More early Yiddish writers, on stage and in America.
S. Ansky (1863-1920), a scholar and ethnographer, wrote The Dybbuk (1914), a landmark in the Yiddish theater. The Dybbuk and Other Writings is the book I'll look at first, but his account of the Russian Army's devastation of the shtetls during World War I, The Enemy at His Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War I, sounds fascinating.
The Yiddish theater seems to have been most active in the United States. For example, Jacob Gordin's The Jewish King Lear (1892), which is not quite just what it sounds like, but pretty close. This play was only recently translated - Stephen Greenblatt's review of it in The New Republic several months ago is one of the spurs to this project. God, Man, and Devil: Yiddish Plays in Translation includes another Gordin play, and who knows what else. An older collection, Six Plays of the Yiddish Theater, may also be worth a look.
The short story writer Lamed Shapiro (1878-1948) may push too far out of the 19th century. On the other hand, he seems to be amazing. Last year's The Cross and Other Jewish Stories is the place to go. Wyatt Mason posted an entire story in July.
I'd like to read Abraham Cahan (1860-1951) someday - The Rise of David Levinsky, or Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto - but I think he wrote in English. We'll see. I have to draw a line somewhere.
How about poetry? The earliest Yiddish-American poets I know of, Mani Leib and Moyshe Halpern, start their careers just a little too late, I think. If I change my mind, Ruth Wisse's study A Little Love in Big Manhattan will fill me in.
Wisse also edited a collection called A Shtetl and Other Yiddish Novellas. No idea what's in it. Or in No Star Too Beautiful: Yiddish Stories from 1382 to the Present. Or in Great Works of Jewish Fantasy. I could go on.
Two books of photos look interesting. Roman Vishniac's A Vanished World (1947) contains photos of ghetto life in the 1930s, mostly in Poland. As one might guess, the book was published as an act of remembrance. But what Yiddish-related book is not an act of remembrance now. For example, Yiddishland, which collects actual shtetl postcards. See left. Amazing.
Please fill me in on your favorites - literature, history, art, criticism. I've told you everything I know, almost. I've listed more books than I will actually read. Point me in the right direction.
Update: David Bergelson was a major omission from the original post.