97 books like Invitation to an Inquest

By Walter Schneir, Miriam Schneir,

Here are 97 books that Invitation to an Inquest fans have personally recommended if you like Invitation to an Inquest. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy

Barron H. Lerner Author Of The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics

From my list on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case.

Why am I passionate about this?

The executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg seem so distant that it is jarring for me to contemplate that I was born in 1960, only seven years after their deaths. Growing up Jewish, I often heard the Rosenberg case invoked as an example of anti-Semitism. But it was not until I was an undergraduate history major that I read the scholarly literature about the Rosenbergs and subscribed to the newsletter of the Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case. My ongoing interest in the case helps me remind students about two crucial points: ongoing historical scholarship gets us closer to the “truth” but we may never know what “actually” happened. Which is OK.

Barron's book list on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case

Barron H. Lerner Why did Barron love this book?

This 2021 book, the latest in the Rosenberg oeuvre, not only recounts the history of what happened to the Rosenbergs but chronicles past historical accounts. One of the most important legacies of this literature is to remind us how all events are historically grounded. The Schneirs wrote that the Rosenberg trial “was a product of its times, displaying in microcosm many of the prevalent sociopolitical assumptions and preoccupations of the day.” The same could be said of the books by the Schneirs, the Meeropols, and Doctorow, which viewed the Rosenbergs through the sympathetic prism of American progressivism of the 1960s and 1970s.

Sebba also explores the enduring mystery of the “single-minded” Ethel Rosenberg, a “tragic figure” who herself committed no espionage but orphaned her sons rather than naming names or implicating her husband.

By Anne Sebba,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ethel Rosenberg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A heart-piercingly brilliant book about a woman whose personal life put her in the cross-hairs of history' HADLEY FREEMAN
'Totally riveting. I couldn't put it down' VICTORIA HISLOP
'Ethel sings out for all women who have been misunderstood and wronged, and refuse to bow down' NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE
'A shocking tale of betrayal, naivety, misogyny and judicial failure' SONIA PURNELL
'A historic miscarriage of justice laid bare for our times' PHILIPPE SANDS

Ethel Rosenberg was a supportive wife, loving mother to two small children and courageous idealist who grew up during the Depression with aspirations to become an opera singer.

On…


Book cover of We Are Your Sons: The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

Barron H. Lerner Author Of The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics

From my list on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case.

Why am I passionate about this?

The executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg seem so distant that it is jarring for me to contemplate that I was born in 1960, only seven years after their deaths. Growing up Jewish, I often heard the Rosenberg case invoked as an example of anti-Semitism. But it was not until I was an undergraduate history major that I read the scholarly literature about the Rosenbergs and subscribed to the newsletter of the Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case. My ongoing interest in the case helps me remind students about two crucial points: ongoing historical scholarship gets us closer to the “truth” but we may never know what “actually” happened. Which is OK.

Barron's book list on the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case

Barron H. Lerner Why did Barron love this book?

This book was written in 1975 by the two Rosenberg children left orphaned after their parents were executed. Relying on Schneir as well as their own research, they also powerfully argued that their parents were innocent. Even though later disclosures would contradict this conclusion, the book is a moving and fascinating document that tells the previously secret story of whatever happened to the two Rosenberg boys—aged 10 and 6 at the time of their parents' death—whose parents had seemingly sacrificed their lives for a political cause. It turns out that the boys had quietly been adopted by a politically progressive New York family, the Meeropols, and then successfully pursued academic careers, gottten married, and had children of their own.

By Robert Meeropol, Michael Meeropol,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Your Sons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1950 Ethel & Julius Rosenberg lived with their two sons on New York's Lower East Side. The boys visited their father's machine shop on Houston Street, rode subways to the Bronz Zoo, were avid Brooklyn Dodger fans. Abruptly one day their life together dissolved - Julius was imprisoned, then Ethel; accused of "The Crime of the Century". They were utltimately sent to the electric chair; their sons were shunted between reluctant relatives and children's shelters. Eventually they were adopted and protected from the public eye. In this book the sons tell their own story, weaving together the nightmare events…


Book cover of The Book of Daniel

Andrew Altschul Author Of The Gringa

From my list on to make you rethink America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in a comfortable suburb, I was never encouraged to examine my privilege or to ask questions about our country’s social and economic arrangements. I knew shockingly little about U.S. history beyond the triumphalist narratives of great men and military victories; the dark side of that history usually came in footnotes, and always with the implication that our country’s sins are mere aberrations from its good intentions. I had to learn the most important truths about our history from literature, which shows us the impact that events have on individuals, painting a fuller picture of how America became the country it is, and the terrible price so many people have had to pay.

