Non Fiction Books – Judaism (and Philosophy)
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis – I have only read one book by this women, but it changed my life. This is the first book that I read when seriously considering the merits of observant Judaism. It’s called The Committed Life and contains stories and anecdotes which gave me insight into the fundamental pillars of Judaism, such as forgiveness, choice, responsibility, charity, gratitude, time, family etc. When reading this book for the first time, I didn’t necessarily understand everything she was describing (though she does explain things well), but what resonated was the joy that comes from living a responsible and connected life. Read this book. It will change your life! If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, go! She an incredible speaker and always manages to bring me to tears. She has written many other books which I haven’t had a chance to read yet.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – Anything written by this man is incredible. He is so big-picture oriented without deviating in the slightest from his morals and beliefs. Many find him radical… I find him refreshingly sane. In a nutshell, his goal is building bridges and his books are all about the various ways this can be done. And most of his books are intended for everyone to read, not just those who are interested in Judaism. His book Dignity of Difference is world changing and brings incredible perspective to the beauty of difference between nations, religions, races etc. The Haggadah that Rabbi Sacks edited is great… completely changed my dad’s view on many things! He recommends the essay on “the wicked child”. To Heal a Fractured World is about the importance of reaching out and feeling responsibility for each other. I really liked Radical Then, Radical Now, as well as his books on the weekly parsha called Covenant and Conversation. Also, if you are looking for a siddur (Jewish prayer book) I HIGHLY recommend the one where he has done the translation called the Koren Sacks Siddur. The translations are incredible and bring so much perspective and depth to what might have seemed stodgy and awkward. Even though I pray in Hebrew, I love reading his english translations to gain new perspective. As well, this siddur has a great introduction that talks about the history and purpose of structured prayer… as well as an end section that tells you all about the yearly cycle.
Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz – Extremely deep and philosophical, while being practical simultaneously. He takes concepts that can’t be put into words and somehow puts words to them. My favourite book written by him is called Living Inspired. I also loved Letters to a Buddhist Jew (learned a lot about Judaism and Buddhism in this one), Anatomy of a Search (his story about returning to Judaism, as well as other stories of people who have decided to look deeper), and The Thinking Teenager’s Guide to Life (which is NOT just for teenagers!). Actually… I think those are all of his books. No, wait! He’s also written a book on medical ethics called Dangerous Disease and Dangerous Therapy in Jewish Medical Ethics which I’m really looking forward to reading soon.