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I read Etgar Keret- I'm looking at The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God
Dara Horn's The World to Come is great -but a little depressing.
What about David Liss's books? -historical fiction?
Very old books- any of Ephraim Kishon's are very funny
-Aaron Lansky's memoir is funny- Outwitting History-how he got into the business of saving Yiddish books.
I'll look to see if I can find any non- depressing books.
or the writings of Yehuda Amichai, Chaim Potok, Amos Oz
Plain Jane by Eve Horowitz also has that funny-sad mixture.
Portnoy's Complaint is probably not for a synagogue reading group, I guess, although it is a riot. But I would highly recommend The Ghost Writer or The Human Stain by Philip Roth. The Plot Against America would be a thought-provoking read, although it's not my personal favorite among Roth's works.
And, yes, Joy is part of the Jewish experience. If it weren't, the Jewish religion and culture would have disappeared long ago.
and then there is Leo Rosten's classic- The Joys of Yiddish.
It's a riot!
A few years ago The Cubs and the Kaballist appeared on my library's section of "new releases" and couldn't resist the title. I really enjoyed it; I thought it was funny. It came in handy when I watched the movie "Stranger than Fiction" and Dustin Hoffman tells Will Farrell that he's ruled out that Will's character is a "golom." Ha! If it wasn't for that book I wouldn't have known what that was.
I realize the latter may not fit your bill for your synagogue read .......
A bit late but something that has a Jewish main character (although not really a Jewish theme) is
The Case of the Missing Books
Also try some Howard Jacobson.. his earlier works.
While I hesitate to label my humorous, historical adventure purely "Jewish Fiction," there's no denying the sensibilities that I bring to this Rome tome.
Without giving too much away, I'll signal that my reluctant young hero is the son of a wayward Rabbi, a kosher butcher on the lam. My young protagonist is wrestling with the apparent benefits of assimilation versus the difficulties of maintaining his Jewish identity in a backwater province (Spain, 123 AD) where Judiasm has very little presence. His brother wants to go to Judea and overthrow the Roman Empire, but only after assassinating the emperor.
But, as they say, "When it comes to assassination, execution is everything."
The saga takes place during the time of Hadrian, the eventual "father" of the diaspora. "No Roads" takes place a dozen years before the Bar Kochba rebellion so I can weave a lighthearted story in spite of the darkness looming on the horizon.
The electronic form of my book is often in the Top 10 list for a variety of Amazon Kindle categories.
Saying that, I think it is in the nature of Jewish writing to deal with difficult issues in a humorous way. (That's what Wikipedia says, anyway.) So the subject matter is often depressing: Holocaust, assimilation, interfaith strife, Israel, the inability to find good knishes anywhere...
Recent titles from our group that I'd recommend, though none are happy books, include
The Finkler Question
The Ministry of Special Cases
36 Arguments for the Existence of God
The Coffee Trader
A Woman in Jerusalem
Friendly Fire: A Duet
Fabulous Small Jews
Jewish Gauchos of the Pampas
Dropped From Heaven
The Jewish Husband
i enjoyed seeing your list. I just finished Finkler which I agree is not a happy book though it does have touches of humor throughout. its leading theme of Zionism and anti-semitism can, at times, be painful to read.
I am curious about 2 of the books: Jewish Gauchos and Special Ministry- both take place in Argentina- I have a particular interest in the jewish experience in Argentina and was curious if your synagogue/congregation had any particular connection to Argentina?
Is there a specific literary equivalent to music written in a minor key?
I do a fair amount of Jewish adult-ed teaching, but utilize mostly non-fiction materials (theology, history. law and ethics).
My wife participates in a synagogue-based reading group, and has been disturbed that many selections involve Jewish characters and Jewish shtick, but not so much in the way of deeper Jewish themes. Those themes can be comic and irreverent, but in the most rewarding literature, have some darker edge--at least to my taste.