100 books like Alex's Wake

By Martin Goldsmith,

Here are 100 books that Alex's Wake fans have personally recommended if you like Alex's Wake. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind

Irene Wittig Author Of All That Lingers

From my list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era.

Who am I?

World War II has been the background of my life. My Viennese family fled the Nazi regime. My childhood was peopled with Holocaust survivors and other people displaced by war. My uncle was a refugee and was trained as a Ritchie Boy and sent to war. I have been inspired by how people can survive traumatic times and come out stronger and kinder.

Irene's book list on hard times and resilience in the World War II era

Irene Wittig Why did Irene love this book?

A poignant, well-written and deeply researched non-fiction story of the author’s search for the girlfriend her grandfather had left behind in Vienna. As my family left Vienna because of the Nazi regime, and my own novel takes place in Vienna, I found Ms. Wildman’s book especially meaningful, raising the question not only of what had happened to the woman but also of how much guilt and responsibility the grandfather carried?

By Sarah Wildman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paper Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One woman’s journey to find the lost love her grandfather left behind when he fled pre-World War II Europe, and an exploration into family identity, myth, and memory.

Years after her grandfather’s death, journalist Sarah Wildman stumbled upon a cache of his letters in a file labeled “Correspondence: Patients A–G.” What she found inside weren’t dry medical histories; instead what was written opened a path into the destroyed world that was her family’s prewar Vienna. One woman’s letters stood out: those from Valy—Valerie Scheftel—her grandfather’s lover, who had remained behind when he fled Europe six months after the Nazis annexed…


Book cover of Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

Elizabeth Rynecki Author Of Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter's Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy

From my list on children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.

Who am I?

Elizabeth Rynecki is the great-granddaughter of Polish-Jewish artist, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943). She grew up with her great-grandfather's paintings prominently displayed on the walls of her family home and understood from an early age that the art connected her to a legacy from "the old country": Poland. Elizabeth has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College ('91) and an MA in Rhetoric and Communication from UC Davis ('94). Her Master's thesis focused on children of Holocaust survivors. Her book, Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy, was published by NAL/Penguin Random House in September 2016. Her documentary film, also titled Chasing Portraits, had its world premiere in Poland in 2018 and has screened at numerous film festivals across North America. The film can be streamed on Amazon, iTunes, Kanopy, and OvidTV.

Elizabeth's book list on children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors

Elizabeth Rynecki Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Glenn Kurtz’s grandparents traveled to Poland in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of the Second World War, to visit family. They filmed parts of that trip, including 3 minutes in Poland, footage that ultimately became one of the last records of a once vibrant Jewish community. Decades later, Kurtz painstakingly set out to identify the people in the film. He ultimately located seven living survivors, including an eighty-six-year-old man who appeared in the film as a thirteen-year-old boy. A heartfelt and powerful telling of what it means to rescue history and stories of survival.

By Glenn Kurtz,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Three Minutes in Poland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traveling in Europe in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of World War II, David Kurtz, the author's grandfather, captured three minutes of ordinary life in a small, predominantly Jewish town in Poland on 16 mm Kodachrome colour film. More than seventy years later, through the brutal twists of history, these few minutes of home-movie footage would become a memorial to an entire community, an entire culture that was annihilated in the Holocaust. Three Minutes in Poland traces Glenn Kurtz's remarkable four year journey to identify the people in his grandfather's haunting images. His search takes him across the…


Book cover of The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's War

Carolyn Porter Author Of Marcel's Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man's Fate

From my list on WWII family searches.

Who am I?

Carolyn Porter is a graphic designer, type designer, and unapologetic lover of old handwriting. “Marcel’s Letters: A Font and The Search for One Man’s Fate” recounts Porter’s obsessive search to learn about Marcel Heuzé, a French forced laborer who mailed love letters to his wife and daughters from a Nazi labor camp in Berlin—letters Porter found 60 years later at an antique store in Minnesota. Porter’s book was awarded gold medals from Independent Publisher and The Military Writers Society of America, and was a finalist for a 2018 Minnesota Book Award.

Carolyn's book list on WWII family searches

Carolyn Porter Why did Carolyn love this book?

