Some Jewish books that make fine gifts

If you are looking for a gift to bring to the family holding the simcha take a look at some of this selection of books with Jewish themes.

"Be Fruitful and Multiply" by Richard V. Grazi, M.D. (224 pages, Genesis Jerusalem Press, distributed by Feldheim Publishers, $22.95). A thorough look at infertility and fertility therapy through Jewish texts. Grazi explains the emotional stress encountered by Orthodox couples faced with infertility. He also explores various options open to couples and how Jewish tradition perceives them.

"Blood Money" by Rochelle Krich (341 pages, Twilight, $6.99 paperback). A murder mystery involving Holocaust survivors, lost Swiss bank accounts and Jewish identity. Even more interesting is the hero, a Jewish police detective who was raised Episcopalian only to find out her mother was a survivor. The story is compelling, although the writing is on the weak side. It's a first novel and hopefully Krich will improve.

"Lost Love, The Untold Story of Henrietta Szold" by Baila Round Shargel (370 pages, Jewish Publication Society, $21.95). Using letters from Szold and Louis Ginzberg, Shargel recreates their love affair that wasn't. It's a Jewish Edith Wharton-style story complete with repressed sexual tension set against the backdrop of New York Jewish intellectual society. By the end of the book, you're cheering Szold on.

"Seder Olam, The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology," translated and with commentary by Heinrich W. Guggenheimer (312 pages, Jason Aronson, $50). This book will help you know how old Abraham was when Jacob was born, when Jacob died and how many years after the Noah's Ark flood that was. But unless you have a good Jewish education and a need to know when everything took place, this book might not be for you.

"Terra Infirma: A Memoir of My Mother's Life in Mine" by Rodger Kamenetz(128 pages, Schocken Books, $11 paperback). This is almost like taking a peek into the mind of a mourner. We experience Kamenetz's pain as he reviews his mother's experience with cancer and her eventual death. It's a short book that should have been a short story. Parts in which he tells the story and lets the characters do their own talking are painfully poignant. Other sections drag, including an existential rambling incorporating too many fragments of philosophy and psychology.

"The Best of K'TonTon" by Sadie Rose Weilerstein, illustrated by Marilyn Hirsh (94 pages, Jewish Publication Society, $9.95 paperback) is a collection of 16 tales, including one for each holiday. "K'TonTon" is an old favorite, and all the stories about him are excellent. But there aren't as many pictures as if you bought each as an individual picture book. Best for storytellers, parents and children in grade school.

"The Garden of Eating, A Complete Kosher Cookbook" (230 pages, Feldheim Publishers, $24.95). This book is a project of the Women's League of Yeshiva Degel Hatorah Maamar Mordechai. Even if you're not kosher, this is a good cookbook. It's got a list of cooking terms and how to perform the tasks, measurements and equivalents, and even a list of spices and how to use them. Each recipe comes with nutritional information per serving. The recipes are relatively short and basic. With dishes like potato bilkies (puffs), marinated mushrooms and French roast meat, this is tasty, good, solid food. In addition to typical Jewish dishes, it also includes recipes for moussaka, spinach lasagna and carob tofu pudding.

"The Jew of New York" by Ben Katchor (97 pages, Pantheon Books, $15). Katchor, whose comics have been syndicated in alternative newspapers and magazines for more than 10 years, is the creator of a newspaper character named Julius Knipl. This book is a collection of comics with multiple story lines about colorful characters loosely based on a politician who, in 1825, tried to set up a Jewish state on a small island between Canada and New York. The story within a story within a story format may confuse some readers. Fans of Katchor will like this book; others may not see past seemingly anti-Semitic sarcasm. Katchor is both an able artist and gifted writer.

"The Reichmanns: Family, Faith, Fortune and the Empire of Olympia & York" — by Anthony Bianco (848 pages, Times Books. $20 paperback). Bianco is a reporter at Business Week and writes a good, well-researched story of the family who built a real estate empire, only to lose it. He also explores their role in the Orthodox Jewish community. Bianco's only fault is to include a bit too much historical facts as background. While interesting and important, it just makes for a long book.

"The Scholar's Haggadah: Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Oriental Versions," with historical and literary commentary by Heinrich Guggenheimer (418 pages, Jason Aronson, $50). Guggenheimer put together an amazing Haggadah. But it may be too long for any one seder.