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8 Nights of Jewish Books: A Suggested Hanukkah Reading (and Gifting!) List

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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

Prepare yourself for some bad puns for this list of Jewish books (I know the tradition is fried foods, but I prefer to cheese it up):

Hanukkah is coming! But eight nights equals a latke of presents to prepare. If you’re dreideling that shopping, worry no menorah!—we’ve got a list of eight great recent Jewish books here that you can go out and gelt immediately. Your shopping done, you can then go on to more important things, like curling up with with a plate of sufganiyot.

(That last one was a recommendation, not a pun. Nom nom nom.)

8 nights of Jewish books: a list of great Hanukkah reading ideas. Jewish books | Hanukkah Books | Books for Hanukkah | book lists | seasonal reading | holiday books

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

What if you knew when you would die? For the four Gold children, a fortune teller who reveals their end points changes everything. They lead drastically different lives after knowing, but all are informed by the possibility that the seer was right. Mystical, thoughtful, scientific, and wise, Benjamin’s novel is an inventive twist on a classic what-if.

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

She has a PhD in Yiddish literature and a distinct literary voice, and in her latest stunning novel, Dara Horn explores the implications of eternal life. What if someone made a trade in the time of the Temple—and then found themselves resurrected in subsequent generations, through pogroms, the Crusades, smaller persecutions, the Holocaust, watching as generations of their offspring suffered and succeeded? It’s a “gift” that’s more like a nightmare, and Horn’s main character searches for release.

cover image: a black and white image of a male figure from behind standing at a railing under a bridgeDown the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has a gift for gritty books, and this latest crime thriller is no exception. In it, an officer is framed for a crime and ends up in prison, where his terrible experiences do not diminish his commitment to justice. When he’s released, he goes on the offensive, working to clear the name of someone else who was framed, and combating a lot of institutional ugliness along the way.

Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

A pulp writer transgresses the barriers between realities in Tidhar’s latest science fiction wonder, which finds agents who can skip between universes chasing the man who may be instrumental to a multiverse rift—centered somewhere in the forests beyond Palestina, a territory in what was Uganda, in a world that is not our own. Tidhar’s book is a cabinet of wonders—it will not stop proffering surprises ’til the end.

Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered by Sarah Tuttle-Singer

If you don’t follow Sarah on social media: you should. The Times of Israel employee who grew up in L.A. before making aliyah is a social justice inspiration—a little more honest than some people’s tastes allow, but always eager to reach across barriers in search of commonalities and peace. Those efforts are reflected in her vivacious celebration of the Old City, in which she embraces cultures crossing and ancient holiness

On the Landing by Yenta Mash

These freshly translated short stories dip into Romanian shtetl lives before the Holocaust, during banishment to Siberia, and in the wider, broken world after. They are a testament to survival and defiance, and feature images both startling in their historical honesty and hopeful, even through despair. There are feminist edges and reckonings with tradition as well.

The Family Table by Jazz Smollett-Warwell, Jake Smollett, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Jussie Smollett

So many good Jewish stories begin in the kitchen; the Smolletts’ book is no exception. You may recognize the siblings—their father has European Jewish roots; their mother is African American and from Texas—rom the Food Network, or maybe Jussie from Empire; this book is their family’s delectable tale, complete with recipes you won’t want to miss. “We celebrated everything around that kitchen table: birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Passover, Chanukah,” writes Jazz Smollett in the intro. “We loved eating Louisiana sausage on bagels, pickled pigs’ feet from the jar with hot sauce, and gefilte fish and horseradish on matzo.” There’s more than a little to drool over here.

Feasting by Amanda Ruben

Ruben’s cookbook is joyful, satiating, inspiring, and mouthwatering. It jumps between holiday treats and everyday classics like matzo ball soup as well as into more global flavors, incorporating Thai ingredients and even some sriracha. Proposed menus make accommodating for kashrut standards easy!