What I’ve Read This Month – July 2014

Books Bought:

  • La Voce del Violino – Andrea Camilleri (Kindle)
  • The People of Forever Are Not Afraid – Shani Boianjiu (Kindle)

Books Read:

  • יהדות ללא אשליה – אליעזר גולדמן
  • The Last Coyote – Michael Connelly
  • The People of Forever Are Not Afraid – Shani Boianjiu (Kindle)

Eliezer Goldman (1918-2002) was born in New York, Goldman made aliyah when he was 20 and became a life-long kibutznik at Sde Eliyahu. He taught at Bar Ilan university and in 1988 won the Bialik Prize for Jewish Thought. Despite this distinguished career, he is little known and his writings have not made it to mainstream Jewish Philosophy curricula. And that’s a real shame.

Goldman is a pragmatist (in fact, his PhD was on Pragmatism). This book, “יהדות ללא אשליה” (“Judaism with No Illusion”) is an anthology of various writings and research papers he wrote, collected under two categories: 1. Jewish Thought and 2. Ethics, Society and State. Reading through these essays, one is amazed by the breadth and depth of Goldman’s intellectual reach. He deals with the most burning issues in Jewish Philosophy and current day challenges of the Jewish State, all in a clear and resonating voice.

Unlike his more famous, likely-minded contemporaries such as Yishayahu Leibowitz and David Hartmann, Goldman led a life away from the media limelight. With his passing away, some of his students have started publishing his writings and holding symposiums discussing them. Hopefully this will expose this important thinker to wider audiences in coming years.

“The Last Coyote” is the fourth book in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. The title of the book comes from Bosch’s frequent dreams and sightings of a coyote near his home in Los Angeles.

This book is different from the first three in the series. Bosch is suspended from duty after punching his commanding officer in the face and is undergoing therapy sessions with a psychologist. He also broke up with his girlfriend a few months ago. In short, he’s a mess, and it feels so in the book. The atmosphere is much darker and pessimistic than in previous books.

The mission Bosch is after here is solving a murder that took place decades ago, his mother’s murder. She worked as a prostitute and was found one day dumped in a Hollywood alley. The murder was never solved and many loose ends were left unexplored. Bosch realizes he cannot get on with his life without closure on this case, so – devoid of his badge and gun – he embarks on a personal mission to find out who killed his mother. The trail leads him to some surprising and prominent figures whose paths his mother crossed. In the end, as usual, the real killer is actually someone quite different.

I didn’t like this book as much as the previous ones. Solving his mother’s murder was supposed to be some highlight in Bosch’s life, but the dark and depressing mood of this story somehow manages to ruin the “joy” of reading a crime thriller. Bosch is doing way too much navel gazing in this novel. Hopefully he will be back to himself in future books in the series.

Shani Boianjiu is a young Israeli author who wrote a book, in English, about her military service: “The People of Forever Are Not Afraid”. The book is the story about three friends – Yael, Avishag and Lea – who grew up together in a small village in northern Israel. When they get drafted to the army, their lives change, but in different ways. Yael trains infantry soldiers to shoot; Avishag stands guard in border crossings; Lea checks Palestinians entering Israel to work. As young women they talk about boys and worry about their future.

I bought this book because of the excellent reviews it received. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete it. I tried really hard, but the ramblings of Boianjiu were so boring I just couldn’t take it. I felt like I was reading the diary of a teenager, and a tedious one at that.

Serves me right. I should have followed my instincts. When I read reviews that say things like “a distinct new voice in literature” I become suspicious. Boianjiu’s awful book proves my instincts are correct.

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