The Book of Jonas

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The Book of Jonas
Author Stephen Dau
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Blue Rider Press (Penguin Group)
Publication date
March 15, 2012
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 256 pp
ISBN 978-0-399-15845-2

The Book of Jonas is a 2012 debut literary novel by American writer Stephen Dau. The book was published in English on March 15, 2012 by Blue Rider Press, and in French as Le Livre de Jonas by Éditions Gallimard. The book takes its name from the Book of Jonah of the Hebrew Bible and features themes of war and its effect on others.[1][2]


The story is set sometime after the September 11 attacks in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, where Younis, a 15-year-old local boy survives an errant U.S. military operation. An international relief agency relocates him to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he's raised by a foster family with the new name of "Jonas" and where he struggles to assimilate, especially during his college years at the University of Pittsburgh.


Dau chose to write about teenagers involved in war because he wanted "needed a protagonist who was both old enough to understand what was going on and young enough to be largely blameless for it."[3] He has also stated that he decided to leave the home country of refugee Jonas unnamed because "leaving Jonas's home country vague lends the story a certain universality. By happening nowhere specific, it could have happened anywhere."[3]


Critical reception for The Book of Jonas has been predominantly positive.[4][5] It was a semifinalist for the 2012 First Novelist Award,[6] and it was named one of the ten best books of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal, which called it "the year's finest novel addressing America's 21st-century wars."[7] It was named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews.[8] Many reviewers highlighted the "snippets" style of the book as both a highlight and an initial annoyance.[9][10] A reviewer for the Wall Street Journal commented that Dau's writing was occasionally flat, but that he also "beautifully addresses a need to emotionally engage with a war that has been going on for 10 years but that so often feels remote and unreal".[11]


  1. ^ Freeman, John. "‘The Book of Jonas’ by Stephen Dau Searing tale stalks a damaged young Muslim war refugee in America". Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Fiction Review: The Book of Jonah". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Sexton, John. "The Debut—The Book of Jonas, Stephen Dau". School Library Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Review: The Book of Jonas". Booklist. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  5. ^ "Review: The Book of Jonas". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  6. ^ "The 2013 VCU Cabell First Novelist Semifinalists". Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Still Better Than Television". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "Review: The Book of Jonas". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 18 December 2012. 
  9. ^ Daley, Kathleen. "'The Book of Jonas:' A book review". Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  10. ^ George, Kathleen (18 March 2012). "'The Book of Jonas': A war orphan's progress in Pittsburgh". Post Gazette. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Sacks, Sam. "Imagining the Lives Behind the Casualty Counts". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2012.