readings 2012-

Readings before 2012 –

Winter 2012

1) Belafonte, Harry, with Michael Shinayerson (2011). My Song: A Memoir. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

An entertaining, very honest account of a cultural advisor to the Peace Corps in its early days, filled with first-hand history of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedys, the early days of television, rock and roll, the record industry, Vegas, dinner clubs, Hollywood in the 1950s, newly independent African and Caribbean nations, Nelson Mandela, and cultural tensions and changes in the last 70 years.

2) Askew, Mike (2012).  Transforming primary mathematics.  London:  Routledge.

This text, written by a veteran teacher and teacher educator who researched primary mathematics learning and teaching in London’s East End, poses four questions: “ is there a ‘problem’ in primary mathematics education?, what is good mathematics teaching?, what is mathematics teaching good for?, and who is mathematics teaching for?”.  Professor Mike Askew (King’s College, London) reports that some school districts have experimented with not teaching a separate mathematics class but integrating mathematics learning across the primary curriculum.  Others have viewed learning as a collective activity involving becoming as well as acquiring and emerging as children work on rich problems.   Arguing that mathematics learning should be a mindful activity, Askew looks to variation theory and its four key features – an acknowledgement of the intentionality of teachings of objects of learning, the critical aspects of these objects, awareness of the essence of the object, and discernment and variation of the learning.  Successful learning requires the transformation of the learner into competent, caring, loving, and lovable people, the development of mathematical community in the classroom, the careful planning of tasks, the use of tools and talk, and trust.   011012

3) Cavalier, Stephen (2011).  The World History of Animation.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Following an international overview of the development of animation by continental regions, the author chronicles major accomplishments of animation on an annual basis from pre-1900 to the present.  Technological advances are discussed for their influences on art and commerce.  011012

4) Rushdie, Salman (2001).  Fury.  New York:  Random House.

Published on 9/1/2001, this novel features a discussion of celebrity.  The main character is an East Indian-British academic who became prominent as the developer of a doll – Little Brain – who was featured in movies, television, and starting on web.  Fury represents the furies that torment this academic who has left his family to live in New York City, a science fiction novel outline that features a puppet master whose creations are moving to rule society – as a methapor for liberation movements, and the power of sexuality to affect one’s life paths.  011712

5) Storti, Craig; Bennhold-Samaan, Laurette; and Peace Corps (U. S.). (June 1997). Culture Matters: The Peace Corps Cross Cultural Workbook.  Retrieved from

6) Paul D. Coverdell Worldwise Schools, [2002]. Building bridges [electronic resource]: a Peace Corps classroom guide to cross-cultural understanding. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Education Foundation. Retrieved at  

I make use of these online texts in two of my international and cross-cultural education courses at Eastern CT State University.  The Building Bridges guide is a good introductory text on culture and intercultural relations, with activities and exercises for middle and high school classrooms.  The Culture Matters workbook is designed for Peace Corps volunteers and focuses on styles of communication, culture in the workplace, adjusting to a new culture, and social relationships.  Both explore American culture and generalizations, diversity within our nation, and potential cultural misunderstandings for Americans living in other nations.  011912

7) Bikales, Gerda (2004).  Through the valley of the shadow of death:  A holocaust childhood.  New York: iUniverse , Inc.

The accounting of the struggles of a mother and daughter, who was born in 1931, to escape being captured by the war.  With the support of others and traveling companions, Gerda and Blime Birtzonski (Mutti), fled from Breslau to Antwerp, Dunkirk, Zwartberg – as part of a Nazi experiment in dispersing Jews into the hinterland, Antwerp, Lyon, Marseilles, St. Hilaire-le-Chateau, Lyon, Grenoble, and Switzerland, and back to Grenoble and to the US to reunite with her father after the war.  In the 1950s, the mother married the grandfather of Dr. Merle Potchinsky, and Gerda and Blime were known to Merle as aunt and grandmother throughout her life.  Impressing the reader for the challenges of survival in a hateful world, with the bravery of others who did not stand by to support evil, and with the importance of never forgetting, this tale brings home that history is a human process that combines despair with hope.  012912

8) Morinis, Alan (2007). Everyday holiness:  The Jewish spiritual path of mussar.  Boston: Trumpeter. 

