Looking for great Jewish-themed novels.
January 4, 2012 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Interested in reading more quality Jewish-themed fiction. Can anyone suggest some books?

I am interested in reading more Jewish-themed novels this year. I was surprised to go through my ebook library and find a few (list below). I am interested in reading more. I am not looking for works whose sole 'Jewish feature' is the religion of the author; rather, I am looking for books where some sort of Jewish theme or identity is actually a part of the story. Here is what I have so far, sorted by publication date from oldest to newest. (*) Indicates a book I have already finished.

* Exodus by Leon Uris
* The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
* My Name is Ahser Lev by Chaim Potok
* Sophie's Choice by William Styron
* The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman
* The Red Tent by Anita Diament
Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman
* Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
A Wall of Light by Edeet Ravel
* A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

Can anyone suggest more? Availability at the Kindle store is a must, but other than that, I am pretty open on criteria. I just want to put together an awesome little collection of great Jewish books
posted by JoannaC to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Philip Roth, e.g., The Human Stain. Etc.
posted by dfriedman at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mila 18, also by Leon Uris, is fucking awesome.
posted by telegraph at 6:14 PM on January 4, 2012

I rather enjoyed The Frozen Rabbi.

(But I'm not Jewish.)
posted by ikaruga at 6:15 PM on January 4, 2012

I've enjoyed everything by David Liss and loved City of Thieves by David Benioff.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:17 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union
posted by Paragon at 6:19 PM on January 4, 2012 [12 favorites]

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander.
posted by lamp at 6:19 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman
posted by rglass at 6:23 PM on January 4, 2012

Mary Doria Russell's first book, Sparrow, despite being a lot about Jesuits, is a very Jewish story -- and in general, you can just take those authors and most of their books have themes of Judaism.

Shalom Auslander, Nathan Englander, Naomi Ragen, David Liss's books that start with A Conspiracy of Paper (or maybe it's The Coffee Trader), People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.
posted by jeather at 6:24 PM on January 4, 2012

As a Driven Leaf
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:24 PM on January 4, 2012

I was recently recommended David Grossman, and I'll probably read Reuben Sachs by Amy Levy soon.
posted by peripathetic at 6:29 PM on January 4, 2012

Herman Wouk's series starting with "The Winds of War" goes from WWII through the founding of Israel and beyond. Great read.

Potok has written a lot more than "My Name is Asher Lev" (which I love!).

I'm very fond of "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" and its sequels by Laurie King. The protagonist is Jewish.
posted by leslies at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2012

Bernard Malamud is my favorite, especially The Fixer and The Assistant.
posted by hoboynow at 6:33 PM on January 4, 2012

The Paris Years of Rosie Kamin by Richard Teleky
The Featherbed by John Miller
A Sharp Intake of Breath by John Miller
The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky by Karen X. Tulchinsky
posted by GreenEyed at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2012

Isaac Bashevis Singer is pretty much de rigueur for Jewish writing, and a nobel prize winner.
posted by smoke at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Might not be exactly what you're looking for, but the young adult novel Dreams in the Golden Country: The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903 of the Dear America series was really awesome when I read it as a young teen, and I still like to re-read it from time to time.
posted by permiechickie at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Try Bee Season by Myla Goldberg and The World to Come by Dara Horn.
posted by juliaem at 6:40 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I read Marge Piercy's 'He, She and It' in college and adored it. It's science fiction, and involves a sentient android, and the question of his humanity. It's interwoven with stories about the Golem in Renaissance Prague, and just generally steeped in Judaism on the whole.
posted by Caravantea at 6:43 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Jews Without Money is one of my all-time favorite novels about the Jewish experience in the lower East Side of NYC. Riveting.
posted by dbiedny at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sima's Undergarments for Women is a good novelabout an Orthodox Jewish woman who runs a lingerie shop in Brooklyn.

I see someone mentioned The Yiddish Policemen's Union; The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is also excellent and I believe has Jewish themes.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:15 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, David Grossman is fantastic. I especially recommend Someone to Run Withhere's a review to give you an idea of what it's about.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:16 PM on January 4, 2012

Yes, both "Yiddish Policeman's Union" and "Kavalier and Klay" are wonderful, wonderful books that examine Jewishness in a unique, thought-provoking way.

