Reviews


  • George Prochnik’s Stranger in a Strange Land

    George Prochnik’s Stranger in a Strange Land

    In my review for the LA Review of Books, I delve into George Prochnik’s intriguing and beautiful book, Stranger in a Strange Land. This work masterfully intertwines Prochnik’s memoir with the intellectual biography of Gershom Scholem, a renowned Kabbalah scholar. Scholem, a pivotal figure in Jewish intellectual history, revolutionized the study of Kabbalah, transforming it…

  • The Field of Blood by Nicholas Morton

    The Field of Blood by Nicholas Morton

    Nicholas Morton’s new book on the formative years of the Crusader states is a delight on multiple levels. The Field of Blood: The Battle for Aleppo and the Remaking of the Medieval Middle East provides an illuminating survey of the Levantine region in the period immediately after the Christian Frank incursion, when Jerusalem was the…

  • The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas

    The Last Palestinian: The Rise and Reign of Mahmoud Abbas

    The publisher of The Last Palestinian touts it as the first book in English to profile Mahmoud Abbas, the man who succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and has since been the titular head of the Palestinian national movement. Astonishingly, the publisher’s claim appears to be true, and co-authors Grant Rumley…

  • Making Moderate Islam by Rosemary R. Corbett

    Making Moderate Islam by Rosemary R. Corbett

    Nobody seemed to care that an upscale Islamic community center was being proposed for lower Manhattan until 2010 when Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post christened it “The Ground Zero Mosque”. Sporting its new sobriquet, the proposed project made the familiar leap from scandal rag to cable news to becoming a fetish in America’s culture war.

  • The Story of Reason in Islam by Sari Nusseibeh

    The Story of Reason in Islam by Sari Nusseibeh

    As a Westerner for whom the intellectual history of Islam is something of a mystery, reading Sari Nusseibeh’s timely and sweeping new book was like swimming on the surface of an unfamiliar ocean. This delightful survey is packed with intriguing details of what the giants of Islamic thought struggled with and argued about, but ultimately…

  • Kai Bird’s Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

    Kai Bird’s Crossing Mandelbaum Gate

    While doing background reading on the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, I came across Kai Bird’s poignant and insightful account of his childhood as the son of American consular officials who served in Israel and Palestine, and who later moved their family to a new assignment in Saudi Arabia in the mid-60’s and early…

  • Encountering Bible and Sword by Barbara Tuchman

    Encountering Bible and Sword by Barbara Tuchman

    Last weekend I faced a solitary thousand-mile roundtrip drive from the Bay Area to San Diego down the largely featureless California Central Valley, a chore that became a delight as I spent the time listening to a book I’d never read, Bible and Sword, by a writer I’ve long admired, Barbara Tuchman.

  • Reading Fields of Blood while watching Charlie Hebdo

    Reading Fields of Blood while watching Charlie Hebdo

    I know the sorrow I feel for those murdered in Paris – the creative artists, their colleagues and those killed trying to protect them – is shared by a massive international host who revere the norms of civil society and are shocked by the barbarity of the assailants. The attacks were nothing if not an…