How About Some Fun Summer Reading?

Summer and vacation are on their way, and I am looking for some entertaining light reading.  Here is my offer: I’m going to suggest some books with Jewish content that I have enjoyed recently in hopes that the denizens of the newly-lively comments section (you know who you are*) can suggest other books. Then we’ll all have a nice list for prowling the used book store or the library or the e-book shops.

Why specifically Jewish reading? There are lots of lists online for finding generic beach books and pleasure reading. Let’s make this the list that is harder to find: Jewish-themed pleasure reading – doesn’t have to be recent, it just needs to be something you’ve enjoyed.

My suggestions:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon – This book won a Pulitzer in 2001 for telling a story about young comic book writers among the Jewish immigrants of NYC.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon – What if the Arab armies had succeeded in extinguishing Israel in 1948? What if Jews had been given a limited lease on a sliver of Alaska as a temporary refuge and the lease was about to run out? What if this story were structured as a whodunit?

Rashi’s Daughters, Books I, II, and III by Maggie Anton – Historical fiction about the three daughters of the most famous commentator in Jewish history.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok – A classic story about two fathers and two sons in NYC in the 1940’s. If you are in the habit of referring to “The Orthodox” and think they are all more or less alike, this is one way to learn better. I will not list all his other fiction in this list, but anything he wrote is good.

As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg – This novel brings the sages of the Talmud to life.

The Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur – This is the first in a series of murder mysteries by Israeli writer Batya Gur. Her hero, Chief Inspector Michael Ohayon, is a likeable Israeli of Moroccan descent. Six of the mysteries are available in English translation.

Fax Me a Bagel by Sharon Kahn – This is the first in a mystery series which features a rabbi’s widow, Ruby, as the protagonist. The series is fun and quite authentic: the author was married to a rabbi for 31 years.

So, nu? What books do you suggest? What have I missed? I await your comments!

*You need not have commented before to recommend a book. In fact, it would be a special treat to get recommendations from readers who have thus far been silent.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

24 thoughts on “How About Some Fun Summer Reading?”

  1. Oh, thanks for this! Just what I needed. Am in the middle of he first of the Rashis Daughters trilogy, and enjoying that. I like to have several different books on the go at the one time, so am hopping off to Amazon for a browse…..thank you again, Rabbi Ruth

    1. Oh Alex, please shop locally. Independent bookstores are struggling to keep going. MANY of them have websites so if you want to order online, order from a real place that is supporting a family.

      1. I know that for many reasons, Amazon are frowned upon….and I do sometimes use other sources. However, I need to try to mind my pennies, and usually go for a cheap second hand edition rather than new, which isn’t an option for most independent, local shops(some do, but not so many) …..when I was able to get about and about, I got a lot of books from charity shops. Now, however, my situation is very different, in many ways, and I need to put my own needs as a priority.

        With all due respect – and apologies in advance to Rabbi Ruth, as this is her blog – please don’t be so quick to judge me, or tell me what to do(or what not to do) I don’t need it, I don’t appreciate it, and am not going to allow myself to be sent on an unnecessary guilt trip. Life is quite hard enough.

        Like I say, apologies to rabbi Ruth….please don’t hesitate to remove my post if you wish.

      2. Just to add to what I said….often in the Amazon second hand section, there are online charity shops, so buying from them helps a charity….so, you see, nothing us as simple as it may seem.

      3. Dawn….what is your opinion regarding authors who buy in the way you suggest, though have their books available for purchase on Amazon? You didn’t respond to my reply, so I don’t know if you understood my own situation.

  2. Meant to say….if you like sci fi, “People of the Book : a Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy” (ed. Rachel Swirsky & Sean Wallace). Short stories. So far, Im enjoying. Alex

  3. Oh good grief….sorry! Meant to say that Alison Bechdels graphic novels, one on her father, one, her mother, aren’t really light, but are a very good read. And I promise to go away for now and stop bothering you 🙂 Alex

  4. Just finished reading THE PEOPLE OF FOREVER ARE NOT AFRAID by Shani Boianjui about three girls in the IDF. Their voices are distinctive and give a very interesting view of their experiences. The author is a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award. A couple of year’s ago I read SOTAH by Naomi Ragen. Its about a young woman in Jerusalem’s Orthodox-Haredi community who is accused of adultery. I just started THE END OF EVERYTHING by David Bergelson, translated from Yiddish.

  5. This is YA fiction but why not — My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. I read it to see whether I would suggest it to kids in interfaith families. It’s intercultural too and rather fun.

  6. OH!! I forgot! Books by Etgar Keret – I LOVE The Nimrod Flipout. Not every single one of his short stories is equally good but the first one in Nimrod got me hooked on Keret.

  7. My previous rabbi recommended “As A Driven Leaf”. It is a page turner bar none! Also I’ve seen the movie, “The Chosen”, but haven’t read the book. The movie was great! I hope the book is better. I’m putting these all on my “to read” list, especially “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union”! Thanks!

    1. The late Edwin Gordon–a cousin of mine by marriage–wrote the screenplay for”The Chosen.”

  8. If you can find copies of the old short story anthology “Wandering Stars”, I recommend that. How can you not like a book which contains the story “On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi”?

  9. I just finished “Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler.” A memoir of a woman who designed hats in Austria and fled to England just before the war broke out. By Trudi Kanter. A fast read.

  10. I’m also reading The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman. A true story taken place in Poland during World war II. It will be a movie in 2016 starring Jessica Chastain.

  11. Also, I do like to use my public library when books become available. But when purchasing a book, I will either get a used book on OR definitely to my local book store as Dawn suggested. As a published author myself, I do have my book available on Amazon and Kindle…and at some public libraries.

    1. Pdfender, you raise an interesting point: as Dawn Kepler said regarding not buying from Amazon, but supporting local or small family businesses, what about the other side – the author who sells through Amazon? (Please note that I have no issue with that…..I made my views and opinion and circumstances clear in my earlier posts. I would be interested to hear Dawn Keplers thoughts)

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