Celebrating the best of Jewish writing

Jewish Book Week runs until March 10 and is a great opportunity to sample the fantastic writers from the political left, right and centre, and those who have made such important contributions to science, education and philosophy.

Here in Liverpool, News from Nowhere, the radical and community not-for-profit bookshop run by a women’s collective, has put on a great display of just some of the titles it has on offer.

In London, and around the country, the initiative is being celebrated with a week-long festival featuring over 80 events and including writers and speakers from the worlds of history, journalism, philosophy, science, art, music, poetry and fiction.

This year marks the 67th year since Jewish Book Week was established as an annual event. Its original aim was ‘to stimulate and encourage the reading of books on every aspect of Jewish thought, life, history and literature.’ Organisers noted that ‘no generation in Jewry which neglects the basic importance of the book can hope to survive. The book retains a unique significance as an everlasting emblem of the Jewish way of life.’

There is a real need to engage with these issues today, with antisemitism on the rise.

Just a glance at some of the titles on offer in News from Nowhere underlines the diversity and the breadth of subjects covered.

The Jewish Joke by Devorah Baum looks at humour through the ages and what makes Jewish jokes distinctive and why they are important to Jewish identity.

Look out to for books by Jewish chemist, writer, and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, including The Last Interview made up of conversations just days before his death in which in which he looks back at his youth, schooling, factory work and being in the Italian Resistance. Movingly, the story halts just before he was captured and sent to Auschwitz.

Novelist Howard Jacobson won the Booker Prize with The Finkler Question in 2010, described by the Guardian at the time as a ‘laugh-out-loud exploration of Jewishness.’ Look out too for his dystopian novel J set in the near future in the aftermath of a cataclysmic social breakdown akin to a second Holocaust. The breakdown came about because people just grew too tired of fighting the hatred spreading like a virus around them.

Jewish Book Week is a great opportunity to browse the bookshelves.