Book Club


The Spirit's Irrepressible Impulse

In the words of Bob Dylan, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” English philosopher Roger Scruton’s wise and beautifully written The Soul of the World makes the case that, despite the brashness of the New Atheists and the increase of “Nones” (those with no religious affiliation) there is a “fundamentally religious impulse” – what we call “the sacred” – that is irrepressible. Scruton explains faith as an “attitude of openness to meanings” (experienced in love, art, nature and morality) that......

Continue Reading


In Art or Life, Imagine the Backstory

Did you ever wonder what happened to make the Mona Lisa smile? Or ponder the source of anguish in Edvard Munch’s The Scream? And why is the old man’s nose in Domenico Ghirlandaio’s An Old Man and His Grandson so puffed up? The (True!) History of Art is one of the most hilarious books I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the cleverest ways to invite people to engage with the world’s great paintings. Through this book, Sylvain Coissard and Alexis Lemoine enable children and adults to look at instantaneously......

Continue Reading


Video: The Good Book, A Great Book?

From Odyssey Network’s Faith on the Record video series: This week, attorneys in Broward County, Florida argued over the right of Park Lakes Elementary School student Giovanni Rubeo to read the Bible during a free reading period. It turns out the Bible is on the approved list of books, though the school claimed it was not. The bottom line is cultivating love of reading should trump whatever book you may happen to be reading. Odyssey Networks tells the stories of faith in action changing the world for the better. Their stories explore......

Continue Reading


The Delusion of The Triple Package

It takes just a few hours to read “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua and her husband, fellow Yale law professor, Jed Rubenfeld’s new book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. And it takes even less time to realize the wisdom in this book isn’t in its ideas but in understanding why such ideas resonate and the harm they do to us personally and collectively. The thesis of this book is simple. There are three (that’s right, three) psychological characteristics shared by all......

Continue Reading


A Vivid History of an 'Unimagined' Victory

Here’s one of the wisest books I’ve read in a very long time: Like Dreamers – The Story of the Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation by Yossi Klein Halevi. Wise because it combines sharp analysis of Israelis’ continual wrestling with one another over what the nation is all about with a deep compassion for all of the players in the region’s ongoing conflict. Notably that includes those who have differing opinions – particularly, on the Israeli side, those who are ardently anti-Zionist. If you care about Israel, Palestine or......

Continue Reading


Patriotism and Protest in Song

Did you know that folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940 as a reaction to Irving Berlin’s classic anthem “God Bless America” (originally written in 1918)? It’s one of the many fascinating facts about the beloved tunes found in John Shaw’s book This Land That I Love. Guthrie reportedly found “God Bless America” jingoistic and uncritical; using a melody borrowed from the old Baptist hymn “Oh My Lovin’ Brother” he wrote a six-verse protest song. The final three verses of “This Land Is Your Land” (which are......

Continue Reading


Jesus the Rabbi

Jesus, First-Century Rabbi continues a recent trend of books trying to better understand who Jesus was by placing him in the context of first-century Judaism. ?This admirable work, written by Rabbi David Zaslow, is a particularly accessible and loving effort, one which has the potential to ease tensions felt? between (some) Christians and Jews. The spirit in which the book is written – whether one agrees with the conclusions or not – provides a truly a beautiful lesson for interfaith encounters. However, I would offer two cautionary notes, also inspired by the......

Continue Reading


Stars of David

Over the weekend I went to see the off Broadway musical, Stars of David, based on Abigail Pogrebin’s best-selling book of the same name.? The show is great fun and reveals and celebrates the Jewish identity of some of the most well known Jewish personalities in America including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Leonard Nimoy, Michael Feinstein, Norman Lear, Joan Rivers, Kenneth Cole, Tony Kushner and more. The 16 songs, composed by a who’s who of composers, are touching, humorous, insightful and moving. Stars of David is for any of us questioning the value......

Continue Reading


Malcolm Gladwell on Keeping the Faith and Achieving Greatness

Finally got to read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell, which Irwin wrote about a couple of weeks ago.? It’s a fascinating book which spoke deeply to me about three things, and troubled me a little about one thing?- more on that in a moment.? I might have hesitated to boil it down so succinctly, but in this interview, that is what Gladwell himself does. The three key insights here from the book are: 1. What others see as a weakness, may be a great strength 2. Religious faith is a powerful......

Continue Reading


Using Gladwell's Insight to Inspire Those Who Need It Most

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.? Like Gladwell’s prior books this one is entertaining, with great story-telling that explores one counterintuitive thesis. ?Blink compelled us to trust our guts. ?The Tipping Point suggested we seek out and invest in “influencers”.? And in Outliers, Gladwell posits that it isn’t talent, but rather luck and hard work that are far more important. As always with Gladwell you need to read him while understanding that what he “proves” is always more true......

Continue Reading