Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “People of the Book” as Want to Read:
People of the Book
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

People of the Book

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  123,118 ratings  ·  11,427 reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book i
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Viking Books (first published January 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about People of the Book, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ann Dzuik You should definitely read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. The amount of research evidenced by the cultural and historical details that so enr…moreYou should definitely read People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. The amount of research evidenced by the cultural and historical details that so enriched this book just astounds me. Brooks is a true master of fine literature. If you can find the book in audiobook form--I got it in CD book from my public library--do yourself a favor and "read" it that way. Hearing the difficult names pronounced added to my enjoyment of the book.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Rayna Forman
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsBreaking Dawn by Stephenie MeyerThe Host by Stephenie MeyerThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann ShafferCity of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
Best Books of 2008
1,677 books — 6,940 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
6,484 books — 26,081 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  123,118 ratings  ·  11,427 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of People of the Book
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
A Review of People of the Book
(or, Why I Hate the Kindle)

Brooks's novel is a fictionalized account of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish religious text noteworthy for its inclusion of an illuminated manuscript and for its survival through turmoil and the hostility towards Jews that has erupted time and again over the centuries in Europe and Eastern Europe. The novel is told from the perspective of Hanna Heath, an expert in book restoration, who is called in to restore the text for display. Wh
This is an awful book.

I expected great things from Brooks - March is a book I treasure - but this novel is a third-rate Da Vinci code, written with about the same amount of skill.

The premise is captivating - a 500-year-old haggadah is found in Sarajevo in 1996, and the novel sets out to explore the book's journey across Europe in those intervening years. Along the way, the haggadah acts as an entry point into the tumult, crisis, and unspeakable violence experienced by Jewish communities across E
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A tip from one of my daughter's teachers lead me to the works of Geraldine Brooks, a two time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Being the non-fiction connoisseur that I am, I first devoured her memoir Foreign Correspondence. Deciding not to limit myself to only one of her books, I chose People of the Book, her fictionalized history of the Sarajevo Haggadah.

Hanna Heath is a Sydney book conservator who has been chosen by the Sarajevo National Museum to rebind the city's famous Hagga
What I do is me, for that I came...

This is grand book. Impressive. Intriguing. Tragic. Beautiful. From beginning to the end.
I don't usually like books on war situations but this book received so many good comments and ratings from Goodreads I decided to go for it. I did not regret it.

Each chapter is a time jump, to and fro in time. And starts with a quote, like this one, page 329 in my book:
A white hair
Seville, 1480
My eyes seep sorrow; water skins with holes
- Abid bin al-Abras

Part of a review (
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
An exceptional novel about a rare book conservator from Australia who researches the Sarajevo Haggadda, an ancient Jewish prayer book.

Brooks uses the protagonist's research to tell the story of the book backwards from WWII to 1600s Venice to Moorish Spain. The modern conservators narrative binds the vignettes together.

A none too subtle vehicle to highlight the interwoven histories of Christians, Jews and Muslims - the People of the Book - the novel is also an allegory about learning itself and
Hannah Greendale
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain has been saved from the ruins of a bombed library. Hanna Heath, who specializes in the conservation of medieval documents, is hired to repair and preserve the ancient manuscript. Tiny artifacts found inside the manuscript lead Hanna on a quest to discover how the rare manuscript was created and who risked everything to ensure its safety for five hundred years.

The author capitalizes on Hanna's passion for her profession. Her work on the manu
Jim Fonseca
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-history
I edited this book review and added some photos to this older review because this book is being discussed in January 2020 by the GR Diversity in All Forms Book Club led by Mariah Roze. You can join the discussion at

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Most people who like books will enjoy a story about a “book detective” – a female Australian book curator/restorer who discovers many cultural and microscopic mysteries when she is hired to restore a Hagga
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
I try to avoid all things popular (e.g., I’ve never seen Star Wars or Titanic) because I know, after all the hype, I can only be disappointed. When it comes to books, though, I feel obligated to read what’s popular so I can participate somewhat intelligently in the conversation.

That being said, although I hoped Geraldine Brook’s People of the Book would live up to the buzz, I wasn’t too surprised when it did not. The book is good, but it is not call-up-all-my-friends-(or readers)-and-recommend-i
Heidi The Reader
The story of an extraordinary book and the people who surround it.

And I did not enjoy it.

My reaction to this one was a huge surprise. I adored Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders and I thought this would be an easy hit for me.

