Celebrate and Support!
Looking for books written by Jewish authors? Here is a nice list to start. And click on the buttons below for more book recommendations, an author series, and my harrowing personal experience in Israel on October 7th.
People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn (nonfiction)
Renowned and beloved as a prizewinning novelist, Dara Horn has also been publishing penetrating essays since she was a teenager. Often asked by major publications to write on subjects related to Jewish culture—and increasingly in response to a recent wave of deadly antisemitic attacks—Horn was troubled to realize what all of these assignments had in common: she was being asked to write about dead Jews, never about living ones. In these essays, Horn reflects on subjects as far-flung as the international veneration of Anne Frank, the mythology that Jewish family names were changed at Ellis Island, the blockbuster traveling exhibition Auschwitz, the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China, and the little-known life of the “righteous Gentile” Varian Fry. Throughout, she challenges us to confront the reasons why there might be so much fascination with Jewish deaths, and so little respect for Jewish lives unfolding in the present.
Horn draws upon her travels, her research, and also her own family life—trying to explain Shakespeare’s Shylock to a curious ten-year-old, her anger when swastikas are drawn on desks in her children’s school, the profound perspective offered by traditional religious practice and study—to assert the vitality, complexity, and depth of Jewish life against an antisemitism that, far from being disarmed by the mantra of “Never forget,” is on the rise. As Horn explores the (not so) shocking attacks on the American Jewish community in recent years, she reveals the subtler dehumanization built into the public piety that surrounds the Jewish past—making the radical argument that the benign reverence we give to past horrors is itself a profound affront to human dignity.
Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro (fiction)
NATIONAL BEST SELLER • From the beloved author of INHERITANCE: “a haunting, moving, and propulsive exploration of family secrets” (Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings)
Two families. One night. A constellation of lives changed forever.
A TIME Best Fiction Book of the Year • A Washington Post Notable Work of Fiction • A Real Simple Best Book of the Year
An ancient majestic oak stands beneath the stars on Division Street. And under the tree sits Ben Wilf, a retired doctor, and ten-year-old Waldo Shenkman, a brilliant, lonely boy who is pointing out his favorite constellations. Waldo doesn’t realize it but he and Ben have met before. And they will again, and again. Across time and space, and shared destiny.
Division Street is full of secrets. An impulsive lie begets a secret—one which will forever haunt the Wilf family. And the Shenkmans, who move into the neighborhood many years later, bring secrets of their own.. Spanning fifty kaleidoscopic years, on a street—and in a galaxy—where stars collapse and stories collide, these two families become bound in ways they never could have imagined.
Urgent and compassionate, SIGNAL FIRES is a magical story for our times, a literary tour de force by a masterful storyteller at the height of her powers. A luminous meditation on family, memory, and the healing power of interconnectedness.
Shayna by Miriam Ruth Black (historical fiction)
“From frozen ground, flowers grow…” 1919 Ukraine – In a small trunk in the corner of an abandoned shed a young woman huddles hiding from the Cossacks ravaging her shtetl, burning homes and killing Jews. Shayna Rifkin, seventeen, loses everything. Desperate to find safety, she dreams of reaching America. Shayna rescues her four-year-old nephew and with her fiancé and his mother braves a perilous trek across Europe. Shayna’s courage and determination bind them together, weaving a strong fabric from their separate threads to make a family, a safe place from which to build a new life in a new country. This emotionally rich novel is steeped in the Yiddish culture of the shtetl and the Lower East Side of New York in the early 20th century. Winner Hackney Literary Award
The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland (nonfiction/history)
In a book that is part thrilling adventure, part exploration of some of the darkest secrets of the Holocaust, award-winning journalist and best-selling novelist Jonathan Freedland uncovers the extraordinary story of the first Jew to break out of Auschwitz, a man who was determined to warn the world—and pass on a truth too few were willing to hear.
In April 1944, Rudolf Vrba became the first Jew to break out of Auschwitz—one of only four who ever pulled off that near-impossible feat. He did it to reveal the truth of the death camp to the world—and to warn the last Jews of Europe what fate awaited them at the end of the railway line. Against all odds, he and his fellow escapee, Fred Wetzler, climbed mountains, crossed rivers and narrowly missed German bullets until they had smuggled out the first full account of Auschwitz the world had ever seen—a forensically detailed report that would eventually reach Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and the Pope.
And yet too few heeded the warning that Vrba—then just nineteen years old—had risked everything to deliver. Some could not believe it. Others thought it easier to keep quiet. Vrba helped save 200,000 Jewish lives—but he never stopped believing it could have been so many more.
This is the story of a brilliant yet troubled man—a gifted “escape artist” who even as a teenager understand that the difference between truth and lies can be the difference between life and death, a man who deserves to take his place alongside Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler and Primo Levi as one of the handful of individuals whose stories define our understanding of the Holocaust.
Filled with the romance and angst that defines the years you come to know yourself, with a shifting timeline covering two decades and ratcheting up the tension, Maybe Once, Maybe Twice is a novel of second chances and finding your own way.
You know that old saying, “if we are still single when we’re 35, we should get married?” Well, Maggie Vine made that vow with two different people, at two very different stages of her life.
And they both showed up.
