15 Remarkable Stories to Celebrate Jewish Book Month

In 1925 Fanny Goldstein, a librarian in Boston, set up an exhibit of Judaic books and began what she called Jewish Book Week. Over the years, this celebration has reached across the country, and November is now officially Jewish Book Month. Here at Off the Shelf, we are celebrating 90 years of Jewish Book Month by showcasing some of our favorite novels and memoirs by Jewish writers.

The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss

In this breathtaking novel, a long-lost book connects two lives—one of a writer and the other of a girl, named after a character in his book, on a quest to find her namesake and save her family. Nicole Krauss beautifully intertwines these two stories, bringing them to a magnificent climax and linking old and young.

Henna House
by Nomi Eve

This vibrant novel begins in Yemen in 1920, as Adela Damari’s parents desperately seek a future husband for their daughter. A tale of love, loss, betrayal, and forgiveness, this family portrait interweaves the traditions of the Yemenite Jews with the history of the Holocaust and Israel.

The Dovekeepers
by Alice Hoffman

Nearly two thousand years ago, nine hundred Jews held out for months against Roman armies on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. The source for the recent CBS miniseries, The Dovekeepers is a beautifully written and captivating tale of four women whose lives intersect in the desperate days of the siege.

The Golem and the Jinni
by Helene Wecker

A chance meeting between two mythical beings leads to an unlikely friendship and journey through cultures in New York City at the start of the twentieth century. Helene Wecker’s debut novel is an imaginative mixture of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, crafting an imaginative and remarkable story.

The Book of Aron
by Jim Shepard

Aron and a handful of children in the Warsaw ghetto risk their lives to smuggle and trade contraband in order to keep their families alive. This child’s-eye view of one of history’s darkest periods is mesmerizing and heartbreaking with a comic touch.

The Free World
by David Bezmozgis

This dazzling, multigenerational saga follows a family of Soviet Jews who escape to freedom through a crack in the Iron Curtain in the summer of 1978. Their six-month wait in the way station of Rome, filled with dislocation, nostalgia, and the promise of a new life, paints an intimate portrait of a turbulent era.

Love and Treasure
by Ayelet Waldman

In 1945, American soldiers discover a train in Salzburg filled with gold watches, wedding rings, Shabbat candlesticks, and more. Decades later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, the lieutenant charged with guarding the treasure gives a necklace to his granddaughter and asks her to return it to the rightful owner.

A Replacement Life
by Boris Fishman

In this provocative and sometimes humorous novel, a failed journalist is asked by his grandfather to forge Holocaust-restitution claims for old Russian Jews in Brooklyn, New York. This charming debut is a moving story about the lasting importance of family, honor, and justice.

People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

This ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript, from fifteenth-century Spain to war-torn Bosnia. It falls to a renowned book conservator and a young librarian who risked his live to save it to discover its secrets and piece together the mystery of its miraculous survival.

Unorthodox
by Deborah Feldman

A rich and harrowing memoir of a young woman’s escape from the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism in Brooklyn in order to give herself and her newborn son a brighter future.

The First Desire
by Nancy Reisman

Meet the Cohens of Buffalo, New York, whose eldest sister Golide has just disappeared without a trace. Told through the shifting perspectives of the four adult Cohen siblings, from the Great Depression through World War II, this novel examines the love, grief, and desires that ultimately bind one family together.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon

An exuberant Pulitzer Prize–winning novel that opens in the New York City of 1939. While World War II rages in Europe, a young escape artist and his cousin dive into the American comic book craze, traveling deep into the heart of Manhattan and American ambition.

Exodus
by Leon Uris

Leon Uris beautifully portrays the founding of Israel through the story of an American nurse and an Israeli freedom fighter caught up in a heartbreaking era. This novel remains one of our very favorites, thirty years after its publication.

The Speed of Light
by Elizabeth Rosner

A powerful debut about three people who overcome the tragedies of the past to reconnect with one another and the world around them. This novel of love and redemption proves the pain of the untold story is far greater than even the most difficult truth.

The Lost
by Daniel Mendelsohn

Having grown up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust, Daniel Mendelsohn set out to discover his relatives’ fates. Spanning across dozens of countries on four continents, this riveting memoir follows a journey that finally leads back to the small Ukrainian town where his family’s story began.