda Rutenberg

Rutenberg, a noted Montreal photographer, has accomplished what no other major photographer has: she visited and photographed the Gaspé Peninsula during winter. For those of you who remember her previous book The Garden at Night: A Photographic Journey, the photographs in this book are similarly striking and memorable. The book also features essays by noted writers Paul Almond and Jules Bélanger. This beautiful book makes a great gift.

 

June 2014

 

The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout

This is the story of the Burgess family: Jim, Bob, and his twin sister Susan. Private thoughts are kept inside. The Burgess siblings have buried the consequences of the freak accident that killed their father when they were small children. But when their nephew, Susan's son, throws a pig's head into a local Somali mosque, everything changes. When we are introduced to Abdikarim, a respectable, older Somali immigrant, we feel how strange the intimacy of a smile can be to a foreigner who is uncomfortable and intimidated by this public display of warmth. Strout shows us in a few words how a crowd can be quickly and easily manipulated toward racism and fear. One comes away from this novel knowing that family is something special that must be cared for. There is an extraordinary sense of family commitment, which is one of the powerful attractions in this book.

 

Estelle recommends:
Constance, Patrick McGrath

Set in 1960s New York, Constance is a multi-layered, psychological page-turner. Beautiful, self-absorbed Constance Schuyler, an editor, meets and quickly marries Sidney Klein, who is twenty years her senior, a poetry professor and twice-divorced single father. The story alternates between Constance's voice and that of Sidney. Constance is devastated when a secret about her father is revealed. She relives her childhood spent in a dilapidated house in upstate New York. Early in the novel we learn of her hatred for her father and a shaky relationship with her sister Iris. As Constance delves into her childhood, she loses touch with reality and her behavior has serious repercussions for those around her. McGrath has once again written a novel that will stay with you long after the last page is read.

 

Stephanie recommends:
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

John Green is an Internet phenomenon and this book was recently adapted into a popular film. Along with his brother Hank, he is part of multiple YouTube series, all funny and edifying, focused on appealing to young adults and teenagers. He is also a very successful Young Adult novelist. His latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, is still topping the bestseller lists, even more than two years after its publication. Now out in paperback, the story of a 16-year-old girl with cancer who refuses to be the typical cancer protagonist will make you laugh, cry, and ask for more. I still cry when I re-read passages.

 

May 2014

 

Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra

Reading this novel is like working on a puzzle that the reader is compelled to finish. This is a story with several remarkable characters whose lives intertwine during five tense days of the brutal wars in Chechnya (1994-2004). The brilliant, tough Sonja, the sole doctor in charge of a hospital with sparse supplies whose outer walls have been blown away in the bombings, is asked to protect 8-year-old Havaa, who has a "price on her head." Akhmed, Havaa's protector, will work in the hospital in return for Sonja's help, even though he is the worst doctor in the world (his own description). Even though the characters are from warring sides of the conflicts, their humanity is foremost in their character. If you want a change from suburban mother-daughter conflict, courtroom drama, or narcissistic celebrity fiction, read this most engaging, harsh, but tender first novel.

 

Estelle recommends:
Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage, Shaul Sapir

This is an impressive coffee table book with hundreds of colour and black-and-white photographs, as well as maps, sketch plans, models, references, and indexes. The text is clear and very informative. Born in Bombay to a couple whose descendants came from Baghdad several generations before, Shaul Shapir left India as a child and returned decades later as a visitor. Impressed by what he saw and influenced by his childhood memories, he started what would be years of research for this book. He pays homage to the many architectural sites in Bombay/Mumbai. Not only does he explore the history and the changes of the well-known Jewish sites, educational institutions, finance and commerce, youth movements, and clubs, but also the unique contribution of the Jewish community to the urban landscape, and in particular, the influence of the famous Sassoon family.

 

Stephanie recommends:
Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons, Jon J. Muth

This pretty picture book is, as the pun in the title indicates, about a panda named Koo who spends a year writing haikus about the seasons. This is a great way for children to start casually reading poetry, or for an adult to read it to them and explore the sounds and rhythms that language has to offer. The illustrations are lovely too. Reading this book is a little zen experience as you follow Koo in his cyclical discovery of the four seasons in a year. Here is an example of one of the haikus: “King!/my crown a gift/from a snowy branch”. Beautiful and lyrical.

 

April 2014

 

The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BCE - 1492 CE, Simon Schama

Schama, a British historian, has spent most if his 40-year career on non-Jewish subjects. His beautiful new book The Story of the Jews examines the question: How did Jews remain vibrant and creative for so many centuries and yet continue to be a distinct and separate people? This is not a coffee table book, although there are many beautiful, colored pictures throughout. This history telling isn't just linear but more like the story of a people on the move. There are curious questions raised; for example, how did the Jews of Elephantine (an island in the upper Nile River) celebrate Passover in 475 BCE? After all, they are in Egypt, consider themselves Egyptian, and are not about to leave! For those interested in the economic and business life of different communities, Mibtahiah might be a surprise to you. She owned property, had three husbands, took one of them to court, and won the case. Schama documents the beginning of ordinary Jewish life and Jewish art history, which shows a people open to surrounding societies, never completely separate unless forced to be. History unfolds, told through objects and stories. The writing is smooth and elegant with a sense of joy in what he has to tell us.

 

Flash Boys, Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis' new "thriller," Flash Boys, one of whose heroes just happens to be Bradley Katsuyama, formerly of the Royal Bank of Canada. Of course this is not fiction, because if it was, you wouldn't believe it. It is a story of high frequency stock market trading with a millisecond advantage allowing millions of dollars in profit and an edge over everyone else in the world. Imagine someone knowing about your trade before it's executed! This exposé of massive fraud in the stock market will surprise you because there are good guys on Wall Street, believe it or not.

 

Treasure For My Daughter, new 2013 edition

This recipe book is part of Montreal history. Many of you may remember growing up with it in your family kitchen or on your grandmother's shelf. First published in 1950, it is a bit of Montreal nostalgia besides having some of the best old-fashioned Jewish recipes you can find, including the greatest potato kugel for Passover. My worn and torn copy has a note from my friend Joan (2001) "make it in muffin tins" and another note from my friend Marvin's late mother Ethel telling me to "broil the oil at 500, then add the potato mixture." I'm sure you know someone who would enjoy having a copy.

 

Estelle recommends:
Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls: A Passover Tale in Chelm, Linda Glaser

Chelm has always been known as a "village of fools." A poor, old man walks into the town of Chelm just before Passover asking for food. After refusals by all the townspeople, he produces a stone from his pocket and tricks them into slowly and unknowingly contributing the utensils and ingredients (one at a time) needed to make enough matzoh ball soup for a Seder feast. With the themes of the value of togetherness, sharing, and a sense of community, this delightful version of an old tale is guaranteed to be a favourite.

