100 books like The New Jewish Canon

By Yehuda Kurtzer (editor), Claire E. Sufrin (editor),

Here are 100 books that The New Jewish Canon fans have personally recommended if you like The New Jewish Canon. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of The Sisters Z

From my list on introducing Jewish ideas to others.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a rabbi, educator, scholar and author who has led congregations, organizations and taught in rabbinical seminaries. As a result, I have always straddled the world of the practitioner and the academician. These books have informed my personal religious practice and outlook, as well as my academic approach to Judaism.

Kerry's book list on introducing Jewish ideas to others

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did Kerry love this book?

In the current search for spirituality, many people inside and outside of the Jewish community are looking for the Jewish path to spirituality.

This is a powerful introduction to the various practices in Judaism that offer such a spiritual path for the seeker. The book contains a vehicle to enhancing one’s connection to the Divine or finding it for the first time. I found it helpful on a personal level. 

By Daniel Gordis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God Was Not in the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Simon & Schuster, God Was Not in the Fire is Daniel Gordis' fascinating and exhilarating search for a spiritual judaism.

Contemporary Jews seeking a path toward spirituality and a renewal of faith will find it in this fresh look at the traditional rituals, prayers, celebrations, and ethical teachings of Judaism.


Book cover of Judaism Disrupted: A Spiritual Manifesto for the 21st Century

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of The Sisters Z

From my list on introducing Jewish ideas to others.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a rabbi, educator, scholar and author who has led congregations, organizations and taught in rabbinical seminaries. As a result, I have always straddled the world of the practitioner and the academician. These books have informed my personal religious practice and outlook, as well as my academic approach to Judaism.

Kerry's book list on introducing Jewish ideas to others

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did Kerry love this book?

By the author of the most well-known and useful DIY book (The Jewish Catalogue), this is one of the most important books of the current generation.

The author gives us a blueprint for navigating a positive and productive Jewish future and the steps for getting there. I found the book intriguing. Since I consider myself a Jewish futurist, this book projects a possible trend in the future—which I find to be quite provocative and potentially “prophetic.”

By Michael Strassfeld,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Judaism Disrupted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"I can't remember the last time I felt pulled to underline a book constantly as I was reading it, but Judaism Disrupted is exactly that intellectual, spiritual and personal adventure. You will find yourself nodding, wrestling, and hoping to hold on to so many of its ideas and challenges. Rabbi Strassfeld reframes a Torah that demands breakage, reimagination, and ownership. Not only did I learn so much from Strassfeld's 11 principles; I was changed by them."

-Abigail Pogrebin, author, My Jewish Year; 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew


How do you hold on to faith in a modern world? Rabbi Michael…


Book cover of Renewing the Covenant: A Theology for the Postmodern Jew

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of The Sisters Z

From my list on introducing Jewish ideas to others.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a rabbi, educator, scholar and author who has led congregations, organizations and taught in rabbinical seminaries. As a result, I have always straddled the world of the practitioner and the academician. These books have informed my personal religious practice and outlook, as well as my academic approach to Judaism.

Kerry's book list on introducing Jewish ideas to others

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did Kerry love this book?

Eugene Borowitz was the leading liberal Jewish theologian of the 20th and early 21st century. Although this book may be challenging for those disinclined to read dense theology, it is presented in a more popular way and contains a theology that has informed the lives of many Jews, including myself. 

By Eugene B. Borowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Renewing the Covenant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Borowitz creatively explores his theory of Covenant, linking self to folk and God through the contemporary idiom of relationship.


Book cover of As a Driven Leaf

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of The Sisters Z

From my list on introducing Jewish ideas to others.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a rabbi, educator, scholar and author who has led congregations, organizations and taught in rabbinical seminaries. As a result, I have always straddled the world of the practitioner and the academician. These books have informed my personal religious practice and outlook, as well as my academic approach to Judaism.

Kerry's book list on introducing Jewish ideas to others

Kerry M. Olitzky Why did Kerry love this book?

A well-loved classic, to be sure, this book introduces readers to the theological searches and struggles of the individual.

