9 Best Israeli Books: Discover Israel Through Its Most Compelling Stories

Discover our guide, read the best Israeli books, and jump into the vast world of literature from Israeli authors. 

For decades, news reports have shaped the collective image of Israel. The headlines paint a stark portrait of terrorist bombers, streets littered with blood and debris, and Jewish and Muslim people locked in a never-ending tug-of-war over the Holy Land. Yet, this place and its people are so much more than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The best books from Israel allow readers to look beyond the brutality and witness the beauty of this enchanting and storied nation. If you enjoy history, check out our round-up of the best books for American history.

1. A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz

Image descriptions: A close-up photo of a stack of old books with worn, crinkly leather covers. No titles are visible, and the background with a blur of bokeh blue circles. 

Amos Oz is one of Israel’s most prominent writers, and his memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, is a poignant history of his own story and that of his beloved home. Readers will fall in love with the little boy who grows up in a Jerusalem apartment crowded with books and people. They will ache for him when his mother’s suicide forever changes his life, and they will cheer for him when he leaves everything behind him, joins a kibbutz, and begins a new life. This gripping story of a man who witnessed firsthand the aching beauty of a nation in constant turmoil is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of Israel on a more personal level.

“There is no freedom about this: the world gives, and you just take what you’re given, with no opportunity to choose.” – Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness

A Tale Of Love And Darkness
  • Hardcover Book
  • Oz, Amos (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 544 Pages - 11/15/2004 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

2. A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman

Best Israeli books
David Grossman is a prolific Israeli author

Image description: A book cover with a cartoon illustration of arched black and yellow lines and clouds indicating a punch. The hit seems to have sent the unseen victim’s yellow fedora hat flying. Israeli text names the title “A Horse Walks Into a Bar” and the book’s author, David Grossman.

David Grossman is a prolific Israeli author whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages and have won numerous awards. His short but powerful A Horse Walks Into a Bar won the Man Booker International Prize in 2017. It is the raw, unflinching account of an aging comedian who wants to leave it all on the table in one last farewell show. He inexplicably invites an old friend whom he hasn’t spoken to in years to attend, and what he has to say will change the lives of several audience members in ways they can’t yet imagine.

“I saw for real that he wasn’t worth anything without her and that all his power in life came from her being with him. He turned into half a human in that one instant.” – David Grossman, A Horse Walks into a Bar

A Horse Walks Into a Bar: A novel (Vintage International)
  • Grossman, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 01/16/2018 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

3. The End of the Land by David Grossman 

The end of the land by david grossman 
David Grossman knows firsthand the agony of sending a child to war

Image description: A book cover with an image of wild red poppies. In the white space above the flowers are the words “National Best Seller, David Grossman, To The End of the Land” There is a silver seal printed on the cover that reads, “Finalist, National Critics Book Circle Award.”

David Grossman knows firsthand the agony of sending a child to war. His eldest son was serving with the Israeli Defense Forces while he wrote a profoundly moving novel, To The End of the Land. His younger son, Uri, was killed in the Second Lebanon War just before he finished the manuscript. To The End of the Land is the story of Ora, a Jerusalem physiotherapist planning to celebrate the end of her son’s three-year service by joining him on a backpacking trip. Just before his release, however, the conflict escalates, and he reenlists, leaving Ora to take the trip alone. Audiences feel her anguish as they follow her on her harrowing quest.

“It’s very nice to say ‘And if you will it, it is no dream,’ But what if you stop willing? Or if there’s no strength left in you to will anymore?” – David Grossman, To the End of the Land

To the End of the Land
  • Hardcover Book
  • Grossman, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 592 Pages - 09/21/2010 (Publication Date) - Knopf (Publisher)

4. A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua

Image description: A photo from behind a woman resting her head, presumably in prayer, on the rough white rock of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. She wears a green sweater and holds the sides of her head in her hands. Her head is wrapped in green and cream-colored scarves that completely cover her hair. 

A.B. Yehoshua, who the New York Times once referred to as the Israeli Faulkner, is a paragon of Israeli literature. He wrote 12 novels and several collections of short stories, many of which center on complicated family relationships set in a nation already steeped in conflict. His 2006 novel A Woman in Jerusalem tells the story of a beleaguered human resource manager tasked with finding the identity of a middle-aged woman who was killed in a suicide bombing in a Jewish market. He must discover her origins to give her the memorial farewell she deserves finally. It is an unexpectedly funny yet touching tale of atonement and regret.

“The minute the extraordinary request of the old woman who stood in her monk’s robe by a dying fire was translated and explained to him, he felt a sudden lifting of his spirits, and Jerusalem, the shabby, suffering city he had left just a week ago was once more bathed in the glow of importance, as it had been since his childhood.” – A.B. Yehoshua, A Woman in Jerusalem

A Woman in Jerusalem
  • Hardcover Book
  • Yehoshua, A. B. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 08/14/2006 (Publication Date) - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Publisher)

5. The Hilltop by Assaf Gavron

Image description: A photo of a lone, small tree in a vast desert landscape. The sky above is blue and full of fluffy white clouds.