The author introduces mussar – which combines the study of ethics with daily practice and reflection, from the Hebrew for correction or instruction, a tradition spanning the Sa’adia Gaon’s 10th century Book of Beliefs and Opinions in the mid-east, Egypt – Israel – Baghdad, with Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato’s The Path of the Just in 1740 in Italy, and three schools in Eastern Europe in the 19th century – Kelm, Lithuanian school that is highly introspective, a Slabodkan school that is more behaviorial and emphasizes the majesty of people, and a Novarodok school that has an aggressive methodology for inner change, storming the soul.   The mussar map is outlined and supported by references to Jewish literature as well as human experiences and includes stops at humility, patience, gratitude, compassion, order, equanimity, honor, simplicity, enthusiasm, silence, generosity, truth, moderation, loving-kindness, responsibility, trust, faith, and yirah (fear/awe). (The author mentions the idea that “yarmulke” may be derived from yireh melekh – awe of the King.) Mussar is seen as a curriculum with daily and weekly routines of mediation – chanting, comtemplation, and visualizations, silence and retreat, and diary practices.  The text would be best studied and practiced within a community.  012912

9) Lieberman, Joe with Kinghoffer, David (2011).  The gift of rest:  Rediscovering the beauty of the Sabbath.  New York:  Howard Books.

A fine introduction to the Shabbath, enhanced with political and personal stories by CT’s retiring senator.  Includes a review of the sections of the 25-hour+ weekly celebration, with chapters on preparation, the Friday night service and siddur, the Friday evening dinner, family relationships, the Saturday morning service, kiddush, Shabbath afternoon activities, the third Sabbath meal, evening prayer, havdalah – making distinctions between the sabbath and the work world, and re-entering the work world.  Senator Lieberman also discusses reasons and events that required his cessation of his sabbath rest and whether they were justified according to tradition.  The emphasis is on that not only have Jews kept Shabbath but that Shabbath have kept the Jews.  020512

10) Amichai, Yehuda (1984).  The World is a room and other stories.  Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America.

The first story, Battle for the Hill, describes life in Jerusalem in 1956 while the population was waiting to see if the city would be drawn into the battles that centered on the Suez Canal.  The second story, The World is a Room, tells of a young romance that is interrupted and lost due to wars and the taking of different paths.  The Bar Mitzvah Party relates how immigrant cultures influence the development of traditions in a new nation.  Terrible Spring deals in metaphors of Purim costumes serving as stand ins for one’s background that are hidden on a terrible spring evening.  Nina of Ashkelon is a mysterious summer romance in the mythical Roman ruins of the Mediterranean coastal town.  Dicky’s Death discusses the recovery of the dead from a mass grave holding the remains of soldiers who opened the roads to the Negev in the wars.  The Orgy tells of the awkwardness of graduate students exploring their sexuality together.  Love in Reverse describes the arc of a relationship in Jerusalem in the early days of the state and The Snow relates the magic and challenges of snow in Jerusalem.  The Times My Father Died compares the bowings within the alenu prayer during the High Holidays and dramatic changes in a German immigrant’s life to the death of old life and the resurrection of a new life in a new land.  These stories would benefit from a book club. 020512

11) Anton, Maggie (2008).  Rashi’s Daughter, Secret Scholar.  Philadelphia: JPS.

A novel written for the young which offers glimpses into gender roles, daily lives, rituals, regional fairs, relationships with Notzrim or Edomite, code for European non-Jews, and the start of the yeshivah of Rabbi Salomon ben Issac (Rashi) in Troyes, France.  Told from the perspectives of Rashi’s daughters, Joheved and Miriam, as they grow into a novel womenhood allowed to study Talmud with their father and husbands, early disciples of Rashi, and learn from their mother and grandmother the important roles of women in Jewish life. 022612

12) Kristof, Nicholas D. and Wudunn, Sheryl (2009).  Half the Sky:  Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. New York:  Alfred A. Knopf.

The authors’, journalists for The New York Times, purpose for this text is “to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts.  That is the process under way – not a drama of victimization but of empowerment, the kind that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen.”  They describe the tragedies of sex trafficking and world-wide slavery, in magnitude larger than ever on this planet, through the story of its victims.  The efforts of new abolitionists, micro-credit programs, education, and medical interventions in raising the quality of life for women and all members of endangered communities proceed a list of action plans for the reader.  They include “four steps you can take in the next ten minutes to make a difference” – 1) open an account at or; 2) sponsor a girl or a woman through Plan International, Women for Women International, World Vision, or American Jewish World Service; 3) sign up for e-mails updates on or; and 4) join the CARE Action Network at  This text has been selected as the book of the year being read by the entire UCONN community.  022612

13) Wormser, Baron (2006).  The Road Washes Out in Spring:  A Poet’s Memoir of Living Off the Grid.  Hanover and London:  University Press of New England.

