Bowies Book List

Apparently, David Bowie was a bookworm, from what I have garnered through articles here and there.

Here is a link on his website, to list posted on October 1, 2013, of his top 100 books.

The list includes a variety of authors and genres, including classical books, and authors considered masters, but also little-known authors in the stream Literature.

Take a peek into the reading world of David Bowie. You might be surprised, but then again, you might not.

Also, take a look at this poster! David Bowie was an advocate regarding reading!

You might also want to check out this biography by Marc Spitz: Bowie: A Biography.


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The Inbetween People

How does one cope when a mother picks up, without warning and abandons the family, setting off for another country to live with a man other than your father? How does a child of four handle the death of his mother, from childbirth, within the environment of conflicts in Israel?

The Inbetween People, by Emma McEvoy, is a novel that quite brilliantly depicts two individuals who become friends. Ari Goldberg is Jewish. Saleem is an Israeli Arab. The two meet and through the years we read about their struggles to maintain their lives within the constant struggles that are ongoing between the Jews and the Arabs.

Much of the book deals with the issues of the loss of their mothers. Ari’s mother and her abandonment of the family takes its toll in every facet of his life. He tries to extinguish his feelings and his thoughts on her, but they resurface to haunt him.

The same is true of Saleem, and how the loss of his mother affected him and the rest of his family. How the loss of his grandmother’s house affected how the family managed to survive the indecency of it.

I thought The Inbetween People had a lot to offer in regards to family dynamics, especially how loss defines a person. The characters tried to bury their losses, tried to hide their memories from themselves, to no avail.

Ari begins to write from a prison cell, and he writes of the loss of his mother. Saleem joins the Israeli army, as an Arab, hoping to help the conflicts occurring.

Can we bury the past? When familial, emotional trauma constantly fills us, mentally, physically and emotionally, we can become like people in limbo, in between the past and the present. The connections are intertwined. Through McEvoy’s beautiful prose, almost poetic prose and word imagery, we are given a lot to ponder in that respect.

The novel is a sad one, poignant, and a reminder of the human condition. The story is a metaphor for love, loss and redemption, within a framework of an ongoing social situation.

It did have a strong message, within the short framework. Emma McEvoy’s prose is filled with loveliness, and a feeling of melancholy illuminates the pages. I found The Inbetween People to be an excellent read regarding the emotional issues surrounding motherly loss and regarding the issues of conflict within a country’s changing attitudes and ideals. Emma McEvoy encompassed those issues well.

This was my second reading of this novel, as I read it recently for a book club.

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Filed under historical fiction, middle east fiction

Book News-October 13, 2015

I have a few book-news related items to post about. Please read on, check out the links, and enjoy what you find!

Here they are in no particular order:

Congratulations to Marlon James for winning the Man Booker Prize!

The Sea Beach Line, by Ben Nadler, has finally been published!

Moment Magazine is accepting applications for its Short Fiction Contest.

Thirteen Ways of Looking, by Colum McCann, is out!

Read about Jewish Book Council’s “Raid the Shelves“!

Rachel Kushner has a thought-provoking interview/article-read it here.

One of my favorite quotes: A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. -Chinese Proverb

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Book Diva News-Svetlana Alexievich

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 was awarded to Svetlana Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time“.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about her award, and wrote some less-known and compelling facts about Svetlana Alexievich.

I, personally, can’t wait to get my hands on her book, “War’s Unwomanly Face”, although from what I gather through many sources, it is out of print.

Brava to her!

To read more about her, visit this link.

Here is a compelling commentary on her award and her work.

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Jhumpa Lahiri Will be Awarded National Humanities Medal

Jhumpa Lahiri Will be Awarded National Humanities Medal.

The White House citation reads: “Jhumpa Lahiri, for enlarging the human story. In her works of fiction, Dr. Lahiri has illuminated the Indian-American experience in beautifully wrought narratives of estrangement and belonging.”

She received the Pulitzer Prize for “Interpreter of Maladies”. Her novels, “The Namesake” and “The Lowland” are two books I have personally read, and would highly recommend to everyone.

Congratulations, Jhumpa Lahiri! Well-deserved! Brava!

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Review: Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary

Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, The First Complete Edition is extremely intense.  I read this book straight through in one sitting (for the third time), and can’t say enough about it.

From her diary that begins when she was thirteen years old…through just before her execution, to her poems and letters, the book is an extremely compelling read.  The book also contains tributes by parachutists and some memoirs written by Hannah’s mother, Catherine Senesh.  Catherine was in the same prison as Hannah, at one point in time, and they had fleeting conversations and glances at each other.  Hannah, according to her diary, was always aware of how her decisions would affect her mother, and she adored and loved her mother without a doubt, but her (Hannah’s) passion for what she desired and believed in stayed in the forefront.

