The Story of the Jews

StoryoftheJewsThe Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BC-1492 AD
Simon Schama
HarperCollins Publishers, March 18, 2014, 512 pages
Kindle Edition  $19.99, Amazon Hardcover  $25.29

This book covers the same material as the PBS television series, but it is no mere TV tie-in. It is a substantial standalone volume in its own right. In addition to the text, there are maps, notes, references, and pictures.

Schama covers a lot of territory in the book. He opens it describing the Jewish military outpost at the garrison of Elephantine in ancient Egypt. He ends describing the plight of the Jews in Spain in 1492. The book is not linear. He moves from one time period and locale to another, and often jumps to the nineteenth century or the present day to describe the work of archaeologists and scholars.

Schama’s writing is engaging. The prose is more lively than that of most nonfiction books I’ve read recently, and he includes a good share of wit. Schama is a skeptic, not a believer. He is careful to talk about what we can actually know versus what we what we must surmise or deduce.

I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half, but that’s just me: I am more interested in antiquity than modern history. This is a highly readable book for anyone interested in this slice of world history.

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