A poet and his family live off the grid – without electricity and plumbing – due to the cost of extending the lines to their central Maine home.  This text is a collage of poems, descriptions of the seasons and their challenges, literary analyses such as a comparative study of the philosophies within the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and recent Polish poets, accounts of rural towns people and their community life, and the struggles of raising children in the 1980s.  Chosen for Eastern Connecticut State University’s sustainable energy campus book club reading for Spring 2012, this reflection would generate discussion on how one may live a more meaningful, simpler life by appreciating nature and the human condition more. (Read while flying from JFK to Montego Bay to start a global field experience in Jamaican schools for undergraduate at Eastern CSU.) 031812

Spring 2012

14) Dawes, Neville (2009). The last enchantment.  Leeds, England : Peepal Tree Press Ltd.

A close to reality depiction of a young man coming of age in elite schools and communities in the 1940s and 1950s in Kingston and Oxford.  The attempt to integrate Marxism into the lives of the scion of the wealthy in an evolving pre-independent Jamaica is illustrated.  (Read on the return flight from our global field experience in public schools in Jamaica on 032412.)

15) Blake Hannah, Barbara Makeda (2006).  Joseph: A Rasta reggae fable.  Oxford: Macmillan Caribbean.

A fable very near the story of Bob Marley, dealing with the commercial control of music and musicians, the interplay of spirituality and art, and the role of religion and politics in rasta thought.  The fable concludes with a conflict between a Jewish reporter who helped to get the word out about Joseph’s social and artistic talent and the rasta group who rise above through triumphalism, the development of a colony in Ethiopia, and the resurrection of Joseph to live anew in his new homeland.  (Read on the way back on 032412.)

16) Masahiro Shinoda (1969). Double Suicide (心中天網島, Shinjū: Ten no amijima?).  Recommended by Kris Jacobi, a traditional puppet theatre piece that makes use of live actors to present a drama about the obsession of a man with a geisha whom he doesn’t have the funds to redeem, even though his wife is willing to pawn her kikomos brought into the marriage to allow him to maintain his love.  Explores the sense of duty, the role of samuraiis, male-female relationships, the role of fathers in the family, honor, and Japanese symbolic theater.  040312

17) Ogawa, Yoko (2003).  The Housekeeper and the Professor.  New York: Picador.

Novel that will be discussed at the Freeman Institute.  Story of a housekeeper and her son who become friends with a mathematics professor who has damaged short-term memory, remembering only the last 80 minutes.   Discusses prime numbers, irrational numbers, the wonders of numbers and their connections to the divine.  And Japanese baseball, cards, and hero players.  The professor, who lives in a cottage in the compound of his widowed sister-in-law, spends his time solving puzzles and mathematics problems for a journal and earning prizes.  The housekeeper eventually introduces him to her 10-year son, who becomes a close friend to the professor, taking him to a baseball game and celebrating his 11th birthday by finding a special baseball card for the professor.  Explores the roles of women in domestic situations, the challenges of being impaired and growing older, and relationships within single parent families.  041112

18) Learning the virtual life: Public pedagogy in a digital world, ed. by Peter Pericles Trifonas. New York:  Routledge.

This collection of essays examines the philosophical foundations in the digital world of literacy, ways of knowing, identity and learning, ecopedagogy, social life, wikilearning, Wikipedia, learner voice, the future of learning, covert intimacy, weblogs, and games.  The editor, Professor Trifonas of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, introduces this text by noting that “while some have welcomed the educational challenges of digital culture and emphasized its possibilities for individual emancipation and social transformation in the new information age, others accuse digital culture of absorbing its recipients in an all-pervasive virtual world.”  Other scholars from Canada, Finland, US, Great Britain, and Australia expand on these topics by suggesting that the uses of electronic writing tools, wikilearning, and Wikipedia may disrupt the connections between students and lecturers and re-invent the university.  Contributors also examine the potentials of Second Life virtual communities, weblogs, viral youth networks, and social networking to change knowledge production.  Kahn (University of North Dakota) calls for the reconstruction of technoliteracy in the interest of democratization, ecological sustainability, and progressive individual and cultural transformation to forge a better world out of unfolding technological and ecological crises. 042012

19) Levine, Allan (2003).  Scattered among the nations:  The Jewish diaspora in twelve portraits.  Woodstock: Overlook Duckworth.