Beyond being an award-winning novelist, Assaf Gavron has published several short stories, a guide to Jerusalem falafel joints, and is a highly regarded Hebrew-to-English translator. His bitingly funny yet brutally serious novel The Hilltop is about life in the West Bank. It recounts the lives of a bunch of Jewish misfits living in an illegal Israeli settlement comprised of dilapidated shipping containers and mobile homes. The settlement is precariously situated partly on national parkland and partly on land belonging to Palestinian citizens. This is a fun read that brilliantly encapsulates the absurdities that govern life in one of the Middle East’s most tumultuous and dangerous areas.

“I don’t feel the need to apologize for doing business and living the good life. Is your life any better? Are you happier? Are your values any nobler?” – Assaf Gavron, The Hilltop

The Hilltop: A Novel
  • Gavron, Assaf (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 464 Pages - 10/13/2015 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

6. The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Image description: A photo of an ice cream cone dropped on a bright turquoise floor. The melted pink ice cream spills out of the waffle cone, creating a messy puddle.

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen earned a master’s degree in psychology from Tel Aviv University before becoming an award-winning writer of screenplays and novels. Her background in psychology undoubtedly accounts for her ability to create complex, unpredictable characters and situations. Gundar-Goshen’s 2019 novel, The Liar, is about a 17-year-old girl who works at an ice cream shop and desperately hopes to escape the boredom of her average existence. One day, a celebrity visits her shop and treats her poorly so she doesn’t feel too guilty about telling a disparaging lie about him. That is, of course, until the lie takes on a life of its own and upends her life.

“People often prefer to deny what is right before their eyes, especially if they can continue to hold on to what is in their hearts.” – Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, The Liar

The Liar
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (Author) - Ajjaz Awad (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/24/2019 (Publication Date) - Hachette Audio (Publisher)

7. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God and Other Stories by Etgar Keret

Image description: A photo of a bus driver from behind the driver’s seat as he navigates a bus on a busy highway. He is a bald man wearing a blue button-down shirt. Beyond the windshield, there is a three-lane freeway. Four blurry cars speed ahead of the bus.

Etgar Keret is a child of parents who survived the Holocaust. He is well known for his comics, graphic novels, screenplays, and short stories. The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God and Other Stories is the first collection of his works to be translated into English. In this collection of short stories, Keret introduces a cast of characters ranging from a bus driver obsessed with his schedule. Also featuring a woman who runs a convenience store on the edge of hell and two soldiers locked in an armed conflict. His warm, painfully funny tales are the sort that sticks with you for a long time.

“There are two kinds of people, those who like to sleep next to the wall, and those who like to sleep next to the people who push them off the bed.” – Etgar Keret, The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God and Other Stories

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God & Other Stories
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Etgar Keret (Author) - Kirby Heyborne (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/13/2015 (Publication Date) - Penguin Audio (Publisher)

8. The Blue Mountain by Meir Shalev

Image description: A photo of an old white beehive under a tree. Beyond the hive are a lush green pasture and a black and white grazing cow. In the distance is the corner of an old barn or farmhouse. 

Meir Shalev was once a soldier and fought in the Six-Day War. He has since become a prominent writer of fiction, non-fiction, journalism, and children’s stories. His first novel, The Blue Mountainfollows four early settlers of what is now the State of Israel. Spanning three generations of Ukrainian immigrants, this book is a history entirely devoid of historical events. Instead, readers witness the birth of a nation through tall tales, reflections on the land’s beauty, and quiet portraits of the everyday elegance of farm life.

“This rough earth, accustomed to the stench of the bones of saints and the tread of the feet of pilgrims and conscripts, opened its mouth with laughter at the sight of the pioneers who kissed it and poured their tear offerings over it.” – Meir Shalev, The Blue Mountain

The Blue Mountain: A Novel
  • Shalev, Meir (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 378 Pages - 07/09/2010 (Publication Date) - Canongate UK (Publisher)

9. Dancing Arabs by Sayed Kashua

Dancing arabs by Sayed Kashua
His experiences as a young Arab attempting to fit into a Jewish school

Image description: A book cover that features a photograph of a person’s legs crossed at the ankle. The person wears dark jeans and black boots studded with silver medallions. The person stands on a red carpet printed with a traditional middle eastern pattern. The book’s title and author are written in Hebrew across the cover.

Sayed Keshua was born to Palestinian Muslim-Arab parents but, at 15, was accepted into a prestigious Israeli boarding school. His first book, Dancing Arabs, is informed by his experiences as a young Arab attempting to fit into a Jewish school. The protagonist’s grandfather died trying to protect his home from Zionists, while his father was arrested for bombing a school in the name of freedom. Yet, as the first Arab student accepted into his Jewish school, he wants to fit in with his supposed enemies. Kashua’s tale is a tragically funny and endearing look at the search for identity and belonging in a divided nation.

“Now I’m the one in charge of Grandma’s death. She must know something I don’t. Otherwise, what would she need death equipment for? And what is death equipment anyway.” – Sayed Kashua, Dancing Arabs

Dancing Arabs
  • Sayed Kashua (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 12/01/2015 (Publication Date) - Audible Studios on Brilliance Audio (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best books by Sylvia Day!


  • Stefani is a freelance writer who specializes in lifestyle and literary pieces. She worked for several years as a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. Stefani is pursuing a graduate degree in English literature focusing on contemporary poetry. When not writing, you can find her in the garden, making plans for her next road trip, or in her workshop, where she restores vintage and antique furniture.