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There are people out there, millions of them, who act as if they still believe everything that their mothers told them in the first six months of their life: they're the nicest, most beautiful, most promising and intelligent bags of flesh ever to walk the earth, and anybody who can't see it is a jealous fool.
We call these people shmucks. In How to Be a Mentsh (and Not a Shmuck), bestselling author Michael Wex offers a wise and witty guide to being a good human being, regardless of your religion or beliefs—a blueprint for living a decent and moral life, acting with self-control instead of self-denial, and winning through cooperation rather than competition.
But this is no dull manual about loving thy neighbor. It's a fast-paced and entertaining adventure in the wisdom of the ages, wherever that wisdom may be found: Yiddish proverbs, current events, Talmudic stories, movies, television, and more. Referencing pop culture and Jewish tradition with equal ease, Wex explores the strategies developed by an oppressed people to pursue happiness with their dignity—and sense of humor—intact.
Novelist, lecturer, and translator Michael Wex is one of the leading lights in the revival of Yiddish, and author of the New York Times bestseller Born to Kvetch and its follow-up, Just Say Nu.
“Funny...astute and relevant.”
-San Francisco Chronicle
“…blessed with humor, grace and a well-developed sense of contemporary pop culture (references range from Genesis to Groundhog Day) ... a consistent pleasure: entertaining, educational…with more than a few thought-provoking suggestions for achieving mentsh-hood (or at least avoiding shmuck-itude).”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The Sneaky Chef of contemporary Jewish culture…Wex writes books that look and read like snacks, but he hides scholarly vegetables between the covers…Wex has achieved on the bookshelf what Hillel advised that we all do in life: In a place where there are no mentshn, try to be a mentsh.”
“Just superb….The book is funny, too, and is certainly the finest explanation of the religious significance of The Apartment and Groundhog Day. Talmud, Torah, Jack Lemmon, Bill Murray--need I say more?”
-Mark Oppenheimer, author of Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America
“[A]n often humorous and frequently provocative guide to being a good person, a mentsh....This book reflects extensive learning, serious thought, a sense of the absurd and the unfair, as well as an impish willingness to play the mazik (scamp).”
-Jewish Book World
“[S]uperb...brilliant...[O]ne of the leading lights in the Yiddish revival, Michael Wex distills the age-old principles that have been the nucleus of Jewish survival...into some relevant lessons, delightful anecdotes, and real-world applications for not just Judaism but all faiths.”
-Sacramento Book Review