"A Gifted, committed imagination"
The New York Times


Praise for SIX MEMOS

Published also in China and Taiwan

Reviewers' Choice, 2016, Foreward Reviews

“Incisive ... a learned, interdisciplinary dance ... a gem ... The holistic nature of Skibell's project will draw even skeptics in.” —Foreward Reviews, five stars

“Deliciously enigmatic … highly readable, and deeply thought-provoking. Skibell unpacks these stories … to mesmerizing effect. He presents the Talmud’s treatment of its own authors as both role models and warnings, a remarkably self-reflective approach that is needed today perhaps more than ever.” —Avraham Bronstein, jewishbookcouncil.org

“Skibell creates an intoxicating read on these sacred narratives ... There is much modern wisdom to be found here as Skibell unveils a picture of holiness that is holistic as well as reverential.” —Library Journal

“A deep dive into the mysteries of the Talmud … A fresh look at an ancient source ... In choosing a handful of colorful, almost mythic tales from the Talmud as starting points, Skibell freely journeys from each as a creative writer and, perhaps more importantly, as a student. [His] work is lucid and erudite, and he does honor to his subject matter ... For readers less acquainted with Talmudic teachings, his work will be a challenge worth the effort.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Charmingly personal... Novelist and essayist Skibell turns his attention to the ancient narratives that appear in the Talmud." —Publishers Weekly

“Skibell takes age-old stories and breathes new life into them. He reads … the Talmud’s tales with a storyteller’s insight … to find what wisdom they can give to our modern age … Wild, rude, and even racy, these writings are transcendent … instilling a sense of awe in the reader. Skibell takes us through the Talmud with its stories and teaches us to pay attention to both what is said and what is unsaid.” —reviewsbyamoslassen.com

“Creative, learned and playful ... illumnates the Talmudic tales and pesonalities with clarity and wisdom.” —Rabbi David Wolpe, Temple Sinai, author of David: The Divided Heart

“A master storyteller ... applies his storytelling skill to tales from the Masters, unpacking them with rare sensitivity and artistry... Written with color and wit, this book is an exercise in the pleasures of reading.” —Jacob L. Wright, Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Emory University, and author of David, King of Israel, in Biblical Memory

“Instead of a more typical reading of the stories as history, or even a literary analysis of the stories themselves, Skibell finds these episodes to be mythic, larger than life… Each of the five chapters, or memos from the past, is based around a series of aggadic stories that is reprinted in translation and then elucidated. Skibell’s own writing is thick and lushly layered, providing a compelling contrast to his source material.” —The Jewish Voice

“Intriguing ... beguiling ... Skibell uses his imagination to examine the emotions and psychology behind several Talmudic tales. A resounding success.” —The Reporter Group

“As a novelist … Skibell brings fresh eyes to these stories … squeezing the juice out of the very terse style of the Talmud … and form[ing] rich psychological portraits of the rabbis.” —Jewish News of Northern California

“I finished Six Memos reading and thinking -- maybe even living -- more deliberately and intelligently.” —W. Mark Lanier, founder, Lanier Theological Library, and author of Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith



Published also in Canada

Excerpts featured in the Utne Reader, Commentary Magazine, LitHub, the Millions & Tablet Magazine

Included in "Best of 2016," Forward

“[Joseph Skibell is] a bit of a wise shaman sharing his gently amusing, offbeat life lessons. There’s something unusually endearing and sweet about the 16 "true stories” in My Father's Guitar and Other Imaginary Things.”—NPR.org

“A humorous archaeologist: curious, probing, and droll ... In My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things, Skibell makes ordinary experiences extraordinary. There’s an honesty in his writing … the ability to humanize his subjects with a gentle, forgiving perception ... The book becomes more than a collection of essays; it’s a chronicle of experience and aging, the process within which a part of us — no matter how much we resist it — inevitably echoes our parents.” —Washington Independent Review of Books

“It’s easy to see why a writer blurbing this book describes [Skibell] as a ‘literary Louis CK.’ These shards of life have the feel of the standup performances you might hear at New York’s The Moth.” —Toronto Star

“[Skibell's] true stories ... are full of humor and wisdom.” —Tikkun Magazine

“I enjoyed the personal whimsy and occasional profundity of Joseph Skibell’s “My Father’s Guitar,” a collection of autobiographical and stylish stories.” —Dan Friedman, "Best of 2016," The Forward

“[Joseph Skibell] manages to find humor and self-effacing wit even while contemplating his own mortality and possibly defective memory. Skibell discovers that even when writing so-called ‘true’ stories, all lives are filled with imaginary things.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution

