New Books Network

Jerry Muller, “Capitalism and the Jews” (Princeton UP, 2010)
I confess I was attracted to this book by the title: Capitalism and the Jews (Princeton, 2010). Capitalism is a touchy subject; Jews are a touchy subject. But capitalism and the Jews, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. I don’t suggest you try this, but just imagine what would happen... Read More
Ruth Harris, “Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century” (Henry Holt, 2010)
If you’re like me (and I hope you aren’t), the “Trial of the Century” involved a washed-up football star, a slowly moving white Bronco, an ill-fitting glove, and charges of racism. I watched every bit of it and remember exactly where I was when the verdict was announced. But if... Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew” (Yale UP, 2009)
I’ve got a name for you: Robert Zimmerman (aka Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham). You’ve heard of him. He was a Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota. But he didn’t (as the stereotype would suggest) become a doctor, lawyer, professor or businessman. Nope, the professions were not for him. He loved the... Read More
Alan E. Steinweis, “Kristallnacht 1938” (Harvard UP, 2009)
One of the most fundamental–and vexing–questions in all of modern history is whether cultures make governments or governments make cultures. Tocqueville, who was right about almost everything, thought the former: he said that American culture made American government democratic. Neocon theorists, who have been wrong about most things, believe the... Read More
Rebecca Manley, “To the Tashkent Station: Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War” (Cornell UP, 2009)
By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Bolshevik Party had already amassed a considerable amount of expertise in moving masses of people around. Large population transfers (to put it mildly) were part and parcel of building socialism. Certain “elements” needed to be sent... Read More
Brett Whalen, “Dominion of God: Christendom and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages” (Harvard UP, 2009)
In the Gospels, the disciples come to Jesus and ask him about the End of Days. He’s got bad news and good. First, everything was going to go hell, so to say: “And Jesus answered . . . many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall... Read More
Kevin Kenny, “Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn’s Holy Experiment” (Oxford UP, 2009)
It’s hard to be a Christian. It’s even harder to be a good Christian. But being a good Christian on the frontier of Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century seems to have been next to impossible. That’s one possible gloss of Kevin Kenny‘s eye-opening new book Peaceable Kingdom Lost. The Paxton... Read More
Tony Michels, “Fire in their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York” (Harvard UP, 2005)
I always assumed that the Jews who emigrated from Eastern Europe to New York and created the massive Jewish American labor movement brought their leftist politics with them from the Old Country. But now I know different thanks to Tony Michels’ terrific Fire in their Hearts. Yiddish Socialists in New... Read More
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917” (Cambridge UP, 2008)
Every Jew knows the story. The evil tsarist authorities ride into the Shtetl. They demand a levy of young men for the army. Mothers’ weep. Fathers’ sigh. The community mourns the loss of its young. It’s a good story, and some of it’s even true. The reality, of course, was... Read More