 

March 2014

 

Estelle recommends:
Radiance of Tomorrow, Ishmael Beah

Seven years ago, Ishmael Beah's bestselling memoir A Long Way Gone told a harrowing account of child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone. Radiance of Tomorrow, a powerful novel written in the style of a folktale, recounts the gradual return of villagers and in particular, two childhood friends, Benjamin and Bockarie, to their burnt-out village after a devastating civil war. Faced with human and material destruction, the lack of food, polluted water, and the interference and exploitation of a foreign mining company, the two men attempt to rebuild a community and a life. This is an extraordinary novel about the importance of storytelling, the wisdom of elders, preserving the past, dealing with the present, and looking forward to the future.

 

David recommends:
Jewish London: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Visitors and Londoners, Rachel Kolsky and Roslyn Rawson

This colourful and informative book is for anyone interested in Jewish life in London, past and present. Walking tours include plentiful photographs, details on specific sites, and corresponding maps. The authors also explore fascinating outings that are off the beaten path and the book is especially strong on the arts. There is also a handy guide to restaurants, shops, hotels, and synagogues. The historical detail the authors provide throughout the book make this guide especially valuable.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt

This is a simple story of a kid's crayons, who decide to quit their job because they are tired of always being used in a conventional way. Multidisciplinary artist Oliver Jeffers brings the crayons to life by creating drawings that seem to have been colored by a child, without losing any of their beauty. I recommend this book to every person, young and old, who loves to color outside the lines.

 

February 2014

 

Someone: A Novel, Alice McDermott

I hadn't realized until I finished the first chapter of this beautiful novel that I had never read Alice McDermott before. I always knew she was a wonderful writer, what took me so long! Marie, the main character, is eight years old when we first see her on the front stoop of her house in pre-Depression Brooklyn. From afar we would say Marie is an ordinary woman with not much of a remarkable life. But in the telling of the tale of why she gets a job in a funeral parlor, her sensitive brother who wants to be a priest, her first sad sexual encounters and later a satisfying (may I dare say happy) marriage is a moving and most satisfying experience.

 

David recommends:
Portrait of a Scandal, Elaine Kalman Naves

This new book by Naves, an author of seven books, a Gazette book reviewer, and lover of literature, profiles the Notman brothers. William Notman, the older brother, owned the largest photography business in North America. His younger brother Robert caused a scandal across the country when he arranged an abortion for a lover; the doctor subsequently committed suicide, and a sensational trial ensued. The Notmans and the photographers they employed took photographs of the elites at the time but the studios' activities continued well into the twentieth century. What was noteworthy about their work was both the sharp and clear image as well as the ability to endlessly produce prints. This is a compelling story as well as a fascinating social history of Montreal and Canada in the second half of the nineteenth century. The book contains a 24-page portfolio of Notman photographs of many of the personalities.

 

Stéphanie recommends:
Jane, the fox & me, Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

Originally written in French, this middle-grade graphic novel tells the story of a young, working-class girl who escapes the bullying she faces at school by reading books. When we first meet her, she is reading the beginning of Jane Eyre and she relates a lot to the titular character. She finds herself ugly, fat, and friendless. Her small coming-of-age story continues to parallel Jane’s as she goes to a summer camp with her school and is confronted by her own solitude. But, like the Bronte novel, this story has a happy ending, and we learn about friendship, healthy body image, and growing up. The pencil illustrations give life to this Montreal tale and it’s easy to recognize streets and landmarks throughout the book, which adds to the vivacity of the story.

 

January 2014

 

The Dinner, Herman Koch

I hesitated before I decided to write a review of this book because of the extreme reaction to it by some of my very good customers and, of course, great response from others. The book is very intriguing; once you start you must continue even if you can't stand the characters! Two brothers whose children are friends are having dinner together along with their wives. One of the brothers, who is especially pretentious, is running for Prime Minister. There is insight into political behavior as you watch a person transform and become a celebrity. The dinner is elegant, chi chi, and very expensive, which contrasts with the story, which is layered with secrets and a monstrous crime, and unfolds as each course of the dinner is served. The book poses some difficult questions such as the nature of evil and the effects of public attention on one's humanity.

 

Stephanie recommends:
Vanity Fair 100 Years: From the Jazz Age to Our Age, Edited by Graydon Carter

This beautiful book is a celebration and chronicle of the hundredth anniversary of one of the great American magazines from its first publication as a regular monthly until today. It's fascinating to see the evolution of design and the striking photographs that define Vanity Fair, many of which are reproduced here. The book also contains excerpts of articles written by people who exemplified the style, literature, and journalism of their time. The magazine has not only featured some of the most indelible photographs of the last century but also incisive and revealing profiles and essays of Hollywood and politics. This will make a great gift.

 

Estelle recommends:
White Dog Fell From The Sky, Eleanor Morse

It is 1977. Isaac Muthethe, a young medical student, looks up to face an emaciated white dog after witnessing a murder and is forced to flee his native South Africa. The dog follows him as he begins a new life in Botswana, a land free of apartheid. Isaac is hired as a gardener by Alice Mendelssohn, an expatriate American whose marriage is in trouble and who has difficulty with her position as a "white woman" in the village. Trusting Isaac to look after her house, Alice travels into the interior of Botswana to study cave paintings of the ancient San people. Upon her return, the dog is waiting, but Isaac is missing and Alice sets out to find him, but what she finds will change her life. The story, both tragic and hopeful, is a memorable read.

 

2013 Sandra Selects

 

December 2013

 

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit
Winner of the Nathan Book Award

As I was reading the first chapters of this memorable book I knew I could not wait to tell all of you about it. I wanted to write an outstanding review, and then I read Leon Wieseltier's front page book review in the New York Times. I don't think it can be said more powerfully or more eloquently.The love and depth of Shavit's feelings for his country and his critical ability to look at Israel's flaws, profound errors, and remarkable strengths is amazing. He is able to explain the ugly parts, expulsions, and hubris with praise for the extraordinary accomplishments. The section on Israel's nuclear development and presumed capability is a picture nothing short of a "stupefying success" nearly impossible to believe. We are talking of a country less than 10 years old when it began. But most of all, Shavit brings us along on a journey into a remarkably vibrant, creative society. Does he have hope for peace? Not soon, but he knows the intensity of Israeli life is a daily wonder. Read it!

 

Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela

There is no better way to honor the memory of Nelson Mandela than to read his autobiography. There are all the wonderful and terrible things you know about him plus some surprising details. Lazar Sidelsky, a Jewish lawyer, gave him a job clerking that was necessary for him to become a lawyer in South Africa, in fact the first black lawyer, as no other white firm would hire him. Although Jews played a prominent role in Mandela's African National Congress and he had strong personal bonds with Jewish friends, his relations with Jewish groups and Israel were more complex. Nevertheless, Mandela has strong memories of Ruth First, Helen Sussman, and Joe Slovo, three prominent South African Jews who stood with Mandela during difficult times. There is also the contrasting story of Rabbi Avi Weiss, a strong human rights activist, who protested at the ticker tape parade welcoming Mandela to New York because of his embrace of Yasser Arafat. The story is here in his own words and his great dignity shines through.

