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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  999 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Based upon the Bible, archaeological notebooks, and the writings of scribes, this work chronicles the six thousand years of Jewish history from Sumer, through medieval Christendom, to modern secular societies.
Mass Market Paperback, 576 pages
Published March 12th 1982 by Fawcett (first published 1978)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  999 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this work, Potok outlines the narrative of Jewish history against the canvas of world history. The Jewish people have influenced and been influenced by the world in equal measure.
Book One outlines the struggle of the Hebrew Nation, against the backdrop of ancient paganism. He discusses the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia, before introducing Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrew Nation, who migrated from Ur in southern Mesopotamia, to Canaan, as recorded in the Biblical narrative.
Each chap
Lewis Weinstein
a marvelous overview of the sweep of Jewish history from biblical to post-holocaust times ... Potok has done enormous research and his writing is, as would be expected, expressive and easy to read
Apr 12, 2010 rated it liked it
I upgraded to three stars out of sheer Jewish guilt. The kind my Grandmother would be proud of. But Potok's treatment of most aspects of culture, Jewish and non-Jewish, are at times not just a-historical, but disrespectful. I got through almost 450 pages of the book before the feeling that I was reading something a bit ridiculous hit critical mass -- Potok literally refuses to address Reform Judaism. He calls them "enlightened or assimilated Jews" in a condescending tone for 4 pages and then fun ...more
Gustav Dinsdag
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: jewish-history
I wasn 't exactly looking forward to picking up Wanderings. But I had a reason for giving it a try.

When I was growing up, the Jewish tragedy was often present in our family, all be it in a vague historic mist. Things had happened, unspeakable things. As a kid, the closest I came to these horrors was my grandfather showing me his yellow star and his ausweis with the big 'J' on it every time I visited him and my (non-jewish) grandmother.

I had a crazy uncle who was seeing nazis everywhere. The wo
Al Johnson
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chaim Potok never disappoints, and Wanderings is a fantastic example of his ability to blend narrative style, personal observation, and global perspective while maintaining the core understanding of the history of Jewish diaspora in a myriad of communities and times. Easily one of the more readable books on Diaspora, Potok brings perspective to each with continuity, balance, and a look at his own inner journey that many of us take via our own wanderlust through life and the globe.

Highly recommen
Nov 24, 2018 added it
This book is impossible for me to give a single rating, but after spending a year in it I need to review the experience.
Readability/Understandability- 5 stars. Potok is, after all, a story teller.
Historical Accuracy- unknown, because I’m a novice at the topic, but the way he told of some eras with so much simplicity and lack of differing views, and the places where he imposed value systems from later centuries on historical figures (Moses was just a civil rights activist?) makes me suspicious.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
have officially given up on this book, after reading over 100 pages. i loved potok's novels, and i was hoping that his history of the jews would hold my interest as well as his jewish fictions--but alas. his writing is middling: he does not write with the authority of an expert (which he admittedly is not), but still attempts to cover as much ground as he can (the book is huge, given the subject matter). potok's novelistic tendencies betray him here, leading to him speculate rather unhelpfully a ...more
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This happens: a man will perform a sudden unthinking act of heroism or horror, and then spend much of his life in an effort to penetrate into himself and search out the hidden source of his deed. Often there is no source other than the irrationality that is the underground ocean upon which our species floats. Often he will invent a source, and that will be his frail raft of reason. But on occasion he will discover feelings and ideas buried deep within himself, frightening ideas, for they are at ...more
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. It's the first history of the Jewish people I have read so I'm limited in my approach to authentication, I plan on reading Paul Johnson's History of the Jews next, so I'll see.
Over all it was expansive and imaginative. Potok's knack for understanding the motives of historical characters is a testament to his outstanding credentials as a novelist. I hate the phrase "they bring the characters to life," but, yeah he did. At least in a providential way considering the limitation
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
A novelist's view of a complex religious history: combines bibilical scholarship, archeology, and imagination. Really interesting. Reading my Revised Standard Bible in conjunction.