Andrew's book list on to make you rethink America

Andrew Altschul Why did Andrew love this book?

In 1953, a working-class Jewish couple from Brooklyn was executed for allegedly selling nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. Their two young children were orphaned. E. L. Doctorow’s novel about the Rosenbergs is an excruciating examination of these events from the fictionalized perspective of one of those children. Daniel’s point of view—naïve, angry, traumatizedbrilliantly illustrates the absurdity and cruelty of American culture when it turns against those who, for reasons of class, race, or religion, have never been fully included in it. I’ve read it a dozen times and still find myself sobbing at the realization of how all the country’s history, all its dreams and delusions about itself and its destiny, were stacked up against this poor pair of nobodies. Their real crime lay in demanding that the United States live up to its ideals, something it has never been able to do.

By E.L. Doctorow,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Book of Daniel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, convicted of delivering information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union E.L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel includes a new introduction by Jonathan Freedland in Penguin Modern Classics.

As Cold War hysteria inflames America, FBI agents pay a surprise visit to a Communist man and his wife in their New York apartment. After a trial that divides the country, the couple are sent to the electric chair for treason. Decades later, in 1967, their son Daniel struggles to understand the tragedy of their lives. But while he is…


Book cover of The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case

Jonathan Schneer Author Of The Lockhart Plot: Love, Betrayal, Assassination and Counter-Revolution in Lenin's Russia

From my list on a historian's view about spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a modern British historian who loves to read thrillers and non-fiction histories of spies. I’ve done it all my adult life. Moreover, I’ve always been fascinated by the Russian Revolution: its early idealism, the curdling of idealism. When the daughter of Moura von Benckendorff, (R.H. Bruce Lockhart’s great love) told me about her mother and Lockhart, I realized I had an opportunity to combine my vocation and my avocation. The result is my book, The Lockhart Plot.

Jonathan's book list on a historian's view about spies

Jonathan Schneer Why did Jonathan love this book?

I grew up believing that the US Government framed and then executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953 to whip up anti-Communist hysteria. I was wrong. First of all, Julius was guilty; secondly, it was not the government that framed Ethel, but her own brother, David Greenglass. He did it to save his own skin, for he had passed documents to his brother-in-law (although they proved worthless to the Russians). Also, he wanted to save his wife, who had typed a few things for Julius. Sixty years later he came clean to Sam Roberts. This book is a revelation, an examination of the mind of a sociopath. Like Kim Philby, David Greenglass had no heart, nor pity, nor regrets. 

By Sam Roberts,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Brother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A fresh and fast-paced study of one of the most important crimes of the twentieth century” (The Washington Post), The Brother now discloses new information revealed since the original publication in 2003—including an admission by his sons that Julius Rosenberg was indeed a Soviet spy and a confession to the author by the Rosenbergs’ co-defendant.

Sixty years after their execution in June 1953 for conspiring to steal atomic secrets, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg remain the subjects of great emotional debate and acrimony. The man whose testimony almost single-handedly convicted them was Ethel Rosenberg’s own brother, David Greenglass, who recently died.…


Book cover of A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York

John Oller Author Of Rogues' Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York

From my list on crime and punishment in the Gilded Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d written modern true crime before—a book that helped solve a 40-year-old cold case—and wanted to try my hand at historical true crime. I live in Manhattan, home to the greatest crime stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so I was able to see the actual locations where the grisliest murders, the biggest bank heists, and the crookedest con games took place. What really drew me in, though, were the many colorful, unforgettable characters, both good and bad, cops and robbers, who walked the bustling streets of Old New York during the fascinating era known as the Gilded Age. 

John's book list on crime and punishment in the Gilded Age

John Oller Why did John love this book?

