38 Books To Read This Fall


In the fiction category, these are on our radar:

Jonathan Lynn’s “Samaritans” (Endeavour) is a satirical novel about healthcare, set at a struggling medical center with a profit-seeking CEO whose last job was at a Las Vegas casino. The author, director of “My Cousin Vinny,” comes from a family of Jewish writers: He is the nephew of Abba Eban and the cousin of Oliver Sacks. (September)

A collection of stories tied together by the concept of light, “The Age of Perpetual Light” (Grove Press) begins with a Jewish peddler who falls in love with an Amish woman while showing her the wonders of an Edison lamp. (September)

Set inside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nathan Englander’s “Dinner at the Center of the World” (Knopf) is a love story, political tale and spy thriller with narrative twists, looking closely at the relationship between a secret prisoner and his guard. (September)

Back in print in a new edition, “God’s Ear” by Rhoda Lerman (Overlook) is the tale of the son of a long line of devoted rabbis who prefers selling life insurance to attending to congregants’ needs, while his father badgers him to repent so that he can enter heaven. Lerman died in 2015. (September)

“The Boat Runner” by Devin Murphy (Harper), a debut novel, is the story of two Dutch brothers who get caught up in the Nazi campaign during World War II, and of those who take great risks to help Jews escape. (September)

Inspired by “Fiddler on the Roof,” actress Alexandra Silber (who played Tzeitel on Broadway) imagines the next chapters in the lives of Tevye and family in “After Anatevka” (Pegasus), picking up with Hodel as she heads to Siberia to meet Perchik. (September)

A literary spy thriller and love story that shifts between New York and Israel, “The Book of Love and Hate” by Lauren Sanders (Akashic Books) is told from the perspective of a failed Olympic skater, trying to stay sober. Traveling to Israel in search of her disappeared father, she encounters a Mossad agent gone bad, fake Orthodox Jews, gay Palestinians on the run and others wandering the Holy Land. (October)

In “The Book of Norman” by Allan Appel (Mandel Vilar), two brothers have different ideas about their late father’s soul in this tale that probes Jewish and Mormon traditions. (October)

“Start Without Me” by Joshua Max Feldman (Morrow) takes place over one Thanksgiving Day, when two strangers meet by chance in an airport restaurant, each full of loaded expectations about the families awaiting them.

From Israeli novelist Eshkol Nevo, “Three Floors Up” (Other Press) unfolds the complex emotional lives of three families living in an apartment building in suburban Tel Aviv, their stories connected by their shared home. (October)

“Forest Dark” by Nicole Kraus features alternating narratives — full of mystery, humor and possibility — of a powerful attorney and a young novelist, both searching, set in New York and Israel.

Ruby Namdar’s first novel, “The Ruined House” (Harper), which won Israel’s Sapir Prize, is the story of an American professor at midlife, drawn inexplicably to mysticism and the ancient world.

A debut thriller translated from German, “Displaced” by Stephen Abarbanel (Harper) is the story of a man in 1946 Palestine who sends a female member of the Jewish resistance to search for his missing brother. (November)

“Strangers in Budapest” by Jessica Keener (Algonquin) is a novel inspired by the author’s sojourn in Budapest. Here, an American woman new to that city is asked to check up on a Jewish American World War II veteran, and gets caught up in a dark vendetta. (November)

In Non-Fiction we recommend these:

“No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination and the Making of Modern Israel” by Shimon Peres (Morrow) was completed just weeks before the death of Israel’s distinguished leader. He analyzes turning points in Israel’s history and offers guidance to future generations toward creative solutions and peace. (September)

Philip Roth’s “Why Write: Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013” (Library of America) includes essays and speeches delivered on a range of literary topics, touching on the creative process, writers he admires and his cultural observations and analysis. Included are six pieces published in print for the first time, like the unabridged version of his “Open Letter to Wikipedia” on The New Yorker’s website. In the preface, he writes that like his character Mickey Sabbath in “Sabbath’s Theater,” he is saying, “Here I am, out from behind the disguises and inventions and artifices of the novel.” (September)

“If All the Seas Were Ink” (St. Martin’s) is Ilana Kurshan’s uncommon literary memoir, connecting her own experience as a young woman in Jerusalem — from a painful divorce to marriage and motherhood, always reading — with her engagement in the daily study of Talmud.

