Image: An open book. Photo by unsplash/pixabay.com.
I recommend LadyMeritaten’s blog, Jewish Books are Awesome. It’s one of my sources for new reading. This past week she re-posted a list of 100 Must-Read Works of Jewish Fiction from BookRiot.com, and I’m happy to say it gave me some leads on books I haven’t read. It also gave me the idea for this post.
My favorite Jewish fiction includes some books from the BookRiot list, and some that I guess they don’t think are “must-read.” Anyhow, here they are for your enjoyment, in a completely random order. All are available in English.
If there’s a book you love that isn’t here, I hope you’ll share it in the comments.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon – An alternative history and murder mystery that is the best argument for the existence of the State of Israel that you’ll ever read.
The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel – Where is God when terrible things happen?
The Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur – This is the first in a series of mystery novels set in Israel. Even though they were written back in the 1990’s, they will do more to give you a feeling of ordinary Israeli life than anything else I know.
Rashi’s Daughters by Maggie Anton – A trilogy of historical novels by scholar Maggie Anton. Engaging and learned, in that order.
The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow – A story about the Red Scare and the Cold War. Has chilling resonance today.
As A Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg – A story based on Talmudic texts about a privileged young man who studies Torah and loses his way. It’s great for getting a feel for the world of the Talmud, but know that in the texts, the story ends differently.
The Last of the Just by André Schwarz-Bart – my candidate for Best Holocaust Novel ever.
Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman – A story about a small community in upstate New York, where year-round residents and summer people live in tension.
Enemies: A Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer – I love movies, but there is more nuance in one page of this novel than in the movie. A wry and funny story from the great Ashkenazi storyteller.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok – A book about Orthodox life in Brooklyn. If you use the phrase “the Orthodox…” in your speech as if Orthodoxy were a monolith, you must read this.
Septimania by Jonathan Levi – A novel of time and place and being. Not everyone will like it, but I loved it.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – A weird little book about inadequacy and self-loathing, one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Also very, very Jewish.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud – A Baseball Novel! And no, seeing the movie doesn’t count. Read the book.
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran – Dark, funny, a travelogue, a journey without and within. A true post-Holocaust novel.
I am sure I’ve forgotten some wonderful books. I’m also sure that you have some wonderful books to suggest. Comments, please!