Building a Summer(?) Reading List with suggestions from the Or Emet community
Based on Or Emet’s program Sunday, May 31, 2015: Presented and Revised by Don Larsson
Note: This list was compiled from an initial list of works read by the small Mankato Jewish Book Club and includes additional suggestions from Or Emet members and visitors at our May 31 meeting. As long as it, of course many other books (including other works by authors listed here) could be added. Some subjects (sports, cooking, gardening?) are not listed at all, while other genres (graphic novels, poetry) are relatively short. This is just a starting place from where you can make your own discoveries for reading summer—or any other season.
GRAPHIC NOVELS (fiction/non-fiction)
Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, 2014
Part graphic novel, part memoir by the cartoonist for The New Yorker and other publications, about dealing with her parents as they age and decline in health—often hilarious and/or deeply moving.
The Contract with God Trilogy, 2006
A collection of three “graphic novels” (A Contract with God, The Life Force, and Dropsie Avenue: The Neighborhood) by the writer/artist who coined the term.
The Complete Maus, 2011
The groundbreaking graphic novel that details the experiences of the author’s father in the Holocaust, and the strained relationship of father and son.
Rashi’s Daughters (trilogy), 2005-2009
Trilogy of historical novels about the three daughters of the (real-life) medieval scholar Rashi, who wrote the first extensive commentary on the Talmud.
The Adventures of Augie March, 1953
The life, loves and self-education of a young man, traveling from Depression-era Chicago to Mexico and beyond.
The Lion Seeker, 2013
A young South African Jew in the 1930s and 1940s must come to terms with his desires, his family’s secrets, and his own role as a white man in an increasingly apartheid society.
People of the Book, 2008
An Australian book conservator learns about journeys of the (real-life) Sarajevo Haggadah and the lives of the people who owned and preserved it, as she also learns more about herself.
What Makes Sammy Run?,
The rise and fall of a boy from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to a life as a Hollywood screenwriter, inspired in part by the life of Shulman’s own father.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, 2000
Pulitzer Prize-winning story of two Jewish cousins in the 1930s who create a comic book superhero through the anti-comics backlash of the 1950s. Loosely based on the stories of comics creators, such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman), Bob Kane (Batman), and Stan Lee (Marvel Comics).
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, 2008
In an alternate-history Alaska, where the U.S. government has established a temporary “homeland” for the Jews, time is running out for the colony, while a detective seeks to solve a murder that turns out to have international implications.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 1999
Coming-of-age story of a fifteen year old boy, told through a series of letters he writes.
Cohen, Paula Marantz
Jane Austen in Boca, 2002
Pride and Prejudice is recast starring Jewish widows in Florida. (The author has also written Jane Austen in Scarsdale, 2006.
Doctorow, E. L.
Billy Bathgate, 1989
A boy in the 1930s Bronx attaches himself to the gangster Dutch Schultz and learns a great deal about crime, loyalty, and love.
All the Light We Cannot See,
Pulitzer-winning account of two characters during World War II, a blind Jewish girl in Paris and a member of Hitler Youth, whose lives eventually intersect.
Eliot, George (Mary Ann Evans)
Daniel Deronda, 1876
The last completed novel of one of the great British writers, about a young upper-class man who discovers, to his surprise, his Jewish heritage, contrasted with a self-absorbed Englishwoman who becomes trapped in a loveless marriage.
The Ministry of Special Cases,
A Jew, named Kaddish, and his wife search for their son, who was “disappeared” during the military government’s Dirty War in 1970s Argentina.
Froer, Jonathan Safron
Everything Is Illuminated,
The account of a man’s quest, narrated through a series of letters in his unique voice to “Jonathan Safron Froer,” to find the woman who may have saved Foer’s grandfather from the Nazis.
The Bee Season, 2000
A young girl’s quest to become a spelling bee champion has unexpected effects for her family and herself.
The Mind-Body Problem, 1983
A Jewish girl in college learns to love her body and her mind, and experiences difficulties in life from the contradictions between the two.
Bethlehem Road Murder,
One in a series of detective novels featuring Israeli police detective Michael Ohayon.
The book that turned the “war novel” upside down, as a WWII flyer tries to beat the absurdity of war and the military.
The World to Come, 2006
A young man engineers the theft of a Marc Chagall painting that he believes was stolen from his family, interwoven with Jewish folk tales and historical events that surround the painting.
Four Mothers, 1997 (2014 translation)
A woman in Jerusalem seeks to understand the family “curse” that has afflicted the four generations of women before her.
The Attack, 2007 (translation)
A successful Israeli Arab doctor is shocked to discover that his wife mounted a suicide bomb attack and seeks to discover all that he did not know about her.
Magic Words: The Tale of a Jewish Boy-Interpreter, the World’s Most Estimable Magician, a Murderous Harlot, and America’s Greatest Indian Chief, 2012
A Jewish take on the Western—the title says it all.
The History of Love, 2006
The lives of a Holocaust survivor, a fifteen-year old girl, and a book titled A History of Love are intertwined.
