With the excitement buzzing around the upcoming television adaptation of “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” we’re taking a look at some other interesting reads- some are written by Jews, others deal with Jewish topics and themes. Listed in no particular order, here are 10 Jewish books for your to-read list:
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection.
Come Back for Me by Sharon Hart-Green
Loss, trauma, memory, and, above all, the ties of family and being Jewish are the elements that weave together this panoramic story. Come Back for Me travels through time and place only to bring us, ultimately, to the connections between generations. Artur Mandelkorn is a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor whose desperate quest to find his sister takes him to post-war Israel. Intersecting Artur’s tale is that of Suzy Kohn, a Toronto teenager whose seemingly tranquil life is shattered when her uncle’s sudden death tears her family apart. Their stories eventually come together in Israel following the Six-Day War, where love and understanding become the threads that bind the two narratives together.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
#Shidduchcrisis: Short Stories by Penina Shtauber
Welcome to the world of shidduch dating.
Like any world, it has its stereotypes. We’ve got the stingy guy and the superficial girl, the too-religious, the not-religious-enough and everyone in between. Those who are in it because they want to and those who are in it because their moms made them.
And mostly we’ve got the pressure. Pressure, pressure, pressure on all ends.
Basically, it’s a lot of fun, a lot of tears, a lot of arguments and some love.
I’m sure you’ll relate.
At the End of the World, Turn Left by Zhanna Slor
A riveting debut novel from an unforgettable new voice that is both literary, suspenseful, and a compelling story about identity and how you define “home”.”
Masha remembers her childhood in the former USSR, but found her life and heart in Israel. Anna was just an infant when her family fled, but yearns to find her roots. When Anna is contacted by a stranger from their homeland and then disappears, Masha is called home to Milwaukee to find her.
Rachel’s Tomb: A Novel by J. A. Bernstein
“Rachel’s Tomb is a deftly ambitious novel about young soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces and the loved ones they’ve left behind. It brings to life with great artistry a diverse cast of secular and religious Jews, Arabs, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, soldiers and civilians–a complex image of Israel. The book’s absurdist humor gracefully counterpoints the waste, loss, and early sorrow faced by its indelibly drawn characters.”Zachary Lazar
Red Shoes for Rachel: Three Novellas by Boris Sandler
In the collection’s eponymous novella, Rachel, a daughter of Holocaust survivors raised in Brighton Beach, encounters a Moldovan Jewish immigrant divorcee as she is tending to her disabled, elderly mother along the Coney Island boardwalk. As the two begin a relationship, the story reveals their past and the commonalities between two children of Holocaust survivors raised in very different societies.
In the novella Karolina Bugaz, an exhausted Moldovan Jewish immigrant architect leaves his wife and newly religious son behind to go on a cruise to a mysterious island, which may just be a direct voyage through space and time into his past.
In the volume’s most acclaimed story, Halfway Down the Road Back to You, an elderly Moldovan Holocaust survivor in Israel separated from her children by emigration must confront her past as her failing mind begins to blur the boundaries between her daily life and the horrors of war sixty years before. The novella was adapted by the author into an acclaimed play, which has been staged in the United States, Belgium, and France.
The Worlds We Think We Know: Stories by Dalia Rosenfeld
Fiercely funny and entirely original, this debut collection of stories takes readers from the United States to Israel and back again to examine the mystifying reaches of our own minds and hearts.
The characters of The Worlds We Think We Know are animated by forces at once passionate and perplexing. At a city zoo, a mismatched couple unite by releasing rare birds. After being mugged in the streets of New York, a professor must repeat the crime to recover his memory―and his lost love. In Tel Aviv, a sandstorm rages to expose old sorrows and fears as far away as Ohio. And from an unnamed Eastern European country, a woman haunts the husband who left her behind for a new life in America.
Bee Season: A Novel by Myla Goldberg
Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father’s spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam. But when Eliza sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his hallowed study and lavishes upon her the attention previously reserved for Aaron, who in his displacement embarks upon a lone quest for spiritual fulfillment. When Miriam’s secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war, an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.
As their adventure unfolds, Jonathan imagines the history of his grandfather’s village, conjuring a magical fable of startling symmetries that unite generations across time. As his search moves back in time, the fantastical history moves forward, until reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.
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