Hillel the Scribe Communications

editorial consulting ~ Web content ~ speechwriting
editing ~ feature writing ~ publicity ~ media relations



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Resources


2011 Rockower Award for Excellence in Personality Profiles (American Jewish Press Association)
"Omri Casspi: Our Man in Sacramento"

2003 Gold Medal Award for Feature Writing (Society of National Association Publications)
"World Trade Center Investigation a 'Labor of Love' for Medical Examiner PAs"


Professional

For this language/communications expert (that would be ... Hillel the Scribe!), reading these books recently has provided valuable insight into networking, marketing, customer service and thinking like a businessman. I welcome your suggestions for additional material on doing business, relating to clients and conveying to potential clients the importance of effective communications.
 
 Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

 Bill Stinnett, Think Like Your Customer: A Winning Strategy to Maximize Sales by Understanding How and Why Your Customers Buy

 
Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz, Never Eat Alone: The Ultimate Networker Reveals How to Build a Lifelong Community of Colleagues, Contacts, Friends, and Mentors

Jeff Howe, Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business

 Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

 David Kord Murray, Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the
Ideas of Others

 Michael Gill, How Starbucks Saved My Life: A down-and-out, ex-advertising executive takes a job at a Manhattan coffee shop and discovers the value of so-called menial work and of a respect-driven workplace.
    
Robert Sutton, The No-Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't: Coincidentally, I read this right after the Gill book -- quite the flip side! The lesson: One's attitude makes all the difference.
    
Marilyn Johnson, The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries: a terrific read on the journalists who write what often are the most popular, interesting articles in newspapers.

 Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle: Even for those not working in hi-tech or living in Israel, this book teaches the values of out-of-the-box, counterintuitive thinking; of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts; and of taking lemons and making lemonade from them.

Nick Tasler, The Impulse Factor: Why Some of Us Play It Safe and Others Risk It All: This is a most enlightening analysis on how the way we're wired to make decisions affects us at work and throughout life. 

Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: Happenstance led me to listen to this book-on-CD while interviewing for a government editing contract. (I got the contract.) Fogarty and her buddies Aardvark and Squiggly shooed wayward rules back into this editor's head. Thanks, Grammar Girl!
    
Dale Carnegie, How to Enjoy Your Life and Your Job: I went to the master for insight on relating to people and creating win-win situations at work and generally.

Michelle Goodman, My So-Called Freelance Life: a primer for the independent writer (or professional, generally) for finding and dealing with clients -- with lots of helpful tips.

Emily Yellin, Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us: How did corporate America sucker us to buy into its shell game -- voice prompts and electronic-faux humans: in; real people answering the phones: out -- to handle our service-related questions and complaints? Read, and prepare to be sickened by the cynicism you encounter.

Fugere, Hardaway and Warshawsky, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: Publications numbing us with jargon, sentences saying nothing and inside-baseball words devoid of meaning to real people -- these are the writers' targets in this helpful book. I vividly pictured the CD version's narrator, Alan Sklar, raising his eyelids at each new writing inanity; his verbal gestures delighted me as much as the content.

 Sarah Durham, Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money through Smart Communications: Nonprofits are advised to adopt basic marketing strategies from the corporate world. A real eye-opener for me.

 
Tom Peters, Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age: Having heard so much about this leading business/management consultant, I got to really hear him on his CD/book. Peters's every word diplays passion for his field and an eagerness to persuade us to "think weird" and to defy conventionalism.

 Mitch Joel, Six Pixels of Separation: The author insightfully probes the nexus of business opportunities and personal connections that digital communications afford us, while emphasizing the crucial importance of "branding" oneself as a quality professional.

 
Bernstein, Fraser and Schwab, Death to All Sacred Cows: How Successful Business People Put the Old Rules Out to Pasture: You can just hear the phzzz! of punctured balloons as the authors debunk the bunk behind staid workplace traditions. Their wise-guy cracks entertained, but sometimes were a bit too much schtick at the expense of the business matters at hand. Here's hoping for a Death to All Sacred Cows II!

 Alexander Hiam, Marketing for Dummies: I violated two principles by listening to this book-on-CD: avoiding both abridgements and the "dummies" series. (Hillel the Scribe is nobody's dummy!) This book, though, provided the primer I'd sought by laying out the basics of connecting to one's customers.

 
John Pollack, The Pun Also Rises: The book offers clever insight into the principles, history and communications value of puns. Who even knew that an annual pun-off exists? That's just too punny ...

Beth Kephart, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir: A book on good writing of the form that itself is beautifully crafted -- and with scores of recommendations on memoirs I'd now like to read. 

John McIntyre, The Old Editor Says: Maxims for Writing and Editing: A tight, even cute primer for those in my profession, written by Baltimore's copyediting master. Still, I found a typo ...