Generally depressing histories of Jewish life in Seville (1492), Venice (1516), Constantinople (1666), Amsterdam (1700), Vienna (1730), Frankfurt (1848), St. Petersburg (1881), Berlin (1925), Vilna (1944), and Kiev (1967).  Read for the synagogue book club, who discussed the book at the Wolfs’ home on 4/29/12.    Our conversations included a discussion of conversos as models for secular Jewish now, why the US allowed so many immigrants into the developing nation from 1880 – 1930, the connections between Shabbati Zevi and the rise of Hassidim, how different groups of Jews structured their religious lives.   042912

20) National Consortium of Directors of LGBT Resources in Higher Education (2002).  Inspiration for LGBT students and their allies. 

We read this collection of short essays and display posters as part of on-going discussions organized by the Diversity Council.  Poignant essays on individual growth and evolution, implications for one’s community, and the need for supportive, accepting people.   0509112

21) Ogawa, Yoko (2008).  Diving pools, translated by Stephen Synder.  New York:  Picador.

Three novellas – on the relationships of children in an orphanage, the relationship of a sister to her pregnant sister and brother-in-law, and the relationship of cousins around a dormitory where the woman had lived.  Needs a good discussion about formalized relationships and status in Japanese society.  By the author of the professor and housekeeper novel above.  051012

22) Blum, Jenna (2004).  Those who save us.  Orlando:  A Harvest Book.

Story of a mother’s love for her daughter who protects her by becoming the mistress of a Nazi officer during the war.  The daughter, who becomes a German professor at a Minnesotan college, joins a project that interviews Germans who lived in Germany in the war, eventually meeting a man who remembers her Jewish father, the bakery angels who would hide bread in the woods for the prisoners in a camp near Weimar, and connects Trudie’s mother to the angels.  051012

23) Sun, stone and shadows : 20 great Mexican short stories / edited by Jorge F. Hernández.  [Mexico] : Tezontle.

