Robert Alter, “The Book of Psalms”

The secondary title is “A Translation with Commentary,” and that’s what it is:  You read the translated psalm, and then the author’s footnotes explicate the psalm and also explain some of his translation decisions.  The commentary is succinct and incisive, neither philosophical nor roaming.

The author is quite an accomplished scholar, and he takes the text seriously (he’s Jewish, and I recall that a friend of mine said that he serves as a rabbi near Berkeley), though he freely admits the textual and historical problems that are sometimes present.

The book is very well done.  I made two notes:  First, “royal pslams” (e.g., #45) are written to the king, not God; and, second, the author explains in his introduction (xxxii-xxxiv) that he usually avoids the English words “soul,” “salvation,” and “sin,” preferring instead “being,” “rescue,” and “offense,” respectively.