If you read one biography/memoir of a Gilded Age criminal, make it this one. It tells the story (often in his own words) of the celebrated pickpocket George Appo, an odd little half-Chinese, half-Irish, one-eyed fellow who could make $800 in a few days when most working men made less than that in a year. Appo would rivet New Yorkers when he testified about his second career as a “green goods” con man, working to swindle gullible out-of-towners who came to buy purported counterfeit money at a discount, only to discover that there was nothing but sawdust inside the packages they carried away. Appo refused to name names, though, as he was a self-described “good fellow.”  

By Timothy J. Gilfoyle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Pickpocket's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In George Appo's world, child pickpockets swarmed the crowded streets, addicts drifted in furtive opium dens, and expert swindlers worked the lucrative green-goods game. On a good night Appo made as much as a skilled laborer made in a year. Bad nights left him with more than a dozen scars and over a decade in prisons from the Tombs and Sing Sing to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he reunited with another inmate, his father. The child of Irish and Chinese immigrants, Appo grew up in the notorious Five Points and Chinatown neighborhoods. He rose as…


Book cover of Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams

Paul M. Levitt Author Of Come with Me to Babylon

From my list on arresting gangsters.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father came from Ukraine, and every summer took the family to stay on a farm in an immigrant community in southern New Jersey, Carmel, a community begun by the Baron de Hirsch Foundation, which settled Jews from all over Europe. Italian immigrants also settled there. I lived in a family that spoke to their siblings in three languages, Yiddish, Russian, and Ukrainian. Hence, I was privy to the loves and losses of people who felt estranged from their language and often yearned to return to their country of origin.

Paul's book list on arresting gangsters

Paul M. Levitt Why did Paul love this book?

Tough Jews is a short history of Jewish-American gangsters and their Italian colleagues with whom they made common cause. It is here for the first time that we understand why Arnold Rothstein was the most important gangster in America.  Having introduced "organized" into organized crime, he promised underworld figures the help of the famous attorney William Fallon if they landed in trouble and agreed to look after their families if they got sent up the Hudson (to Sing Sing). I am struck by the fact that Cohen makes his history personal, by means of his own contacts with the people who know the inside story of how the Jewish gangsters thrived—or didn't. He sits down with them; he eats with them; and he gets them to remember how it once was in the days of Dutch Schultz, Legs Diamond, and Arnold Rothstein.

By Rich Cohen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tough Jews as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning writer Rich Cohen excavates the real stories behind the legend of infamous criminal enforcers Murder, Inc. and contemplates the question: Where did the tough Jews go?

In 1930s Brooklyn, there lived a breed of men who now exist only in legend and in the memories of a few old-timers: Jewish gangsters, fearless thugs with nicknames like Kid Twist Reles and Pittsburgh Phil Strauss. Growing up in Brownsville, they made their way from street fights to underworld power, becoming the execution squad for a national crime syndicate. Murder Inc. did for organized crime what Henry Ford did for the automobile,…


Book cover of Zabar's: A Family Story, with Recipes

Kathleen Stone Author Of They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men

From my list on family biographies with regional history as a role.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read (and write) biography as much for history as for an individual life story. It’s a way of getting a personalized look at an historical period. When the book is a family biography, the history is amplified by different family members' perspectives, almost like a kaleidoscope, and it stretches over generations, allowing the historical story to blossom over time. The genre also opens a window into the ethos that animated this unique group of individuals who are bound together by blood. Whether it's a desire for wealth or power, the zeal for a cause, or the need to survive adversity, I found it in these family stories.  

Kathleen's book list on family biographies with regional history as a role

Kathleen Stone Why did Kathleen love this book?

Zabar's, New York's world-famous food emporium, is the achievement of another Jewish immigrant family.

Author Lori Zabar's grandparents, before they were a couple, fled pogroms in Russia (now Ukraine) and made their way to New York. Together they worked at a variety of small food stores before starting their own in 1934. From then on, Zabar's helped define the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The story here is one of hard work and eventual success in a family-run business, expanded to include dedicated non-family employees. The book also contains recipes, including two of my personal favorites - latkes and kugel. 

By Lori Zabar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zabar's as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fascinating, mouthwatering story (with ten recipes!) of the immigrant family that created a New York gastronomic legend: “The most rambunctious and chaotic of all delicatessens, with one foot in the Old World and the other in the vanguard of every fast-breaking food move in the city" (Nora Ephron, best-selling author and award-winning screenwriter).