Short, short stories collected in four categories – the fantastic unreal, scenes from Mexican reality, the tangible past,  the unexpected in everyday, urban life, and intimate imagination.  Most memorable was Octavio Paz’s love affairs with a wave, Carlos Fuentes’ interactions with an Aztecan idol, and Ines Arredonno’s Shunammite.  The book will serve as the centerpiece of a community reading project organized Hope Marie Cook in the library during fall 2012.  051812
23) Natsume, Soseki (1914, translated by Edwin McClellan,1995).  Kokoro (heart or feeling).  Tokyo:  Charles E. Tuttle, Co.
A novel set in the Meiji era in Tokyo, describing the relationship of a college student with an elder he calls Sensei (teacher), the student’s ill father and family, the Sensei’s relationship with his future wife and mother-in-law, in whose boarding house he lived, and with a fellow student whom he invites to live with him.   Discusses the integration of western psychological terms – egoism, concepts for the Bible – into traditional Japanese communal life, the nature of honor, the roles of women, and the alientation of students to their rural homes.  051912
24) Varley, Paul (2000).  Japanese Culture:  Fourth Edition.  Honolulu:  University of Hawai’i Press.
Weaves the evolution of the arts with the political histories of Japan and their effects on collective lives.  “If there is a central theme to this book, it is that the Japanese, within the context of a history of abundant cultural borrowing from China in premodern times and the West in the modern age, have nevertheless retained a hard core of native social, ethical, and cultural values by means of which they have almost invariably molded and adapted foreign borrowing to suit their own tastes and purposes”… major aspects of Japanese culture have become an important and vital part of the lives of people everywhere”  (page 351).  052012 – read during the 17 hours of travel from Bradley to Honolulu
25) Ritchie, Donald. (1990).  Japanese Cinema:  An Introduction.  Oxford University Press.
“The history of Japanese cinema is … much like the history of Japan itself.  Both are stories of a general adoption and a gradual adaptation to native needs” (page 85).  Unique features of Japanese cinema include the role of the benshi – lantern-slide commentator who became the off-screen narrator of a film, the non-emphasis on the documentary form, the importance of feeling but not the focus on facial expression and close ups, the importance of the artistic form of the image, the rise of studio production but not independent film making, and the emphases on certain forms of narration and story-telling – historical films from Tokugawa period (1615-1868), films based on Kabuki forms and styles, “national policy films”, and films about ronin, bandits, and the lower middle class.  052112 – borrowed book from JSI library
26) Tsutsui, William M. and Ito, Michiko, editors (2006).  In Godzilla’s Footsteps:  Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage.  New York: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN.
Bill Tsutsui introduces this text by noting that “Godzilla is a complex and multifaceted pop idol, embedded in intricate networks of cultural significaiton and personal meaning, with a profound and lasting global impact unexpected from a low-budget, big-screen creature” (page 7).   Susan Napier describes how Godzilla, and related cultural exports – Hello Kitty, Pokemon pocket monsters, Blade Runners – are not speaking creatures and should be given a voice.  She quotes Oscar Wilde who wrote “[t]he whole of Japan is pure invention,” implying that the Japanese and their culture were simply Western projections, shadows on the screen of the Western mind, incapable of life of their own” (page 9).  Others write of Godjira as representing Japan’s natural origins, modernity, as symbloic of the cold war, and as a comic character in cartoons and media events and the focus of theater projects.   Other monsters are discussed – the princesses, who may be a reaction to Barbie, and Mothra as consumerism, Kitty as cultural ambassador, and Japanese live-action TV star in Hawai’i, Kikaida.  Japanese pop culture is seen as otaku, a hobby obsession, in Russia.  Bestor predicts that other media centers will arise in the near future reflecting current events and issues.  052712
27) Fujikawa, Linda Enga (2007).  Gen’s Book:  Guide to a Good Life.  Honolulu:  The Folk Press.
A moving collection of essays and poetry memorializing the very untimely death of an 18-year old lover of the ocean and son of our Fujikawa Sensei.  The book includes discussions of how a mother mourns and is comforted by friends, family, and the community upon the loss of a son.  Gen (Gen Daniel Enga Fujikawa) died in a diving accident on December 23, 2005 off of Sandy Beach on south shore Oahu.  052312
28) Yusa, Michiko (2002).  Japanese Religious Traditions.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.
Good discussion on the political influences on religion in Japan and vice versa.  Religious activities have become wide-spreaded cultural tradition, so some Japanese would not consider them to be religious.  Recent decades have seen a rise in “cults”, continuing interest in amulets in Shinto, burial as a Buddhist, and marriage as a Christians;  and continuing integration of current social issues – like the environment – into religious thought.  052712
29) Keene, Donald (1955).  Anthology of Japanese Literature from the earliest era to the mid-nineteenth century.  New York: Grove Press.
This anthology starts with the “Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves”, poetry on nature and human relations from the 7th century CE.  The text is organized by political, historic periods and includes sections of the Tale of Ise, the Tale of Genji, The Pillow Book from Heian Period (794-1185), Tale of the Heike and Tales from the Uji Collection from the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Poems in Chinese by Buddhist Monks and the Art of No from the Muromachi Period (1333-1600), and the Art of the Puppet Stage, Haiku, Waka, and Poetry and Prose in Chinese from the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868).  053012
30) Kanekoa (2012).  A night in Aladdin’s Palace: Based on the Events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake disaster.  Honolulu: .  ISBN:  978-1470088439
Story of the visit of an Hawai’ian woman to the family of a friend in Kawasaki in March 2011.  The friends were housed in the Magic Lantern Theater, Aladdin’s palace, in Tokyo Disney Sea, when public transportation was disrupted during the earthquake and aftershocks on March 11, 2011 (3/11).  An interesting view of domestic life in Japan, same sex relationships, mother-daughter connections, respects for elders, and contemporary people integrating cultural life into their daily routines.   The author was an undergraduate who knows Linda Fujikawa-san and collaborated with her in a funding project to provide baseball resources for young people affected by the earthquake in Miyagi.  060412
31) Delay, Nelly (1999).  The Art and Culture of Japan.  Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers.
Illustrated preview of the connections between Japanese culture and its expressions in art.  Includes the influences of Shintoism, Buddhism, and the West on culture and art and sections of the secret book of gardens, an essay on women’s writing and travellers’ tales, Zen poetry and art, printmaking, and Hokusai. 060512
32) Natsume Soseki, translated and edit by Soiku Shigematsu (1994).  Zen Haiku:  Poems and letters of Natsume Soseki.  New York:  Inklings.
Small pocket book of haiki written by Natsume Soseki, noted Japanese author, arranged by season, with some introductory, related letters.  060612
33) Jansen, Marius B. (2000).  The Making of Modern Japan.  Cambridge, MA:  The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
A very detailed political history of Japan.  Includes more details on Japanese relationships with the West, including early presences in southeast Asian capitals before the change in interest in exploration and the notion that Japan achieved indepdendence in the 1950s.  The narrative includes analyses of how both individuals and groups shaped the history of Japan.  060712
Summer 2012
34) Li, Jin (2012). Cultural foundations of learning: East and West.  New York:  Cambridge University Press.  ISBN 978-0-521-16062-9 Paperback.
Dr. Li (Brown University) compares learning processes and goals of an East Asian learning model vs. a western learning model.  The author characterizes the western intellectual traditions as stressing knowing the world, studying the mind and its wonders, living an examined life, and mastering the world.  Eastern intellectual traditions stress perfecting the self, taking the world upon oneself, learning virtues, and believing that action is better than words. She characterizes Confucian belief, a foundation of East Asian education, as “human self-perfection pursued as the highest purpose of life through personal commitment to learning” (p. 73).  Dr. Li reviews research on Chinese/East Asian learners and European-American learners and concludes that these learners differ on the purpose of learning, agentic process of learning, kinds of achievement, and affect.  Differences between these traditions also include virtue-oriented vs. mind-oriented learning processes, heart begets dedication vs. curiosity begets inquiry, reluctant speaker vs. devil’s advocate, and attitudes towards “nerds”.  Dr. Li also provides an interesting analysis of Socratic vs. Confucian tutors at home during the first years of life.  She concludes that although there has been global massive migration and inevitable cultural merging, cultural variations remain.  062612