Le Carre, Johhn
The Tailor of Panama, 1997
A semi-comic spy story, featuring a Jewish tailor in Panama City who winds up creating a “revolution” out of whole cloth.
Number the Stars, 1989
A Danish girl and her family participate in the rescue of Denmark’s Jews during World War II. Winner of the Caldecott Award for young adult fiction.
Song for the Butcher’s Daughter, 2009
A young (non-Jewish) linguist begins to translate the works of the very old last Yiddish poet in America, revealing the backgrounds of the poems, the men, and their surprising connection.
Jacob’s Folly, 2013
An 18th-century Parisian Jew finds himself embodied as a fly in the present day, able to intervene in other people’s thoughts, framed by his memories of his now-distant past.
Miller, Walter M., Jr.
A Canticle for Liebowitz, 1951
Centuries after a nuclear holocaust, a monastic order begins to rebuild learning and science from documents left by a Jewish convert who has been canonized as Saint Liebowitz.
Nights of Awe, 2012
The only Jew on the Helsinki police force is chosen to investigate the murders of two Arabs in Helsinki.
The Chosen, 1967
Two Jewish boys grow up as friends in 1940s Brooklyn, but are challenged to find their own identities as they mature.
The Ghost of Hannah Mendez,
A dying Sephardic woman enlists two granddaughters to find the manuscript of an ancestor who survived the Spanish Inquisition to become a successful businesswoman.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, 1989
The comic adventures of a Jewish anti-hero and trickster from Montreal in his quest for land and success.
Portnoy’s Complaint, 1969
The iconic story of a man coping with his sexual desires and his Jewish identity.
The Plot against America,
An alternate history story of a Jewish New Jersey family named Roth in an America where the pro-German anti-Semite Charles Lindberg defeats FDR’s bid for a third term as President.
Catcher in the Rye, 1951
The iconic story of a teenager trying to understand his own identity.
The Three Weissmans of Westport, 2010
A reworking of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, set in a contemporary Connecticut beach cottage with a Jewish mother and her two daughters.
Schteyngart, Gary (also see Memoirs)
Comic story of the overweight heir of a Russian oligarch, hoping to reunite with his love in the South Bronx, but caught in the cultural and political turmoil of the newly-independent and oil- rich country of Absurdistan.
Rally Round the Flag, Boys, 1956; The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, 1951, etc.
Humor novels by an author who got his start at the University of Minnesota.
The Gabriel Allon spy novels, 2000-2015
Series of novels about an Israeli spy and assassin, whose cover is art restoration, by a journalist who converted to Judaism as an adult.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis
Various novels and short stories
Works by the Nobel Prize-winner, who wrote almost exclusively in Yiddish. Includes stories based in Russia and in the U.S., realism and “magical realism.”
The Little Bride, 2011
A 16-year old mail-order bride journeys from Odessa to a new and strange life in South Dakota.
Mr. Rosenbaum Dreams in English, 2011
A refugee from Nazi Germany in England determines to become thoroughly English—even if he has to build his own golf course to do so.
Young adult novel about an orphaned boy trying to understand his own identity and his surroundings in Nazi-occupied Waraw.
The Golem and the Jinni, 2013
A (female) golem and a (male) jinni live parallel lives in early 20th-century New York until they finally meet.
The Book Thief, 2005
Death itself narrates the life of a young girl growing up in Nazi-era Germany, nurtured by her relationships and her reading.
“Kaddish” (1960) and “Howl” (1955)
“Howl” became the anthem of the Beat Generation, by the self-proclaimed poetic heir to Walt Whitman. “Kaddish” is Ginsburg’s loving, anguished, and profane elegy for his mother.
Aleichem, Scholem (Scholem Rabinovitch)
Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories, 1999 (collection)
The Yiddish short stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof, along with another series of stories about Jews riding trains between Russian shtetls.
The Avram Davidson Treasury,
Stories by one of the most unique and off-beat writers of science fiction (or any genre).
The Magic Barrel, 1958
Collection of stories by one of the most important post-war Jewish American authors.
The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories, 1995
Early short stories by one of the foremost contemporary American Jewish writers, intertwining reality, the spiritual, and fantasy in different degrees.
Raphael, Lawrence (editor)
Mystery Midrash, 1999
A collection of Jewish-themed mystery stories.
Tidhar, Lavie and Rebecca
Jews vs. Aliens and Jews vs. Zombies, 2015
Kindle book original collections of short stories.
Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Who Gave Us Modernity, 2006
An account of one of the most important and controversial figures of the Enlightenment and his importance to the author’s own life.
Benjamin Disraeli, 2008
How the son of an English Jew rose to become a famous novelist and then one of the most important figures in Victorian England and the British Empire.
The Road to Character, 2015
The conservative New York Times columnist outlines the characteristics of inner success through the lives of several (mostly non-Jewish) individuals, from (St.) Augustine to Dwight Eisenhower, Dorothy Day, and Bayard Rustin.
In the Land of Israel: Essays, 1993
The famous novelist Interviews Jews, Palestinians and others in Israel in the 1980s for a portrait of a changing society.