 

Estelle recommends:
Architecture According to Pigeons, Speck Lee Tailfeather

This is a beautiful, fun, and clever large hardcover picture book. In an effort to change human belief that pigeons are dirty, useless birds, Tailfeather was elected by fellow pigeons to share their love and knowledge for the architecture of beautiful buildings. With the help of renowned publisher Phaidon Press, Speck traveled around the world visiting some of the most impressive buildings and structures. The author offers "a bird's eye view" with a wealth of information and opinions. Canterbury Cathedral (Mish-Mash Marvel), the Eiffel Tower (the Iron Tree), the Colosseum (Murder Ring), the Great Wall of China (The Great Worm), the Taj Mahal (the Palace of Ghosts) and the Sydney Opera House (Hungry Beaks Hall) are some of the 40 buildings and structures featured and illustrated in the book. Although this book is recommended for children seven years old and up, it is a book that can be enjoyed by all, no matter your age. As adults, it is a fun way to brush up on your architectural knowledge and to count how many of these phenomenal wonders have been seen on trips and which remain to be seen.

 

November 2013

 

Estelle recommends:
Arlo Needs Glasses, Barney Saltzberg

This is a colourful, fun, and interactive chunky board book for children age 3 and up. There are velcro pieces, pop-up pieces, slide out pieces, and even four different pairs of glasses that can be fitted onto a sturdy cardboard Arlo. It is about a boy whose shaggy, yellow dog, Arlo, suddenly has difficulty playing catch. Arlo's young master decides that Arlo must need glasses. At the eye doctor's office, Arlo goes through various eye tests, tries on glasses, and chooses a pair. The book has a great message, especially for youngsters who need glasses, but refuse to wear them. Glasses can be fun, cool and help us do the things we like.

 

We would like to welcome our new employee, Stephanie. Here is her book recommendation:
Night Film, Marissa Pessl

Pessl's second novel starts like a fairly conventional detective story about a beautiful young girl, Ashley Cordova, who is found dead in an elevator shaft and her rich and eccentric father, Stanislas Cordova, a recluse cult filmmaker, may or may not have something to do with it. But then it quickly becomes more and more complicated when Scott McGrath, a journalist and the protagonist of the novel, digs deeper to find out about the Cordovas and their supernatural tendencies. Are McGrath and his two young sidekicks going mad, or is there something magical about this family?

 

My husband Zave recommends:
An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris

This is a compelling story of the Dreyfus Affair set out as a novel. It is factually accurate but reads like a mystery thriller. The story revolves around Colonel Georges Picquart, a French army officer who witnesses Dreyfus's degradation in 1895. The book opens with the scene of his public humiliation and cries of "Judas, Traitor, Death to the Jew!" Picquart witnesses this public spectacle. He feels satisfied and reports the details to the Minister of War. His investigation eventually leads to his imprisonment. Picquart becomes a Dreyfusard after being transferred to French Intelligence, where he slowly learns of the cover-up and uncovers some horrible truths. Even though I knew the ending before I started I couldn't put it down until I finished it.

 

October 2013

 

Israel: A History, Anita Shapira
Winner of a National Jewish Book Award 2012

The advantage of chronological structure is that one can choose a period one wants to focus on then go back and explore in detail what the author has to say. With all the recent discussion around the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, that is what I did. Then I was pulled into the remarkable story that is Israel's history. Shapira can sum up in one smooth paragraph the world situation at any time as it influences Israel's culture and political decisions. The Vietnam War protests challenged American values and the "flower children" generation began volunteering on kibbutzim, bringing these ideas to the locals. The Black Panthers, a Israeli social activist group made up of mainly social workers and North African immigrants, took their name and some of their tactics from the U.S., but Israel had never seen ethnically oriented social protest before. The language and ideas flow throughout this book. Israel is a vital, vibrant society not yet ready for sainthood. This is not a Zionist polemic but a quick-paced examination of modern Israel that attempts to explain the thinking of Jews, Arabs, and Zionists, both secular and religious.

 

Family Tree Memory Keeper: Your Workbook for Family History, Stories & Genealogy, Allison Dolan and Diane Haddad

In this fun, useful guide there are many places to record information, family events etc.,and some tips on how to do this effectively. For example, "focus on the memories, not just the facts." Under the section Memories and Traditions, there is a list of interview questions. As one might expect, there are places for photos, recipes, and guidelines for researching your roots. There is also information on many valuable web sites; how about the one for immigrant ships! Genealogy has become very popular of late and is a great way to learn about your family's history.

 

Robyn recommends:
419: A Novel, Will Ferguson

"Would you die for your child?" is the haunting way that 419 begins. Although the question is rhetorical when first posed, the plot develops with a car accident on a snowy Calgary road and continues across the African continent. The answer is fully unveiled, and all story lines are connected, in the notoriously dangerous and corrupt city of Lagos, Nigeria. In Lagos, lyrics from pop songs teasingly joke about foreigners being 419d - referring to the section in the criminal code on the illegal obtaining of funds. This is a compelling, beautiful, and sad novel.

 

September 2013

 

Billionaire's Vinegar, Benjamin Wallace

First buy the book then open a nice bottle of wine and you are ready to enjoy a few hours of an intriguing story. Billionaire's Vinegar is a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux - either owned by Thomas Jefferson or a very expensive hoax. Eccentric people and obsessive wine connoisseurs are the main characters in this study of greed, celebrity, and most of all hubris, but it is also great fun to read. The characters should be fictional - they are so crazy but alas they are all too real. Along the way you can learn some wine history and enjoy a well-written mystery.

 

Robyn recommends:
The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson

This is a frighteningly realistic story of the real son of an orphan master in current-day North Korea, who, because of his father's insistence on treating him like the other orphans he cares for, is condemned to the life of this lowest class of North Korean society. Through often disturbingly realistic events - including the kidnapping of a Japanese opera star at the request of a senior member of the politburo - we see glimpses of humanity, hope, and love among the sadness and desperation of life. An unbelievable story, made that much more believable by the recent rants and threats of Kim Jong-un, leader of the so-called Hermit Kingdom.

 

Estelle recommends:
The World Without You: A Novel, Joshua Henkin

This is a compelling character-driven story of grief, anger, and the importance of family which takes place over a four day period leading to July 4. A year after their son Leo was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists while on assignment as a journalist in Iraq, Marilyn and David Frankel have invited their three remaining children and daughter-in-law to their Berkshire home for a memorial service. Henkin's characters are strong-willed; their flawed decisions are devastating to those around them.

Marilyn and David, dealing with grief in different ways, plan to tell the family of their impending separation after forty years of marriage. Lily, a lawyer, is angry with everyone. Noelle, once a teenage rebel, is now an Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem with her unemployed husband and four children. Clarissa, thirty-nine years old and the eldest sibling, is struggling with infertility. Thisbe, Leo's young widow and mother of their toddler son, is afraid to reveal that she is in a serious relationship.

Henkin's writing and characterization make this a worthwhile read.

