Bibliophile

An English Bookshop

BEFORE THE FALL, Noah Hawley

This is a fast-paced suspense thriller. At the beginning, I was reading so quickly I forgot to note the quality of the writing, which was quite good. A private plane takes off from Martha's Vineyard and within minutes the plane crashes and there are only two survivors, a 4-year-old boy and a passenger who embarked at the last moment. He saves the boy by swimming with him to safety. The novel looks at the passengers' lives before the crash; each chapter features a passenger or investigator. Hawley delves into each character, who initially exists only on the surface. We get to know them as admirable, flawed human beings. The plot moves forward by small, chance encounters, just as in life. They are some biting lines and commentary. One of the characters, Layla, is vaping, while another looks at her and observes, "This is what the future looks like. We smoke technology now.” Hawley disparages celebrity culture as he exposes the arrogance and greed of the hyper-rich and modern wealth: “I shop therefore I am.” My favorite target was the news organizations which tell you about the news, telling you what to think and when to think it. They do not give you facts or truth or even an accurate account of an event but speculation and innuendo instead. They literally manufacture the news. We live in a ubiquitous 24-hour news cycle that is corrupting public discourse. There is even a name for it now: "hate porn.” There are plenty of “what ifs" to think about. Don't forget that this is a really good story.

 

David recommends:
Makers of Jewish Modernity: Thinkers, Artists, Leaders and the World They Made Edited by Jacques Picard, Jacques Revel, Michael P. Steinberg, Idith Zertal

This collection of essays features more than forty portraits of leading Jewish thinkers, artists, scientists, and other public figures of the last hundred years who, in their own unique ways, engaged with and helped shape the modern world. The writers are a diverse group of leading international scholars. For example, Yuli Tamir on Isaiah Berlin and Daniel Herwitz on Joel and Ethan Coen. This is a welcome new book and the photos are well-chosen.

 

Estelle recommends:
Little Book of Jewish Appetizers, Leah Koenig

Koenig, author of Modern Jewish Cooking and The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook, has created a gem. Although a tiny book in size, there are 26 delicious Jewish appetizers and party snack recipes representing different countries around the world. It is divided into two chapters: Fresh, Toasted, Pickled and Cooked, Fried, Baked. Stories filled with historical and personal context, photographs for each dish, helpful tips on how to create a Jewish cheese plate, and what foods to buy rather than make are bonuses to the recipes. Traditional Jewish foods have been modernized. Gefilte fish is now gefilte fritters. Little Book of Appetizers makes for a thoughtful thank you gift.

Sandra Selects