“The voice is so beguiling, the tone so sweet and hilarious, you quickly realize that you are in the hands of a master . . . Mr. I. B. Singer, meet Mr. Twain. This is a book to be prized in the way readers prize the work of Charles Portis.” —James Magnuson, author of Famous Writers I Have Known

“Humorous and heartfelt . . . Whether the stories are mere snapshots or more extended, [Skibell] writes with a humor that flies under the radar until a joke pops up with a well-timed zing. The emotional core of the stories, though, revolves largely around Skibell’s choppy relationship with his strict father. Skibell looks back on their differences with the emotional maturity that comes with time and distance, and his recollections, both funny and somber, resound with feeling.” —Booklist

“Colorful and endearing ... real-life anecdotal ponderings focused on familial ties and how life's eternal cycle of enchantment and disillusionment somehow sustains us. A memoir/essay collection of consistently heartfelt and enlightening morsels of humanity.” —Kirkus Reviews

“When [Skibell] turns quietly to the spaces we occupy in real life . . . a wink of illusion and philosophy can be expected . . . Skibell writes with the insight of a philosopher, conveying his ideas with the beauty of a craftsman.” —ArtsATL.Com

“Stories? These wise and humane offerings aren’t stories; they’re musical notes, from a master composer. And they swirl and swell and come together and echo one another to create a concerto of love and sadness and warmth and humor that will linger in your memory long after reading, as the best music always does.” —Jeremy Dauber, author of The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem

“Joseph Skibell’s immense skills as an imaginative and lyrical novelist serve him well in these touching essays about memory and mysticism. You'll laugh and also feel a little bit achy as you hear the voice of an extraordinary storyteller and a wise and witty friend.” —Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

“The brilliant novelist detours from fiction with this collection of 16 essays . . . deeply moving, slyly funny meditations on the limits of memory, the meaning of ghosts, and the value of stories.” —Atlanta Magazine

“[A] 16-piece dessert of a book.” —American Jewish World.com

“Like a literary Louis CK, Skibell is not shy about exposing the foibles of the man he has become, or his clumsy pursuits of happiness.” —Bret Wood, writer/director, The Unwanted

“Insightful essays that are a bit quirky, charming, and disarmingly funny.” —Detroit Jewish News

“A collection of true stories by an award-winning novelist, My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things ... touches on the small moments in life — the daily annoyances, slip-ups, intimacies and mysteries.” —The Jewish Week

“Charming and memorable . . . Read this very special book for yourself, then pass it on to someone who hopes to become a writer.” —Hudson Valley News (Millbrook, NY)

“Reading Joseph Skibell is like being strapped in for a favorite carnival ride.” —Frank Reiss, owner, A Cappella Books






Featured in “Newly Released” column, New York Times

Included in “10 Titles to Pick up Now,” O Magazine

"Best Novel of 2010," Atlanta Magazine

Included in "Best Jewish Novels of the Year," Jewish Ideas Daily

Featured in “Literary Smackdown” with David Mitchell’s "A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," Baby Got Books

Featured in “Recommended Reading,” San Francisco Chronicle

"Editor’s Choice," Denver Post

“Parade Pick,” Parade Magazine

Starred Pre-Pub Reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and BookList

Published also in Great Britain & Canada

“A young man falls in love, befriends Sigmund Freud, and learns that the object of his desire may be possessed by the ghost of his ex-wife— all in the opening chapters of Joseph Skibell’s wonderfully surreal new novel. The story of passion, faith, and fate that follows is both funny and thoughtful.” —Parade magazine

“There are moments of joy, love, and, yes, long-delayed sex even as A Curable Romantic shifts gears from mystery to history to something approximating Dante’s Paradiso with few snags in the author’s skilled yarnspinning. Skibell bends the English language to his will as he examines the power of language to alienate and unite.” —The Austin Chronicle

“This is a fascinating, ambitious, and very successful novel about Jewish folklore, the quest for spiritual truth, and the darkest days of the 20th century. As he did in A Blessing on the Moon, Skibell blends gritty realism with elements of fantasy and magical realism . . . It is to Skibell’s credit that this complex plot comes of as believable, engaging, and of en inspiring.” —Library Journal, starred review

“It’s a high-energy, wild performance, as ample as its protagonist’s appetites; the postmodern Jewish novel as mash-up of genres: Yiddish folktale, sentimental education, Freudian case history, erotic confession, utopian parable, all wrapped up in an ‘alternative history’ of Jewish emancipation, haunted by the figure of Dreyfus and intoxicated with the heady pleasures of the Esperanto tongue. And toward the end, the novel becomes a metaphysical jeu d’esprit that is perversely naturalistic, superbly comic, and in the bargain, heartrending . . . In Skibell’s masterful hands, the novel speaks like a dybbuk from within modern Jewish history, telling a story of crooked futures and unknowable hearts.” —The New Republic

