The Biggest Book Club in Israel*

Are you Zoomed out? Blessed, but fatigued as well, by all the online classes, lectures, shiurim and “Quarantini” happy hours with friends? Need an interesting, informative conversation you can simply listen to on your daily walk?

Then check out The Van Leer Institute Series on Ideas, a breakout podcast on the New Books Network. It is free. It is surprising. And it will inspire you with new ideas.

When we kicked off the Van Leer Institute Series on Ideas last summer, we knew it would succeed. But we had no idea how huge it would become.  Our goals were modest: to introduce Van Leer affiliated authors and other new book authors to the reading public. So much good work is being done – and we wanted to share it.

Besides, we all know that over the course of a lifetime, most learning takes place outside of schools and classrooms. The wisest among us are avid lifelong learners. With that in mind, we pursued books of both general interest and special interest, books that would appeal to both the auto-didact and the merely curious; books that would enlighten and books that would provoke.

Of making books there is no end, observed Koheleth in his time, and it is no less true today. With less than a year under our belt, to date our podcasts have reached an amazing 58,353 listeners. That means each podcast is downloaded by anywhere from 1000 to 5000 listeners. The Van Leer series has become a book club for the omnivorous reader. It is a very large and growing book club, indeed.  Here’s how we do it.

We keep our eye on important books by journalists, like Yaakov Katz’s Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power, and Seth Frantzman’s After Isis: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East.

We bring authors of new ways to look at the familiar, such as Oren Harman’s Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World, and Benjamin Balint’s Jerusalem: City of the Book.

Jewish scholarship is well-represented, too. We spoke with Ayelet Hoffmann Libson about her book Law and Self-Knowledge in the Talmud and with Yaakob Dweck about Dissident Rabbi: The Life of Jacob Sasportas.

A question on many people’s minds these days is how our collective and individual mental health will fare following the trauma of this pandemic. To give us some perspective on the subject, we spoke with the world’s expert on post-traumatic growth, Richard Tedeschi, whose books are aimed at researchers, clinicians and the general public.

As a listener, you will be a member of a club that brings you new books by familiar authors, and introduces you to new authors for the very first time. You can explore them here.

Welcome to the club.

* In loving memory of Elon Joseph Garfinkel, book lover and auto-didact in subjects ranging from Astronomy to Zombies.

About the Author
Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, television commentator and podcast host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel
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