The book is well-written as a novel, cleverly informed implicitly by the stories of the Talmud and its rabbis. I like to say that I was raised on this novel. It took me to places that I didn’t know existed until I later entered those worlds. The main character of this book is a bit of an antihero, an outlier, someone to whom I always related.

By Milton Steinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked As a Driven Leaf as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The age of the Talmud is brought to life in a breathtaking saga. First published in 1939, this masterpiece of modern fiction tells the gripping tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah's struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Set in Roman Palestine, As a Driven Leaf draws readers into the dramatic era of Rabbinic Judaism. Watch the great Talmudic sages at work in the Sanhedrin, eavesdrop on their arguments about theology and Torah, and agonize with them as they contemplate rebellion against an oppressive Roman rule.

Steinberg's classic novel also transcends its historical setting…


Book cover of Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism

Cheryl Lynn Greenberg Author Of Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century

From my list on Black-Jewish relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor who teaches and works in the field of African American History. Because I am both white and Jewish, I’ve been repeatedly asked to give talks about relationships between African Americans and white Jewish Americans, and about what “went wrong” to shatter the “grand alliance” of the civil rights movement embodied by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I had no answer, but I suspected that none of the stories that we had been told, whether good or bad, were fully true. So I went back to the sources and uncovered a complex and multilayered history. Black and Jewish collaboration was never a given, and underlying tensions and conflicts reflected the broader realities of race and class in the U.S. In the book I explored how these historical and political forces operated, and continue to resonate today.

Cheryl's book list on Black-Jewish relations

Cheryl Lynn Greenberg Why did Cheryl love this book?

Too often “Black-Jewish relations” focuses on Jewish engagement in the Black civil rights struggle, a largely one-sided political narrative. This book broadens that horizon in two ways. First, it focuses on the Black experience and encounter with the other, rather than the Jewish one. Second, it explores the religious dimension that political discussions often ignore – that the Black experience with Jews and Judaism is as much rooted in religion as in politics.

By Yvonne Patricia Chireau (editor), Nathaniel Deutsch (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Zion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Black Zion explores the myriad ways in which African American religions have encountered Jewish traditions, beliefs, and spaces. The collection's unifying argument is that religion is the missing piece of the cultural jigsaw puzzle, that much of the recent turmoil in black-Jewish relations would be better understood, if not alleviated, if the religious roots of those relations were illuminated. Toward that end, the contributors look a number of provocative
topics, including the concept of the Chosen People, the typological identification of blacks with Jews, the actual identification of blacks as Jews, the sacredness of space and symbols, the importance of…


Book cover of A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1

Mark E. Leib Author Of Image Breaker

From my list on Jewish life and ethics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started studying Judaism as an adult in 1982, and in the 40 or so years that have passed since then I’ve read voraciously on the subject and have discussed it at length with Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis from Boston to Tampa. I’ve come to see over that time that Judaism’s objective is to shape conscientious, caring human beings who will bring light and compassion to the earth in spite of all the forces that want to keep trouble and insensitivity there. The books that I’ve listed are among the best in communicating the Jewish vision for the planet. I think you’ll learn much from them.

Mark's book list on Jewish life and ethics

Mark E. Leib Why did Mark love this book?

In a conversational and, at times, anecdotal style, Telushkin describes what a compassionate, righteous life might look like.

There are chapters on good manners, charity, forgiveness, and humility along with considerations on anger, envy, hatred, and the instinct of revenge. Telushkin backs up his suggestions with references to Torah, Talmud, and Commentaries, and he includes some delightful stories to illustrate his points.

I can’t imagine a more comfortable guide to living conscientiously.

By Joseph Telushkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 1: You Shall Be Holy is the initial volume of the first major code of Jewish ethics to be written in the English language. It is a monumental work on the vital topic of personal character and integrity by one of the premier Jewish scholars and thinkers of our time.

