A bounty of Jewish and Israeli-themed books awaits readers this fall, with choices ranging from the gently nostalgic to the deeply disturbing.
In both fiction and nonfiction, the past is very much present. Much of the fiction draws heavily on history (“A Guide for the Perplexed,” “Dissident Gardens,” “The Lion Seeker”) or autobiography (“Between Friends”). And some of the nonfiction relies on the narrative techniques of literary fiction.
Among the numerous books examining the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, we’ve picked two that have already garnered considerable buzz: Ben Urwand’s shocking account of Hollywood’s complicity with Hitler in the 1930s (“The Collaboration”) and Wendy Lower’s study of German women in the killing fields (“Hitler’s Furies”).
We’re also looking forward to studies of two internationally celebrated writers (“The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem,” “Roth Unbound”), significant histories of Israel (“My Promised Land,” “Like Dreamers”) and — we could hardly omit this — a biography of this newspaper’s founding editor (“The Rise of Abraham Cahan”). Here are our picks:
● A Guide for the Perplexed
By Dara Horn
W.W. Norton & Company, $25.95, 352 pages
Out September 9
Dara Horn’s latest novel, a riff on memory, the malleability of the past and the biblical story of Joseph, revolves around the abduction of a software whiz, Josie Ashkenazi, in Egypt. Parallel plots focusing on the 19th-century Jewish scholar Solomon Schechter and the 12th-century rabbi, philosopher and physician Moses Maimonides distract from the more engrossing central narrative but lend the book symbolic heft. Another engaging read from an intellectually audacious writer.
● Dissident Gardens
By Jonathan Lethem
Doubleday, $27.95, 384 pages
Out September 10
In this epic novel of three generations of New Yorkers, the MacArthur Award-winning Lethem (“Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Fortress of Solitude”) depicts both the American Communist Party at its 1930s peak and Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in the bohemian 1950s.
● Between Friends
By Amos Oz, translated by Sondra Silverston
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 192 pages
Out September 24
One of Israel’s pre-eminent novelists, and the recent winner of the prestigious Franz Kafka Prize, looks back to mid-20th-century kibbutz life in a set of linked short stories with strong autobiographical resonances. The book is about “forgoing and longing,” Oz told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, with the kibbutz serving as “an ultimate university of human nature.”
● The Lion Seeker
By Kenneth Bonert
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 576 pages
Out October 15
A Canadian novelist’s ambitious debut, “The Lion Seeker” is an epic of South African Jewry that touches on both that country’s troubled apartheid era and the European traumas of the Holocaustand World War II. Canada’s National Post newspaper called the novel, inspired by Bonert’s heritage as the child of Lithuanian Jews who settled in South Africa, “astonishingly mature, admirably incautious.”
● The Sisters Weiss
By Naomi Ragen
St. Martin’s Press, $24.99, 336 pages
Out October 15
Another multigenerational novel — this one originating in the ultra-Orthodox precincts of 1950s Brooklyn — explores women’s choices, family loyalties and the conflict between religious tradition and modernity. A best-selling American-born writer and women’s rights activist living in Jerusalem, Ragen is a controversial figure, both as a combatant against gender discrimination in the Orthodox community and as a litigant in (mostly successful) battles against copyright infringement claims.