Want to Learn How to Write a Genuinely Helpful Book Review?

Someone pointed out to me that one of the reasons that people don’t write reviews is that they don’t know HOW to do so. And then another someone confessed she was interested in writing reviews, but didn’t know how.

So I made an infographic.

How to Write a useful book review

It’s a nice shape. If you printed it, you could probably make it into a nice bookmark. I tried to narrow it down to the most basic tips without overloading people.

Do you write book reviews? Do you find it hard? Easy? Do you have tips of your own? Share in comments.

First post of 2019: What’s ahead

I kept telling myself that I didn’t want to make any resolutions–I don’t really celebrate secular New Year’s Eve. But something that happened that made me reconsider. Continue reading

My love affair with a book: Alan Morinis’s Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

My latest book crush is on Alan Morinis’s Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.

If you are a bibliophile, you’ll know what I mean: It’s that feeling you get when you finish a book and all you want to do is buy 5 used copies to hand out to people. You talk about it and think about it. You want to revisit it again and again.

In the past, I have felt this way about a few books: The Chronicle of a Death Foretold, comes to mind, as do Power Bentching by Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, and Anger: the Inner Teacher by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (I admit to eclectic tastes).

In case you’re wondering about my newest book crush, here’s my Goodreads review of Climbing Jacob’s Ladder:

Climbing Jacob's Ladder: One Man's Journey to Rediscover a Jewish Spiritual TraditionClimbing Jacob’s Ladder: One Man’s Journey to Rediscover a Jewish Spiritual Tradition by Alan Morinis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Climbing Jacob’s Ladder combines memoir and how-to guide in an unusual way. This outstanding book details Morinis’s pursuit of self-awareness and -improvement through the tools of Mussar, an ancient Jewish strategy for character refinement. Unique among Mussar books, this relatively slim volume assumes little prior knowledge of Judaism, and is usable for non-Jews, secular Jews, and even those Orthodox Jews who are not already thoroughly immersed in the world of Mussar. Among self-awareness literature, Climbing Jacob’s Ladder stands out because it is practical, not touchy-feely or new-agey. I also very much appreciated that Jews and non-Jews of all stripes are portrayed with insight, a lack of judgement, and great sensitivity. For those new to Jewish thought and philosophy, this is a must-read.

View all my reviews

This leads me to a question for my blog readers:

Is there a book you’ve had a crush on recently? I want to hear about it, particularly if it is a Jewish book! Please share the details in the comments.

Slacker moment — forgot to let you know about my review of Farewell, Aleppo

Sleecha.

I got a little distracted at the end of November, and I forgot to post about my most recent book review for Jewish Home Los Angeles. It’s of Claudette Sutton’s Farewell, Aleppo, and it will interest readers who like reading about the Jewish American Experience, as well as those whose families originate in Syria or other Muslim countries. You can find the review here.

Have you seen my review of Miriam Kosman’s new book about Jewish feminism in this week’s Jewish Home L.A.?

This week’s Jewish Home L.A. contains my review of Circle, Arrow, Spiral: Exploring Gender in Judaismrecently published by Mekor Press and distributed by Menucha Publishers. 

Jewish book on feminism

Miriam Kosman’s outstanding new book about gender within Judaism

Miriam Kosman‘s new book appears at a pivotal point in Jewish history. The role of women in Judaism has dominated the headlines of Jewish media outlets in recent years. Usually, Hareidim are made out to be the bad guys: according to most writers, Hareidi men bully women, look down on us, and short change us in any way humanly possible.

For someone like me — a feminist who willingly joined the ranks of those observant Jews who lean to the right — this kind of “news” makes us want to bang our heads into the wall in frustration. Not only do we perceive the Jewish world differently, many of us chose Orthodoxy in some part because mainstream feminism had failed us. Frankly, we felt more supported and appreciated as human beings, as Jews, and as women within our new community than we did in in our former, non-Orthodox world. We feel respected by the vast majority of Hareidi men, including by our husbands, sons, and rabbis. And while we do see plenty of areas in which our community can and should improve, many of the issues targeted by reporters and crusaders hold completely different meanings for us than for secular people.

Many of the recent books about Judaism written by Modern Orthodox authors have compounded the problem. They report on our world as outsiders (sometimes trumpeting all along how because they are, loosely-speaking, “Orthodox” they therefore have an insider view), and often articulate outrage while playing fast and loose with facts. Yet, until now, few books for the English speaking world have expressed the genuine insider perspective as to why Orthodox women don’t participate in many time-bound positive commandments, are excluded from certain communal rules, and so on. 

Miriam Kosman‘s new book remedies that. Continue reading