After Steinman’s parents passed away, she found a trove of WWII-era letters her father wrote along with a silk flag inscribed to a man named Yoshio Shimizu. In this book, Steinman recounted her years-long quest to learn who Shimizu was, a search that resulted in a trip to Japan to return the precious artifact. At the same time, by reading her father’s letters, Steinman discovered a tender and expressive side of her father—a side that had been wiped away by trauma. Steinman’s book shines a light on the universal cost of war.

By Louise Steinman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Souvenir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A soldier’s daughter unravels the secrets of her father’s experience in the Pacific Theater in this “graceful, understated” World War II memoir for fans of The Things They Carried (The New York Times Book Review)
 
Louise Steinman’s American childhood in the fifties was bound by one unequivocal condition: “Never mention the war to your father.” That silence sustained itself until the fateful day Steinman opened an old ammunition box left behind after her parents’ death. In it, she discovered nearly 500 letters her father had written to her mother during his service in the Pacific War and a Japanese flag…


Book cover of Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter's Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy

Carolyn Porter Author Of Marcel's Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man's Fate

From my list on WWII family searches.

Who am I?

Carolyn Porter is a graphic designer, type designer, and unapologetic lover of old handwriting. “Marcel’s Letters: A Font and The Search for One Man’s Fate” recounts Porter’s obsessive search to learn about Marcel Heuzé, a French forced laborer who mailed love letters to his wife and daughters from a Nazi labor camp in Berlin—letters Porter found 60 years later at an antique store in Minnesota. Porter’s book was awarded gold medals from Independent Publisher and The Military Writers Society of America, and was a finalist for a 2018 Minnesota Book Award.

Carolyn's book list on WWII family searches

Carolyn Porter Why did Carolyn love this book?

Rynecki’s great-grandfather, Moshe, was a painter who documented moments of Jewish life in the interwar years: women sewing, children playing, wedding celebrations, men in prayer. When WWII broke out Moshe’s paintings were hidden, and afterward only a fraction were recovered. In this book, Rynecki recounted her decades-long quest to locate and archive the lost artwork. It’s a memoir about the lengths one will go to to ensure a lost family legacy will never be forgotten.

By Elizabeth Rynecki,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chasing Portraits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The memoir of one woman's emotional quest to find the art of her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather, lost during World War II.

Moshe Rynecki's body of work reached close to eight hundred paintings and sculptures before his life came to a tragic end. It was his great-granddaughter Elizabeth who sought to rediscover his legacy, setting upon a journey to seek out what had been lost but never forgotten...

The everyday lives of the Polish-Jewish community depicted in Moshe Rynecki's paintings simply blended into the background of Elizabeth Rynecki's life when she was growing up. But the art transformed from familiar to extraordinary…


Book cover of Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1938-1941

Rebecca Erbelding Author Of Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe

From my list on the Holocaust and the United States.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who specializes in the American response to the Holocaust. Growing up, I remember being confused—it seemed like the United States knew nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Europe’s Jews—or it knew everything!—but either way, the US didn’t do anything to help. And that didn’t make sense with what I knew about the United States, a country that never speaks with one voice on any issue. And as I dug in, I learned that this is a fascinating, infuriating, nuanced history full of very familiar-sounding struggles over whether and how the country will live up to the ideals we claim for ourselves. 

Rebecca's book list on the Holocaust and the United States

Rebecca Erbelding Why did Rebecca love this book?

Wyman’s later book, The Abandonment of the Jews got all the attention, but Paper Walls, about how immigration to the United States actually worked and how the US government alternately tried and refused to aid Jews desperately attempting to escape increasing Nazi persecution and violence, is my go-to recommendation. If this is your family’s story, or if you want to know why Jews couldn’t just leave, Wyman’s book will explain a lot.

By David S. Wyman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Paper Walls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Paper Walls was the first scholarly book to deal with the question of America’s response to the Nazi assault on the European Jews. A revised version of my Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard University, it was originally published in 1968... Those times were very different from these. There was little public receptivity to Holocaust studies then, and only limited academic interest... The scholarly reviews, of which there were several, were favorable. But the general press paid little attention to the book...

A pioneer in its field, Paper Walls first established the thesis that three features of American society in the 1930’s…


Book cover of Other Words for Home

Rachel Bithell Author Of Brave Bird at Wounded Knee: A Story of Protest on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

From my list on middle grade that feature inspiring teachers.

