The 12 New (Jewish) Books For Summer

In Which We Surf a Wave of Forthcoming Literature

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By Julia M. Klein

Published May 28, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
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NONFICTION

● Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster — the Creators of Superman
By Brad Ricca
St. Martin’s Press, $27.99, 432 pages
Out June 4

From the DC Comics strip, to the 1950s black-and-white television series starring George Reeves, to the elegant tongue-in-cheek movies with Christopher Reeve, to “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” “Smallville” and the forthcoming film “Man of Steel,” Superman seems constantly to be with us. Michael Chabon fictionalized the comic’s backstory in his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2000 novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” Now, Brad Ricca gives us the first full biography of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the icon’s creators, and spells out the origins of both Superman and his longtime love, Lois Lane.

● Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution, From ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’ to ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad’
By Brett Martin
Penguin Press, $27.95, 320 pages Out July 3

Here at last is a book for those of us who are glued to cable television every Sunday night — and tired of telling our most stupidly snobbish friends (who refuse to watch) that they’re missing some of the best entertainment around. The title, “Difficult Men,” refers to both the showrunners themselves (including David Simon of “The Wire,” Matthew Weiner of “Mad Men” and David Milch of “Deadwood” — all Jewish) and the anti-heroes who have insinuated their way into popular culture.

● Kafka: The Years of Insight
By Reiner Stach Translated from the German by Shelley Frisch
Princeton University Press, $35, 720 pages
Out June 9

Reiner Stach, who has edited Kafka’s works, brings a scholarly thoroughness to his planned three-part biography. This volume, translated from the German, covers 1916 to 1924, the last years of the writer’s life. Its account of Kafka’s literary accomplishments and personal relationships, is set against a chronicle of ravaged post-World War I Europe. The previous book, “Kafka: The Decisive Years,” which covered 1910-15, drew praise for its lively style; the third volume, on the writer’s early years, is forthcoming.

● Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin
Edited by Donna-Lee Frieze
Yale University Press, $35, 320 pages Out June 24

Lemkin (1900–1959), a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent, died without becoming a household name. Yet his accomplishments are still with us: He is credited with inventing both the word and concept of “genocide.” Lemkin escaped to the United States from Nazi-occupied Europe and lost dozens of relatives in the Holocaust. He left behind this previously unpublished autobiography that should be of more than academic interest.

● I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary
By Marianne Szegedy-Maszak
Spiegel & Grau, $27, 400 pages Out August 27

Using a cache of family letters from the 1940s, Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, a Washington journalist, resurrects her parents’ wartime love story and its intersections with Hungarian and Jewish history. While her mother’s aristocratic relatives brokered a deal with Heinrich Himmler to flee Hungary for Portugal, her father, a former foreign ministry official, was arrested and sent to Dachau. A Holocaust story with a happy ending, this book explores the complex moral choices faced by both individuals and countries during that bleak time.

● Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
By Boris Kachka
Simon & Schuster, $27, 400 pages Out August 6

Publishing’s own hot read for the summer: Boris Kachka takes us inside the nation’s most elite publishing house — home to poets, literary journalists and assorted Nobel laureates. FSG’s authors have included T.S. Eliot, Tom Wolfe, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and, more recently, Jonathan Franzen. Kachka explores FSG’s DNA by focusing on its founders: Roger Straus, the feisty black sheep of his powerful German Jewish family, and the more refined and reticent Robert Giroux. This gossipy saga, based on nearly 200 interviews and not published by FSG, should prove irresistible to anyone interested in either high literature or corporate infighting.

Julia M. Klein is a cultural reporter and critic in Philadelphia and a contributing editor at Columbia Journalism Review. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaMKlein


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