The Kveller team loves to read (shocking for a team of writers, right?). Literary fiction, young adult, celebrity memoirs, romance — you name it, we’re into it.
We looked back on our year of reading and selected the best Jewish books we read in 2023. Sure, none of these are technically about Judaism, but the characters and themes are Jewish, and the ideas explored are absolutely shaped by each author’s unique Jewish experience (also, one is the Barbra Streisand memoir, which some are saying is in talks to replace the Torah).
“My Last Innocent Year,” Daisy Alpert Florin: I’m a sucker for any campus novel, so when you throw in some Jewish characters and a nuanced look at messy questions of consent and power dynamics, I’m pretty much sold from the get-go. I listened to Florin’s debut novel on audio and found myself staying up way past my bedtime (9 p.m.) to percolate in this ‘90s-era, propulsive drama. — Molly Tolsky, Kveller editor
“Emmett,” LC Rosen: This YA book is actually the best thing I read this year. Imagine if “Clueless” was both overtly Jewish and queer, but equally as delightful, and you get “Emmett.” As a longtime fan of both authentic Jewish representation and Jane Austen retellings (yes, both “Clueless” and “Emmett” are based on “Emma”), this book was a much needed dose of pure comfort — I inhaled it in one night. — Lior Zaltzman, Kveller deputy managing editor
“All Night Pharmacy,” Ruth Madievsky: The author of this book is a poet, and you can tell by the way she turns benign observations about everyday life into beautiful reflections. This is a story about addiction, about family, about trying to claw your way out of Jewish generational trauma. — Daci Platt, Kveller audience engagement editor
“My Name is Barbra,” Barbra Streisand: As I’ve written before, listening to Streisand’s memoir on audiobook each night proved to be just the bedtime routine I needed (though I have to admit, I have not gotten through all 48 hours yet). — Molly
“The Woman Beyond the Sea,” Sarit Yishai-Levi: Do you love “Beauty Queen of Jerusalem?” Well, dare I say that this book, by the same author behind the Netflix hit, tells an even better, more engrossing tale? If you need an epic family tale to escape into, read this. — Lior
“You, Again,” Kate Goldbeck:I’ve heard this rom-com described as a gender swapped “When Harry Met Sally” and “Emily Henry for bad people.” Both of those feel right. This is an enemies to friends to lovers book that doesn’t take itself too seriously (and features a Jewish deli). — Daci
“Death Valley,” Melissa Broder: By far the strangest book I read all year, this trippy exploration of grief (and the anxiety that precludes grief) weaves some lovely thoughts on Jewish mourning and culture into a plot that includes the narrator climbing inside a cactus that may or may not exist. — Molly
“The Possibilities,” Yael Goldstein-Love: When I first read the description of this multiverse thriller — about a new Jewish mother who, after a traumatic birth, battles the constant anxiety of losing her son, only to discover him missing from his crib one day — I thought to myself: no thank you. As a new mother myself, I didn’t think I could handle something so close to home, but after reading Kveller’s interview with the author, and hearing her thoughts on reframing Jewish mothers’ neuroses as our superpower, I was sold. The book does not disappoint, offering a beautiful and unique portrayal of a mother’s love and the dimensions we’ll traverse for our kids. — Molly
“Marry Me By Midnight,” Felicia Grossman:Since the pandemic, I’ve gotten really into regency romance. I have to say, Grossman’s latest book holds up to many of the greats of the genre — yes, even “Bridgerton” — but is also full of incredible Jewish details that will transport you into Jewish London in regency times. — Lior
“Hope,” Andrew Ridker: A gossipy story about a Jewish family in the suburbs of Boston, told by each of its four family members as their predictable life unravels after the dad gets caught doing something shady. This fell into one of my favorite genres — rich people problems, although these characters aren’t quite as wealthy as those in, say, Pineapple Street — but the details of the Jewish family added a layer of interest for me. — Daci
“Being Henry,” Henry Winkler:If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d spend my quiet evenings with my husband after we put our kids to bed listening to Henry Winkler talk about his sex life, I’d probably say, yeah, that sounds about right. Truly, Henry Winkler’s new incredibly open and funny autobiography needs to be consumed in audiobook form, if only for a surprise appearance from Henry’s own wife, Stacey Weitzmann. — Lior
“Once More With Feeling,“ Elissa Sussman: Imagine if Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake broke up after their cheating scandal, went on to live relatively quiet lives for a few decades and then Britney (who, in this hypothetical, is Jewish and neurotic and sarcastic) fulfilled a dream to perform on Broadway — with Justin as the play’s director. Elissa Sussman writes the most fun celebrity-inspired romances, and this is no exception — but I do have to give a bonus recommendation for my favorite of her books, a YA novel about teens at a summer animation internship. — Daci