Read Any Good Books Lately?

“Young Girl Reading”
Seymour Joseph Guy, 1877

Read Any Good Books Lately?

We are in California for my neuropathy treatments, Jerry’s seminar at the Claremont School of Theology and family reunions.  So, in lieu of my usual weekly column, here is something completely different.

I don’t just write.  I read a lot too.  In case you cared to share some of these recent reading experiences, here are my five-star reviews posted on Amazon.


Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo

by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was certainly one the best writer in English of the 20th century. Her sad simple record of this last living African man taken as a slave from his native home to these shores is certainly worth reading and thinking about.

Kierkegaard’s Muse: The Mystery of Regine Olsen

by Joakim Garff

There isn’t anything you’d want to know about this famous, aborted love story that this writer fails to tell you. For Kierkegaard’s many followers, including female followers, the book fills in important gaps. I read it from beginning to end and wasn’t bored.

Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition

by David Nirenberg

The phenomenon of anti-Judaism is one of history’s peculiarities. Whether you’re Jewish or not, whether you care particularly about Jews or don’t care particularly, this book is an indispensable guide to an extraordinary subtext under history’s surface.

The Untold Journey: The Life of Diana Trilling

by Natalie Robins

The persona of Diana Trilling remains so swathed in the cattiness she herself seemed to have shown, that most reviewers of this biography merely took the opportunity to get another swipe in — at Diana. In so doing, they neglected to notice the skill of her biographer. Natalie Robins does not gloss over her subject’s well-known nastiness, but takes great pains to account for it in the context of the times in which this gifted intellectual woman came to adulthood. It’s a highly readable, detailed portrait of an era, including many influential public intellectuals. The sympathy this biographer shows for her subject adds to the interest of the story she tells.

The Wandering Jew Has Arrived 

by Albert Londres

What a testament, from an early 20th century journalist, to the abysmal condition of Eastern European Jews without a state! Londres had no discernible axe to grind, merely records the vanished world of Jews who were scarcely allowed to exist on the level of humanity. He doesn’t imagine that their dehumanized condition could ever spread to “enlightened,” civilized cities like Paris and Berlin! The contrast with Jews who began to settle as pioneers in Palestine is obvious to Londres. An indispensable record of how it was, in most of the places where Jews lived, before the Holocaust and before the Jewish state came to be.

Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World

by Avi Jorisch

An amazing record, of the greatest value in countering prejudice against the Jewish state. Israel’s contributions to the well being and flourishing of the world are almost mythical in their scope and effectiveness. Theodore Hertzl’s novelistic fantasies, about the Old/New Land whose founding he inspired, are surpassed by the accounts of contribution after contribution which are described and documented here.

A Final Accounting: Philosophical and Empirical Issues in Freudian Psychology

by Edward Erwin

Dr. Erwin’s contribution to the philosophical evaluation of Freud’s theory and therapy is sober, evidence-based and extraordinarily thorough. He avoids casting any aspersion on Freud’s character, veracity or methods. His sole concern is with the evidence for or against the truth of Freud’s theoretical account of the human psyche and the effectiveness of his therapy. A side benefit for the reader: the book addresses the questions, What counts as a scientific theory and what does it mean to validate a claim as scientific? After an exhaustive a review of the arguments from critics and defenders and review of the many attempts to provide scientific grounding, Erwin arrives at a conclusion. Without fanfare or rhetorical flourishes of any kind: this emperor has no clothes.

Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing a Veiled War Against Women

by Phyllis Chesler

There is no voice I know of like the voice of Phyllis Chesler. First of all, it takes enormous moral stamina to visit the episodes of cruel discrimination against women that she documents here. Second, although many who learn of such incidents privately deplore and regret them, Chesler actually says what most of us only think. That in itself is an education. From reading her words, which say what we only think, we learn what honestly sounds like if only we dared to exhibit it ourselves. Personally I feel grateful for this book and for Phyllis Chesler’s influence in the world. She’s one of the heroes of our time.

The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic

by Michael Medved

There is intellectual courage in this book. Medved retells key episodes in the American story, how we came to be as a nation that spans the territory we have and takes the directions we have taken. Embedded in the national narrative are episodes that bear the hallmarks of divine intervention — of Providence, as it used to be called. Since the temper of the times, and the constraints on what is now considered intellectually respectable, weigh against this kind of emphasis, Medved has given himself a very difficult assignment. That said, it’s a delightful read. He’s a first rate story teller. Of course, if there are reasons to take the episodes he recounts as evidence for divine concern with America, there is also plenty of room to disagree and to explain the events in more naturalistic terms. Whichever way you take it, Medved’s story affords much nourishment for the thoughtful reader.

Moses: A Human Life (Jewish Lives)

by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

An extraordinary book, replete with the signs of serious scholarship, yet empathic with the figure of Moses in a way I for one have never seen before. Coming from a woman, this leap of imaginative impersonation is unprecedented, and profoundly persuasive.


About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, now available in an expanded, revised second edition and as an audiobook. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming and illustrated, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” ( where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Some of her articles can be accessed at . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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