I think the problem is fairly simple- never connected with the main character. I loved Anna from Year of Wonders. I couldn't stand Hanna.

The small details of her work that she found so absorbing, I didn't enjoy.

I didn't like how she treated people sometimes. I thought she see
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
There's nothing bad about this but there's nothing exciting about it either. I'd describe it as assembly line fiction. A novel that is designed to be a crowd pleaser. It never strays from formulaic commercial boundaries. The story is well-plotted and researched. The prose is professional but never inspired. The characters are on the bland side, each one with a predictable problematical relationship. The author has won the Pulitzer prize so I was expecting something much braver and more literary. ...more
A new favourite! I love it when old stories sound right for their time, and Geraldine Brooks does that so well. This novel was inspired by the discovery of the real Sarajevo Haggadah, a book more than 700 years old, so Brooks had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of voices to invent.

Her central character (Hanna Heath, a rare book expert) says about herself:

“By linking research and imagination, sometimes I can think myself into the heads of the people who made the book. I can figure out who
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic story. Don't be put off by the first bit when you meet Hanna, the main character: she is supposed to be kind of annoying. You end up loving her with a compassion that this author can magically instill in you for all of her characters, of which there are many. The book also spans many centuries and traverses many continents, so it's a bit complex. But wow: This account of the history of a little book takes you through the darkest hours of human history, including the Inquisition ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Oh how I love Geraldine Brooks! This book is I think her masterpiece, so incredibly well researched and detailed.

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and Beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a
Elyse  Walters
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I could have sworn I wrote a review. I read this book the first week it was released....
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a sweeping work of historical fiction, with characters starting in Sarajevo in 1996 and then slowly going back 500 years into the past.

The story is framed around Hanna, a rare book expert from Australia who is called in to analyze a precious Jewish text that was recovered during the Bosnian war. As Hanna studies the ancient book, she finds clues about its history, such as wine stains, a white hair, and part of an insect's wing. Each chapter takes the reader farther back in time, and we
This is a wonderful story of a magical book, an illuminated manuscript begun in the 15th century and found in Sarajevo after the Bosnian War, a Jewish manuscript rescued by a Muslim librarian who could not bear to see such a treasure be destroyed.

Based on some fact and the author's talented recreation, we see the history of this religious piece over the years as some seek to destroy it and others work to save or embellish it. We move backward in time from the modern time to the Nazi era, to 19th
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-books
Geraldine Brook's latest is a treat for us librarians (as well as dedicated to us in the front!) as she traces the path of an ancient religious text that, although Jewish in origin, was saved and added to several times over by members of different religions and cultures throughout time. As usual, Brooks' prose is both incredibly readable and laudably literary, and her theme that the love of knowledge and books crosses all historical and cultural boundaries is well illustrated through her complex ...more
Lisa Vegan
This is a marvelous book. I really enjoyed this author’s Year of Wonders and I think I liked this book at least as much. This is skillful and enthralling storytelling that’s also thought provoking.

This book is one of the most skillful renderings of a book that goes back and forth in time that I’ve ever read. Ditto for the writing of a historical fiction account, especially one that has part of its history in the very recent past.

This is a historical fiction story about the Sarajevo Haggadah. (A
Joy D
Multiple timeline historical fiction based upon the Sarajevo Haggadah, an elaborately illustrated ancient Judaic text that had been saved in the past by two Muslims and a Catholic priest. It is unusual in featuring artwork, which was not common in Jewish texts of the time period. The modern story follows Australian book conservator Hanna Heath who, in 1996, is called upon to evaluate and restore the book. During the evaluation, she finds small pieces of evidence of the book’s 500-year history. S ...more
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
I buy a lot of books. It's sort of sad, given that I am supposed to be budgeting and have completely (okay, almost completely) stopped buying clothes, but books call to me. I figure you can buy a paperback for $10, or you can go to a movie for $10 - one gets you a couple of hours of entertainment in a confined space, one gets you hours of entertainment wherever you want them. So, anyway, I went into this book planning to love it. I even caved and bought the hardbound, so anxious was I to start. ...more
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
From 2011-2013 I belonged to a phenomenal book club at a library in Belvidere Illinois. The Director of the Library led the group and picked the books. I have never been happy in any book club I've tried since then. I loved every book she picked and People of the Book was one of them. It's the story of a Hanna who is a book expert who is called in to analyze and conserve a very rare book of Jewish history called the Sarajevo Haggadah.
People of the Book is based on a true story. This book is bea
May 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I only got through the first 50 pages on this one. I'll try her novel The Wonder Years, but I found the narrator just too whipsmart. Also, there was a line or two that made me groan outloud. When Hannah is sitting on a plane next to someone who removes mines, she says to herself something like: "I thought about making a borderline comment like, 'business booming, eh?'" Yuck! Also, she "seduces" a guy by licking his fingers at a restaurant. All I could think was, "Who really does that?" It made m ...more
Stacy LeVine
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was ok