Who am I?

Teachers and children’s writers are some of each other’s biggest fans, and I have been both, so I couldn’t resist putting a teacher in my book. Besides that, teachers are very useful characters because they can make kids in books do things like write reports or keep a journal. Initially, my main character, Patsy, doesn’t especially like her teacher, Miss Ashman. Patsy thinks she’s too strict. But by the end of the book, she realizes that challenging students and having high expectations are some of the things that make a great teacher. If you’ve ever had a teacher you loved, you’ll want to check out the books on this list. 

Rachel's book list on middle grade that feature inspiring teachers

Rachel Bithell Why did Rachel love this book?

I loved the language in this novel-in-verse and the valuable insights from an “outsider” experiencing American culture.

As a refugee fleeing war-torn Syria, Jude, the main character, finds one of the only places she feels safe and accepted is in her class for English learners. The example of her teacher, Mrs. Ravenswood, shows how sometimes one person can’t change the world, but they might change the world for one person. It made me think about how small things I do and say impact people around me. 

By Jasmine Warga,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Other Words for Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestseller and Newbery Honor Book!

A gorgeously written, hopeful middle grade novel in verse about a young girl who must leave Syria to move to the United States, perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed.

Jude never thought she'd be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always…


Book cover of Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

A. Naomi Paik Author Of Bans, Walls, Raids, Sanctuary: Understanding U.S. Immigration for the Twenty-First Century

From my list on helping us achieve migrant justice.

Who am I?

I’m an awkward academic who thinks, writes, and teaches about US immigration and imprisonment regimes and their growth out of racism, imperialism, and nationalism. I’m strongly motivated by things that I hate. I want to understand how and why we are facing such catastrophic problems, so that we can figure out how to undo them. My work is partly motivated by my personal history as the daughter of immigrants who moved to support their families and survive in the aftermath of war. As a privileged person in the US, I'm not directly affected by the state violence I study. I also know that we're not going to have a future unless we get there together. 

A.'s book list on helping us achieve migrant justice

A. Naomi Paik Why did A. love this book?

Walia’s Border and Rule expands the framework to think globally about the role of borders in fracturing the global working-class to the benefit of corporations and states and to the detriment of ordinary people and the planet. She helps us see that there is in fact no migrant crisis, but multiple crises of racism, capitalism, and imperialism that converge at national borders. The fact that people move across borders is a symptom of these convergent crises. So, again, if we want to get serious about addressing border violence, targeting migrants (the symptom) makes no sense. Instead, we must address the root causes in vastly unequal life chances spread across the globe that borders enforce. She ultimately argues that we must abolish capitalism and imperialism in order to achieve a world without borders and their violence. 

By Harsha Walia,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Border and Rule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Border and Rule, one of North America's foremost thinkers and immigrant rights organizers delivers an unflinching examination of migration as a pillar of global governance and gendered racial class formation.

Harsha Walia disrupts easy explanations for the migrant and refugee crises, instead showing them to be the inevitable outcomes of conquest, capitalist globalization, and climate change generating mass dispossession worldwide. Border and Rule explores a number of seemingly disparate global geographies with shared logics of border rule that displace, immobilize, criminalize, exploit, and expel migrants and refugees. With her keen ability to connect the dots, Walia demonstrates how borders…


Book cover of Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey

Cathy Camper Author Of Ten Ways to Hear Snow

From my list on Arabs that don’t feature camels or the desert.

Who am I?

As an Arab American, I rarely saw kids’ books about Arab Americans. And until recently, many of the books featuring Arabs and Arab Americans reiterated old stereotypes, showing them in the desert with camels, or as only an ancient (and often backwards) culture, ignoring all the exciting, modern contributions of Arabs historically, and today. In the West, Arabs are often stereotyped as hyper-religious, terrorist, or war-torn. I wanted to share kids’ books about Arab kids having fun, being creative, and in loving, caring families – books that share the richness of Arab culture in a positive way. 

Cathy's book list on Arabs that don’t feature camels or the desert

Cathy Camper Why did Cathy love this book?