35) Shalev, Meir (2011). Beginnings: The First Love, the First Hate, and the First Dream … Reflections on the Bible’s Intriguing Firsts. New York: Harmony Books.

Gift from the Temple Bnai Israel’s board of directors upon the end of my two year term as board president.  Author of A Boy and a Pigeon, Shalev’s insightful study of Genesis and other books concludes that the first love was the love between Abraham and his beloved son, Isaac, the first hate was between Jacob and Leah, the first dream was first prophet Abimelech’s dream blaming him for his sin of playing with married Sarah, the first king was Nimrod, the first king of Israel was Saul, the first weeping was Hagar’s after the banishment of Ishmael, the first spies were Joseph’s brothers who were accused of spying in Egypt by Joseph, the first animal were the taninim, unknown now mythological creatures – perhaps great whales or other sea monsters;  the first loving women – were Rebecca for her love of her son, Jacob, Ruth who loved her mother-in-law Naomi, and Michal, who loved David; the first laugh was that of Abraham and Sarah’s laughter at hearing the news that they would have a son; the first law was obeyed by Abraham to receive the promise of numerous descendants and a land.  read while travelling to California at the end of June

36) Dershowitz, Alan M. (1999).  Just Revenge:  A Novel.  New York:  Warner Books.

A justification of the murder of a Lithuanian retiree in the Boston area by a Bible scholar whose family the retiree had murdered outside of Vilna in 1942.  Using technology, the scholar and a media savvy colleague convince the retiree, whom they have kidnapped, that they are murdering his family members in present-day metro Boston and encourage him to take his own life.  The scholars justify this ruse by a suggestion from Maimonides that Gd did not kill Job’s family but only convinced him that he did.  The scholars are defended by friends – a father and daughter team and other law students – and the story includes interesting court drama and philosophical debates on the nature of guilt and revenge.  Book bought as we were leaving LA at a $1 bookstore – a former Barnes and Nobles in the Howard Hughes mall in southwest LA.  070512

37) Kaplan, James (2012).  Paul McCartney:  The Legend Rocks on at 70.  New York: Times Home Entertainment.

A history of Sir Paul with an emphasis on his relationships, the musical influence of his father’s taste, the differences in styles with the other Beatles, Wings and Linda, and the range of his influences on music and society.  Gift from Aunt Rona.  071212

38) Van Hise, James (1993).  Trek vs. Next Generation.  Las Vegas, NV:  Pioneer Books.

Comparisions of the 1966-69 Star Trek (Original) and the Star Trek: Next Generation series in the 1987-94 – quality of story lines, characters, technology, intergalactic politics, customing, … Highly detailed about stories and a bit repetitive.  Concludes that both series had lots to offer.   Gift from Danny. 071912

39) Turner, Steve (1999).  A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song.  New York:  Harper Collins.

Discussion of the development of  songs from the UK and US releases of singles, extended plays, and albums, including the personal, communal, and societal meanings and origins of the songs.  Gift from Danny. 072712

40) Pine, Nancy (2012).  Educating Young Giants:  What Kids Learn (and Don’t Learn) in China and America.  New York:  Palgrave MacMillan.