Personal
(all nonfiction, except where indicated)
    
Michael Wex, Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods and Just Say Nu: Yiddish for Every Occasion (When English Just Won't Do): I listened to these books on CD, and can imagine no more enjoyable way to commute than hearing the author examine the roots of Yiddish expressions. Want to laugh while learning a ton? Read -- better yet, listen to -- this book. 

Helene Hanff, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street: The author makes her long-dreamt-of visit to London and meets interesting people throughout.

Mark Bowden, The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL
an in-depth look at a championship game that marked America's seismic shift toward big-time professional sports -- and toward television's central role in that explosion.

James Hansen, First Man: Beyond the sometimes-excessive scientific detailing is a fine biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong. 

Lena Kuchler-Silberman, My Hundred Children (Hebrew): the memoir of a woman who survived the Holocaust and set aside a nascent career in Poland's academia to rehabilitate, through personal ministration and love, the lives of the orphaned and broken children who'd emerged from the horrors.

 Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million: a beautifully told, intensely personal story of the author's effort to account for all the details of both the lives of his uncle, aunt and four cousins in the family's ancestral village of Bolechow, Poland, and of their murders during the Holocaust. This book is the ultimate tribute to these six relatives, for Mendelsohn has restored their existence. It's precisely the kind of book I long to write.

Zev Chafets, A Match Made in Heaven: an engaging examination of evangelical Christian support for Israel.

Father Daniel Desbois, The Holocaust by Bullets: a French priest's interviews of elderly witnesses throughout Ukraine to document the hundreds of killing fields, pits and ravines. 

Brigitte Gabriel, They Must Be Stopped: a well-argued book on the dangers we in the West face from radical Islam, why we must defeat this enemy and how to do so.

Michael D'Antonio, Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles: an insightful biography that led me to, just maybe, reconsider the man whom Borough of Churches natives still vilify for uprooting their beloved team in 1957.

Bart Andrews, Lucy & Ricky & Fred & Ethel: The Story of I Love Lucy: an excellent history of how this
classic television show came to be.

Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries: a novel about an ordinary woman, born under unusual circumstances, living a plain life of many lows and few highs.


Bruce Markusen, The Team that Changed Baseball: an account of one of the first recognizably diverse clubs, the 1971 champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

Samuel Freedman, Who She Was: the journalist's lovingly told narrative of the family and social factors in the Bronx in the 1930s and 1940s that shaped the character of his deceased mother.

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: a smart book about the young woman whose cells, since her 1951 death from cancer, live on and continue to inform medical research -- and about the attendant ethical, racial, health and societal issues.

Mitch Albom, Have A Little Faith: A True Story: A series of Tuesdays With Morrie-like meetings teach the author how religion shaped the lives of his ever-positive elderly rabbi and of an ex-con black minister.

Donna Rosenthal, The Israelis: Ordinary People In An Extraordinary Land: The title says it all -- an enticing book each of whose chapters is devoted to the diverse ethnicities that make Israel such a special place.

David Maraniss, When Pride Still Mattered: a well written and comprehensive biography on football coaching legend Vince Lombardi.


 
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America: a novel playing out what may or may not have been a nightmare of a premise (depending on your perspective): Charles Lindbergh's winning the presidency in 1940.

Bruce Feiler, America's Prophet: Moses and America's Story: Who knew that American citizens and leaders, from Pilgrims to presidents, were so influenced by Moses and the exodus experience?

Ronald Kessler, In the President's Secret Service: If you enjoy behind-the-scenes examinations of how government agencies run -- in this case, the one protecting America's most important person -- read this book.

Lily Koppel, The Red Leather Diary: A journalist happens upon a junk heap, rescues a teenage girl's Depression-era journal, locates the now-90-year-old woman and reconstructs her earlier life. Another in the "I should have written this kind of book" category.

Jane Leavy, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy: This biography could have been terrific if the pitching great had agreed to be interviewed by the author.
 
Ram Oren, Gertruda's Oath: The heartwarming story of a Jewish boy (now in his 70s) in Warsaw whose nanny, a Polish-Catholic woman named Gertruda Babilinska, saved him from the Nazis and brought him to Israel, thus honoring her employer's final wish.


Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A procession of correspondence in a novel that reads like history: of a British island whose residents are recovering from the German occupation during World War II. The humor and pathos of these vivid characters had me pining to visit them on Guernsey someday, if only they were real.

Daniel Gordis, Saving Israel: The author lays out the well-known and lesser-known challenges Israel faces, and some of the solutions themselves seem equally daunting. Surely, one (or several) of the solutions will keep this great country on track to even greater flourishing.