The protagonist is a rancid harpy about whom I don’t care a damn, and the mother’s more loathsome than the spawn! Brooks accomplishes nothing by opting for repugnant main characters. Moreover, the entire modern-day plot is offensively implausible (not to mention, totally derivative of ANGELS & DEMONS and THE DA VINCI CODE).

As to the historical fiction, I appreciate what Brooks is trying to do. Some of what she comes up with is interesting enough. I actually quite dig the secti
Richard Derus
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Rating: 3* of five

This is the very first book about books I've ever read that left me hating people more than when I started it.

Hanna, what a terrible waste of a person. Sarah, her mother, my GOD what a cold, stoney bas-relief of a human being she was. Orzen, Werner, yechptui on all of 'em and the parts set in the past...! The Nazis, well, it's shootin' tuna in a 55-gallon oil drum (aka the Gulf of Mexico) to hate THEM, but the collaborators! On and on, back through the Western World's horrible,
People of the Book is a stunningly beautiful book about another stunningly beautiful book. It fictionalizes the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a unique, 500-year old version of a book read at Jewish Passover Seders. It illustrates the story of how and why Passover came to be. People of the Book looks at the fascinating story of the Haggadah's travels through the years and creates a story from them. All of the characters are fictional and some of the chapters are admittedly entirely fiction ...more
Julie Christine
Mar 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historical fiction buffs, fans of adventure/thrillers
I adored this novel! It contained all the elements of my favorite contemporary fiction: impeccable historical research, geographic locales that are as strong as the characters, characters who are multi-dimensional & believable, a plot that weaves multiple threads and themes in good pace and with precision. With this, Brooks moves into my favorite authors column. ...more
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
What is it that makes a book compelling?
This one, apparently, has all the necessary ingredients to make a novel difficult to forget.
I'd say it's historically well researched, it has masterly developed and believable characters and an interesting thread which holds all of them together.
"People of the book" is exactly that, the story of the different people who, through centuries and centuries, managed to create or to keep or to protect one of the most treasured books ever, an ancient Haggadah.
Geraldine Brooks has a way of weaving through historical moments of cogent settings, to make powerful, real-life stories vivid through narrative. Most times I find her narrative peculiar and alluring, like the close narration in March, for example. In Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, she had me immersed in style and dialect and of the three novels of hers I've read so far, she managed to keep me invested in the setting and "situation"(i.e. war).

Bosnia was a focus in this book, and it ope
Meredith Holley
I think an alternative title for this book could have been something like Women and Love or What Women Mean When They Talk About Love. Something like that. It was so beautiful in this delicate, fine-art way, and I was so surprised at this book’s beauty, that I feel totally inadequate in trying to describe my reaction to it. It is that type of beauty I feel when I think about the improbability of our bodies being alive or of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or of microscopic images of ...more
Aug 23, 2016 rated it liked it
It was here to test us, to see if there were people who could see that what united us was more than what divided us. That to be a human being matters more than to be a Jew or a Muslim, Catholic or Orthodox.

3.5 stars. I absolutely loved the historical fiction stories. It worked really well telling them in reverse chronological order, as it feels like you are slowly unfolding the suprises of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The people in these stories and the stories themselves were so diverse and interesti
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Dutch House
  • The Book of Longings
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
  • The Night of All Souls
  • The Red Tent
  • Remarkable Creatures
  • Cutting for Stone
  • The Book of Lost Friends
  • Cold Mountain
  • The Dovekeepers
  • The Weight of Ink
  • The Glass Hotel
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • A Long Petal of the Sea
  • Sam Harris Boxset 1-3
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
See similar books…
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu

Articles featuring this book

Calling all bibliophiles! What better way to celebrate the joy of reading than with a book about, well, books? To create this list, we took...
217 likes · 61 comments
“A book is more than the sum of its materials. It is an artifact of the human mind and hand.” 149 likes
“Book burnings. Always the forerunners. Heralds of the stake, the ovens, the mass graves.” 46 likes
More quotes…