With Passover just around the cor­ner, it’s time to start stock­ing your book­shelves for the hol­i­day! Slip away from your seder and sink into poet­ry, mem­oirs, and new fic­tion about some­one else’s dys­func­tion­al Jew­ish fam­i­ly at Passover:

Tell Me How This Ends Well

by David Samuel Levinson

David Samuel Levin­son imag­ines a near-future in which anti­semitism runs ram­pant and Israeli refugees roam the Globe after the world stood by and watched the anni­hi­la­tion of the Jew­ish State at the hands of its neighbors.

Ten years into the future, three sib­lings reunite in Los Ange­les to cel­e­brate” Passover as a fam­i­ly and car­ry out an ill-con­ceived plot to mur­der their dad. There’s Jacob, vis­it­ing from Berlin with his Ger­man boyfriend and a sin­is­ter spare suit­case he intends to keep hid­den; Edith, divorced, unsta­ble, and fac­ing sex­u­al mis­con­duct charges from an under­grad­u­ate stu­dent dis­sat­is­fied with his grade from her Ethics course; and Mo, hus­band, father to a set of twins and triplets each, and failed-actor-turned-real­i­ty-star in his for­ties host­ing Passover in a man­sion main­tained by the net­work com­pa­ny that will be return­ing to film an encore of his family’s Passover seder — unbe­knownst to any of his guests.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

by Diane Ackerman

Niki Caro’s movie adap­ta­tion of Diane Ackerman’s 2007 best­seller hit the­aters just in time for the hol­i­day — and the anniver­sary of the War­saw Ghet­to Upris­ing, which broke out, sig­nif­i­cant­ly, on the first night of Passover, 1943. Inspired by the Passover seder held by the Jews hid­den in the War­saw zoo — and its coin­ci­dence with the start of the revolt — Jew­ish Book Council’s new cus­tom book club kit for The Zookeeper’s Wife fea­tures a spe­cial Passover hag­gadah sup­ple­ment com­piled in col­lab­o­ra­tion with human­i­tar­i­an relief agen­cies — the Inter­na­tion­al Res­cue Com­mit­tee (IRC), HIAS, and CARE — and lead­ing Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions around the coun­try to com­mem­o­rate the the strug­gle for free­dom that the hol­i­day rep­re­sents. Click here to down­load the free read­ing guide!

Moses: A Human Life

by Avi­va Got­tlieb Zornberg

What bet­ter time than Passover to read a biog­ra­phy of Moshe Rabbeinu — writ­ten by renowned schol­ar and lec­tur­er Dr. Avi­va Got­tlieb Zorn­berg, no less — than Passover? Acces­si­ble and illu­mi­nat­ing, Zornberg’s recent con­tri­bu­tion to the Yale Jew­ish Lives series brings her sig­na­ture cross-appli­ca­tion of Jew­ish texts, world lit­er­a­ture, and psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic exam­i­na­tion to one of Tanakh’s most com­plex characters.

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Geor­gia Hunter

Based on the true sto­ry of her family’s sur­vival of World War II as Pol­ish Jews, Geor­gia Hunter’s debut nov­el begins and ends with two Passover seders, eight years apart. In ear­ly March of 1939, Addy Kurc — Hunter’s mater­nal grand­fa­ther — mean­ders the streets of Paris in the wee hours of the morn­ing, turn­ing over a let­ter from his moth­er beg­ging him to stay in France for the upcom­ing hol­i­day rather than risk the clos­ing bor­ders of Ger­man-occu­pied Poland. He writes back to answer that he is resolved to return home to Radom, but even as his par­ents and sib­lings gath­er around the seder table no fur­ther word arrives — and nei­ther does Addy.

The next eight years fol­low the sep­a­rat­ed fac­tions of the Kurc fam­i­ly from Ger­man-occu­pied Radom and Toulouse to Sovi­et-occu­pied Lvov and Vichy France; across the Mediter­ranean to Dakar and Casablan­ca, across Siberia to Kaza­khstan and Tehran, across the Aus­tri­an Alps to the Adri­at­ic Coast (and Allied mil­i­tary camps) of Italy; on to War­saw, Krakow, Lodz, Tel Aviv, Illi­nois, and Rio de Janeiro, where the whole fam­i­ly — all three gen­er­a­tions mirac­u­lous­ly intact — reunites for their first Passover seder togeth­er since Kristall­nacht. Of the 30,000 Jews liv­ing in their home­town of Radom, Poland before the Holo­caust, few­er than 300 sur­vived — and luck­i­ly,” every mem­ber of the Kurc fam­i­ly among them.