Professor Pine (Mount St. Mary’s College) draws on her years as a language arts teacher, teacher educator, researcher in Chinese schools, and director of a China/US cultural exchange program to compare the history, goals, methodologies, and outcomes of public education in these two nations.  She generalizes that Chinese educators and parents stress hard work over natural ability for academic achievement, notes the Confucian influence on intense study and memorization, and finds that Chinese elementary teachers most often teach one subject for four classrooms and participate in intensive collaborative work within teaching research groups each day.  The greatest difference between education in the United States and China is China’s reliance on high-stake exams.  Chinese educators are surprised at the rising emphasis on testing in the US and seek instead to encourage the individuality and independence characterizes as being common in US schools.  Following comparisons of mathematics teaching, the influence of language, classroom environment and discipline, and differing attitudes on performance vs. improvisations, college preparation, and imaginative engagement, Dr. Pine concludes that both nations should borrow best practices from each other and plan comprehensive learning systems which address 21st century realities.  080612

41) Heschel, Abraham Joshua (1951). The Sabbath: The Meaning for Modern Man. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux.

Contrasting other civilizations’ obessions with monuments of space, Rabbi Heschel characterizes Judaism as building monuments of time with the Sabbath, holidays, and the daily ordering of events in a ritualistic life.  The Sabbath is an earthly shadow of the world to come, providing value for the work of the rest of the week.  Although poets have used a lot of metaphors for the Sabbath – as a queen, a bride, a king, a very spiritual person, and endless peace, the Sabbath is a day of spirit and of the body comforts with meals and good companionship.  081312

42) Hoffman, Lawrence A. (2000).  The Way Into Jewish Prayer.  Woodstock, VT:  Jewish Lights Publishing. 

Rabbi Hoffman discusses the role of prayer in Judaism across the various movements, congregational, home, and individual prayer.  He contrasts keva – the orderliness of prayer now stored in books – and kavannah – directing prayer to the spiritual.  This text would also serve a good introduction to Judaism, its evolution over time, and the changes developed after prayers were codified into text. 081512

43) King, Stephen (2012).  11/12/63: A Novel.  New York:  Scribner.

A day-long complex tale about a high school English teacher who goes down a “rabbit hole” in present-day Maine to begin life in 1958, changing fate to murder a man who would have destroyed his family, to save a girl from a hunting accident, and to stop Lee Harvey Oswald.  The past resists and places the temptations of love, coincidences, reoccuring individuals and themes in the way.  Although he changes history, it is not as it should be and he resets fate, learning that the threads of alternative histories harmonize and may lead to the destruction of reality.  082212

44) Schmidt, William H. and McKnight, Curtis C. (2012).  Inequality for all: the challenge of unequal opportunity in American schools.  New York:  Teachers College, Columbia University.

The authors, professors from Michigan State University and University of Oklahoma, compare mathematics curriculum in the United States and in the top-achieving nations in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and conclude that in the US, mathematics curricula lacks focus, with more topics taught and repeated in multiple grades.  For example, they find while the TIMSS nations focus extensively on algebra in eighth grade, one-third of US 8th graders attend schools where an algebra course is not an option (p. 104).  They note that the US is not one nation indivisible due to the influences of social class, race, school funding, and the inequality of opportunity in instructional delivery.  Other sources of inequality include variation of content coverage, opportunities to learn, course proliferation, tracking, textbooks, tests, teacher preparation, and grade placement. They conclude that the “greatest source of variation in opportunity to learn is not between local communities, or even schools, but between classrooms” (p. xii).   They recommend that the nation support “the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the improvement of teacher preparation programs that prepare future teachers to teach the standards” (p. 216). 090312

45) Mansfield, Harvey C.  (2010).  Tocqueville: A Very Short Introduction.  New York:  Oxford University.

An introduction to the life, times, politics, philosophy, and writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859.  Of note is Tocqueville’s positive attitude to the new United States, the strong role of women in the US, the challenges and benefits of democracy, liberalism.  090912

46) Rothstein, Edward; Muschamp, Herbert; and Marty, Martin E. (2003).  Visions of Utopia.  New York:  Oxford University.

Three essays, from presentations at the New York Public Library, by scholars and cultural critics, on how utopias hold the seed to their own failure, the connections between religious movements – Sabbateanism, Japanese Buddhism,  the counterculture’s ties to technology, and quasi-experimental small utopians.  091412

47) Raskin, Jonah (2012).  James McGrath:  In a Class by Himself.  Santa Rosa, CA:  McCaa Books.