Maggie Vine’s life is going extra-medium. At 35 she’s pursuing her dreams of being a singer and being a mother—though neither is successfully panning out. So when Garrett Scholl—stifled hedge fund manager by day but electrifying aspiring rock singer by night—comes to her 35th birthday party with the intention to kiss Maggie senseless, it feels like one piece might click into place. Except he’s engaged to someone else, and Maggie knows she won’t fit into the cookie-cutter life he’s building for himself.
Enter Asher Reyes. Her first boyfriend from summer camp, turned into heartthrob actor, he’s lived a successful yet private life ever since he got famous. When a career-changing opportunity is presented to Maggie after her reconnection with Asher, it feels like everything—music, love, family—will fall into place. But her past won’t let her move on without a fight.
An exuberant, hilarious memoir about a woman who pauses her successful career for a year and explores the “What If” jobs of her dreams.
On the cusp of turning forty, Alisha Fernandez Miranda has climbed to the peak of personal and professional success, but at a price; she’s overworked and exhausted.
Bravely, Miranda decides to give herself a break, temporarily pausing her stressful career as the CEO of her own consulting firm. With the tentative blessing of her husband and eight-year-old twins, she leaves her home in London to spend one year exploring the dream jobs of her youth, seeking answers to the question, “What If?”
What follows is a spirited and hilarious journey for Alisha – and the reader. Contending with her lack of experience (and the onset of a global pandemic), Alisha gofers for two high-profile Broadway productions (and nearly tramples Stephan Sondheim), attempts to master a fitness regimen called Voga (a cross between yoga and “voguing”), feigns confidence while handling multi-million-dollar artwork at Christie’s, and literally sets her shirt on fire while serving rack of lamb in a posh hotel on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. Her experiences are at once challenging and humbling, and push the boundaries of what Alisha thought she was physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of. Alisha’s “What If” year reveals that she can achieve success on her own terms by embodying the spirit of the intern: never stop learning, be flexible, and understand that failure is a prerequisite for growth.
For anyone who’s ever felt stuck in a rut, My What If Year proves that it’s never too late to say yes to second chances and explore the roads untraveled throughout your life.
What You Do To Me by Rochelle B. Weinstein (romance/fiction)
From the bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends comes a moving novel of two unfinished love stories and the music and lyrics that bring them together.
Journalist Cecilia James is a sucker for a love song. So when she stumbles across a clue to the identity of the muse for one of rock’s greatest, she devotes herself to uncovering the truth, even as her own relationship is falling apart.
While writing an article for Rolling Stone, Cecilia works to reveal the mystery that has intrigued fans and discovers a classic tale of two soulmates separated by fate and circumstance. Rock star Eddie Vee once sang with his soul, dedicating love songs to Sara Friedman, his inspiration and first love. Now, Eddie takes refuge in anonymity, closed off to the past. Sara, too, has distanced herself from their love, moving thousands of miles away to live the life she once railed against. As Eddie and Sara tentatively open up to Cecilia about broken dreams, she struggles to give them a happy ending. In the process, she learns that broken hearts can be healed—even her own.
What You Do To Me is the story of a love song and of the triumph of the heart over the greatest of odds. Even for those who have written off love forever.
Koshersoul by Michael W. Twitty (cookbook)
The James Beard award-winning author of the acclaimed The Cooking Gene explores the cultural crossroads of Jewish and African diaspora cuisine and issues of memory, identity, and food.
In Koshersoul, Michael W. Twitty considers the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. To Twitty, the creation of African-Jewish cooking is a conversation of migrations and a dialogue of diasporas offering a rich background for inventive recipes and the people who create them.
The question that most intrigues him is not just who makes the food, but how the food makes the people. Jews of Color are not outliers, Twitty contends, but significant and meaningful cultural creators in both Black and Jewish civilizations. Koshersoul also explores how food has shaped the journeys of numerous cooks, including Twitty’s own passage to and within Judaism.
As intimate, thought-provoking, and profound as The Cooking Gene, this remarkable book teases the senses as it offers sustenance for the soul.
Koshersoul includes 48-50 recipes.
Abraham by Jonathan Grossman (nonfiction)
A fascinating look at Abraham, the founder of the Israelite nation, and largely considered the originator of the revolutionary religious philosophy of ethical monotheism. In this work, Jonathan Grossman’s unveils layers of complexity in Abraham’s character, which, like his journey, is multifaceted and paradoxical, and marks the beginning of the story of the nation of Israel.
What happens when you drop an agnostic Jewish surgeon in a century-old Catholic hospital , where the doctor meets dogma and falls for the CEO? A nun, for God’s sake.
Dr. Martin Fischer, a white-coated Quixote, tilts his scalpel at the bloated underbelly of U.S. healthcare and fights for his patients. His only weapons are surgical skill and a pesky sense of righteous indignation that’s driving everyone nuts-including Marty.
As he takes on a callous multi-billion-dollar medical corporation, a mercenary surgical group, and the thoroughly corrupt CFO of St. Salacious, an unplanned pregnancy threatens to excommunicate the entire hospital. Can they really do that? It’s either stress or God who intervenes. Did Jesus just wink at him from the cross?
Turker, a former comic and surgeon , takes us on the quirky hero’s journey through the halls of U.S. medicine and draws back the curtain on the fickle and conflicted core of modern healthcare . The Wandering Jew of St. Salacious delivers a humorous blow against the profiteering of Big Medicine, while fanning a spark of hope for a healthier future.
In this exhilarating novel, two friends–often in love, but never lovers–come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.