4 Enlightening Books on Jewish History You Need to Read

Here are four enlightening and important books that reveal Jewish history from those who have experienced and studied it.

Author's Corner Diverse Voices Non-Fiction Recommendations
A blue kippah sitting on a pile of books kept next to a golden menorah with white candles

Jewish history spans three thousand years, and across the globe. From their tribal beginnings to their impact on today’s society, understanding their unique history is vital to overcoming the deplorable antisemitism that is still plaguing their existence. Below are four books written by the Jewish community that delve into the history of these resilient people and educate the reader on their culture.

1. The Story of the Jews Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Simon Schama

Simon Schama’s two-part expansive history from 1000 B.C. to 1900 A.D. is a companion piece to the PBS and BBC series The Story of the Jews. Highly informative and full of intricate details, this series follows the history of the Jews from the era of tribal habitation and as they expanded across the globe after their exile through the modern era. Schama touches on the optimism of the Jewish people despite the odds against them time and again.


Book Covers of "The Story of the Jews" from left to right, "Finding the Words, 1000 BC - 1492 AD" & "Belonging, 1492-1900" by Simon Schama

“In his brilliant new history of the Jews, the unconventional scholar somehow manages to be simultaneously sentimental and subversive, consensual and contrarian — and we readers are the beneficiaries.”

— Haaretz

2. Judah in the Neo-Babylonian Period: The Archaeology of Desolation by Avraham Faust

Avraham Faust is an Israeli archaeologist and Professor of Archaeology at the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. This publication brings new light into the theories of the extent of exile in Judea after the Babylonian conquest of 586 B.C.E. This book’s importance is emphasized by the fact that, until 30 years ago, little was actually known about this particular time period in Jewish history other than in biblical texts. 


Book Cover of "Judah in the Neo-Babylonian Period: The Archeology of Desolation" by Avraham Faust

“This volume examines the archaeological reality of Judah in the sixth century in order to shed new light on the debate.”

— Avraham Faust

3. Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth by Noa Tishby

Tishby’s book is a collection of Jewish history, personal stories, and anecdotal humor that educated and enlightens the world on what it means to be Jewish and to live in Isreal. She pulls no punches as she explains the nuances of the Jewish culture and the events that have shaped not only Jews, but Israel as a nation and cultural homeland.

“Noa Tishby’s contemporary examination of Israel’s past, present and future is the book we’ve been waiting for. With insight, intelligence, levity and humor, she reintroduces us to a place we thought we knew so well. I found myself educated, inspired and ultimately moved to tears as she reclaims this complicated state in the name of its daughters and fights to restore its reputation for the next generation.”

— Sarah Treem, writer, director, Golden Globe winner, and creator of The Affair

Book cover of "Isreal: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth" by Noa Tishby

“This is a book well worth the read for anyone who cares about, or needs a crash course on, the Jewish state.”

— Hadassah Magazine

4. The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between by Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibuitz, Mark Oppenheimer

This pop culture encyclopedia on all things Jewish welcomes those outside the culture and religion to understand and experience Judaism in all its forms. From linguistics and celebrities to customs and history, this book will have you laughing and learning.

“Crams in just about everything you need to know about Jewish culture and history – from the Torah to Chinese food. . . . A weighty tome that just begs to be picked up, thumbed through, and quoted from. It is exhaustive but not exhausting, a thorough examination of Jewish themes presented as hors d’oeuvres to entice a larger meal.”

— The Times of Israel

Book cover of "The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar's and Everything in Between" by Stephanie Butnick, Liel Liebuitz, and Mark Oppenheimer--hosts of Tablet Magazine's Unorthodox Podcast

“An illustrated, smart and comic guide, well-attuned to this moment.”

Jewish Week

Judaism is one of the oldest surviving ethnoreligious groups in the world. Their influence and impact can be felt throughout history. Understanding their culture, traditions, and history is crucial as it would inspire empathy toward a fraternity of people who have been violated by bigotry and ignorance for millennia.

Be sure to check back in with Bookstr for more Jewish book recommendations during Jewish Book Week.

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