December 12, 2011
No one can quite agree what is a ‘Jewish’ book. I’ll refrain from that debate. But given that Hanukkah is approaching, I thought I’d share nine books, most published in 2011, with at least a bit of Jewish flavor.
Some use Judaism as their focus. Others weave in Jewish characters. One is all about Jewish cooking. Why list nine? One for each candle that will glow on Jewish menorahs the world over on the last night of Hanukkah. Preferring not to get into a ranking game, I’ve listed the books based on their publication date – from newest to oldest. Happy Hanukkah. Happy reading.
1. 1,000 Mitzvahs by Linda Cohen. (November, Seal Press) Cohen, featured in a previous post, shows how to perform acts of kindness in small, every-day ways.
2. Little Bride by Anna Solomon. (September, Riverhead Books) This meticulously researched novel is a wonderful read about a Jewish mail-order bride’s struggles to survive in rural South Dakota.
3. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. (May, Grand Central Publishing). Simon’s gripping novel, a New York Times bestseller, opens our hearts and minds to people with disabilities. I interviewed Simon for a past post.
4. Quiet Americans by Erika Dreifus. (January, Last Light Studios) Dreifus, in her riveting collection of short stories, makes us realize why there are always new, compelling ways to write fiction about the Holocaust. She, too, chatted with me for a previous post.
5. Good Eggs by Phoebe Potts. (Harper, 2010) Potts’ graphic memoir uses humor to deal with the painful topic of infertility and the complicated topic of journeying closer to Judaism. Read more about her in my Forward Sisterhood blog post.
6. Quiche, Kugels, and Couscous, My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan. (Knopf, 2010) Nathan gives us numerous recipes to try and even better, a taste for both the food and history of Jews in France.
7. Devotion by Dani Shapiro. (HarperCollins, 2010) This elegant, honest memoir chronicles Shapiro’s journey closer to her faith and her love for yoga. I interviewed her shortly after the book came out. See, too, my piece about her in Writer.
8. Day After Night by Anita Diamant. (Scribner, 2009) Diamant’s novel takes us to a place most of us never heard of before — Atlit, a British detention camp in Palestine. She fictionalizes the story of the 1945 rescue of Jewish refugees. See my previous post about one of Diamant’s talks.
9. Mrs. Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nancy Cote. (Albert Whitman & Company, 2004) This children’s book came to our house, courtesy of the PJ Library program, just a few weeks ago. Already, my son, nearly 4, loves it. It’s a funny, poignant story with a sweet message. Don’t worry about the mess. Make latkes, let your child help, and celebrate Hanukkah with friends.
Great list! Here’s one more:
Scenes from Village Life, by Amos Oz. This collection of tangentially connected short stories paints a quiet, sobering view of the interior life of Israelis in a small town that was founded by Zionist pioneers. Today the population of the village has dwindled, it has become a bit of a tourist stop, and many residents are of an older generation and coming to terms with unfilled, sometimes unarticulated holes in their lives even as they gather socially to sing all the old pioneering songs. Reviewers have compared it to Sherwood Anderson’s classic story collection, Winesburg, Ohio; I would also compare it to the 2009 Pulitzer winner Olive Kittredge by Elizabeth Strout.
Thanks so much for adding one of your own. Sounds like a fascinating book.
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Great list Linda. I’m going to read The Story of a Beautiful Girl.
Holly, glad you like it. I just started reading David Grossman’s To the End of the Land. If there were 10 candles, it’d be on it, too. Happy Hanukkah – almost! – Linda
Thanks for your list. I agree A Beautiful Girl to be on the list. I read it , and loved it. A good book discussion too. I reviewed it on my secular blog, it was a great read.
Thanks, Susan. The Jewish mentions in Story of a Beautiful Girl are subtle. The message is definitely universal. – Linda