This is my next installment of spring cleaning and saying goodbye to five more books. I look forward to cleaning off a second shelf—so I can fill it up again. I don’t have to go shopping or anything. I have enough books lying around the house. Hence, the need to get rid of some of them. I’m running out of room for new bookcases.
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts (2001) by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman examines the archaeological record for the origins of the books of the Bible and the Israelite people. For example, they see the exodus story not as a historical event but as an expression of a continual migration. Many took issue with the contents of the book.
Bio: Israel Finkelstein (b. 1949) is an Israeli archaeologist and a professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, specializing in the archaeology of the Levant biblical archaeology. Among his books are David and Solomon and The Forgotten Kingdom.
Neil Silberman is an American archaeologist specializing in biblical archaeology. His other books include Archaeology and Society in the 21st Century (2001), Heavenly Powers (1998), The Message and the Kingdom (1997), and The Archaeology of Israel (1995).
The Search for Superstrings, Symmetry, and the Theory of Everything (1998) by John Gribbin is written without presupposing any science and or physics background on the part of the reader. It even explains scientific notation, for crying out loud. That is not to say it doesn’t discuss heady stuff, but the heady stuff is in chapters with titles like “Quantum Physics for Beginners.” There is some math, but it is safe. That is, I read it and my head didn’t explode.
Bio: John Gribbin (b. 1946) is a British science writer and astrophysicist He graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Sussex and later completed an MSc in astronomy, also from Sussex, and a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. Currently, he is a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex. He writes fiction and non-fiction and has written biographies of such luminaries as Isaac Newton and Richard Feynman. Additionally, he writes science books for children. Among his books are In Search of the Double Helix (1987), Almost Everyone’s Guide to Science: The Universe, Life and Everything (1998) and, The Birth of Time: How Astronomers Measured the Age of the Universe (2001).
The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins (1997) by Alan Guth is written for the nonscientist to explain the idea of inflation—that is, a brief time of exponential expansion of the early universe with respect to the Big Bang, which Guth helped develop. The book is remarkably free of mathematics but instead relies on pictures and graphs. Guth writes clearly and with a light, breeze style, making corny jokes at times. It was written before the discovery of the Higgs boson but, of course, anticipates it.
Just the same, I wouldn’t call this book a beach read. It takes a bit of thought and effort to get through if you’re a layperson. It is worth it.
Bio: Alan Guth (b. 1947) is an American theoretical physicist and cosmologist, known mainly for his work on elementary particle theory and how particle theory applies to the early universe, and particularly for the idea of cosmic inflation and the inflationary universe. He is the Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has written more than 60 technical papers related to the effects of inflation and its interactions with particle physics, but this is the only book for us plebs I could find by him.
The Nazi Officer’s Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust (1999) by Edith Hahn Beer with Susan Dworkin is the sad but ultimately triumphant story about how one woman survived the Holocaust by hiding her Jewish identity. Paradoxically, she kept her original identity papers. A gentile friend helped her with this, foreseeing the day when she might need to recover her identity. In the meantime, she worked as a nurse’s aide and married a Nazi, who knew she was Jewish.
There is some humor as well. She noticed her neighbors in the apartments around her made a lot of noise when she tried to listen to the BBC (on the radio), something she had to do at low volumes because listening to foreign broadcasts was illegal. This was understandably annoying until she realized one neighbor started his construction projects to cover up the BBC call tones.
Bio: Edith Hahn Beer (1914-2009) was originally from Austria. She was studying law at the time of the Anschluss. Her religious affiliation disqualified her from graduation, let alone practicing law. Her family was sent to a ghetto in Vienna. Later, she seldom talked about the war. This book was written to answer her daughter’s questions.
Susan Dworkin (b. 1941) is a novelist, playwright, and producer of audiobooks. She worked for the US Department of Agriculture and as a journalist covering international aid projects. Her books include The Garden, The Commons, and Stolen Goods.
Without: Poems (1998) by Donald Hall is a collection of poems about the final illness and loss of the poet’s wife, the poet, author, and translator Jane Kenyon. While this may seem maudlin, it is not. The author certainly grieves, but there is little self-pity. The collection is moving and a human portrait of mourning.
Bio: Donald Hall (1928-2018) was an American poet, writer, editor and literary critic. During his lifetime, he taught writing at Stanford University, Bennington College, and the University of Michigan. Among his many honors, he served as the poet laureate of his home state of New Hampshire for five years (1984-1989) and in 2006 was appointed the fourteenth U.S. Poet Laureate. His books included Ox-Cart Man (1979), The One Day (1988), and Essays at Eighty (2014).
3 thoughts on “Spring Clean #8 Five More Books”
The Nazi Officer’s Wife was a very good book.
I liked it, too. I thought it was incredibly sad, though. On the other hand, there aren’t many books about the Holocaust that aren’t incredibly said.
Sounds like a very interesting set of books.