Oz, Amos and Fania Oz- Salzberger
Jews and Words, 2012
One of Israeli’s best-known novelists and his daughter investigate the roles of stories, texts and words in Jewish history and culture.
The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story, 2007
The account, by an award-winning poet, of how a Polish Christian couple gave refuge to 300 Jews in wartime Warsaw’s zoo.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 2013
A popularized account of historical research seeking to place “Jesus, the man, not Jesus, the Christ” in historical context as a Jew.
Year Zero: A History of 1945, 2013
An account of the human impact of the social disruptions that followed the end of World War II.
Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews—A History, 2001
The author, a former priest, traces the long history of anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church.
Walking the Bible, 2001
The author, with the help of an Israeli archeologist, traces the paths of the stories in the first five books of the Bible.
Hoffman, Adina, and Peter Cole
Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Genizah, 2011
How a treasure trove of centuries of Jewish documents was found in an Old Cairo synagogue and what those documents revealed about Jewish life in those times.
Einstein: His Life and Universe, 2007
Biography of the most important scientist of the 20th century.
Jacobs, A. J.
The Year of Living Biblically, 2007
The author recounts his attempt to follow all of the commandments in the Torah for an entire year, along the way meeting both Jews and Christians who try to follow the commandments in their own ways.
The Jewish War, c. 75 CE
The account of the revolt of Jews against Roman rule in 66-70 CE, by the controversial figure who began as one of the revolt’s leaders but ended as a member of the Emperor’s household.
Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, 2009
How some Sephardic Jews, forced to convert or leave Spain and Portugal, turned to the sea in various roles, including piracy.
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, 2011
The experiences of Walter Dodd, America’s Ambassador to Nazi Germany from 1933-1937, and of his family.
The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustave Klimt’s Masterpiece, “Adele Bloch- Bauer,” 2012
How the descendent of a dispossessed Austrian Jewish family and her lawyer successfully sued the Austrian government to return a painting stolen by the Nazis—all intertwined with the story of the painting, its subject, and the artist who created it.
And Prairie Dogs Weren’t Kosher: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest, 1996
Stories and accounts of the lives of four generations of Jewish Women, published by the U. of Minnesota Press
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, 2013
A columnist for Haaretz uses portraits of individuals, from early settlers to current entrepreneurs, to highlight the successes and contradictions of the Israeli state.
At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews, 2014
Traces arguments over the last century by different Jewish thinkers promoting or arguing against Zionism and the possibility or necessity of maintaining a Jewish identity outside of what would become Israel.
The Mezuzah in the Madonna’s Foot: Marranos and Other Secret Jews—A Woman Discovers Her Spiritual Heritage, 1993
How the author’s family found refuge from the Holocaust in Franco’s Spain, intertwined with stories of the “secret Jews” who lived under Spanish rule after the expulsion of Jews and Muslims in 1492.
de Waal, Edmund
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance, 2010
The journeys of the author’s family from Czarist Odessa to Austria and beyond are traced through his family’s sole remaining property of value—a collection of tiny netsuke carvings from Japan.
Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures—A Memoir of an Indian- Jewish Childhood, 2002
An account of growing up in Israel and America while trying to navigate among the different cultural heritages of an Ashkenazi Jewish father and a mother from India’s Jewish community.
Walking the Bible, 2002
The Diary of Anne Frank, 1952
The now well-known testament of the talented young girl who, with her family, was hidden from the Nazis in Holland until their eventual discovery.
A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, 2014
A journey to eastern Europe to find the people who helped the author’s family escape from the crumbling Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventure of the Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books, 2004
The first-person account of the author’s quest to preserve Yiddish language and literature, from his amateur beginnings in 1980 to his role as founder of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass.
My Name Was Toby: Wisdom Gems from an Old Dog
Wit and wisdom of a dog, “transcribed” by Or Emet’s own Alan Miller.
Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life, 2011
The author uses her memories and family history to illuminate the story of the diamond trade and New York’s Diamond District.
Swimming in the Daylight: An American Student, a Soviet Dissident, and the Gift of Hope, 2011
The author’s quest in the 1980s to bring a Soviet Jewish friend to the U.S. for much-needed medical treatment despite that government’s opposition.
The I.L. Peretz Reader, 2002
Writings from one of the great Yiddish writers, who died in 1915.
A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz,
2012 (translation 2015)
The author retraces the postwar journey of his father, an Auschwitz survivor, through Poland and Germany to Sweden, retracing his own memories and relationship with his father as well.
My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, 2009
A UCLA professor recovers his father’s story and family history in Kurdistan and rediscovers his own Jewish identity.
Little Failure, 2013
The author’s life growing up in Leningrad and then New York and his eventual “success” in becoming a writer.
Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen, 2008
Ways in which the two religions can inform each other through the author’s own experiences.
Honey from the Rock: An Easy Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, 1999
A rabbi’s guide through the “10 gates” of Kabbalah and Jewish mystical experience.
Judaism beyond God: A Radical New Way to Be Jewish, 1985
An argument for Judaism that goes beyond belief in God as such, by the founder of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.