The Best 10 Jewish Fiction Books to Read in 2020
Jewish fiction comes in multiple forms and may also have multiple definitions. Some people assume it has to be written by Jewish people. On the other hand, an author does not necessarily have to be Jewish to write a book about the Jewish experience, community or religion.
On the same note, if you are a big fan of Jewish movies, you should expect something different from books. They are not all about drama and the situation Jews have been through, but some of the best Jewish fiction books to read describe the culture, experience and lifestyle as well.
Now, what are the best books to give a try? (There are some old classics and some brand new, best seller candidates in the list)
Waking Lions, by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
This is one of Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's novels published in the western world. The Israeli writer throws out a question – what would you do if you end up committing a deadly mistake? The story follows a neurosurgeon who has a car accident and kills a pedestrian. What does the specialist do then? The author has a degree in psychology and many of her ideas are inspired from this field, so the thrilling story will certainly challenge you a little.
Judenrein, by Harold Benjamin
This book is very unique in its genre, a dystopian thriller, which isn't common in jewish literature.
Zack Gurevitz has had everything in his life. He was an educated Yeshiva boy who ended up among the Green Berets, only to return and become a drug addict. But his value is brought back to life when a white supremacist party takes the USA over and the Jews are prosecuted again. The community begs for his help, just moments after he was excommunicated… Will Zack manage to prevent a bunch of disasters?
A fast paced story which grips the readers.
What To Do About The Solomons, by Bethany Ball
Bethany Ball's first novel is a story following a family all across the world. The action takes place in New York, Los Angeles and Israel. One character stands out in the crowd – Marc Solomon, a financier established in California. The rest of his family adheres to the kibbutz community rules, but he seems to be a bit different. All in all, the story follows the family from multiple angles and will bring in a few intriguing aspects.
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
The Red Tent has a religious profile and describes the ancient womanhood and traditions. The story follows Dinah, who is also included in the Book of Genesis – Jacob's daughter. The story is told from her point of view and underlines the world of the red tent. She is barely mentioned in religious books, but the author has picked her for her unusual story – she gets gifts from Jacob's wives to keep happy after a problematic youth and experiences a calling to midwifery.
Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Everything Is Illuminated follows the adventurous story of a young Jewish man who tries to discover his origins. He finds a picture of a lady who saved his grandfather and he goes to Ukraine to find and thank her. There is lots of comedy in this book, as the American Jew discovers a completely different society in Eastern Europe – things that would never make sense in the USA. At the end, the story goes in a dramatic direction as he gets closer to his goal.
My Name Is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok
The title is self explanatory and the story follows Asher Lev. The Hasidic Jewish youngster spends his youth years in New York City. He is not the most popular boy in the area, as he is quite lonely. However, he has some artistic skills and he wants to pursue his passion. But then, art is not always accepted in Hasidic communities, so he ends up in a conflict with his family – and then his community. Will he follow his dream?
People Of The Book, by Geraldine Brooks
People Of The Book brings in history, mystery and intriguing elements – it is the type of book that will make you want to discover things. The Jewish fiction book is also historical, so it has a bit of truth. It focuses on the impressive Sarajevo Haggadah. This is one of the oldest Jewish illuminated texts known to Jews. While there is not too much known about it, the author tries to raise some theories. All in all, you will have to follow Hannah Heath's journey as she aims to figure the mystery of the manuscript.
Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth
Portnoy's Complaint is one of the best Jewish fiction books to read and the release that made Philip Roth famous all across the world. Alexander Portnoy is a Jewish lawyer. He ends up talking to his psychiatrist and reveals his hidden secrets – many of them with a sexual tension. As a reader, you go through his frustration as an adolescent and his unusual sexual desire as a grown man. The book is funny, but also intriguing at times.
The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman
This Jewish fiction book also has a bit of truth. The action takes place in 70 CE, when 900 Jews have managed to hold out against Romans in Israel for months. Seven people survived – five kids and a couple of women. The story follows four women during this siege and each of them has its own story – Revka, Shirah, Yael and Aziza.
Cilka's Journey: A Novel, by Heather Morris
Cilka Klein was only 16 when she got into Auschwitz-Birkenau. She becomes the commandant's favorite and she quickly understands that a bit of power means survival. Once released, Cilka is accused of collaborating with the Nazis and ends up in a prison from Siberia. She is back where she started, only things are different this time…
In the end, Jewish fiction can cover multiple aspects and may bring in some stories that no one can imagine – whether inspired from reality or authors' rich imagination. Some of them are about drama, while others underline action, love and comedy. Choose your favorite and emerge yourself into a new world of passion.
My profession is online marketing and development (10+ years experience), check my latest mobile app called Upcoming or my Chrome extensions for ChatGPT. But my real passion is reading books both fiction and non-fiction. I have several favorite authors like James Redfield or Daniel Keyes. If I read a book I always want to find the best part of it, every book has its unique value.