This year marks the 98th cel­e­bra­tion of Jew­ish Book Month! The JBC team has some read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for this spe­cial month. From grip­ping fic­tion to pow­er­ful mem­oirs and more, these twelve tales will keep you booked. (And if you’d like even more read­ing sug­ges­tions, we invite you to peruse our book review section.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is a mod­ern clas­sic — heart­break­ing, pure, human. Though it is set dur­ing the hor­rors of World War II, it is about kind­ness, love, and death. This book fol­lows a Ger­man girl, Liesel, as she adjusts to life with a new fam­i­ly. She makes friends with a blonde boy who loves to run, the wife of a Ger­man offi­cer, and a young Jew­ish man who hides in the base­ment. She learns how to read and write, rel­ish­ing in books dur­ing a time when words are stifled.

The Last Kab­bal­ist in Lis­bon by Richard Zimler

This book is all too poignant in this time of heartache, vio­lence, and divi­sion. It tells the sto­ry of kab­bal­ists who are forced to hide their reli­gion dur­ing the Inqui­si­tion of Spain and Por­tu­gal. Our pro­tag­o­nist Bereki­ah search­es for his Uncle’s killer amidst the pogroms unfold­ing in the streets — he meets many char­ac­ters along the way of all faiths and back­grounds. Framed like a mur­der-mys­tery, this tale is engross­ing, thought-pro­vok­ing, and beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, though there are some sec­tions con­tain­ing graph­ic depic­tions of violence.

The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen

The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen was award­ed the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Fic­tion as well as the 71st Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Fic­tion. Nar­rat­ed by the sole Jew­ish pro­fes­sor at a New York State col­lege in 1960, this satir­i­cal nov­el descends into chaos when Ben-Zion Netanyahu arrives for a job inter­view, his bois­ter­ous fam­i­ly in tow. Cohen has the rare abil­i­ty to both deliv­er fic­tion that reads like non­fic­tion — and do it suc­cess­ful­ly — and also lead with an all-hits-no-skips lev­el of humor.

Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls: A Mem­oir by T Kira Madden

In this vivid mem­oir, Mad­den explores her fam­i­ly ties, her upbring­ing in a stag­ger­ing­ly wealthy Boca Raton, and her com­ing of age as a queer, bira­cial girl. Mad­den is a daz­zling writer, attuned to life and lan­guage in ways both insight­ful and surprising.

The Orchard by David Hopen

The Orchard by David Hopen is a bril­liant com­ing-of-age sto­ry that explores the rela­tion­ships ado­les­cents have with reli­gion, iden­ti­ty, and moral­i­ty. What makes Hopen’s nov­el unique is not the bound­aries he push­es but the back­drop of his sto­ry. Hopen’s nov­el takes place at a Jew­ish day school, and it was the first time I read a book that accu­rate­ly describes the stu­dent-to-stu­dent and stu­dent-teacher rela­tion­ships I had while grow­ing up at a Jew­ish day school. The Orchard is dark, philo­soph­i­cal, and I enjoyed how cen­tral Judaism is to the book.

House on End­less Waters by Emu­na Elon, trans­lat­ed by Antho­ny Berris and Lin­da Yechiel

In this beau­ti­ful sto­ry, Elon writes about post-Holo­caust trau­ma and how fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships are impact­ed by this trau­ma through her pro­tag­o­nist, Yoel Blum. Elon alter­nates between past and present and takes her read­ers on an emo­tion­al jour­ney as Blum learns about his child­hood and comes to terms with his past.

Din­ner at the Cen­ter of the Earth by Nathan Englander

Eng­lan­der writes about the con­flict from mul­ti­ple points of views and gives insight into var­i­ous per­spec­tives on Israeli-Pales­tin­ian rela­tion­ships. While also being polit­i­cal, this sto­ry is filled with adven­ture. Eng­lan­der writes about romance between a Pales­tin­ian and an Israeli nego­tia­tor, he writes about spies, espi­onage, and fam­i­ly secrets. It is a sto­ry that can be read mul­ti­ple times and will still keep you cap­ti­vat­ed on your third reread. 

The Golem and the Jin­ni by Helene Wecker

This Jew­ish Book Month, I rec­om­mend read­ing The Golem and the Jin­ni by Helene Weck­er and/​or The Last Watch­man of Old Cairo by Michael David Lucas. Both are sweep­ing, immense­ly read­able nov­els that will draw you into the past while depict­ing cross-cul­tur­al rela­tion­ships that are deeply res­o­nant today. 

Two Tribes by Emi­ly Bowen Cohen

We have fea­tured Emi­ly Bowen Cohen’s comics in the past, so I was thrilled when her YA graph­ic nov­el, Two Tribes, came out this sum­mer. This charm­ing­ly drawn, empa­thy-filled com­ic def­i­nite­ly did not dis­ap­point. Like much of Cohen’s work, it explores the com­plex­i­ties of being both Jew­ish and Native Amer­i­can — in this case, through a young pro­tag­o­nist who is begin­ning to nav­i­gate these iden­ti­ties in addi­tion to changes in her fam­i­ly life and school. 

A Play for the End of the World by Jai Chakrabarti

This beau­ti­ful sto­ry won the 71st Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Debut Fic­tion. It is a mov­ing nov­el touch­ing on themes of mem­o­ry and friend­ship, and lives changed for­ev­er by the two. 

Ques­tions I Am Asked About the Holo­caust: A Young Read­ers Edi­tion by Hédi Fried

This is a pre­cise and beau­ti­ful book for mid­dle school read­ers. It is Hédi and her sis­ter’s account of the dai­ly hor­rors of the con­cen­tra­tion camp and being forced into hard labor until the end of the war. It is writ­ten in short chap­ters that answer ques­tions that Hédi was asked all around the world in terms that young stu­dents can understand.

Fly Already by Etgar Keret

Etgar Keret’s most recent col­lec­tion of short sto­ries reflects the steady deep­en­ing of his inim­itable voice: heart­break­ing, insight­ful, and hilar­i­ous. His abid­ing love for the human race despite our some­times trag­ic flaws makes me believe he must have been born with a wise old soul. (For a quick exam­ple of Keret’s sen­si­bil­i­ty, read his essay Ten Rules for Writ­ers.)