Books On My Night Table

I’m reading three splendid books, all which I highly recommend.

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir, by Ilana Kurshan. Twenty-seven years old, divorced, living alone in Jerusalem, Ilana Kurshan impulsively joined the world’s largest book club: the Daf Yomi, Hebrew for Daily Page of the Talmud, the Oral Torah, compiled over 500 years, and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. It takes seven and a half years to complete one cycle of Daf Yomi. Ms. Kurshan infuses Jewish learning with all the passionate romance she brings to her love of literature. At the end of the Daf Yomi cycle Ms. Kurshan is remarried and the mother of three children. Every other book out there claims to be inspirational. This is one of those rare books that actually is.

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, by Allan R. Ellenberger. Smart, glamorous and ambitious, Miriam Hopkins burst onto the Hollywood scene in her role as the slatternly leg-swinging Ivy in the precode Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). She should have had a brilliant career. Watch her bravura performance in Design for Living (1933). But Hopkins was one of the most difficult stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era. Her rivalry with Bette Davis was epic. This is the first comprehensive biography of Hopkins, and a valuable insight into a supremely talented but temperamental actress.

The Outcasts of Time, by Ian Mortimer. I won an Emmy Award for The Devil’s Arithmetic, a Holocaust time travel story. I’ve also written a unproduced screenplay that takes place during the 14th century. This book speaks directly to my twin fascinations: the medieval mind, and the paradoxes of time travel. The book begins in December 1348. With England in the grip of the Black Death brothers John and  William believe that they will soon die and suffer in the afterlife. But as the end draws near, the brothers find themselves in a time warp. They try desperately to save their souls, and their understanding of reality as they travel forward through time. A luminous work of fiction that tries to make sense of the almost impenetrable medieval consciousness.

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  1. Bill Brandt
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I just finished Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer. That took some wherewithal at 800 or so pages, but I found it interesting.

    Just started Downfall, by Richard Frank about the months (from March 1945) leading up to the atomic bomb in Japan. Using newly declassified documents he describes the firebombing in Tokyo in detail. Even shows a map of the planned invasion of the home islands, Operation Downfall.

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  2. David Foster
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Robert, if you like time-travel stories, you might like Connie Willis. I wrote about her work here:

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for the link. I’m ordering her books.

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  3. GetThereJustAsSoon
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Some interesting and weighty reading there. I envy you, as these days I no longer have the concentration to read a book. Some days it’s all I can do to read posts on blogs. If I could, “If All the Seas Were Ink” sounds like one I would tackle. Happy reading!

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted March 8, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      Ilana Kurshan’s book is wonderful. I think you would really enjoy it.

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      • GetThereJustAsSoon
        Posted March 8, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        You’ve piqued my curiosity. So, I read various reviews of her work. Among these were comments about a slowing down of an individual’s reading of the work. Sounds about my speed. Also, one review included the following quote:

        “God’s eternal glory could not be described even if the heavens were parchment and the forest quills; if all the seas were ink, as well as every gathered water; even if the earths inhabitants were scribes and recorders of initials.” – Rabbi Meir bar Yizhak

        I don’t know whether this is from the work, but my interest was really prodded. So much so that I’ve placed an order for the volume. Who knows it just may rattle some long, dormany grey cells! Thank you.

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