 

August 2013

 

The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud

Lucky me. I had Claire Messud's book The Woman Upstairs with me on a 6-hour plane trip. It is a wonderful feeling opening a new book and discovering the first sentences, saying this will be a good ride. It is a psychological thriller and a page turner in the best sense. The narrator speaks directly to the reader and so we experience her pain, joy, and shame directly. We are present at every shameful revelation or happy anticipation. The book is about love but also throws a spotlight on how we differentiate the acculturation of both boys and girls to empathize and express their feelings: whether to care for others and give over one's life to the care of others or sacrifice all for art, creativity, dreams, and adventure. Nora Eldridge is a wonderful teacher and a single woman who falls in love with three members of a family, as a unit and as individuals. Will her passion destroy her or allow her to live life as a creative artist? What will she do with her violent rage? I was engrossed in this compelling novel until the end.

 

David recommends:
The Koren Yom Kippur Mahzor, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

This recently published mahzor is a companion to the Koren Rosh Hashana Mahzor; both enhance the prayer experience by making the language of prayer more accessible. I also appreciate the use of typesetting to break up a prayer phrase-by-phrase so the reader pauses at the correct junctures. Having said all that, what makes these mahzorim unique are the many pages featuring commentary by Rabbi Sacks that both educates and facilitates.

 

Estelle recommends:
Into the Outdoors, Susan Gal

This is a delightful story of a family camping trip told from the perspective of children. Through the simple but descriptive prose and the sweet, detailed illustrations, we experience the "great outdoors" from daylight to moonlight. We follow the children "over the bridge," "under the towering trees," "around the lake," "across the sparkling stream," and through many natural obstacles. The emphasis on prepositions makes this picture book an ideal teaching tool. Children aged 3-8 years old, even those who have not experienced camping, will relate to the beauty and wonders of nature, as well as the bonding of family.

 

July 2013

 

Jews and Words, Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger

I'm proud to have featured this book on our website and so thrilled to have read it. Amos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger have given us a gift: 200 pages of wit, scholarship, and joy. Their examination of biblical stories and commentary is easy and accessible to the non-scholar. They make it clear that they are secular and atheist; they are modern Israelis and know where they are rooted. They emphasize text and generational discussion of these great works, not necessarily in a formal religious setting but at the family table. They postulate: What if the great poem The Song of Songs was written by a woman? They point out that one of the rabbis of the Talmud says Job is a myth and yet it is still included in the canon. Also, the very personal story of Sarah laughing at God. What other great religion would allow this? Every page in this small book gives a smile or poses a question for the reader. I liked it so much I even read the footnotes!

 

David recommends:
Building Seagram, Phyllis Lambert

The Seagram building is considered a landmark of twentieth-century architecture. It was commissioned by Samuel Bronfman, but it was his daughter, Phyllis Lambert, who sought an architect for the building. Only twenty-seven at the time, she selected Mies van der Rohe, who designed the building with Philip Johnson. They emphasized structural beauty and the use of fine materials, and set the building back from Park Avenue, creating a plaza which is still treasured as an urban oasis. As a result of her work, Lambert became a leading architectural patron. This beautiful book uses previously unpublished personal archives, company correspondence, and a multitude of photographs to provide the reader with an insider's view of the building's construction and understanding of its importance in modern architectural history.

 

Estelle recommends:
The Remarkable David Wordsworth, Richard Kopley

Living up to his name, David Wordsworth, the new kid in Miss Gordon's second grade class, has the ability to create compound words that come to life. The classroom is filled with creatures such as "shrugbug," "sumofish," "inchpig," and "airdog." Although David's classmates and teacher are in awe with his imagination, he has to come up with a compound word that makes the creatures disappear and restores order to the classroom. This is a fun, imaginative book and educational at the same time. Children 6-9 years of age will enjoy and perhaps be able to see the power of compound words.

 

June 2013

 

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

First, let me say I love my iPhone, my iPad, my computer and I really loved Shteyngart's novel, a satire on our digitized "post-literate" age. In this world of the not-so-distant future, communication is easy but intimacy is rare. The story revolves around dumpy 39-year-old Lenny Abramov who falls madly, crazy in love with twenty-something Eunice Park. She "speaks" text and he is as literary as they come, being an admirer of Kafka, Chekhov and full sentences. One might describe this novel as snarky, funny, nutty, exuberant: all true, pick one that suits you. Shteyngart's style matches the vitality of the characters.

 

David recommends:
Hiking Trails of Montréal and Beyond, Michael Haynes

Just in time for summer, I have a new book to recommend for your walking pleasure, whether it is in and around Montreal or elsewhere in Quebec. The compact book features 50 routes within 150 kilometres of Montreal, including trails in the Laurentians and Eastern Townships. The book includes detailed maps, trail descriptions, and GPS coordinates, as well as information on time, length, difficulty, and facilities available. However, it is much more than a hiking guide; Haynes offers so much interesting information that you will want to start your adventure as soon as possible.

 

Estelle recommends:
Fancy Nancy: Fanciest Doll in the Universe, Jane O'Connor

This is the latest installment by the bestselling author O'Connor and the illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser. Nancy's younger sister JoJo has a tendency to be mischievous. Nancy is extremely upset when JoJo gives her favourite doll Marabelle a tattoo on her belly using a permanent black marker. To make amends, Nancy's mom suggests they attend a "Doll Gala" at a fancy hotel. A good time is had by all until the very end when a doll mix-up occurs. It is JoJo's artistry that helps identify and retrieve Marabelle. Sometimes good outcomes come out of bad situations and annoying little siblings are forgiven. From the "glittered" cover to the laugh-out-loud story and delightfully comical illustrations, this book is fun and will be enjoyed by children aged 4-8.

 

May 2013

 

Harvard Square, André Aciman

Aciman's third novel continues his intimate style and beautiful writing to explore the identities of his main characters. Like the author, the Harvard graduate student we encounter in the summer of 1977 is an Egyptian Jew whose wealthy family was forced to flee with very little in the way of material wealth. Our character yearns for his home in the Middle East and for an established life in America. Things get complicated when he meets Kalaj, a Tunisian Muslim. The nickname is short for Kalashnikov for the rat-a-tat-tat of his speech. They spend this hot Cambridge summer drinking, chasing women, and haranguing the ersatz culture of America but then our graduate student faces a choice: New World assimilation or old world friendship. The process of making the choice between entering the mainstream or remaining an outsider leaves him wracked with guilt.

 

Isaac's Army, Matthew Brzezinski

Isaac Zuckerman was one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt and was instrumental in saving thousands of people. His "army" represented the individuals who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and later joined the Polish partisans fighting the Nazis. Boruch Spiegel, who lived in Montreal for many years and just died at the age of 93, was one such individual. Their story, featuring many daring strategems and acts of bravery, captivated Brzezinski, a non-Jew, who went on to write this outstanding book.

 

Estelle recommends:
All Kinds of Friends, Norma Simon

This is a picture book that explores the different kinds of friends- school friends, family friends, adult friends, pet friends, and even toy friends. The author emphasizes the importance of friends and the various emotions associated with friendships. The realistic and detailed illustrations enhance the simple, thoughtful, and positive text. This is an excellent book to read and discuss with children 4-8 years old.