“The past here is bathed in a soft-focus filter, cloaked in gaslights and cigar smoke, brought to life with stylistic flair and linguistic pizazz, complete with multilingual translations and breathless enthusiasm. Sammelsohn, like Zelig, is there to see it all.” —The Dallas Morning News

“Jakob Sammelsohn is the ‘curable romantic’ in this novel, which sweeps from a late-19th-century Polish shtetl to the Warsaw ghetto of the 1940s . . . His encounters with Freud and his patient, not to mention love af affairs and his ‘traumatized dream state’ as the Germans roll across Europe, fill the pages of the novel, Mr. Skibell’s third. At heart, the book grapples with the nature of exile.” —The New York Times

“Skibell’s quirky humor and sweeping imagination transform weighty topics into flights of fancy.” —Jewish Book World

“A Curable Romantic has no end of fun with its themes, notably the limits and usefulness of language, whether the jargon of psychology, religion, Jewish doctrine, Esperanto or even the unpronounceable language of the angels. At the same time, it’s a tale of great compassion and reverence—a remarkable, deeply felt examination of man’s relationship to an everchanging world.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Jakob Sammelsohn, the Jewish anti-hero of this novel, is ‘a lovelorn chap searching myopically through the circular maze of Vienna for a woman who might love him with an ardor equaling his own’ . . . Skibell depicts fin-de-siècle Vienna with energy.” —The New Yorker

“A Curable Romantic evokes the spirit of Candide with a Jewish postmodern twist . . . Much of the novel is surprisingly laugh-out-loud humorous, with a Zelig-like hero, Dr. Sammelsohn, whose life becomes fantastically intertwined with three charismatic father figures who spearhead a series of movements . . . The presence of this self-referential book-within-abook testifies that writing, like this magnificent novel itself, can be the greatest weapon against nihilism—that a lone visionary dreamer, with faith in his beliefs, can, by bravely committing words to paper, create something beautiful and immortal in the face of tremendous evil.” —The Jewish Daily Forward

“As a storyteller, Skibell is a master satirist, but his talent as a wordsmith is even greater. The writing at the sentence level is stunning without being overbearing.” —The Atlantan

“The historical meets the fantastical with Skibell’s amazing writing keeping it all grounded in an enjoyable story.” —Examiner.com

“An enticing mix of science, religion and language.” —Birmingham Magazine

“Skibell is a wildly talented writer, and portions of A Curable Romantic can take one’s breath away.” —San Antonio Express-News

“Joseph Skibell’s comic intelligence embraces the first forty years of twentieth-century European Jewish history in a brilliant tour de force that is hilarious, insightful, and inventive . . . Skibell’s wit and comic invention are infused with a mystical perspective that embraces every dimension of the Jewish soul.” —Rodger Kamenetz, author of Burnt Books and The Jew in the Lotus

“The simple, straightforward writing ofsets Skibell’s complex ideas. The language is precise and there’s not a wasted paragraph . . . All of the characters are strongly drawn, even the minor ones.” —The Roanoke Times

“An irresistible romp about a lovelorn 19th-century doctor who falls in with Sigmund Freud—and some dangerously attractive women.” —O: The Oprah Magazine

“Opening as a light, comic romp poking fun at Sigmund Freud and the early days of psychotherapy, A Curable Romantic soon deepens into an earnest, if playful, exploration of spirit and cosmos . . . Funny, tender and beguiling.” —The Oregonian

“Skibell’s tale is wholly imaginative and inventive, with ripe and rollicking prose and outrageous, unforgettable characters.” —MostlyFiction.com

“A most apt, a most ingenious image for the historical novel . . . [A] nearly virtuoso performance.” —Slant Magazine

“Skibell’s sweeping, imaginative epic chronicles the tumultuous life of an endearing protagonist, Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn, which includes a unique relationship with Sigmund Freud, the universal language movement, and WWII . . . Skibell crafts a vivid, artfully clever tale grounded in turn-of-the century Europe.” —Booklist, starred review

“Fat, cheeky, and sweeping . . . A grand portrait of Eastern Europe . . . [with] a magnetic collection of personalities.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A frantically funny snapshot of Freud’s work, evoking the best and worst of Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century. A must-read for fans of dark comedy that begins in the middle-class apartments of Vienna and ends in the tragedy of the Warsaw Ghetto.” —Sander Gilman, author of Smart Jews and Franz Kafka

