Welcome to the Five Books recommendations on Judaism and Jewish culture.
From a literary perspective, our book recommendations examine the rich cultural and literary world of Jewish writing. These include the best Jewish fiction, chosen by novelist Allegra Goodman, but also the best contemporary Israeli fiction. Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse discusses the distinctive nature of Jewish humour, picking her favourite works.
Hanukkah means ‘a dedication’ and the celebration of the Jewish holiday towards the end of every year commemorates the success of the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire and the re-consecration of the Temple of Jerusalem in the second century BCE. Here, award-winning novelist Dara Horn recommends books that speak to the powerful themes of Hanukkah and explains why Jewish people are encouraged to light menorahs publicly around the world.
Gershon Hundert, Leanor Segal Professor of Jewish Studies at McGill University, talks about recent revisions to the conventional understanding of Jewish history and selects the most influential current writing on the subject.
Jewish literature doesn’t have to be written by Jews, says the novelist, but it does have to speak to the Jewish experience. She tells us about the Jewish writing, from Chaim Potok to George Eliot, that means the most to her.
Ruth Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Comparative Literature Emerita at Harvard and author of No Joke: Making Jewish Humour, identifies Tevye the Dairyman as the first standup comic and Sigmund Freud as Jewish humour’s greatest analyst.
Tante Jolesch or the Decline of the West in Anecdotes
by Friedrich Torberg & Maria Poglitsch Bauer (translator)
The Road into the Open
by Arthur Schnitzler & Roger Byers (translator)
The Radetzky March
by Joseph Roth
The World of Yesterday
by Stefan Zweig & Anthea Bell (translator)
Last Waltz in Vienna
by George Clare
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Vienna had a vibrant intellectual and cultural life, embraced and at times led by key figures in its large Jewish community. All that would disappear with the rise of anti-Semitism and the Anschluss. Many Jews fled or committed suicide. Others were deported to concentration camps. After the war some went back, but Vienna would never be the same. Here Brigid Grauman, whose father’s family were assimilated Jews from Vienna, recommends books that evoke that poignant, tragic period that ended with World War II.
Why has anti-Semitism been such a problem down the ages, and why does it persist today? The emeritus director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, recommends the best books to better understand anti-Semitism.
A History of the Bible
by John Barton
An Introduction to the New Testament
by Raymond E Brown
Jesus the Jew: a Historian’s Reading of the Gospels
by Geza Vermes
The Misunderstood Jew: the Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus
by Amy-Jill Levine
Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study
by Markus Bockmuehl
The Bible is not always an easy read—nor is it always obvious how or where to start reading it. Here, Nicholas King, a Jesuit priest and biblical scholar, chooses five books to help you start getting to grips with what is, arguably, the world’s all-time bestselling book.
Israeli lawyer and politician says the Zionist revolution sought to turn Jewish civilisation into a nation-state like all nation-states under the rule of international law
Israeli historian Gabriel Piterberg tells us about works of scholarship that have challenged the Zionist Israeli narrative of modern history.