 

April 2013

 

The End of the Alphabet, CS Richardson

It is not often that I choose the same author, and never the same one two months in a row, but I just loved this story and couldn't wait to tell you. This is Richardson's debut novel. It is a gem, a jewel, and only about 150 pages, but I was hooked on page 1. Even though Ambrose Zephyr knows he will die soon, he is not deterred and takes the most wonderful trip with his wife Zappora Ashkenazi. The alphabet is their guide. They visit Andalusia instead of Amsterdam and so they begin. The clear and beautiful writing even extends to the acknowledgement.

 

David recommends:
The Modern Menu, Kim Kushner

Her Israeli-Moroccan mother's cuisine influenced Kushner, a former Montrealer, who says it all on the front cover of her new cookbook: Simple. Beautiful. Kosher. She is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and a private cooking teacher. This is the rare cookbook whose simplicity of presentation matches the simplicity of the recipes. Did I mention how mouthwatering the dishes look?

 

Estelle recommends:
By Blood, Ellen Ullman

This is a multi-layer psychological page-turner set in San Francisco in 1974 during the time of Patty Hearst's kidnapping. The narrator is an obsessive, emotionally unstable Classics professor who was forced to make a "hasty" departure from his university post. He leases an office space in a downtown building with the intention of preparing lectures on Eumenides, but the walls are thin and he is distracted by voices next door. His neighbour, a psychotherapist, turns off the white noise machine at the request of one of her patients. Over a period of a year, the professor secretly becomes entangled with the patient's troubles with her female lover, her conflict with her adoptive family, and her desire to track down her biological mother. His active involvement with the patient's issues detract his mind from his own troubles. The novel is divided into four parts. Self-identity, Jewish identity, and the Holocaust are some of the issues that are addressed. The therapist, Dr. Dora Schussler, who is of German origin, is the only main character with a name. The characters are well developed and we become privy to their stories and secrets throughout the novel.

 

March 2013

 

The Emperor of Paris, CS Richardson

This is one of those books that make you want to turn to page one when you have read the last word. You ask yourself again, how did this journey unfold? Beautifully written, it is the story of a few simple people who live in the 8th arrondissement. The novel covers the years between 1900-1945. The neighborhood is their milieu but world events swirl around them, taking their toll. These are ordinary yet unusual characters, a baker and his family, an art restorer who works at the Louvre, and a bookseller who owns a stall near the Pont des Arts. The patriotic baker volunteers for duty in the trenches of France and returns to his family only partially present in this world. This Canadian novel deserves the highest praise.

 

David recommends:
Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, Emily Bazelon

Children, parents, and educators struggle with bullying, which has taken on new forms and poses serious challenges. Bazelon is an expert on the social and legal implications of bullying, but her crucial starting point is the definition of what is- and is not- bullying. Bazelon explores when intervention is necessary and dispels common myths. She also examines schools that have been successful in adopting strategies to combat bullying. Throughout the book, Bazelon is fair and honest, which are essential characteristics in this vital conversation.

 

Estelle recommends:
Emeraldalicious, Victoria Kann

This is the latest book by the prolific bestselling author and illustrator Victoria Kann. In this book, Pinkalicious and her brother Peter find that their favourite park is no longer beautiful, but one that is littered with garbage. With the help of a extra-special wand made of a stick and flowers and some wishes in the form of rhymes, Pinkalicious and Peter are able to transform the dump into Emeraldalicious, a truly magical place. Kann's whimsical, vibrant drawings bring the special world to life. Children aged 4-8 years will enjoy witnessing the creation of Emeraldalicious.

 

February 2013

 

David recommends:
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon

Even if you do not know anyone with a disability, this groundbreaking book demands to be read. Solomon interviewed hundreds of families over a ten-year period. He tells the stories of parents who not only ably confront the challenges their exceptional children face, but find a deeper meaning in doing so. Solomon reveals that diversity is a uniting force and each chapter details a different challenge that people face such as deafness, dwarfism, Down Syndrome, autism, and schizophrenia. The author asks to what extent parents should merely accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become the best person they can be. As a teacher of students with special needs,I know that Solomon's engrossing book will continue to inform my work for decades to come. I have never said this before, but tell everyone you know about Far from the Tree.

 

My daughter Ronit recommends:
The Innocents, Francesca Segal

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. At first glance, the book seems clichéd. However, it turns out to be anything but predictable. Adam is engaged to Rachel, his long-time girlfriend. His future is laid out for him, including a terrific job in his father-in-law’s firm and holiday celebrations with the family and friends that live in the same upper-middle-class neighbourhood. It’s a perfect match. However, when Rachel's cousin Ellie returns from New York, Adam finds himself looking at his life through a different lens. The Innocents portrays modern Jewish life with unusual twists. The spoken and unspoken rules of etiquette that guide the characters through the story surprise the reader at every turn. Although light-hearted, this novel is thought-provoking at the same time.

 

Estelle recommends:
Argus, Michelle Knudsen

For a science project, Sally is given an egg that looks completely different from those of her classmates. When she complains to her teacher, she is told, "Don't be difficult." The eggs are transferred to an incubator and soon hatch. Unlike the other chicks, Sally's is green and scaly and has big yellow eyes. Sally names him Argus. Argus grows faster and, unlike the other chicks, he chews holes in the ground and tries to eat the other chicks. Like her classmates, Sally has trouble accepting him because he is so different. Feelings change when Argus disappears from the school grounds. She didn't feel relieved, but was sad and very worried. Although Argus was rejected by the whole class, they help Sally search the neighbourhood for him. This picture book acknowledges that being different is not "cool" but can be lonely and challenging. Despite this harsh, realistic message, Knudsen manages to make this book fun and light-hearted. The watercolour-like illustrations by Andréa Wesson enhance the humourous text. Children 4-7 years old will enjoy Argus's birth, development, and acceptance.

 

January 2013

 

Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan

McEwan's latest novel is about personal and political betrayal. In 1973-1974, Britain is in crisis. The Cold War is still on, the miners strike, and the price of oil is soaring due to the war in the Middle East. The IRA's terrorism is the biggest threat with bombs going off all over London. McEwan structures the plot around a 23-year-old woman recruited to MI6. One of the jobs she is given is to entice young writers into accepting private foundation grants which are actually government-funded through a secret program that they do not realize supports the government's agenda. She falls in love with one of her recruits. The story keeps building momentum until the last page. The government's control and manipulation of their message through funding of the arts is at the heart of the story. Because the writer is Ian McEwan, the writing is smooth with a well-drawn plot and characters.

 

David recommends:
Life on the Home Front: Montreal 1939-1945, Patricia Burns

This fascinating book paints a vivid portrait of Montreal during World War II. The city was still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, yet Montrealers were asked to continue to sacrifice for the war. One slogan cautioned, "Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do." Many women went to work in male-dominated fields for the first time. Another prominent feature of the book is the discussion of dissent, which continued to build throughout the war. Through it all, however, Montreal's vibrant nightlife continued to shine. As a Canadian history buff, I thoroughly enjoyed expanding my knowledge about this era in Montreal.

