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Read it First! Celebrating Jewish Authors

Elizabeth Graney, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Collage of books adapted to films
Whether you are looking for humor, romance, or drama, we’ve got something here to help you celebrate the Festival of Lights

This year the Hanukkah holiday will begin on Thursday, December 10, and continue through Friday, December 18. With social distancing encouraged and travel restricted, it will be a quiet holiday for most this year. But a mellow holiday at home is the perfect opportunity to celebrate with some great books and films. While adult fiction books (and films) centered on the Hanukkah holiday are few and far between, there are plenty of amazing Jewish authors whose works have found their way to the big screen. Whether you are looking for humor, romance, or drama, we’ve got something here to help you celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Watch and Read at Home

Book cover for Bee Season
Bee Season

Eliza Naumann has always felt herself to be unremarkable in a family of extraordinary people. Her father the cantor, her mother the successful attorney, and her brother the gifted scholar have always outshined her. So when she shows a surprising propensity for spelling, she is delighted to find herself the star of her family. But Eliza’s newfound success brings familial secrets to light and threatens to tear everything apart. Myla Goldberg’s bittersweet tale, Bee Season, was adapted to film in 2005. Check out the DVD using our Library to Go service.

Book cover for Disobedience

Disobedience by Naomi Alderman is an award-winning novel that shows the power our past has to disrupt our present. Ronit Krushka escaped the tight knit and all encompassing Orthodox Jewish community of her youth, but her father’s death draws her back home for one last visit. There she reunites with the childhood crush that forced her to turn away from the community many years before. Alderman’s powerful tale was adapted to film in 2017 and is available for checkout on DVD with your library card today.

Book cover for Everything is Illuminated
Everything is Illuminated

Jonathan Safran Foer’s semi-autobiographical novel, Everything is Illuminated, is a powerful tale about love, family and one’s search for belonging. Foer travels to his grandfather’s home village of Trachimbrod in Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather’s life when Nazis eradicated the town. Along the way, he befriends a Ukrainian translator named Alex and imagines the history of the land around him and the lives his ancestors led. Foer’s award-winning novel was made into a film of the same name in 2005.

Book cover for Goodbye Columbus
Goodbye Columbus

Goodbye Columbus is a collection of stories by Philip Roth that focus on young Jewish Americans who struggle to find a balance between their traditional upbringing and mainstream American society. This intimate look inside Jewish communities of the 1950’s won the 1960 National Book Award. Though many critics claimed it to be a masterpiece, it was not without controversy. Roth’s arguably unflattering and sometimes stereotypical depiction of Jewish Americans caused many to denounce the book and Roth himself. The 1969 film adaptation is based on the titular story in which Neil, a young working class man, falls for Brenda, a wealthy Radcliffe student. The young relationship is tested by their class difference and the disapproval of her family.  

Book cover for Fiddler On The Roof
Fiddler On The Roof

Tevye the Dairyman is a short story collection by Sholem Aleichem that paints a picture of everyday life in the village of Boyberik in pre-revolutionary Russia. The titular Tevye is a poor Jewish milkman struggling to adapt to a changing world as he narrates the stories of his life to the author. While he frets over his business and plans his daughters’ marriages, Tevye must also contend with the anti-Semitic government forces that have come to forcefully remove all Jewish residents from Boyberik. At turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, Aleichem’s classic stories have been adapted to film multiple times, the most famous being the 1971 musical starring Chaim Topol. You can stream the musical through hoopla with your library card today.

Book cover for This is Where I Leave You
This is Where I Leave You

Judd Foxman has hit rock bottom. After a brutal public uncovering of his wife’s affair with his boss, he finds himself separated, unemployed and traveling home to attend his father’s funeral. But fulfilling his father's dying wish for a traditional shiva means spending a week under the same roof with his estranged siblings. Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You is a funny and bittersweet reminder of the importance of family. This New York Times bestselling novel was adapted to film in 2014. You can check out the DVD through our Library to Go service today.