To be honest, I did not read too many Jewish books published in 2006, and of those I did read I was not blown away by any of them. Still, in my spare time I did manage to look at some of the books put out by the exciting new publishing initiative Nextbook.
While I love the Nextbook idea of making Jewish ideas and knowledge accessible to broader audiences, none of the books was much to write home about. I found Sherwin Nuland’s work on Maimonides and Robert Pinsky’s book on King David to be solid but underwhelming and Rebbeca Goldstein’s effort on Spinoza to be at best only second best when read alongside Mathew Stewart’s brilliant work “The Courtier and the Heretic” on Spinoza’s relationship to Leibniz (see Alan Nadler’s very recently published review of both books in Commentary Magazine).
That said, if I was forced to pick my favorite Jewish book of the year (and to be honest I am not sure this book should be considered “Jewish”) it would have to be Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s “The Nimrod Flipout.” What makes Keret’s work so noteworthy is that unlike his great predecessors Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, Keret writes short stories on the most mundane and comical facets of life. The lightness that permeates his prose and narratives never, however, eclipses or destroys the pain, anguish, and depth of the human condition. His often funny and light-hearted tales contain within them powerful lessons about what it means to be human.