 

Estelle recommends:
Speeding Down the Spiral: An Artful Adventure, Deborah Goodman Davis

Reading this book is a wonderful way to introduce children 4 and up to the Guggenheim Museum and in particular to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and the masterpieces by Kandinsky, Miró, Picasso, Chagall, Giacometti, Cézanne, Warhol, and other great artists. The author, a former Montrealer, artfully weaves a tour of the museum and the great works within it with a fun, laugh-out-loud story. Picture a toddler in a runaway stroller speeding down the "spiral" and a group of people madly chasing it. The adventure along with the colorful, expressive illustrations will be a treat for all who read, listen, and learn from it. As a bonus, the works of art are present both in the book and in a fully annotated index at the book.

2012 Sandra Selects

 

December 2012

 

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

Customers frequently ask me for "uplifting books." It's a hard one, since uplifting isn't my strong suit, but I have a wonderful one this month. If you don't like the tag 'uplift,' settle for a celebration of books, reading and the pleasure of discussing them: two books in one. In this memoir, Schwalbe tells us of the time he and his mother had a book club. The membership was limited to two, Mom and Will. They challenge, inform, share, and argue with each other. Oh, I forgot to tell you their meeting place is the chemotherapy department in a hospital waiting room.

 

David recommends:
Fifty Shades of Chicken: a parody in a cookbook, FL Fowler

Stop laughing. I recently gave this book as a holiday present to a very grateful woman who is a terrific chef. Yes, this book has 50 chicken recipes which are "bound to be delicious," as the front cover gleefully states. I have never read a cookbook before with terrific recipes and more laughs than most humour books. Don't baste any time and buy this book today!

 

Estelle recommends:
Goldilocks And The Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willems

Only the prolific Mo Willems could write a fresh, clever, and funny version of the traditional fairy tale. The carefree Goldilocks enters the enormous, tidy home of the three dinosaurs, thinking it is the home of the three bears. After feasting on chocolate pudding (her favourite), Goldilocks enters the living room and notices the tall, too tall, and too, too tall chairs. There's no way she can sit on any of the gigantic chairs. Tired and stuffed, she is ready for a nap. She enters the bedroom and realizes that she is in the wrong house and wrong story. Much to the disappointment of the dinosaurs, she makes her escape through the back door. Children 4-8 years old will thoroughly enjoy this Goldilocks and will have fun comparing it to the traditional one.

 

November 2012

 

Jerusalem: A Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

The authors were born in different parts of Jerusalem in the same year. Ottolenghi owns five restaurants in London and Tamimi is Ottolenghi's partner and head chef. This is not just a cookbook, but a celebration of a city's varied cuisine. Try Chargrilled Squash with Labneh and Pickled Walnut Salsa! There are other things I liked about the book, including the soft, cushioned cover, and measurements given not only in cups and ounces but also in grams and millilitres.

 

David recommends:
Building Stories, Chris Ware

Once I opened the box, I realized that the physical nature of this modern creation is important: you cannot download Ware's intricate work. Composed of fourteen distinct books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets, the reader decides where to dive into the story. Ware is always pushing the envelope of what is possible in fiction and in the medium of the printed word. The film and television director J.J. Abrams put it best: "Chris Ware's Building Stories is the rarest kind of brilliance; it is simultaneously heartbreaking, hilarious, shockingly intimate and deeply insightful...the only regret you will have in starting it is knowing that it will end."

 

Estelle recommends:
The Schmutzy Family, Madelyn Rosenberg

All week long, with the encouragement of mom, the six Schmutzy children and their pets are constantly into some dirty mess (thus their surname), from playing in the swamp, collecting earthworms, turning the kitchen sink into a pond for frogs to painting the floors and wallpaper. As the Sabbath approaches, the family cleans up and transforms the entire household into a state worthy of the Shabbat tradition. Paul Meisel's watercolour drawings depict the fun and joy the Schmutzy family experience. Children 4 to 8 years old will enjoy and delight in their exploits.

 

October 2012

 

The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, Shani Boianjiu

It's always exciting to open a first novel by a young person. In this case, 25-year-old Boianjiu is not a disappointment. She has captured the raw, honest tone and mood of young Israelis. The first chapter opens when students are studying for a quiz on the Peace of the Galilee War. We may know what a SAM and RPGs are but we don't expect them to come over a hill next week. Boianjiu, who visited Bibliophile last week, told me she wanted to write this book while she was still close in age to the characters. She wished to "stay in the head of an 18-year-old." Boianjiu is writing from their point of view, not from a political platform. As she explained, "This is not a war of narratives. Teenagers everywhere are concerned with clothes, friends, and their comforts." Even those who are guarding checkpoints. Like all good stories, this book has elements of the particular and universal.

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Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust, Ina Garten

This is the latest book by one of our favourite cooks. The recipes are easy to follow and the photographs make you want to prepare these dishes right away. The introductions to each recipe are informative and the tips in the margins helpful. I invite you to rediscover why Garten is much-admired.

 

Estelle recommends:
Mr. Zinger's Hat, Cary Fagan

Award-winning author Cary Fagan has once again scored a "10" with this imaginative picture book, which is a story within a story. Young Leo views the elderly Mr. Zinger, a published writer of stories, as a weirdo. When Leo's pitched ball sends Mr. Zinger's hat flying, an unusual relationship develops. After retrieving the flying hat, Leo is invited by Mr. Zinger to sit on the bench, who convinces Leo that there must be a story inside the hat that is dying to come out. The writer starts the tale and welcomes Leo's questions and suggestions. A story is born! The vibrant coloured drawings add warmth to the relationship between Leo and Mr. Zinger. This magical book will stir the imagination of young readers age 4-6 to create their own stories.

 

September 2012

 

The Quality of Mercy, Barry Unsworth

If you are in the mood for a good historical novel, The Quality of Mercy may suit you. The slave trade and the issue of property thought sacred to many British businessmen of the 18th century is one of the central issues of the novel. The abolitionist movement in England clashes with the economic concept of a slave as property. The characters are well-drawn and the writing sets the mood of the time in a powerful way. For example, we are in a society that has eight public hanging days a year; they are the cheap, popular entertainment of the day with a carnival atmosphere. There is a parallel story in the coal mining towns in northern Britain, whose workers are viewed as mere chattel, valuable only for what they produce. The sons of the coalminers begin working in the mines at seven years old. Oddly, these two disparate groups intertwine. I could easily imagine these characters as real people.

 

David recommends:
The Mile End Cookbook, Noah and Rae Bernamoff

Noah Bernamoff, originally from Montreal, and his wife Rae, opened Mile End, their Brooklyn restaurant in 2010. This book celebrates the classic Jewish comfort food of their childhood, now updated with modern cooking techniques and fresh ingredients. This is more than just a cookbook, though. The Bernamoffs share cherished memories of the holidays and traditions that inspired them. My mouth watered looking at all of the wonderful pictures and my wife loves the new versions of dishes she has cooked for years.