D
eborah Lipstadt, The Eichmann Trial: Published a half-century following the landmark trial of the notorious Nazi war criminal, the slim book provides important context and depth. The author also covers the theme of Holocaust denial, an area with which, unfortunately, the historian-professor is all too familiar, having successfully defeated a suit brought in England by a Holocaust denier.

A.B. Yehoshua, A Woman in Jerusalem: A novel with a strong morality lesson: Do the right thing even when someone above you forces you into it -- and go the literal and figurative "extra mile" to get it done.

Julie Holland, Weekends at Bellevue: A physician offers an eye-opening account of the rewards and stresses of running the well-known Manhattan psychiatric hospital's emergency room. Unlike her many patients whom demons and the weight of the world drove into the building, Holland could (and did) check out voluntarily.


Margaret Sartor, Miss American Pie: A teenager's diary provides a peek at a turbulent period in her life in the Deep South, bookended by meaningful introductory and concluding perspectives of the now-51-year-old adult.

Bruce Feiler, Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness and the Men Who Could Be Me: The author of several watch-me-experience-history books changes it up, probing inward while fighting bone cancer. 

George Gilder, The Israel Test: The noted analyst's thesis is that the Islamic world's hostility to Israel centers on envy (a) of Israel's brainpower and (b) of its forward-looking mindset that encourages accomplishment and innovation and that aims to improve and protect the world. We ignore such hostility, he warns, at our peril.


Ted Gup, A Secret Gift: The author's grandfather's simple act of anonymously distributing $5 gifts to needy families in 1933 helped them cope with terrible financial pain and loss of morale during the Great Depression -- and revealed secrets the donor had hidden from his own relatives.

 
Giulio Meotti, A New Shoah: This Italian journalist writes movingly about many of the 1,557 Israelis whose lives were so needlessly and cruelly extinguished by Palestinian terrorists since peace broke out (if only!) in 1993. The victims' families' pain, and the world's great loss, is apparent in every paragraph.

 J
essica Stern, Denial: A Memoir of Terror: Bravery? The Harvard professor researches terrorists on their own turf. Greater courage? She pursues the truth about the man who raped her and her sister four decades ago, in the process gaining great insight into her beloved father's own childhood trauma.

 
Josh Wilker, Cardboard Gods: An All-American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards: Recalling his childhood in the mid-to-late 1970s, the author relates (quite movingly and humorously) the turbulence of his family life to the real and imagined experiences of some of the ballplayers whose cardboard likenesses he collected.

 Peter Walsh, It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life With Less Stuff: If something no longer holds meaning and doesn't contribute to the life we aspire to lead, junk it. That's this amiable Australian's message for Americans unable to part with items they (okay: we) don't need but refuse to trash.
 
 
Gregory Levey, Shut Up, I'm Talking, and Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government: A Canadian studying law in New York lands a job at Israel's UN mission -- and nearly sparks a diplomatic storm with his imprecise French. It's Levey in the fairly absurd role of Forrest Gump or Zelig -- or, if he'd risen a few more rungs, Peter Sellers's character in Being There.

 Sue Fishkoff, Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority: If you want to know what makes meat and fish species kosher, the Bible will tell you. Factory-produced and chemical-laced ingredients are far trickier, so the author followed supervisors around the world to portray the methods by which they determine whether a product -- even a head of lettuce -- earns a coveted kosher seal of approval.

 Jerry West and Jonathan Coleman, West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life: The basketball star reveals his life-long depression and its source, which didn't adversely affect his playing and executive careers, but  perhaps fostered an inability to really enjoy his marvelous-by-any-measure accomplishments.

 Abraham Millgram, Jewish Worship: This is a comprehensive, thorough examination of the development and meaning of specific prayers. It's really a terrific primer.

 David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: This non-Jewish historian's valuable study constitutes both a damning indictment of America's failure to lift a finger to rescue European Jews and a case study in bureaucrats' and politicians' ugly cynicism and callousness. 

 Martin Fletcher, Walking Israel: The long-time NBC reporter hikes Israel's Mediterrean coast and writes thematically about the people he meets from top to bottom: geographically and societally.

 
Hillel Halkin, A Strange Death: No sooner does this American writer/essayist/translator move to an Israeli village in 1970 than he immerses himself in its World War I spy scandal and, 40 years later, publishes such a poetic work. Such writing! Such a first name!

 Frank Deford, Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter: Professional memoirs necessarily tend toward the me-me, and Deford's has a pinch of that -- but acceptably, even powerfully, so in documenting athletes and athletics. His masterful writing ranges from evoking pathos (yes, pathos) for Wilt Chamberlain to humor in relating visiting players' jaunts through the North Station gauntlet (in uniform!) to reach Boston Garden for their games.  