“A twenty-first-century Schnitzler, Skibell has woven an absorbing tale of extraordinary wit and psychological depth. A Curable Romantic impresses with its rich historical detail, entices with its sly turns of phrase, and when one least expects it, delivers a devastating emotional punch.” —Bret Wood, writer/director of Psychopathia Sexualis

“Intellectual comedy of the highest order.” —J. M. Coetzee

“An enduring gem.” —Tikkun Magazine

“Brilliant . . . Astonishingly original . . . What life on Earth might actually mean.” —Dara Horn, author of The World to Come




Published also in Canada

“Witty and profound, moving and comic ... Skibell succeeds,  giving us a complex work that, in testament to his gifts as a storyteller, is always a joy to read." – Jerusalem Report

“The delight of the novel lies in the hilarity and finesse with which the protagonist Belski delivers his rueful, razor-sharp reports from the front lines of misery. Skibell’s fictional chutzpah knows no bounds.”  -- Book Pages

“The sophisticated interplay of conflicted faith and prosaic everyday life... The story moves to a surprisingly rich denouement in which Charles's dour intellectualism takes second place to his emotional fulfillment.”— Publishers Weekly

 “Skibell returns with a wildly funny novel that is equal parts Philip Roth, Groucho Marx, and Woody Allen … ” – Booklist

“A widely entertaining story -- particularly because of the absurdist juxtapositions. The exposition on the Marx Brothers as a model of "the Ascent of the Assimilating Jewish Man" is priceless.” – Library Journal

“Ferocious black comedy … great bursts of energy, wit and humor… -- Newsday

“A bristling and ironic intelligence moving with calculated steps across the tightrope of a story … Skibell’s special gift is to be intoxicated by prose and to know how to cast into the magic pools of language for wondrous things, which he pulls out phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, page by page … Skibell is a spectacular and troubled talent … a court jester bearing tragic tales, a comedian of bitter memories …” Buffalo News








Included in Best Books of the Year, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, AMAZON.COM, LE MONDE

Included in 100 Must-Read Books of Jewish Fiction, BOOKRIOT

Published also in Germany, France, Great Britain, Australia, Holland, Canada, Taiwan & China

“An unlikely page-turner . . . Confirmation that no subject lies beyond the grasp of a gifted, committed imagination.” —The NewYork Times Book Review

“Brilliant . . . Astonishing . . . [Skibell] has turned the full light of his extraordinary talent on one of history’s darkest moments and taught us to see it again.” —The Boston Globe

“Luminous . . . Startlingly original . . . Recalls the dark, hallucinatory world of Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird while at the same time surpassing it.” —The Washington Post

“A story that blends horror with mad humor and heart-stirring pathos. A work of striking originality.” —J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 

“A marvel.” —NewYork Newsday


“As magical as it is macabre.” —The NewYorker

“Dignified, elegant and inventive.” —Time Out New York

“Incandescent ... Ambitious, accomplished and haunting.” —The Indianapolis Star

“As mesmerizing as a folk tale, as rich as gold itself.”—The Denver Post

“A hugely enjoyable read . . . A compelling tour de force, a surreal but thoroughly accessible page-turner.” —Houston Chronicle

“Its extraordinary vision elevates us for a glimpse of something holy: hope out of the ashes of history.” —The Sunday Oregonian

“Incandescent . . . Ambitious, accomplished and haunting.” —The Indianapolis Star

“A tale of great spiritual healing and holiness . . . Reverent, funny, and wise.” —Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

“Oh, what a magical book! I finished it moved, enchanted, saddened, and exhilarated.” —Sister Wendy

“A jewel of a book.” —The Raleigh News and Observer

“A fine debut, manifestly infused with deep familial and cultural feeling, and a significant contribution to the ongoing literature of the Holocaust.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Utterly different and surreal, this first novel takes an original approach to the Holocaust and leaves a lasting impression.” —Library Journal, starred review

“You’ve never read a book like this before—part Holocaust memoir, part ghost story, part Hebrew folklore, part surrealistic road epic . . .the scope of this singular work will haunt you long after you’ve put the book down.” —The Bloomsbury Review

“Magical . . . Transform[s] horror and suffering into mystery and enchantment,in ways that mark [Skibell] as a writer of consequence.” —St. Petersburg Times

“A major talent is revealed in this debut novel . . . A story that beguiles even as it breaks your heart.” —PublishersWeekly, starred review