“An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic” by Daniel Mendelsohn (Knopf) is the tale of what ensues when the author’s 81-year-old father enrolls in the author’s Bard College seminar on Homer, with the hope of grasping an understanding of literature and of his son. Together, they experience deep emotional and intellectual adventures, in class and on Mediterranean travels. (September)

A new edition of Elie Wiesel’s groundbreaking “Night” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) includes a memorial tribute by President Barack Obama, a foreword by Samantha Power and an afterword by Wiesel’s son Elisha. (September)

“What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man” by Art Garfunkel (Knopf) is a memoir in the form of short pieces: memories, lists, poems, hinting at the creative evolution of a musician, his coming-of-age and his long friendship and collaboration with Paul Simon. Growing up in Kew Gardens Hills, he was — at age 9 — singing Nat King Cole’s “Too Young” in school talent shows and bringing grown men to tears in synagogue with his renditions of “age-old prayerful melodies.” (September)

“The Book of Separation” by Tova Mirvis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a memoir of leaving a marriage and leaving Modern Orthodoxy — after 17 years of marriage, three children and many years of internal dialogue questioning the foundation of her faith — and reconfiguring a life. (September)

Combining personal reminiscence and case studies, “The Choice: Embrace the Possible” by Edith Eva Eger is a memoir and guide to healing by a psychologist who uses her experiences as a survivor of Auschwitz to help others through trauma of all kinds. The resilient 89-year-old has chosen a path of forgiveness and joy. (September)

Inspired by a letter written by Albert Einstein to a rabbi grieving for his son, “Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul” by Rabbi Naomi Levy (Flatiron Books) links the physicist’s sense of the unity of all existence with the author’s interest in understanding the soul and the voice within. The book is memoir, authentic encounter and a guide to awakening the soul. (September)

A debut work, “Timeless Travel: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor, and Enchantment” by Joseph Rotenberg (Gefen) includes essays and stories of contemporary Jewish experiences told from several points of view, combining autobiography, history and humor. (September)

Tim O’Grady’s “A Deadly Legacy: German Jews and the Great War” (Yale) studies the range of German Jewish experiences of World War I, when the roots of Nazism were planted, at home and on the front, and the dilemmas German Jews faced. (September)

In “The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), leading Bible scholar James L. Kugel guides readers through a close and sensitive reading of text in light of modern scholarship in a range of fields, asking questions about the “reality of God in ancient times — and in our own” and the origins of belief. (September)

An in-depth study using video archives, “Holocaust Memory in the Digital Age: Survivors’ Stories and New Media Practices” by Jeffrey Shandler (Stanford) probes the connections between media, memory and history. (October)

For “Bad Rabbi: And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press” (Stanford), Eddy Portnoy unearthed newspaper stories from Warsaw and New York, detailing unusual events comic and tragic. (October)

A rigorous and lively biography, “Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel” (Schocken) details the life and times of Israel’s fourth prime minister, from her birth in Russia and childhood in Milwaukee to her move to Palestine in 1921, and her rise to national leadership and international acclaim. (October)

“Jewish Comedy: A Serious History” by Jeremy Dauber (Norton) is a scholar’s view of the definition and evolution of Jewish comedy in all its forms, from the Book of Esther to Sarah Silverman, opening with a good joke. (October)

“The Story of the Jews Volume Two: Belonging: 1492-1900” by Simon Schama (Ecco) is the second of three volumes in this illustrated cultural history, finding common ground among rabbis, poets, composers, boxers and others, from the Renaissance to the modern age. (October)

“Jewish New York: The Remarkable Story of a City and a People” by Deborah Dash Moore, Jeffrey S. Gurock, Annie Polland, Howard B. Rock and Daniel Soyer with Diana L. Linden (NYU Press) traces three centuries of New York City history, focusing on the diverse roles Jewish New Yorkers played in shaping the city’s culture. As one returning serviceman said in 1945, “Of all the big cities, New York is still the promised land.” (October)

An untold story of the Holocaust, “Suzanne’s Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris” by Anne Nelson (Simon & Schuster) recounts the courage and heroism of an elegant Belgian woman who risked her life to save Jewish children until she was caught by the Gestapo. (October)

An unconventional biography, “Memories After My Death: The Story of My Father, Joseph ‘Tommy’ Lapid” by Yair Lapid (St. Martin’s) is written in the voice of the subject, the senior Lapid, a journalist, businessman and former deputy prime minister of Israel. (October)

“The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah: Fear and Love in the Modern Middle East” by Adam Valen Levinson (Norton) is an account of the Arab-speaking author’s travels through Kuwait, Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt and other countries he feared. The author describes himself as a multimedia backpack journalist and travel writer who focuses on stories
of humanity in areas of conflict.

Uncovering family secrets, “A Crime in the Family: A World War II Secret Buried in Silence – and My Search for the Truth” by Sacha Batthyany (Da Capo) is the author’s investigation of a report that his great aunt was present at a 1945 massacre of 180 Jews in Rechnitz, Austria. (November)

Published on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, “Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917 to 2017” by Ian Black (Atlantic) is a history of conflict by a Guardian correspondent.

“Candies from Heaven” by Gil Hovav (Gefen) is a collection of pieces braiding food and memory with family recipes by a leading Israeli culinary journalist. (November)