Eli Saslow, Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President: a lovely book about each of the 10 people profiled who (like us all) struggle with various life challenges and who wrote to President Obama to vent and even to seek solutions, never dreaming that he actually reads some letters every day -- and, in their cases, wrote back.

Tom Dunkel, Color Blind: The Forgotten Team that Broke Baseball's Color Line: Neil Churchill of 1930s Bismarck, North Dakota, assembled a championship team of the best players: black and white alike, including the great Satchel Paige. Who knew? Answer: All baseball fans, and those striving for a fairer society, should.

 Lucette Lagnado, The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: An exquisite, heartbreaking portrait of the writer's family (especially, her father) in Cairo and their exile in New York. The Lagnados' ordeal personalizes the crime effected by Nasser in vanquishing
an entire culture.

Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption: The evocative tale of Louis Zamperini, a runner in the 1936 Olympics whose greatest feat was surviving 47 days on a raft after his bomber crashed into the Pacific, then two-plus years of brutal treatment in Japanese P.O.W. camps.

Patti Smith, Just Kids: The N.Y. underground rock singer began her career as a poet, and moved in with another fresh and struggling artist, Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith's book vividly evokes a period and a special friendship; I wanted to know more about what motivated his unusual art.

Mark Leibovich, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral -- Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! -- in America's Gilded Capital: The title says it all about Washington's self-absorption. Dig in for all the juicy examples. I wonder whether Tim Russert engaged in the same nonsense that transpired during his funeral.

 
Sam Hoffman and Eric Spiegelman, Old Jews Telling Jokes: 5,000 Years of Funny Bits and Not-So-Kosher Laughs: Trust me here: LISTEN to this book. A quibble: The often-compelling introductions of the amateur jokesters should have been expanded.

Matthew Algeo, Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The recently retired president and wife Bess drove from their Missouri home to New York and back, stopping for soda, fill-ups, lodging and meals like ordinary people -- no Secret Service, and very little press coverage. A sweet trip for them, and a sweet trip back in time for us.

Michael Lewis, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game: Out-of-the-box thinking, challenging orthodoxy, confidence in one's reasoned conclusions -- these are approaches as apt in life as in assembling a baseball team, as Oakland general manager Billy Beane teaches us.

Sonia Taitz, The Watchmaker's Daughter: A poignant memoir of a girl coming of age in 1960s-era Manhattan with Holocaust-survivor parents whose embrace is both sweet and stifling. The writing peaks late in the book with a series of powerfully told reconciliations.

Michael Lavigne, Not Me: This novel's protagonist confronts the unfathomable while reading his dying father's journals: Was the old man, indeed, a Holocaust survivor or ... a functionary in the German war machine? Either scenario is plausible, and only in the last 10 pages do we learn the truth.

Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness: The author was killed in a 2012 car accident at age 23, but left behind some superb essays and fiction that her parents compiled here. My fave, "Why We Care About Whales," is a thoughtful, human, humane, mature essay -- in just six pages. Read it.

Tim Madigan, I'm Proud of You: My Friendship with Mr. Rogers: The TV icon always impresses as a caring and sincere. In this book, he's angelic. A bond Fred Rogers forged with the journalist who'd interviewed him deepened into a brother-like, father-like, even God-like empathy for the friend enduring very difficult times. This short book could make you cry, stun you and affirm your hopes for mankind at its best.

Ben Montgomery, Grandma Gatewood's Walk: An Ohio woman endured a difficult life and an abusive husband, never losing a love for the outdoors. At 67, in 1955, she went for a walk -- a 2,050-mile walk -- to become the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. She completed it twice more. It's never too late to act ... or to inspire.

William Gildea, When the Colts Belonged to Baltimore: A Father and a Son, a Team and a Time: A masterpiece at illuminating, like the sun setting behind St. Joseph's Monastery, an era when a football club and a city and a family bonded. The glue adhered me to the epoch. Buddy Deane, Buddy Young and Art Donovan, come ye back.

Agnes Grunwald-Spier, The Other Schindlers: Why Some People Chose to Save Jews in the Holocaust: Many books tell of righteous Europeans who rescued their Jewish neighbors. More heroes were needed; more books are, too. This one reveals the good done. Janos Toth, Vali Racz, Robert Maistriau, et al.: may your memories be blessed.

R.J. Palacio, Wonder: A sweet novel about a boy with a facial deformity trying to be just a boy as those around him see the deformity first. It's written for youth, but was a perfectly appropriate, even powerful, work with which to kick off our adults-only book club.

Yossi Klein Halevi, Like Dreamers: An engaging narrative of the Israeli paratroopers brigade that reunited Jerusalem in 1967's Six-Day War, told through profiles of the soldiers in all their left-right/secular-observant/ socialist-capitalist diversity -- and perfect timing, reading it during the jubilee celebration.

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