Chanukah Gift List 2019: Six Books for Six Special People on Your List


Chanukah is just around the corner, and nobody wants to be the schmendrick who shows up empty-handed to the latke-fest. Books can make for a great gift, whether they represent an implicit compliment to the receiver (“You’re smart. You’re sophisticated. You’re someone who reads books.”) or an implicit boast by the giver (“I know you so well, I got you this super specific book about your most obscure niche interest.”)

But what book to get that special someone? Lucky for you, the JT staff assembled a list of new books by Jewish authors that includes something for six special people on your Chanukah shopping list.

For the Medical Expert (self-proclaimed or otherwise)

“Who Says You’re Dead?” by Jacob M. Appel, MD. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. 2019. 327 pages.

Drawing on two decades worth of teaching medical ethics, Jacob M. Appel, MD,authored this compelling book on medical dilemmas. If a doctor discovers their patient is not related to their supposed father, are they obligated to tell them? When a couple gets divorced, who gets custody of the IVF-created embryo? Or, if you were to end up on life support, who says you’re dead? A great choice for the physician in your life, or just for a particularly argumentative person.


For the Black Sheep

“The Holy Thief: A Con Man’s Journey from Darkness to Light” by Rabbi Mark Borovitz and Alan Eisenstock. HarperCollins Publishers. 2005. 226 pages.

A mobster, gangster, con man, gambler, thief, drunk, and…a rabbi? This inspiring memoir takes us on Mark Borovitz’s journey from the prison cell to the bima, and how finding G-d let him find an honest life. This book would be a fascinating read for everyone, and a particularly apt choice for the troublemakers in the family.



For the Hopeless Romantic

“Live a Little” by Howard Jacobson. Hogarth. 2019. 290 pages.

“Princess” is a mother and man-eater who is losing her memory. “Shimi Carmelli” is a germophobic fortune teller who entertains her while still reeling from a childhood tragedy. Together, Howard Jacobson weaves their tale into a love story between a woman who can’t remember and a man who can’t forget. This tale is wonderful for romantics and elderly couples.


For the Simple Son

“The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between” by Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibovitz, and Mark Oppenheimer. Artisan. 2019. 318 pages.

This unorthodox guide to everything Jewish is a fun find for anyone interested in the Jewish people. From Abraham to Zabar’s, it covers Jewish religion, history, culture, and language, including “the Oslo Accords,” the “artistry of
Barbra Streisand,” and “how the Jews invented Hollywood.”


For the Kid at Heart

“Once Upon a Time in France” by Fabien Nury and Sylvain Vallée. Dead Reckoning. 2019. 360 pages.

For the adults interested in history, thrillers, and comics, Fabien Nury and Sylain Vallée spin the powerful tale of Joseph Joanovici, a Romanian Jew who struggles to keep his family safe in the heart of Nazi-occupied France. Through his tribulations, he is forced to realize that an ethical life is impossible when trapped within a monstrous regime.


For Parents Who Are Running Out of Bed Time Stories

“Goodnight Bubbala: A Joyful Parody” by Sheryl Haft and Jill Weber. Dial Books. 2019. 32 pages.

Parents struggling to get their yingelehs off to dreamland will love this Yiddish-themed take on a timeless classic. Full of colorful pictures and the lingo of the old country, this one’s sure to be a hit with the youngest of those on your gift list. Contains an exclusive latke recipe from Ina Garten, too.!

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