Jan 13, 2013

Jewish Journal's Book of the Year

Congrats to Baruch and Judy Sterman on their book, The Rarest Blue, winning the Jewish Journal's Book-of-the-Year award!
(If you have not yet read my book review of The Rarest Blue, do so now, buy the book and read it)

From the announcement on The Jewish Journal:

Because the Stermans possess precisely that alchemical genius, the Jewish Journal Book Prize for 2013 is awarded to “The Rarest Blue,” the second-annual prize given in recognition of a book of exceptional interest, achievement and significance.  This award is presented each January to an author or authors for a book published during the previous calendar year, and it includes a $1,000 honorarium.
“The Rarest Blue” starts with a 2,000-year-old mystery: How did the Israelites make thread a blue color known as tekhelet that they were required by the Torah to wear on their fringed garments? The formula for making the blue dye was lost in the early centuries of the Diaspora, and generation after generation of observant Jews have been unable to comply with the biblical commandment. “And now we have only white,” the compiler of the Midrash complained in the eighth century, “for tekhelet has been hidden.” Ironically, it was only during the era of the scientific and industrial revolution that the biblical secrets began to emerge. And now the Stermans have revealed how to make what they called “the sacred, rarest blue.”
“The Rarest Blue” begins in distant antiquity, moves forward through two millennia of Jewish culture and history, and drills down deeply on the scientific enterprise of more recent times. The key to the riddle of tekhelet is a marine snail known as the Murex trunculus, whose entrails were used by Bible-era dye-makers to create the hyacinth blue that is mentioned some 50 times in the Tanakh.
“ ‘The Rarest Blue’ can be enjoyed as a mystery, a travelogue, an adventure story and a work of scholarship,” I wrote in my review for the Journal. “The story ends on a note of triumph that can be understood variously as an affirmation of piety or as the success of a scientific enterprise, or perhaps both.”
Other readers have been just as enthusiastic. Nobel Prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann calls the book “a detective story with cultural origins and a spiritual ending,” and Booklist describes it as an “expansive and fascinating microhistory.”  Perhaps the most astute and telling notice, however, came from the critic who hailed “The Rarest Blue” as an “Indiana Jones-style chemistry adventure.” Remarkably, it is one book combining chemistry and Torah that is a real page-turner.
The annual winner of the annual Jewish Journal Book Prize is selected by the Journal’s book editor. The prize is not restricted to Jewish authors or books on Jewish subjects, but “The Rarest Blue” is an example of a book that is worthy of attention both for its literary merit and for its Jewish interest. 

A great book, a deserving award.

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