Jonah Raskin, a professor of communication studies at Sonoma State University, chronicles the life of James McGrath, an artist-teacher-social critic, who lived through the 1950s teaching the children of those who were building atomic bombs in Richland, Washington, leading teachers in post-war European Dept of Defense schools on military bases, taught and served as a spokesperson for the Institute for American Indian Arts, a high school/cultural center in New Mexico, as a professional development coordinator for the arts and the humanities in DoD schools in Asia, in other nations – Brazzaville, Congo, South America, on art education, and back in New Mexico as a teacher in a retirement community and for community development.  His students and colleagues have honored him by organizing art shows and testimonials.  The text introduced by Bill Ayers, praising McGarth for his dedication with teaching with art, includes a list of McGarth’s quotations, including “to teach is to love again.”  091412

48) Mann, James (2012).  The Obamians:  The Struggle inside the White House to Redefine American Power.  New York: Viking.

Detailed study of the personalities and principles forming foreign policy in the Obama White House.  Coming from a post-Vietnam, just war perspective, the president seems to rely on people nearer his own age and philosophies, instead of the older guard influenced more about the history of Vietnam than Bosnia.  092512

49) Barreca, Gina (2005).  Babes in Boyland:  A Personal History of Co-Education in the Ivy League.  Dartmouth College:  University Press of New England.

An Oceanside High School (OHS) graduate (class of 1975) begins a new life at Dartmouth College, among the few women at the former men’s college.  Professor Barreca of UCONN discusses class and gender differences at the college and her own social development. She describes Oceanside as a working class town and relates the need to explain to her aunts why going to college would be life-changing.  A good first generation student account.  I shared a signed copy, purchased at a silent auction at the Fall 2012 Arts in the Country Art Festival in West Woodstock, CT, with Rona Judith Stoloff Fischman, who graduated from OHS in 1976. 100712

50) Dan Rather; Digby Diehl (2012). Rather outspoken: My life in the news. New York:  Grand Central Pub.

Entertaining and revealing autobiography of this Texas journalist, who seems to be like a Forrest Gump of US history from the 1960s on.  He explains the causes of this loss of position at CBS news while reporting on President GW Bush’s military service, his rise from local radio and television reporter, weather Dan covering a hurricane, reporting nationally on presidents and world events – in London, Vietnam, Afghanistan, …  Mr. Rather spoke at Eastern on October 9 at an Arts and Lecture series presentation.  I asked students to seek his inscription on the university’s copy.  100912

51) Kolitz, Zvi (1999).  Yosl Rakover talks to God.  New York:  Vintage Books.

The author created a letter by a Warsaw ghetto fighter to an absent god, who has hidden God’s face from the world;  posted at When released, some accepted that it was a document that had been stored in bottles in the ghetto.  In third person, the author describes his life after the war, his development of this fictional exchange while he lived in Buenos Aires in the late 1940s, after service in the underground in Israel during the struggle for independence, and his life later in New York.  A discussion by philosopher Emmanuel Levinas on the absence of god leads another philosopher, Leon Weiseltier, to ponder the uniqueness and universality of the holocaust.  101012

52) Ostrer, Harry (2012).  Legacy:  A genetic history of the Jewish people.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

A detailed look at the genetics, history, sociology, and anthropology of people who claim the Jewish people as their ancestors.  Although there is some evidence that there is genetic commonalities of Jewish groups, although there is often more genetic connections with neighbors.  Using genetics to define Jewish identity may be problematic as the author describes “Jewishness … as a tapestry with the threads represented as shared segments of DNA and no single thread required for composition of the tapestry” (p. 218).  101712

53) Telushkin, Rabbi Joseph (1992).  Jewish Humor:  What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews.  New York:  William Morrow and Company.

Scholarly discussion of the relationship of Judaism and humor.  Categories include between parents and children, business ethics, learning, ambition, antisemitism, assimilation, the divine, Israeli jokes, Freud, and religion.  121712

54) Ouaknin, Marc-Alain (1986).  The Burnt Book:  Reading the Talmud.  Translated by LLewellyn Brown.  Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press.

Details of the books in Judaism followed by a discussion why it is the ideas in the book and not the object that is of prime importance.  History of the development of the Talmud, the punctuation in the Torah scrolls, Rav Nahman of Bratslav and his writings influenced by Frankish thought, and the rules on disposing of books.  121912


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s