5/8/10. Have been reading this in bits and pieces. As I read, I think of The Source, which I read one cold mini-term in the house at Knox, Manfred Mann's Earth Band providing the constant musical back drop. That's the main fictional book I've read about the history of Israel, and I'm just about at the point where Potok
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Picked this up somewhat by accident, as I was very impressed by some of Potok's novels (especially Asher Lev). As there, in Wanderings he is not afraid to push boundaries, hypothesizing rational explanations of biblical miracles, giving considerable weight to a little-known messianic episode in early modern Jewish history - one of the more interesting details for me - and taking a critical look at Jewish efforts to integrate into European society over the past few centuries. The book also shines ...more
Nov 06, 2008 rated it liked it
i enjoyed wanderings a great deal, although about 50% of the book could have been excised without seriously disrupting the parts i found really fascinating -- the patriarchal period, the transition from cult-based to Rabbinic Judaism, the shifting centers of Rabbinic thought from Jerusalem to Babylon, and then to Cordova in Muslim Spain, western Europe, and finally to eastern Europe and the United States. Also of interest (for me) was his tracing of the development of anti-Semitism, and how it b ...more
Phenomenal. If you know a fair bit about history (which I do), and are not Jewish (and I'm not) it's very, very interesting to see it all presented through a slightly different lens. I know the bible pretty well (Xian, not Jewish, but that makes little difference BCE), and I know a good bit about ancient history thanks to museums (mostly the ROM, but some others as well), but I'm not used to thinking about them much in the context of each other, and this book is really good at that. It's also a ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Being fascinated by Jewish history this book is over the top in details. It begins way before what I would consider recorded history (man's, not the Bible's) and brings out details I had no idea about. For example that the Jewish people were a very important part of Polish history and were well respected citizens there long before Hitler came into power. Deep deep deep, but so interesting. This is a great reference book but since I am not buying books right now - will have to wait to see if I bu ...more
David Abramowitz
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very very thorough survey of Jewish history from before time of Abraham to time of publication. As Potok moves through the stories of the Bible it can read like a very nicely written list, with side trips to the various grand nations of the ancient world (Sumer, Egypt, etc.). Its tone is mainly journalistic with echoes of nostalgia and mourning. Potok conveys a deep sense of empathy for the Jews of prior ages, none more so than the generations of the 18th through 20th centuries.

TLDR: a great su
David Stutzman
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Written with a authors flow and narrative, this book covers the story of the Jews through the books of the Bible, through the Middle Ages and to the present. I found this book very helpful in understanding the scope and story of the Jewish history and it was poignant in illuminating the context of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. I also found the chapters on the Middle Ages to be fascinating in regard to the Messianic figures that emerged out of the dire situation of the diaspora.
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
This year were studying the Old Testament in Sunday school. I'm reading this to supplement my studies so it may take me awhile to get through this book. I'll be going through it slowly and it's over 400 pages long, to boot.its also a textbook size book. Well I didn't actually read every word, I used it as a reference book. It offered information that helped me get a better understanding of the Old Testament. We'll be studying the Old Testament again in four years, so I'll get back to it then. ...more
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bethany by: My Pop
Brother Mead would be so proud - of my own volition I am learning history. This is a TEXT book, but what an aid to the Bible....a Jew's look at the historical context surrounding Old Testament happenings. Takes work to ingest and retain what I'm reading but about 20% of the way in I've decided it's well worth the effort. ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Knowing very little of Jewish history, I learned a lot and got answers to several questions I'd been mulling over for years. Where did the Jewish people come from, originally? How did this Palestinian mess happen, and why is peace such an impossible goal? I think, for Jews and non-Jews alike, this is a book that provides a great, real, and educated perspective on Judaism. ...more
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book in conjunction with a religion class in college. Very well written. Definitely not a lighthearted easy read, but if you want some guts go ahead and pick it up. Follows the history of the Jews through the bible, interesting perspective.
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
I haven't actually read this book completely through. I started it, but it was too boring. It is a non-ficion about the beginnings of the Jewish religion. It was interesting for a while, but then I got distracted by other books and so I quit reading it. ...more
Victoria Stevens
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I learned more of the history of the sacred writings and of the peoples of the Book from Chaim Potok's "Wanderings" than I have in churches and parochial schools and University. Thank you for this in-depth and loving review. ...more
Elizabeth Almeida
Aug 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love the subject and I was looking for a book that could me teach a little bit about Judaism. Sometimes it was a little boring but in general it is a great book for people who is looking for understanding the culture and what this people went thru for centuries.
Dec 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Sorry, not for me. As much as I liked 'Chosen', I disliked this one. Wanted to finish, really tried, but ...
Overly wordy, watered down and slow. Maybe 50 years ago this would've been OK. But now, I certainly have better books to read.
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! If you want some serious/educational/heavy reading about the's beautiful, of course. ...more
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
A powerful, somewhat autobiographical read about the upbringing of a Jewish boy. Very thought-provoking, which can be no surprise, since it is Potok, after all.
Jul 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Very interesting book about the history of the Jews from a Jew; it gave me many insights into the Bible
Jul 17, 2008 rated it liked it
This book has been menacing my shelves for a quarter of a century, now I'm finally reading it. Moderately compelling, but no competition with Barbara Tuchman or Karen Armstrong. ...more
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive and thorough compendium of the travels of the Jewish people across the centuries. A truly amazing work.
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book shed so much light on the Old Testament. It's a long read, full of detail and history, but SO interesting! ...more
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Overall 1 7 Nov 13, 2008 03:51PM  

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Herman Harold Potok, or Chaim Tzvi, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants. He received an Orthodox Jewish education. After reading Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited as a teenager, he decided to become a writer. He started writing fiction at the age of 16. At age 17 he made his first submission to the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Although it wasn't published, he received a n ...more

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