Book of Numbers By Joshua Cohen & The Book of Stone: A Novel By Jonathan Papernick


070315_mishmash_bookIt’s summer, that time of year when everyone drops everything they’re doing, finds a quiet stretch of sandy shore and spends all day delving into their new favorite books. Or maybe not. But whatever your plans, there’s no denying that the season brings a bumper crop of literary offerings, plus an abundance of lists telling you which ones you “must read.” Here’s new books whose authors and/or themes provide some fun Jewish flair — just right for a beach read or an everyday
coffee-break escape.

In “Book of Numbers,” the prolific, 34-year-old Joshua Cohen presents his fourth novel in less than a decade, with a protagonist who is also a Jewish novelist named Joshua Cohen — only this nebbish is hardly prolific. With mounting debts, he agrees to ghostwrite the memoir of the eccentric, billionaire founder of a Google-like tech firm (who is, as it happens, also named Joshua Cohen). What follows is part thriller, part family drama and part sex comedy — but primarily it’s a pointed deliberation on what it means to live in the age of search engines, smartphones and constant surveillance.

“The Book of Stone,” meanwhile, proves that in the gray gap between good and evil, there’s almost always a great story. After his successful collections of short fiction, author Papernick has gone longform with this psychological thriller that explores the evolution of the terrorist mindset and the complexities of religious radicalism (and, yes, that’s radicalism of the Jewish kind). This may not be an uplifting tale of faith reconsidered — “The Book of Stone” ain’t Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” — but it’s an engrossing read about a sorrowful soul whose search for meaning leads to a very dark mission.

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