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100 Must-Read Works of Jewish Fiction

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Michelle Anne Schingler, a former librarian and Hebrew school teacher, is the managing editor at Foreword Reviews. Her days are books, books, books; she knows how lucky that makes her.  Twitter: @mschingler

“Jewish continuity has always hinged on uttered and written words….ours is not a bloodline but a textline,” say Fania Oz-Salzberger and Amos Oz in their beautiful book, Jews and Words. I am a returnee to the tradition—my great-grandparents left it; I converted back in after seminary. But I’ve always loved books and, particularly, Jewish literature. The Ozes’ words thrilled through me the first time I read them; maybe that love was something inherent.

In any case: reading through the diverse and ever-expanding Jewish literary canon is a natural way to work toward understanding a community that, while comparatively small, is incredibly diverse. This list draws Jewish voices in from all corners of the diaspora, from several continents as well as from Israel itself. The voices on it have different conceptions of what it means to be Jewish; some of these novels embrace the tradition self-consciously, some are more ambivalent about it, and some don’t mention religious traditions at all.

If we’re to believe Oz and his daughter: that diversity itself is something of a mitzvah. “Jews,” they say, “display a deeply rooted belief in the power of words to create and re-create reality.” To seek truth, they say, in new ways.

One hundred Jewish writers, or writers writing about Jews, on this list: that means at least, what?, 101 understandings of Jewish identity? There’s beauty here, and depth; reverence, and fun. With hope that you find something new—I certainly did, while reaching past my own shelves to find new titles, and with the help of my friend and literary guru, Ethan H.—and with equal hope that you’ll add your own titles below: here are 100 works of Jewish fiction that, in this Jewish woman’s opinion, should not be passed up.

1. The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

2. The World to Come, Dara Horn

3. The Collected Stories, Grace Paley

4. American Pastoral, Philip Roth

5. The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer

6. A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard, Hideo Levy

7. The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith

8. The Golems of Gotham, Thane Rosenbaum

9. The Believers, Zoe Heller

10. Albina and the Dog-Men, Alejandro Jodorowsky

11. The Liars’ Gospel, Naomi Alderman

12. Isles of the Blind, Robert Rosenberg

13. The Red Book, Deborah Copaken Kogan

14. Septimania, Jonathan Levi

15. 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

16. A Perfect Peace, Amos Oz

17. Adé, Rebecca Walker

18. My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok

19. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman

20. The Far Euphrates, Aryeh Lev Stollman

21. Piece of Mind, Michelle Adelman

22. Herzog, Saul Bellow

23. The Messiah of Stockholm, Cynthia Ozick

24. Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman

25. Are You There, God?, It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume

26. Yasmine, Eli Amir

27. In Her Shoes, Jennifer Weiner

28. The Sea Beach Line, Ben Nadler

29. Jacob’s Folly, Rebecca Miller

30. The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson

31. No One Is Here Except All of Us, Ramona Ausubel

32. Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart

33. Martha Quest, Doris Lessing

34. Pebble In The Sky, Isaac Asimov

35. The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir, Susan Daitch

36. The Biology of Luck, Jacob M. Appel

37. July’s People, Nadine Gordimer

38. A Blessing on the Moon, Joseph Skibell

39. After Abel, Michal Lemberger

40. These Things Happen, Richard Kramer

41. The Genizah At The House Of Shepher, Tamar Yellen

42. King of Yiddish, Curt Leviant

43. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin

44. The Blue Mountain, Meir Shalev

45. As a Driven Leaf, Milton Steinberg

46. Some Day, Shemi Zarhin

47. Dolly City, Orly Castel-Bloom

48. Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem

49. The Luminous Heart of Jonah S., Gina B. Nahai

50. Enemies, A Love Story, Isaac Bashevis Singer

51. Like A Bride and Like A Mother, Rosa Nissán

52. The Liberated Bride, A. B. Yehoshua

53. Khirbet Khizeh, S. Yizhar

54. Suddenly, A Knock on the Door, Etgar Kerat

55. The Weight of Temptation, Ana María Shua

56. The Ministry of Special Cases, Nathan Englander

57. Gentleman’s Agreement, Laura Hobson

58. To The End of the Land, David Grossman

59. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

60. The Planets, Sergio Chejfec

61. Let It Be Morning, Sayed Kashua

62. A Guest for the Night, S. Y. Agnon

63. The Seventh Beggar, Pearl Abraham

64. The Journey, H. G. Adler

65. A Scrap of Time, Ida Fink

66. Fatelessness, Imre Kertesz

67. Apples From the Desert, Savyon Liebrecht

68. The Complete Stories, Clarice Lispector

69. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman

70. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon

71. The Pillar of Salt, Albert Memmi

72. Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son, Shalom Aleichem

73. Last Train to Istanbul, Ayse Kulin

74. Contact, Carl Sagan

75. Diary of the Fall, Michel Laub

76. Melisande! What Are Dreams?, Hillel Halkin

77. Thereafter Johnnie, Carolivia Herron

78. The Man in My Basement, Walter Mosley

79. The UnAmericans, Molly Antopol

80. Marjorie Morningstar, Herman Wouk

81. A Trumpet in the Wadi, Sami Michael

82. The Monkey’s Wrench, Primo Levi

83. My Holocaust, Tova Reich

84. The Conversion, Aharon Appelfeld

85. Even in Darkness, Barbara Stark-Nemon

86. The Natural, Bernard Malamud

87. Beyond the Pale, Elana Dykewomon

88. Sophie’s Choice, William Styron

89. The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult

90. Exodus, Leon Uris

91. The Secret Chord, Geraldine Brooks

92. Bitter Bronx, Jerome Charyn

93. The Good Lord Bird, James McBride

94. The Best Place on Earth, Ayelet Tsabari

95. The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski

96. Love and Treasure, Ayelet Waldman

97. Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer

98. The Forgotten, Elie Wiesel

99. The End of Days, Jenny Erpenbeck

100. Hungry Hearts, Anzia Yezierska