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Beginning with a chance encounter with the beautiful Eliza June Watermark and ending, four days and nine hundred pages later, with the Events of November 17, The Instructions is the story of Gurion Maccabee, age ten: a lover, a fighter, a scholar, and a truly spectacular talker. Expelled from three Jewish day-schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader of a very different sort, with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity.

First published in 2010, The Instructions introduced the literary world to acclaimed author Adam Levin. Combining a crackling voice reminiscent of Philip Roth with an encyclopedic mind that evokes David Foster Wallace, this novel presents a world driven equally by moral fervor and slapstick comedy—a novel that is muscular and exuberant, troubling and empathetic, monumental, breakneck, romantic, and unforgettable. Now, in honor of its thirteenth anniversary, McSweeney’s is proud to present this special Bar Mitzvah edition of Levin’s singular work. This gargantuan epic is available for the first time in two handsome and readily accessible (but still quite epic) paperbacks, featuring new art by Jeffrey Kam and an introduction by Gabriel Bump.

Praise for The Instructions

“Manic, articulate, full of passion, courageous in its form, and very funny.”
George Saunders

“Young Adam Levin wowed me with this whip-smart, aching, hilarious novel, starring his own kind of post-modern wise child (a la Seymour Glass) and revolutionary. The ghost of DF Wallace would relish comparisons to this brave new talent. This year’s best debut by a country mile.”
Mary Karr

“[A] riotous, gigantic and disturbing debut novel … Levin has filled his pages with modern Poloniuses, masters of digression, and with moments rich in fact and feeling.”
Abigail Deutsch, San Francisco Chronicle

The Instructions is addictively quotable, violently funny, insanely intelligent and utterly compelling. Levin’s debut novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read, in the best possible way.”
Jill Owens, The Oregonian

“One of the 21st century’s finest literary creations. … From every angle, The Instructions fairly screams ‘Great American Novel,’ a work of fiction not to be trifled with, an amalgam of a young man’s life, thoughts and feelings, culled and stacked and printed to be consumed in miserly dribbles.”
Preston Jones, Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

“A hysterical, heartfelt journey of self-discovery … A book that moves beyond completely transparent influences to reach its own distinct, new, great height.”
Foster Kamer, Village Voice

“Evocative of David Foster Wallace … full of death-defying sentences, manic wit, exciting provocations and simple human warmth.”
Julia Holmes, Rolling Stone

“This is a life-consuming novel, one that demands to be read feverishly. When it is over, other fiction feels insufficient, the newspaper seems irrelevant. … If the ultimate message of modernism was unremitting pessimism … The Instructions has given the literary genre its long deferred conclusion: Indeed, a day—or four—can serve as a reminder that death looms large for anything living, but there is lot of life to be lived in the interim.”
Michael H. Miller, New York Observer

“After The Instructions challenges, charms and betrays you, it might just seduce your soul. … The Instructions is disturbing and romantic and ultimately, heartbreaking, and its questions are not easily parsed, even by Gurion’s analytic mind. They are the nagging doubts of our own goodness and faith. But it’s worth sticking with this author’s debut: This is a wunderkind’s master class. … An incredible creation of fiction.”
Katie Moulton, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Levin’s mammoth, riotous, Talmudic, impossibly excessive yet brilliant, mesmerizing, warmhearted, and hilarious work of chutzpah takes place over four feverish days but encompasses the whole of Israel’s battle for existence and the Jewish quest for home and peace.”
Donna Seaman, Booklist

The Instructions is in fact a vital work of—no getting around it—American Jewish literature because it imagines that the genre is indeed through and asks what can be written in its place.”
Marissa Brostoff, Tablet

Awards & Honors:

  • Winner of the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award.
  • Winner of the inaugural Indie Booksellers Choice Award.
  • IndieBound Next List pick.
  • Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.
  • Powell’s Indiespensible selection.
  • The Rumpus Book Club selection for October 2010. 
  • Jewcy’s favorite novel of 2010