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Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures…
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Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million… (2004)

by Aaron Lansky

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7583417,927 (4.34)124
  1. 93
    Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley (lorax)
    lorax: There are two obvious ways to go from "Outwitting History"; the other recommendations cover a specific interest in Yiddish. For a general interest in linguistic preservation and revival, "Spoken Here" is a fascinating read, including a chapter on Yiddish.
  2. 00
    Songs for the Butcher's Daughter by Peter Manseau (SqueakyChu)
  3. 00
    The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (sneuper)
    sneuper: Both books are about an effort of rescuing books from the hands of Nazi’s who want to destroy the heritage of the Jewish people.
  4. 00
    The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: 'the same story, 'cept suburban Long Island isn't as "sporty" as Mali...
  5. 00
    Essential Yiddish books : 1000 great works from the collection of the National Yiddish Book Center by Zachary M. Baker (gangleri)
  6. 01
    The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: After learning about the slow disappearance of Yiddish, grab hold of this book and learn a some Yiddish words and their meanings. All is explained with grace and humor.
  7. 01
    History of the Yiddish Language: Volumes 1 and 2 (Yale Language) (v. 1 and v. 2) by Max Weinreich (bertilak)
  8. 01
    A Treasury of Yiddish Stories by Irving Howe (bertilak)
  9. 01
    Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods by Michael Wex (aces)
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» See also 124 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
In the late 1970s, Lansky began taking college Yiddish classes and soon found that it was quite difficult to find books in Yiddish, so he began taking them in. As word got out that he was accepting them, more and more people started calling with books for him to take. In the process, he learned a whole lot about Jewish culture, particularly in the aftermath of WWII, and of the often conflicting views of Yiddish as both language and social construct. I am not Jewish and the only Yiddish I know are the few words that have trickled into American English (kibbitz, tchotchke, etc.), so this book took me into quite unfamiliar territory. Which is really the best part about books. ( )
  melydia | Jun 17, 2018 |
Did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. A happenstance mission to save all the Yiddish books, worldwide, becomes a grassroot journey, driven by the author, with many a mishap, history lesson and sit down dinner. The stories told by the numerous book donators were heartwarming, heartbreaking and humorous. I picked up a few Yiddish words that are now part of my vocabulary and learned a lot about the tenacity of preservation. A truly amazing story of how driving dilapidated rental trucks with nickle and dime finances eventually led to a multi-million dollar library housing over a million Yiddish publications. A Bravo! read. ( )
  CherylGrimm | Sep 6, 2017 |
Did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. A happenstance mission to save all the Yiddish books, worldwide, becomes a grassroot journey, driven by the author, with many a mishap, history lesson and sit down dinner. The stories told by the numerous book donators were heartwarming, heartbreaking and humorous. I picked up a few Yiddish words that are now part of my vocabulary and learned a lot about the tenacity of preservation. A truly amazing story of how driving dilapidated rental trucks with nickle and dime finances eventually led to a multi-million dollar library housing over a million Yiddish publications. A Bravo! read. ( )
  CherylGrimm | Aug 10, 2017 |
The author heads an organization that rescues books in Yiddish. His mission started out small and the organization still saves, reprints, translates, and digitizes books for readers, students and teachers around the world. With historical events conspiring against the continued existence of Yiddish literature, it’s amazing that the author and his organization continues to thrive … and the building has become a popular tourist attraction.

Outwitting History is filled with stories about some of the book-collection adventures Aaron Lansky and his helpers embarked on. They were picking up books from owners who were either deceased or heading to a nursing home. Sometimes they were on a true rescue mission – saving books before they were thrown into a dumpster or a burn pile. Occasionally, they would find a treasure – a book that had been thought be lost forever, including one that was the only book in entire print run that was saved from torching by the Russian secret police in 1929. And the characters they met!

Outwitting History is a book that made me laugh and cry, often at the same time. What more can be said about a book? ( )
  NewsieQ | Mar 26, 2017 |
The amazing story of a young man who discovers that as older Jews are dying, their Yiddish books are being discarded. He starts asking for the books and ends up creating a massive library of Yiddish literature, saving it from oblivion. Inspiring and exciting reading. ( )
  Colby_Glass | Jul 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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Aaron Lanskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The phone rang at midnight. That wasn't unusual. Older Jews often waited until the rates went down before phoning me about their Yiddish books.
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Sometimes it seemed that Yiddish was a Rorschach test: Young people, especially, saw in it what they wanted to see. For atheists it was Jewishness without religion; for feminists, Judaism free from patriarchy; for those uncomfortable with Israeli politics, nationalism without Zionism; for socialists, the voice of proletarian struggle; for more contemporary radicals, a shtokh to the establishment.
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Book description
Lansky was a 23-year-old graduate student in 1980 when he came up with an idea that would take over his life and change the face of Jewish literary culture: He wanted to save Yiddish books. With few resources save his passion and ironlike determination, Lansky and his fellow dreamers traveled from house to house, Dumpster to Dumpster saving Yiddish books wherever they could find them—eventually gathering an improbable 1.5 million volumes, from famous writers like Sholem Aleichem and I.B. Singer to one-of-a-kind Soviet prints. In his first book, Lansky charmingly describes his adventures as president and founder of the National Yiddish Book Center, which now has new headquarters at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. To Lansky, Yiddish literature represented an important piece of Jewish cultural history, a link to the past and a memory of a generation lost to the Holocaust. Lansky's account of salvaging books is both hilarious and moving, filled with Jewish humor, conversations with elderly Jewish immigrants for whom the books evoke memories of a faraway past, stories of desperate midnight rescues from rain-soaked Dumpsters, and touching accounts of Lansky's trips to what were once thriving Jewish communities in Europe. The book is a testimony to his love of Judaism and literature and his desire to make a difference in the world.
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(3zsIncredible . . . Inspiring . . . Important.(3y s?Library Journal, starred review (3zsA marvelous yarn, loaded with near-calamitous adventures and characters as memorable as Singer creations.(3y s?The New York Post (3zsWhat began as a quixotic journey was also a picaresque romp, a detective story, a profound history lesson, and a poignant evocation of a bygone world.(3y s?The Boston Globe (3zsEvery now and again a book with near-universal appeal comes along: Outwitting History is just such a book.(3y s?The Sunday Oregonian As a twenty-three-year-old graduate student, Aaron Lansky set out to save the world?s abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late. Today, more than a million books later, he has accomplished what has been called (3zsthe greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history.(3y sIn Outwitting History, Lansky shares his adventures as well as the poignant and often laugh-out-loud stories he heard as he traveled the country collecting books. Introducing us to a dazzling array of writers, he shows us how an almost-lost culture is the bridge between the old world and the future?and how the written word can unite everyone who believes in the power of great literature. A Library Journal Best Book A Massachusetts Book Award Winner in Nonfiction An ALA Notable Boo… (more)

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