3 Jonathan Safran Foer Novels To Check Out: Jewish Book Week

For our final author spotlight in the ‘Jewish Book Week’ series, we will be discussing novelist Jonathan Safran Foer!

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Foer was born on February 21st, 1977. Foer attended Princeton University, where he took a class taught by author Joyce Carol Oates. Oates eventually became Foer’s advisor for his senior creative writing thesis which examined the life of his grandfather Louis Safran, who was a holocaust survivor. Foer received Princeton’s Senior Creative Writing Thesis Prize for this piece. He also completed another thesis in philosophy titled “Before Reading The Book of Antecedents: Intention, Literary Interpretation, and the Hypothesized Author”, and graduated with a philosophy degree. 


Foer enrolled in medical school for a short amount of time, before dropping out to pursue writing. His philosophy thesis eventually became his first novel Everything Is Illuminated, which was published in 2002. He has gone on to write multiple other novels.

In 2008, Foer was a visiting professor at Yale University. Foer was married to author Nicole Krauss for ten years, starting in 2004. 

Foer has been very outspoken in his criticisms of the meat industry. He expands upon this topic in his book Eating Animals. He also serves on the board of the non-profit organization Farm Forward, which promotes sustainable eating. Foer also narrated the documentary If This Is Kosher, which advocates for Jewish vegetarianism.


With his witty and thought-provoking prose and the large range of topics he writes about, Foer has cemented himself as a successful author that many people love. Although his work is far from criticism-free (some critics found his more recent novel Here I Am ‘worse’ than his earlier works), it is still worth checking out.

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As of 2021, Foer has been teaching as a part of the graduate creative writing program at New York University.

Book Recommendations:

Everything Is Illuminated

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In this novel, a young Jewish man attempts to find out more about his grandfather’s life. With the help of an eccentric local man, the main character Jonathan looks for the woman that saved his grandfather’s life. The novel won the National Jewish Book award in 2001. In 2005, the book was adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood. 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

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This book tells the story of Oskar, a young boy who is looking to find closure after his dad was killed during 9/11. The book is mostly told from the perspective of Oskar, which allows readers to understand his very intellectual, yet childlike brain. A parallel story, involving Oskar’s grandparents, adds an epistolary element to the novel. A film adaptation of the book was released in 2012. The film version stars Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, and Sandra Bullock.

Here I Am

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Here I am examines how different events affect a Jewish family that is living in Washington D.C. A crumbling marriage, a bar-mitzvah, a suicide, and a war in the middle east are just some events that cause the Bloch family to question their meaning of home. 

We hope you enjoyed this series that celebrates a fun, bookish festival. Although Jewish Book Week is nearing its end, any time of year is a great time to continue educating yourself on anti-semitism and supporting diverse writers.

To read the rest of our Jewish Book Week series, click here!

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