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Sharon Chisvin


By Sharon Chisvin

Like many avid readers, I keep an ongoing list of books that I intend to read. The list includes books that have been well reviewed, books that I have been asked to review, books that pique my interest, books by my favourite authors, books that have been recommended to me, and books written years ago that I haven’t yet had a chance to crack open. No matter how much I read, however, the list keeps getting longer.

While this column will not make my list any shorter, it might change things up in yours. Perhaps it will inspire you to add a title or two to your list, cross off a title or two from it, or head out to your local library or book store to check out some new releases.
It is my intention to devote each column to a book related topic and a couple of brief reviews and recommendations. The books I discuss will be new releases and old, fiction and non-fiction, and Canadian and international titles. Many of them as well will have Jewish content or be written by Jewish authors.

And so, without further ado, here are three books that I recently read and am happy to recommend….

The City of Thieves
by David Benioff
Viking Press

This novel about the unlikely friendship between a naïve Jewish teenager and a Russian Army deserter during the siege of Leningrad is engaging, joyful, funny and very moving. It has a ton of adventure packed into its 272 pages, but also has a lot to say about love, loyalty and life in general. It will only take a couple of days to read, but Lev and Kolya’s exploits will stay with you long after that.

Apples from the Desert
by Savyon Liebrecht
The Feminist Press

This book of short stories is compulsory reading in many Israeli high schools, and understandably so. Even in their English translation, each individual story is beautifully rendered with stunning prose and profound insight. Taken together the stories provide a chilling and exacting glimpse of the dichotomies unique to Israeli life –secular versus religious, Ashkenazi versus Sephardic, Holocaust survivor versus Sabra, and, of course, Arab versus Jew.

A Good Place for the Night
by Savyon Liebrecht
Persea Books

I ordered this book, translated from the Hebrew, as soon as I finished reading Apples from the Desert, curious to see if Liebrecht’s later efforts were as remarkable as her early ones. The first story in this collection seemed to indicate that that was the case, but the ones that followed lack the power and panache of the previous compilation. Nonetheless, even in their mediocrity, they too manage to conjure up vivid images of Israeli life and the disparate souls that work and walk, and sometimes, leave the land. 

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