June 20, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Alan Furst (below), author of Blood of Victory and editor of the new anthology The Book of Spies, recommends If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi (Penguin, $13.95).

A book I return to is Primo Levi’s If Not Now, When?, about a band of Jewish partisans on a long, dangerous journey toward the end of World War II. It’s neither fact nor fiction, but lives in the lovely, foggy land between. Levi says of it, ”For the most part, the events I depict really did take place, even if not always on the sites and dates I have given them.” The moral point is there, but the reading is exciting and fascinating — good historical fiction is a pleasure on an airplane as well as in a library, and this book is a perfect example of how that works.

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