Immersing Yourself in Jewish Culture Through Books for Chanukah

This week’s Three to Read features books about Jewish culture and Hanukkah. Read on for fiction and non-fiction recs perfect for the season.

Recommendations Three To Read

Welcome back to another week of Bookstr’s Three to Read series, where we bring you three books on a specific topic that we feel represent it well. This week, we’re talking about the Jewish celebration of Chanukah (Hanukkah). Also known as the Festival of Lights, Jews around the world are celebrating this eight-day festival, which is meant to reaffirm the ideals of Judaism and commemorate the recovery of the Second Temple. They do this by lighting candles each day. Below are three novels that discuss Jewish culture, events, and stories through fiction and non-fiction.

Hot Pick

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro, book cover depicting a tree on a twilight sky
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

Summary

Awarded the TIME Best Fiction Book of the Year, Signal Fires tells the tale of the interconnection of two neighborhood families that span five decades and bring together several people of vastly different generations. The story follows siblings Ben and Sarah after a tragic event one summer night in 1985 and continues throughout their lives. It discusses the journey that is life and the delicate threads that bring people together.

Why

Signal Fires is a deeply moving and enthralling tale of life, love, loss, and the power of people. Shapiro immerses the reader in the secrets, struggles, and celebrations that make life whole and packages it into two families one can’t help but become emotionally attached to.

Coffee Shop Read

One for Each Night: The Greatest Chanukah Stories of All Time by Sholom Aleichem, Elie Wiesel, and 10 Others

One for Each Night: The Greatest Chanukah Stories of All Time by Sholom Aleichem, Elie Wiesel, and 10 Others, book cover depicting various Jewish icons/symbols on a lavender background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

Summary

Throughout this collection of short stories, you’ll find tales that span the globe detailing celebrations of the Festival of Lights by many in the Jewish community. From one continent and country to the next, follow along for an encompassing journey of explanation and understanding. Most importantly, you’ll find tales depicting what it is to be Jewish amidst a backdrop of unacceptance.

Why

There is no better way to learn about someone’s culture than to immerse yourself in their tales, history, and traditions. To fully grasp the Jewish community’s perspective, one must be willing to hear from them with open ears and eyes. One for Each Night does a brilliant job of bringing varying Jewish perspectives and traditions together in one place for the consumption of all. Enjoy these stories each night of the Hanukkah season to bring greater understanding to your world.

Dark Horse

Eight Dates and Nights by Betsy Aldredge

Eight Dates and Nights by Betsy Aldredge, book cover depicting a boy and girl at a deli counter with a menorah.
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Summary

There’s not much to be excited about in a small Texas town with few Jewish people like New York teen Hannah Levin. Bored and wandering her grandmother’s town, Hannah ventures into the local deli, where she meets a fellow teen and Jew, Noah. Soon, they’re joined at the hip, and she’s barraged by his festival spirit and maybe a Hanukkah sweater or two. Sparks fly after an interesting game of truth or dare dreidel that might just make this town worth more than Hannah originally thought.

Why

Although a romance, this sweet novel depicts several important things. 1) The loneliness of being a Jew among a population of non-Jewish people. 2) The traditions of Hanukkah from one Jewish family and the next. 3) How a community can bring together and uplift. Add in a sprinkle of adorable chemistry and cultural references that delight and this novel gives all the warm and cozy feels perfect for this season.


Thanks for tuning in to this week’s article; check out last week’s Three to Read on Native American Heritage and Stories here.

Browse these books and more on our Bookstr Three to Read Bookshop.org bookshelf.

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