We watch the years unfold through Hannah’s diary, and see how she has matured…from young teen, to a mature young women with definite ideals, opinions and pride in being a Jew.  Her writings show a young woman torn between choices, sometimes questioning her choice, but always coming to the conclusion that she had made the correct one, for herself. Although, in her diary, she often stated that she did not like the synagogue atmosphere, the required prayers, she did believe in God, and Jewish life was what encompassed her dreams and goals and was what kept her passionate throughout her short life.  She lived for Israel, for the Zionist movement. Israel and the Zionist goal was her ultimate dream, and she was determined to move there.

When Hannah made “Aliyah”, moved to Israel, she was young and hopeful, filled with strength, ideals and dreams, and when she died, she was still young and hopeful, full of strength, ideals and dreams, some realized, but most of them not realized. Hannah was strong willed, courageous and true to her emotional and mental fortitude until the end very end, until the last minute.  Even her captors could not believe the courage she exhibited throughout her capture and up until she perished.  She was executed without a blindfold, by choice so her executioners could see her eyes, and she looked up towards the skies, and died a hero.  Her life is immortalized within Israel.

Hannah joined the military, trained and took parachute lessons as part of her training.  She volunteered for a rescue mission to Europe during World War II in order to help rescue Jews, and was eventually captured, tortured and executed in Budapest by a firing squad.

Poignant, beautifully written, Hannah’s life is a testament to her faith, ideals, strength, fortitude and determination to live life as she wanted to.

It is difficult to articulate how Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, the First Complete Edition affected me, as I am still filled with the emotions swirling within my mind and my heart from the powerful memoir.  That one so young, so well-defined with her journal and poetry, could live such a short life, yet impact so many throughout the years since, is a testament to her very essence.

Hannah Senesh’s life was not in vain, as she continues to teach others, each day, even in death.  Her spirit lives on to inspire many, Jews and non Jews, alike.

As an aside: The Jewish High Holy Days are near. Each year I read a few books, mainly biographies and non-fiction, relating to Judaism, Jewish individuals, the Holocaust, and/or Jewish Life. Some I read anew, and some I read again. It is my way of remembering Jewish history and all of the individuals who contributed to the welfare of the Jews.


Filed under Biography, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Holocaust History, Inspiration, Jewish History, Non-Fiction, World War II

Review: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War

On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War, by Bernard Wasserstein, is a compelling and intense study of the European Jews before their massive obliteration during World War II.

The non-fictional account spans every corner of Jewry, from the basic beggar to the wealthy, from the Orthodox to the non-practicing, from the intermarriages to the pure marriages, and from the varied social structures, both eastern and western. Jews are defined in every aspect, and defined in every location in Europe and Eastern Europe.

Ignorance is presented to be otherwise, according to Wasserstein’s extensive research and documentation. Many Jews did have an inkling as to what was occurring under their noses. They did understand the seriousness of the events unfolding in the social stratum of their lives.

But, understanding and removing one’s self from precarious and dangerous situations are not necessarily possible. Social structures, religious beliefs, family ties, homelands, separations, financial aspects, and the forces imposed on the Jews by the Nazis don’t always allow for escape. The influences were more than immense.

Wasserstein is brilliant in depicting the lives of the Jews, their family ties, friendships, joys, lows, fears, and all of their daily living arrangements. The revelations are intense and filled with sorrow and, yet, a sense of meaningfulness and purpose of life unfolds within the pages.

You may ask “Why”. But, before you do, try to consider the adverse and horrific situations thrust on the Jews. Try to analyze things with an open mind, not rose-colored lenses. It is not as simple as many try to make it. Knowing and leaving are two different issues. Knowing doesn’t necessarily give you the tools to move forward. In fact, knowing can make it more difficult for a person. They might choose to deal with it by suppressing their knowledge, and by trying to live life with what they have and with what is not foreign to them.

No stone is left unturned within the harrowing accounts presented by Wasserstein in On the Eve. It is almost 500 pages long, and not an easy read. Yet, the impressions, presentations and word visuals are told with sensitivity to the situations and even with a bit of humor here and there. He is not harsh toward the Jews in his revelations, but, in my opinion, tries to state the truth, the facts, with clarifying seriousness. He writes with an awareness of others, and his responses reflect prose that demonstrates his insight. The historical factor is incredible, and opened this reader’s eyes to varying degrees on the perspectives focused on.

Wasserstein is brilliant in his prose, his magnificent rendering of the European Jews is masterful in so many aspects. We, who have had ancestors from Europe will gain insight into the mindsets of those who encountered the horrific events of pre World War II and the Holocaust. The book is a work of humaneness and a work of art. It is a work of historical necessity.

I highly recommend On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War, by Bernard Wasserstein to every one. I feel it belongs in every library, whether public, university, high school or personal library. It is a book with extreme historical value.

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Filed under Blogrolls, Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Holocaust History, Jewish History, Non-Fiction