20th Century


  • 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 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.

  • 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.