Imagine if war forced you to suddenly leave your home, taking only what you could carry - would you bring your cat? This Syrian family transports their cat Kunkush in a basket with them, all the way across the Mediterranean Sea, only to lose him on the beach in Greece. Would they ever see Kunkush again? Reading this gripping, true tale of how the white kitty was reunited with his immigrant family, I was especially moved to see that photos of the real family, Kunkush and their epic journey were included too!  

By Doug Kuntz, Amy Shrodes, Sue Cornelison (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lost and Found Cat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

This heartwarming true story of one lost cat's journey to be reunited with his refugee family gently introduces children to a difficult topic and shows how ordinary people can help with compassion and hope.
 
When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they can’t bear to leave their beloved cat, Kunkush, behind. So they carry him with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away.
 
But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs from the chaos, disappearing. After an unsuccessful search, his family has to continue their…


Book cover of Teacup

Kao Kalia Yang Author Of From the Tops of the Trees

From my list on learning about refugees.

Who am I?

I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. I lived there until I was six. I was a child from America’s Secret War in Laos, a child who knew very little of the outside world before my family sought refuge in America. Much of my life’s work has been devoted to a search for peace, to understand the forces that put families in situations like mine. I have published widely on the topic, written of it in books for both adults and children.

Kao's book list on learning about refugees

Kao Kalia Yang Why did Kao love this book?

In the space where our fears and our hopes live, there is the landscape of our dreams and nightmares. This book lushly carries a boy's search for home to readers everywhere. It's a magical book for it carries a great deal of room for the reader to step into the words and images within. 

By Rebecca Young, Matt Ottley (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Teacup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A stunning picture book that addresses life’s big journeys with hope, beauty, and reassurance

School Library Journal [STARRED REVIEW!]  
“[A] moving, allegorical tale… inspiring reflection and empathy”
 
Kirkus Reviews [STARRED REVIEW!] 
“A potent discussion starter… Enchanting, beautiful, and full of hope. “
 
Booklist [STARRED REVIEW!]  
“A lyrical tale of leaving home and finding a new one…Thought-provoking and arrestingly beautiful.”

A boy must leave his home and find another. He brings with him a teacup full of earth from the place where he grew up, and sets off to sea. Some days, the journey is peaceful, and the skies are cloudless…


Book cover of Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution

Claire Chao Author Of Remembering Shanghai: A Memoir of Socialites, Scholars and Scoundrels

From my list on China’s greatest city Shanghai.

Who am I?

“Old Shanghai” is in my blood: though raised in Hong Kong, I was surrounded by all things Shanghai through my parents and their friends, who had grown up during Shanghai’s 1930s heyday. The classical culture … the modern glamour … the breathtaking scandals! Since childhood I’ve searched for connections to my heritage; this fascination led me, years later, to write Remembering Shanghai with my mother, by then in her eighties. Having immersed myself in Shanghai history and culture most of my life, I am passionate about intimate, authentic stories that are told against a rich historical backdrop—the kind that make reviewers say “you can’t make this up!”

Claire's book list on China’s greatest city Shanghai

Claire Chao Why did Claire love this book?

Decadent Old Shanghai was never going to survive a Communist takeover. It wasn’t easy to leave—in her family, my mother was told she was the lucky one, and so was the mother of author Helen Zia. An accomplished journalist, Zia masterfully captures what it was like for four young people—including her mother—to make the wrenching decision to leave their homes for places unknown, the chaos and distress of boarding that fabled “last boat” out of Shanghai, and what came after. The core of the story unfolds through the authentic accounts of the main characters Benny, Annuo, Bing, and Ho. Additionally, Zia uses detailed research and extensive interviews with hundreds of émigrés from all strata of Shanghai society, bringing to life this last of a generation to embark on a largely forgotten mass exodus.

By Helen Zia,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Last Boat Out of Shanghai as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dramatic real life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China’s 1949 Communist revolution—a heartrending precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today. 

“A true page-turner . . . [Helen] Zia has proven once again that history is something that happens to real people.”—New York Times bestselling author Lisa See

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR • FINALIST FOR THE PEN/JACQUELINE BOGRAD WELD AWARD FOR BIOGRAPHY

Shanghai has historically been China’s jewel, its richest, most modern and westernized city.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in refugees, Germany, and Jewish history?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about refugees, Germany, and Jewish history.

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