Israel’s literary scene has flourished in the past decade, receiving international recognition in the process. From a collection of absurdist yet poignant short stories to an epic survey of our human species recommended by Barack Obama, these seven, critically acclaimed books by Israeli writers need to be added to your reading list urgently.
A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos Oz (2005)
Arguably Israel’s greatest literary export, Amos Oz is most famous for this masterful autobiographical memoir/family history that has since been adapted into a hit movie featuring Natalie Portman. An epic tale set against the backdrop of the dramatic and tumultuous conditions in Palestine and the formation of the Israeli state, Oz presents a complex portrait of his teenage self and his attempts to redefine his identity following his mother’s suicide. A book of tragedy and triumph, on personal and historical levels, this should be number one on your reading list.
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door, Etgar Keret (2012)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari (2014)
If you are curious to learn how homo sapiens came to rule the world, and want to read a book recommended by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama, then this is the book for you. Harari, a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provides a fascinating and highly thought-provoking account of our species that deservedly became an international bestseller. His follow up book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is equally intriguing.
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit (2013)
A New York Times bestseller, this book offers a captivating narrative of Israel’s history and the complexities of its society, making use of historical documents, diaries, and interviews. Shavit, whose love for his country is clear, does not shy away from uncomfortable truths and asks pertinent, existential questions about the Jewish state. The result is a powerful, highly nuanced portrait of this minuscule, deeply troubled yet miraculous nation.
Let It Be Morning, Sayed Kashua (2006)
Kashua is Israel’s most famous Arab-Israeli writer. In Let It Be Morning, an Arab journalist moves back to his hometown, a small Arab village in Israel, only to find himself plagued by a struggle for identity and belonging due to the turbulent situation he finds himself in. Kashua offers sharp insights into the condition and predicaments of Israel’s Arab population (who make up 20% of the country) in this intimate and often chilling novel.
A Horse Walks into a Bar, David Grossman (2017)
Winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, Grossman’s latest novel revolves around a comedian performing in a small Israeli town. It uses humor to dissect the protagonist’s incredibly dark and personal story, with the outcome widely considered to be a literary masterpiece.
The Hilltop, Assaf Gavron (2015)
This work of fiction earned Gavron international acclaim along with the prestigious Bernstein literary prize. The story revolves around the lives of inhabitants in a settlement in Israel’s West Bank, and in the process acutely uncovers the sharp contradictions that plague Israeli society.
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