The Din­ner Party

by Bren­da Janowitz

Sylvia is plan­ning the per­fect Passover seder. Every­thing from the table set­tings to the menu to man­ag­ing her help­less hus­band and hap­less chil­dren — a son run off to Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders, a daugh­ter who left med­ical school (and a Roth­schild suit­or) for the beach, a non-Jew­ish boyfriend dat­ing the pro­fes­sion­al­ly suc­cess­ful one — has been account­ed for. But guests comes with prob­lems and intrigues of their own…

My Jew­ish Year

by Abi­gail Pogrebin

Abi­gail Pogrebin’s new per­son­al explo­ration of the Jew­ish hol­i­days is a won­der­ful com­pan­ion year-round, but I was espe­cial­ly curi­ous to read her reflec­tions on Passover, giv­en her fam­i­ly lega­cy around the hol­i­day — her moth­er, Let­ty Cot­tin Pogre­bin, con­vened the first fem­i­nist seder togeth­er with E. M. Broner, Phyl­lis Chesler, and Lil­ly Rivlin, and Abi­gail grew up attend­ing this annu­al gath­er­ing as a Seder daugh­ter” over the sub­se­quent years, seat­ed among Glo­ria Steinem, Bel­la Abzug, Bea Kreloff, Edith Isaac-Rose, and others.

Indeed, a full chap­ter of My Jew­ish Year is ded­i­cat­ed to The Fem­i­nist Passover: A (Third) Seder of Her Own.” In the chap­ter before, Pogre­bin sticks to the tra­di­tion­al seder — and pre-hol­i­day clean­ing, gain­ing as much from the rit­u­al of bedikat chametz and cook­ing with her chil­dren as the seder itself. She shares some favorite par­ty tricks to spark mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions around the Passover sto­ry and how it trans­lates to the present moment, includ­ing the home­made hag­gadah she has com­piled over the last sev­er­al years — a col­lec­tion of ques­tions rather than read­ings[…] that meets all the seder require­ments, while invit­ing con­stant par­tic­i­pa­tion.” Maybe that will be her next book…

The Book of Sep­a­ra­tion (Com­ing Sep­tem­ber 2017)

by Tova Mirvis

Bedikat Chametz emerges as a com­pass of unex­pect­ed res­o­nance for Tova Mirvis in her forth­com­ing mem­oir, as well. Cel­e­brat­ing Hal­loween for the first time at age 40, the for­eign expe­ri­ence of trick-or-treat­ing with her chil­dren reminds her of search­ing for bread crumbs with a can­dle, a feath­er, and a wood­en spoon with her father the night before Passover every year.

Mirvis’s sto­ry of leav­ing the Ortho­dox world of her upbring­ing and mar­riage cuts to the quick — with espe­cial­ly sharp poignan­cy as the Jew­ish hol­i­days cycle through her life. Ear­ly in her mar­ried life, Passover stood as a sym­bol of the bal­ance in her rela­tion­ship, and her role with­in it: seders spent with her par­ents in Mem­phis, in exchange for the autumn hol­i­days in Boston with his, squelch­ing” chal­lenges to her faith with reli­gious rou­tines — vac­u­um­ing the the mini van for any traces of chametz before the Fes­ti­val of Matzah. But it is toward the end of the book, in a chap­ter devot­ed to Passover, the hol­i­day takes on its strongest sig­nif­i­cance: recount­ing the sto­ry of Exo­dus at a small seder with only her par­ents and chil­dren, Mirvis begins to think of her own lib­er­a­tion: her divorce. At the end of the offi­cial cer­e­mo­ny before a Jew­ish court of law, she remem­bers, the pre­sid­ing rab­bi encour­aged her to embrace this new start to her life, to become the per­son you need to be,” and wished her mazal tov.

Open My Lips

by Rachel Barenblat

This is a sto­ry about change.
Look: the seas are parting.
It’s hap­pen­ing now. Open your eyes.

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt
but God brought us out of there.
This is a sto­ry about change.

Rachel Barenblat’s poet­ry on Pesach to Shavuot” con­tin­ues the lit­er­ary fix­a­tion on prepar­ing for Passover from women writers.Listing every­thing to be done before the hol­i­day begins — from buy­ing canned mac­a­roons to call­ing her moth­er to ask again whether she cooks / matzah balls in salt­ed water or broth, because you can” — Baren­blat com­bines wry humor with heart­break­ing mem­o­ries, adding, Real­ize that no mat­ter how many you buy / there are nev­er quite enough eggs at Pesach,” right after a mem­o­ry of her grand­fa­ther con­fused over the loss of his wife only weeks before anoth­er Passover years ago. Anoth­er poem eulo­gizes the Arab Spring, and in the inter­im before Shavuot Baren­blat med­i­tates on count­ing the Omer: Humil­i­ty and splen­dor in a sin­gle day, / two oppo­sites fold­ed into one. / Roots strength­en us as we count.”

Relat­ed Content:

Nat Bern­stein is the for­mer Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Con­tent & Media, JBC Net­work Coor­di­na­tor, and Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and a grad­u­ate of Hamp­shire College.