When Louis and Lilly Zabar rented a counter in a dairy store on 80th Street and Broadway in 1934 to sell smoked fish, they could not have imagined that their store would eventually occupy half a city block and become a beloved mecca for quality food…


Book cover of The Wise Women

Caroline Leavitt Author Of With or Without You

From my list on hidden gems that won’t stay hidden for long.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a voracious reader, an author, and also a book critic, so hundreds of books cross my desk. What I love the most is the feeling of discovery—reading a book whose likes I haven’t seen on any bestseller list or on a front display in a bookstore. There are so many, many hidden gems—books that have stayed with me long after the publication day, and I always want others to have the same devotion to them that I do!

Caroline's book list on hidden gems that won’t stay hidden for long

Caroline Leavitt Why did Caroline love this book?

Maybe not a hidden gem (it was a Good Morning America Buzz Pick), but this one surely should be in everyone’s book bag.

New York City’s the bustling backdrop of this wildly witty novel about two adult daughters and their meddling advice columnist mother. Clementine struggles with working and bringing up her six-year-old boy, and her one comfort is the beautiful Queens home she thought she owned—right up until she discovers her husband has mortgaged their house for his failing start-up.

Sister Barb has a cheating girlfriend, and advice columnist mom has issues of her own! Can Wendy swoop in to save the day? Or does she? Smart, smart fun.

By Gina Sorell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Good Morning America Buzz Pick and one of Read With Jenna's Most Anticipated Books of 2022

"I laughed and shook my head in recognition as the three Wise women crashed through love relationships, terrible advice, and delightful moments of connection. The Wise Women is a smart and tender novel about how hard-and vital-it is to find the place where we belong." -Amanda Eyre Ward, New York Times bestselling author of The Jetsetters and The Lifeguards

A witty and wildly enjoyable novel, set in New York City, about two adult daughters and their meddling advice columnist mother, for readers of…


Book cover of The New York Trilogy

Peter Guttridge Author Of City of Dreadful Night

From my list on quartets and trilogies with unreliable narrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by long stories where things aren’t exactly as they seem. Most crime fiction is secrets and lies and their eventual uncovering but most ‘literary’ fiction is too. For what it’s worth, I was a book reviewer for all the posh UK papers for about 15 years, including crime fiction critic for The Observer for twelve (so I’ve read far more crime novels than is healthy for anyone!). I’m a voracious reader and writer and I love making things more complicated for myself (and the reader) by coming up with stuff that I’ve then somehow got to fit together.  

Peter's book list on quartets and trilogies with unreliable narrators

Peter Guttridge Why did Peter love this book?

This is post-modern crime fiction thematically linked and all with increasingly unreliable characters—because they’re each going insane.

In City of Glass private investigator, Daniel Quinn, goes mad sinking deeper into an investigation about identity. Who is telling his story and can they be relied on? Is it any of these characters who appear: ‘the author,’ ‘Paul Auster the writer,’ ‘Paul Auster the detective’?  Whoosh.

I love this stuff but understand it’s an acquired taste!

By Paul Auster,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The New York Trilogy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paul Auster's signature work, "The New York Trilogy," consists of three interlocking novels: "City of Glass," "Ghosts," and "The Locked Room" - haunting and mysterious tales that move at the breathless pace of a thriller."City of Glass" - As a result of a strange phone call in the middle of the night, Quinn, a writer of detective stories, becomes enmeshed in a case more puzzling than any he might hace written"Ghosts"Blue, a student of Brown, has been hired to spy on Black. From a window of a rented house on Orange street, Blue stalks his subject, who is staring out…


Book cover of All-Of-A-Kind Family

Pamela S. Nadell Author Of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

From my list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.

Pamela's book list on memoirs through the voices of women

Pamela S. Nadell Why did Pamela love this book?

In 1951, Sydney Taylor invented the memorable Brenners—papa, mama, five sisters, and baby brother—a Jewish family on the Lower East Side in turn-of-the-century New York. Taylor’s words and Helen John’s illustrations in this book, the first in a series, set the scene. A calendar in the parlor announced that it was 1912. Tenements lined city streets. When I read these novels as a child, I did not yet know that they were closely based on Taylor’s own life. When the entire series was republished in 2014, I quipped: I became a Jewish historian because of these books. 

By Sydney Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All-Of-A-Kind Family 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?

Meet the All-of-a-Kind  Family -- Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie -- who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.

Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama's front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa's shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.

But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!


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