 

Estelle recommends:
Sky Color, Peter H. Reynolds

This is an upbeat story that explores creativity and thinking outside the box. Marisol loves to draw and paint and considers herself an artist. She even has her own art gallery: the fridge door. When her teacher announces that the class is going to paint a mural for the library, Marisol is thrilled and volunteers to paint the sky. She watches the sky change in color from morning to night. She soon realizes that just as not all children are white, not all skies are blue. Marisol decides to use a multitude of colors to paint the sky. When a classmate asks,"What color is that?" Marisol emphatically replies, "That is sky color." Children ages 3-6 years old will enjoy the color and sepia illustrations as well as the simplicity of the text.

 

August 2012

 

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles

This is a lovely, relaxing novel for the end of summer: it is interesting, well-written and captures the mood of the end of the Jazz Age. It is New Year's Eve 1937. Katey Kontent and her friend Eve are young, free and on the make in New York. They are having dinner at La Belle Epoque, wearing clothes they can't afford. They strike up an acquaintance with Tinker Grey, who leads them on a wild ride through upper, upper gilded New York society of the time. We are involved with "Glamorous Gotham" as it will never be again and yet still is. The writing flows smoothly. Towles captures period details and elegance.

 

David recommends:
The First Jews in North America: The Extraordinary Story of the Hart Family, Denis Vaugeois

Vaugeois, a French-Canadian politician and historian, has spent several decades researching the history of the first Jews in Quebec. When the British conquered Quebec in 1760, Aaron Hart moved here and started a family. Hart became one of the wealthiest people in Trois-Rivicres. His son Ezekiel was elected twice to the House of Assembly after having been blocked, not because he was Jewish, but because he was suspected as a Tory sympathizer. This is the family that the famous NHL trophy is named after. As someone who teaches Canadian history, this book provided many fresh perspectives.

 

Estelle recommends:
The French Fry King, Rogé

Written and illustrated by the French Canadian artist Rogé, The French Fry King is an amusing, delightful and fanciful story that children ages 4 to 7 will enjoy. Roger, a "long sausage" dog, is a profound thinker and dreamer. He definitely does not do the usual dog things. By chance, Roger starts to make french fries and before long Roger and his fries are known across the globe. Everyone declares Roger the French Fry King. He returns home to fanfare. But will this title and newfound fame bring him happiness and fulfillment?

 

July 2012

 

Trapeze, Simon Mawer

You may be familiar with this author from The Glass Room. This historical thriller shines a tiny spotlight on the exploits and contributions of 39 women of the French section of the British SOE, Special Operations Executive, some of whom parachuted into occupied France between May 1941 and September 1944. Against the backdrop of the British efforts to develop an atomic bomb, our main character is recruited because of her connection to an old love, a French physicist, a friend of her brother, a British scientist. She is known by four names: Marian Sutro, Anne-Marie Laroche, her field name Alice Thurrock, and her code name Laurence Follette. She must keep these identities separate and be able to call the correct one forth instantaneously as she moves around Paris aiding the resistance, while avoiding the Nazis and the French Milice (militia). Remember, she is only nineteen, a product of a protected Catholic upbringing but her French is perfect. If you are at all familiar with Paris or the French countryside, you will enjoy tracking the movements of this British agent. One of my favorite lines in the book is: "Fear conquers anger." We feel her fear and the danger as she tries to do her job.

 

Estelle recommends:
The House at the End of Ladybug Lane, Elise Primavera

The award-winning author Primavera has written a delightful story. Angelina Neatolini is a little girl who can't help but get dirty and be messy. Her parents are obsessively neat and clean, as were her ancestors, such as her great-grandfather six times removed, who invented the garbage can. Her mother irons the linguini and her father vacuums the grass. They move to Ladybug Lane to escape the dirty city. Like most children, Angelina wants a pet. But the Neatolinis refuse to buy her one. One night, Angelina makes a wish and a hard-of-hearing ladybug fairy appears. Her wish for a pet is misinterpreted for a pest. The results are magical and funny, as are the illustrations. Children aged 4-8 years old will enjoy this charming book. Perhaps they will be able to relate to Angelina and her predicaments.

 

David recommends:
Koren Talmud Bavli, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz

This beautiful new volume is a full-size, full-colour Koren edition of the Talmud Bavli, Berakhot, with commentary by Steinsaltz. The many modern photographs and notes included from current archaelogical research make this book unique and special. The next volume, Shabbat Part 1, will be published in September.

 

June 2012

 

The Buddha in the Attic, Julie Otsuka

The main character of this most unusual novel can be viewed as a chorus of women, "picture brides," as they were called. A century ago they traveled from Japan to San Francisco to marry, work, and raise families. It is also the history of a community that is destroyed almost overnight as mass hysteria engulfed their towns and cities. The date is December 1941 and the Japanese citizens slowly disappear from their homes. The novel's elegant prose and smooth pace propel the reader to its tragic end. Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

 

Estelle recommends:
Please Look After Mom, Kyung-Sook Shin

So-nyo and her husband of 50 years are about to board a subway train in a crowded Seoul station to visit their oldest son when she is separated from her husband and doesn't get on the train. Uneducated and lacking the skills to find her way, So-nyo becomes a missing person. The novel is told with empathy and emotion through the voices of her family and that of her own. Secrets, disappointments, hopes, and dreams of mom and her family gradually emerge. Although Korean traditions and rituals and the upheaval of urbanizing rural people play an important part in the book, the story is universal. Please Look After Mom is a must read.

 

Talia recommends:
Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes, Lauren Child

This book is about a girl named Ruby Redfort who is a detective. She has been a detective since she was young, but finally a real case comes her way. Now she has to solve this real case for a real organization. Ruby needs to figure out how to stop an evil group of people from robbing a bank. But she cannot tell anyone, not even her best friend Clancy. Can she keep a secret? To find out you will need to read the book! The book was amazing, especially because you never knew what would happen next. I recommend this book for strong readers ages 10–13 who enjoy mysteries.

 

May 2012

 

Death Comes to Pemberley, P. D. James

I do not usually read mysteries, but Jane Austen is a favorite of mine, and everyone knows that P. D. James is a terrific writer, so I thought I would give it a try and dove right in. I was hooked from the first page to the last. The book features the time period, mood, and characters of Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. It's six years after the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy and there is a murder on their estate. If you have never read a Jane Austen novel, you can still enjoy this well-written book, now in paperback.

 

My husband Zave recommends:
Calico Joe, John Grisham

For baseball aficionados, this is a short (less than 200 pages) novel covering the brief baseball career of an amazing rookie. It is filled with short descriptions of stars and teams of the early seventies. Even the Expos get a mention. Grisham took a pause from his legal thrillers “to take on America’s favorite pastime.”

 

Estelle recommends:
The Lost Wife, Alyson Richman

Lenka Maizel, a young art student and Josef Kohn, a medical student, fall passionately in love and marry. The Nazi invasion of Prague tears them apart a week after their wedding. Josef leaves with his family to America via England, while Lenka, refusing to leave without her family, is destined to face the horrors of Terezin and Auschwitz. Time passes and both believe the other dead. They remarry, but never forget each other. More than 60 years later, at his grandson's wedding, Josef sees an old lady he believes to be his lost wife. This moving story of love, the horrors of war, survival, and the power of memory and art is beautifully told from Lenka's perspective as a young woman living through the hell of war and from Josef's perspective as an elderly man looking back on his life.

