The best Jewish-themed novels with imaginative female characters

Why am I passionate about this?

I love stories about human connection and creativity. I came to writing later in life; I was moved to research and write a memoir about raising our two daughters, both of whom were born deaf. I discovered in my Jewish ancestry two deaf great-great aunts who tied strings to their babies’ wrists at night so that when their babies cried, they would feel the tug in the darkness and wake to care for them. This innovation of connection has shaped me as a mother, a writer, and a reader. In my novel, The Yellow Bird Sings, a mother and daughter stay connected through music and the power of imagination.


I wrote...

Book cover of The Yellow Bird Sings

What is my book about?

As Nazi soldiers round up Jews in their town, Róża and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róża tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden: The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. 

In this make-believe world, Róża can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róża must make an impossible choice: to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Weight of Ink

Jennifer Rosner Why did I love this book?

The Weight of Ink is a sweeping, expansive story about two brilliant females: a young woman in the 1660s, who becomes the scribe to a blind rabbi and, through feats of great daring, a correspondent with the philosophers of the day;  and an aging historian in the 1990s, who fights to gain access to and analyse these correspondences. Kadish highlights how intellectual women of different centuries have coped with restrictions set upon them. 

By Rachel Kadish,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Weight of Ink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF A NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD A USA TODAY BESTSELLER "A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion."-Toni Morrison Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a…


Book cover of No One Is Here Except All of Us

Jennifer Rosner Why did I love this book?

I read this magical, mystical novel on an airplane, and had to retrieve a spare t-shirt from my suitcase to sob into! A beautiful, heart-wrenching work about family history, memory, and the power of imagination, the story is narrated by a girl, Lena, who leads her village to imagining their way out of the reality of the Holocaust's horrors. For a time, the villagers are spared, even repaired, until the outside world presses its way in and the myths crack, then shatter.  

By Ramona Ausubel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No One Is Here Except All of Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the award-winning author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and the new story collection, Awayland.

In 1939, the families in a remote Jewish village in Romania feel the war close in on them. Their tribe has moved and escaped for thousands of years- across oceans, deserts, and mountains-but now, it seems, there is nowhere else to go. Danger is imminent in every direction, yet the territory of imagination and belief is limitless. At the suggestion of an eleven-year-old girl and a mysterious stranger who has washed up on the riverbank, the villagers decide to reinvent the world:…


Book cover of The History of Love

Jennifer Rosner Why did I love this book?

Every time I open The History of Love—and I return to it again and again—I find myself suspended between tears and laughter reading this gorgeous, emotionally-charged story. It is full of heartbreak and humor about an old man, Leo Gursky and a teenage girl, Alma—and the history, longing, and loneliness that brings them together, and connects all of us. 

By Nicole Krauss,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The History of Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But it wasn't always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book...Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of "extraordinary depth and beauty" (Newsday).


Book cover of The World That We Knew

Jennifer Rosner Why did I love this book?

The World That We Knew blends realism and magic as a golem—a mystical human-like being, required to follow the demands of its maker— is invoked to protect a 12-year-old girl, Lea, escaping the horrors of the Holocaust. As the golem gains more humanity, the dangers and poignancies mount. A lyrical, heartrending novel about sacrifice, connection, love, and loss. 

By Alice Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The World That We Knew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL *

'Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman's exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us - it is a glorious experience. The book builds and builds, as she weaves together, seamlessly, the stories of people in the most desperate of circumstances - and then it delivers with a tremendous punch. It opens up the world ... in a way that is absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping' Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive…


Book cover of The Last Train To London

Jennifer Rosner Why did I love this book?

This suspenseful, big-hearted novel is based on the true story of Truus Wijsmuller, a childless Dutch woman who smuggled hundreds of Jewish children to London on the Kindertransport. The story is inspiring and beautiful, and shows the extraordinary power of one person to change the fates of many. 

By Meg Waite Clayton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Last Train To London as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

National bestseller

A Historical Novels Review Editors' Choice

A Jewish Book Award Finalist

The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Exiles conjures her best novel yet, a pre-World War II-era story with the emotional resonance of Orphan Train and All the Light We Cannot See, centering on the Kindertransports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe-and one brave woman who helped them escape to safety.

In 1936, the Nazi are little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from…


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The Woman at the Wheel

By Penny Haw,

Book cover of The Woman at the Wheel

Penny Haw Author Of The Invincible Miss Cust

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Storyteller Dog walker Dreamer Runner Reader

Penny's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Inspiring historical fiction based on the real life of Bertha Benz, whose husband built the first prototype automobile, which eventually evolved into the Mercedes-Benz marque.

"Unfortunately, only a girl again."

From a young age, Cäcilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father's work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.

Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love—with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his…

The Woman at the Wheel

By Penny Haw,

What is this book about?

Inspiring historical fiction based on the real life of Bertha Benz, whose husband built the first prototype automobile, which eventually evolved into the Mercedes-Benz marque.

"Unfortunately, only a girl again."

From a young age, Cacilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father's work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.

Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love-with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his…


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