Alice Hoffman's "The Dovekeepers" is a historical fiction about the lives of the Jews who lived (and died) at Masada, and it's getting good reviews.
posted by elizeh at 7:41 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.

Also I know this isn't your question, but I've also liked non-fiction books A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry and Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book both well-written enough to be interesting to someone who likes fiction.
posted by jessamyn at 7:58 PM on January 4, 2012

Nthing the Chabon books that have been mentioned above.
posted by trip and a half at 9:11 PM on January 4, 2012

Can't believe nobody's mentioned Saul Bellow yet! Check out Herzog and Mr. Sammler's Planet.

Also Cynthia Ozick. Most of her fiction is about Jewish themes and she is excellent.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:25 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recently read and enjoyed Zoe Heller's The Believers. I knew very little about the story before I started reading it, which I think made me enjoy it more, but the main characters are Jewish atheists. One of the major plot lines has to do with Orthodox Judaism.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:20 PM on January 4, 2012

Seconding Marge Piercy's He, She and It, which has a Kindle edition and adding Gone to Soldiers, which doesn't, but can probably be picked up for a couple bucks at a second hand shop and is totally worth it.
posted by looli at 12:42 AM on January 5, 2012

The "Rabbi" series of detective novels, by Harry Kemelman.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:56 AM on January 5, 2012

Ludmila Ulitskaya, Daniel Stein
posted by londongeezer at 1:36 AM on January 5, 2012

The Ministry of Special Cases is a reflection on the experience of Buenos Aires during the Dirty War of the 1970s and its effect on the families that make up the main characters. To be brief and not give anything away, the son of the main couple is "disappeared" one night, and his family falls apart looking for him.

Though it's "just" a novel, I found that Special Cases brought to life some of the era's major issues and questions, with a good balance between explaining the history (so you know what's going on without having extensive knowledge of Argentine history) and remembering that it is a novel (and not getting bogged down in details). The family's Jewish identity, varying levels of belief during their lifetime and between generations, and how their belief changes or not throughout the search for their missing son is a key part of the story.
posted by whatzit at 3:12 AM on January 5, 2012

There's a whole series of sequels to Faye Kellerman's The Ritual Bath, though as the series progresses the books tend to become more conventional detective novels and less about Jewish life.
posted by rjs at 3:13 AM on January 5, 2012

A different Roth: Call It Sleep
posted by ohkay at 4:32 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding "Ministry of Special Cases" and Bashevis Singer.

Turning on the wayback machine, you might want to check out Alecheim, Babel, Gogol, and other writers connected with or influenced by the Jewish Enlightenment. If you're a fan of Jewish-themed fiction, you're missing out by not reading these writers.
posted by Currer Belfry at 6:20 AM on January 5, 2012

Alison Pick's Far to Go was longlisted for the Booker Prize last year, and it's very much about Jewish identity -- it's based loosely on the author's family's own history, and she converted to Judaism while writing the novel.

(Disclaimer: I know the author personally.)
posted by cider at 6:24 AM on January 5, 2012

Chandler Burr's You or Someone Like You. Eerily mirrored my then-current situation down to some pretty coincidental details.
posted by greatgefilte at 7:23 AM on January 5, 2012

Nthing Michael Chabon, with a special mention of Gentleman of the Road.
posted by mgrrl at 9:55 AM on January 5, 2012

Ones I haven't seen upthread:
Jonathan Rosen's "Joy Comes in the Morning"
Rutu Modan's "Exit Wounds" graphic novel

Three non-fiction recs (just in case)
Vanessa Davis' collected comic "Make Me a Woman" (may be slightly fictionalized :)
Sarah Glidden's "How to Understand Israel in 40 days or less" graphic novel of her trip there
Daniel Mendelsohn "The Lost:: A Search for Six of Six Million."
posted by canine epigram at 5:18 PM on January 5, 2012

Binnie Kirshenbaum's books. I highly recommend Hester Among the Ruins but that one isn't available for kindle.

Away by Amy Bloom

The Autobiography of God by Julius Lester
posted by book 'em dano at 9:29 PM on January 5, 2012

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska

I haven't read Shalom Auslander but his name comes up a lot in the book blogs I read.
posted by book 'em dano at 9:45 PM on January 5, 2012

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