 

April 2012

 

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

Every word in this beautifully written compact novel is necessary. It starts slowly, recalling the adolescence of Tony Webster, now retired, and his clique of intelligent witty boys. A lawyer's letter sends Tony's assumptions and memories spinning. Perhaps his thoughts and feelings about a friend's suicide were all based on misperceptions. Its psychological and emotional depths will compel you to read it in one sitting. The book recently won the Man Booker Prize.

 

David recommends:
Kosher Revolution: New Techniques and Great Recipes for Unlimited Kosher Cooking, Geila Hocherman & Arthur Boehm

In Arthur Schwartz's foreword to this groundbreaking new cookbook, he declares: "Kosher is a set of rules, not a cuisine. Why shouldn't the kosher kitchen, encompass -nay, embrace- all the cuisines of the world, including the trendy chef-created food you see on television?" I am not a chef but this book makes me want to take up cooking. This book is much more than recipes and beautiful photographs. The warm tone and helpful suggestions make it inviting for everyone, from the novice to the experienced chef.

 

Estelle recommends:
The World We Found, Thrity Umrigar

Umrigar, author of the acclaimed novel The Space Between Us, returns with The World We Found, a skillfully woven story of four women, the strong bonds of friendship they share, and an indelible picture of present-day India. The story is told from the perspective of four intelligent, loving, and individualistic women. Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were university students in 1970s Bombay. They were rebellious, idealistic, and determined to change India and the world. Much has changed over the past thirty years. With responsibilities of marriage, family, and work, the foursome drifted apart. Armaiti, now living in America, learns she is terminally ill and desires to see her friends she left behind. There are personal and emotional obstacles to overcome before the journey to visit Armaiti is realized. I highly recommend The World We Found. It is a remarkable read which helps us understand how, despite years apart, the history and bond of close friendships cannot be erased.

 

March 2012

 

Wellsprings of Freedom: The Renew Our Days Haggadah

This family-friendly haggadah, with its all-inclusive spirit, allows everyone to participate at whatever level they prefer. The pomegranate, a traditional Jewish symbol, is featured in the text to offer families the opportunity to include small children more prominently. This is a unique haggadah as it attempts to be gender-neutral and offer sources such as Yehuda Amichai and Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav.

 

The New American Haggadah, edited by Jonathan Safran Foer with a new translation by Nathan Englander

This haggadah is a new creation by two young American literary figures. According to Mr. Foer, "the Haggadah must be the most skimmed book of all." This is a modern effort to engage everyone at the table. The book's design is truly unique, with abstract artwork that is soothing to the eye.

 

The Bird's Head Haggada

The Bird's Head Haggada is a beautifully illustrated book adapted from the c. 1300 haggadah in the Israel Museum, one of the oldest in the world. It is a book for the entire family; some of the pages feature dynamic pop-ups and movable scenes, which bring the Passover story to life.

 

My daughter Ronit and I recommend:
The Imposter Bride, Nancy Richler

Richler's new novel opens with the sad protagonist sitting in a banquet hall at her wedding. From the very first paragraph, the reader cannot help but be drawn to this strong, mysterious person. As the narrative unfolds, we learn Lily’s story as it is woven through the challenges of her daughter Ruth's adolescence. Who is Lily? Why she abandoned her husband and daughter and what happened to her are questions Ruth grapples with as she comes of age and creates her own family. Ruth's closest contact with her mother are the small stones that arrive every few years telling where Lily found them. As a bonus, The Imposter Bride is rich with references to Montreal’s Jewish community, which makes it more of a treat to read. The novel has dark moments but flows quickly and naturally, urging the reader to continue to delve into Lily’s past and cheer Ruth on in her quest to uncover her mother’s secrets.

 

February 2012

 

The Street Sweeper, Elliot Perlman

If you are tired of reading children's books marketed "for all" and are ready for a long novel with several plot lines and many characters, perhaps Elliot Perlman's The Street Sweeper is for you. This young Australian novelist locates his characters in New York where their paths cross around 68th and York, near Memorial Sloan Kettering, Columbia University, and Hell's Kitchen. There are chance encounters and astonishing coincidences, but Perlman's perspective is rooted in the 21st century. He examines moral responsibility by focusing on Black-Jewish relations, the civil rights movement, and the Sondercommandos' revolt.

 

My husband Zave recommends:
Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon, Arnon Milchan

Here's an unusual book for those interested in a) the life of a covert agent for the Israeli intelligence involved with the Israeli Nuclear development program, b) a successful Israeli businessman involved as an agent for many major U.S. defense industry corporations, and c) a major producer of Hollywood films. His filmography credits number over a hundred films to date, including such hits as Pretty Woman, JFK, The Power of One, and City of Angels. His name is Arnon Milchan, a name I confess I never heard of until I read the book.

 

Estelle recommends:
The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy, Dori Hillestad Butler

This early chapter book is the first in the series and the winner of the 2011 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile mystery novel. While searching for his lost family, King, a golden Labrador dog detective, is adopted by a new family and renamed Buddy. Buddy is soon faced with a challenge. Connor, the new family's young son is missing. Buddy must use his intelligence and detective skills to solve the mystery. After reading this entertaining mystery, children aged 6-8 years old will definitely want to continue to follow Buddy's future exploits.

 

January 2012

 

75 Years: The Very Best of LIFE

This beautiful collectible book celebrates the first 75 years of the venerable American weekly newsmagazine launched by Henry Luce in 1936. There is a facsimile of the first issue, which cost only ten cents. The magazine placed an emphasis on its extraordinary photojournalism, including the Kennedys in Canada, the famous shot of the moon landing in 1969, and a very early photograph of Marilyn Monroe. The book features a photo of each cover and there are amazing discoveries to be made on every page. Quantities are limited.

 

Liora recommends:
The Paperbark Shoe, Goldie Goldbloom

Goldbloom's first novel takes place in Wyalkatchem, Australia in the 1940s. During that time historically, eighteen thousand Italian prisoners of war were sent to Australia and placed as workers on farms. Gin Boyle is an unhappy farm wife living with her husband Toad and two children through the droughts and hardship of those times in Wyalkatchem. Gin is albino and shunned by the rural townsfolk. She had a difficult early life as an under-appreciated classical pianist and was harshly sent away from her stepfather's home. Gin's loveless marriage and history of loss colour her experience of daily life, but her situation becomes interesting and more complex when the Italians arrive at their farm. Goldbloom's sensitivity and beautiful, subtle use of language make this a pleasingly palatable read. The story is captivating, revealing nuances of the cost of war and the nature of captivity.

 

Estelle recommends:
Stories for a Fragile Planet, Kenneth Steven

This is a wonderful collection of ten stories from around the world and through different time periods. Common to each story is the need to take care of our planet and to live in peace with all its creatures, both human and animal. This picture book will be most appreciated by children 4-11 years old. They will learn about other cultures from ancient times to the present day while enjoying the stories and the magical illustrations. Hopefully young readers will realize that in order to sustain our planet we all have to do our part. David told me that his daughter Abigail highly recommends this book!