This book was dictated by Jan Karski to a bilingual (Polish-English) secretary in a Manhattan hotel room during the summer of 1944. It was published that November in the US and was an immediate best-seller. It is now published in the UK for the first time, a very worthy Penguin Classic.
Although more books are being published than ever before, it's not enough to write well and have led an interesting life for your memoir to end up in bookshops. You usually have to be famous, too, or at least have had a childhood mired in misery.
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is an unusual type of public intellectual. He is an outstanding teacher, with enormous personal authority; a more than prolific author; a source of advice for leading politicians; a moralist, a biblical and talmudic scholar and a philosopher.
Sitting on the train reading comedian Mark Thomas's book, Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel's Barrier, I'm approached by a young woman who wants to know where to get it. "I'm a fan," she says, "and so is my brother, who lives in Israel. I think it will be interesting, not that there'll be any surprises. He is so pro-Palestinian."
When she was interviewed for the Radio 3 programme, Private Passions - in which guests tell Michael Berkeley about their favourite pieces of music - Nicole Krauss worried why she had chosen such melancholy pieces. Berkeley reassured her: "They are the pieces that move us most."
Back in the day, a New York detective's station boss was known - in the jargon - as his rabbi. Well, when it comes to the movies, Philip French is mine. Okay, his reviews, which have appeared regularly in the Observer for longer than I can remember, are not holy writ, but they are surely talmudic.