With the stated purpose of restoring ethics to its central role in Judaism, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin offers hundreds of examples from the Torah, the Talmud, rabbinic commentaries, and contemporary stories to illustrate how ethical teachings can affect our daily behavior. The subjects dealt with…


Book cover of Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent

Judith Glatzer Wechsler Author Of The Memoirs of Nahum N. Glatzer

From my list on anthology that bring sources to light.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art historian and was professor of art history at MIT, Tufts, Harvard, and elsewhere. As an undergraduate I studied Jewish history and philosophy and subsequently was assistant editor at Schocken Books focusing on art history and history of ideas. My graduate work was in art history, first in medieval manuscripts and then 19th century French art. I’ve written four books, edited four others, and made 30 documentaries, mostly on art. The French government knighted me “Chevalier dans l’ordre des arts et des lettres.”

Judith's book list on anthology that bring sources to light

Judith Glatzer Wechsler Why did Judith love this book?

Paul Mendes-Flohr is a great scholar of modern German Jewish philosophy. A man of extraordinary erudition and humanity, I am always moved by his deeply insightful books. His work means very much to me.

This is a superb biography of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, conveying the range of his thought in the context of his life and times. Mendes-Flohr captures the complexities of this influential thinker, who many know for his revolutionary concept of “I and Thou” in religion and human relations.

By Paul Mendes-Flohr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Martin Buber as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, the first major biography in English in over thirty years of the seminal modern Jewish thinker Martin Buber

"A scrupulously researched, perceptive biography."-Robert Alter, New York Times Book Review

An authority on the twentieth-century philosopher Martin Buber (1878-1965), Paul Mendes-Flohr offers the first major biography in English in thirty years of this seminal modern Jewish thinker. The book is organized around several key moments, such as his sudden abandonment by his mother when he was a child of three, a foundational trauma that, Mendes-Flohr shows, left an enduring mark on Buber's inner life, attuning…


Book cover of Rifka Takes a Bow

Gloria Koster Author Of Dance the Hora, Isadora

From my list on lighthearted picture books with Jewish characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a school and public librarian as well as a writer. I also serve as a member of the Children’s Book Committee of the Bank Street College of Education. We review hundreds of books each year for consideration of a place on our list –The Best Children’s Books of the YearI've chosen to recommend some lighthearted picture books with Jewish characters or themes because a number of my own books fit into this category. Mitzi’s Mitzvah, Little Red Ruthie, and Dance the Hora, Isadora! are three of my Jewish themed books. Each of these titles has been selected by PJ Library, an organization that sends a book each month to children.

Gloria's book list on lighthearted picture books with Jewish characters

Gloria Koster Why did Gloria love this book?

This book reflects the author’s own experience as a child during the heyday of Yiddish theater. It’s an exciting story that will engage kids with a slice of history as they imagine themselves taking to the stage and enjoying the thrill of the limelight. So many Jewish-themed books focus on the holidays, so it’s refreshing to have others that just reflect Jewish life in the past or the present.

By Rebecca Rosenberg Perlov, Cosei Kawa (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rifka Takes a Bow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Rifka's parents are actors in the Yiddish Theater in New York, but one day Rifka finds herself center stage in a special role! A slice of immigrant life on New York's Second Avenue, this is a unique book about a vanished time and a place – the Yiddish theater in the early 20th century―made real through the telling of the true life story of the 96-year-old author as a little girl.


Book cover of The Right and the Good: Halakhah and Human Relations

Ronald W. Pies Author Of The Ethics of the Jewish Mystics: An Introduction and Commentary

From my list on Jewish ethical teachings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a psychiatrist and medical ethicist—not a theologian or rabbinical scholar. And yet, for more than thirty years, I have had a kind of love affair with rabbinical ethics and have written several books on the topic. This is particularly ironic, since, in my youth, I rebelled against my own rabbi’s teachings and my father’s adherence to Orthodox Judaism. Much later in life, I took courses in Jewish ethics and studied briefly with a local rabbi. I eventually came to appreciate the deep psychological wisdom in so much of Jewish and rabbinical ethics. 

Ronald's book list on Jewish ethical teachings

Ronald W. Pies Why did Ronald love this book?

Judaism is sometimes accused of being obsessed with rituals and laws, at the expense of interpersonal relationships. Rabbi Feldman’s insightful book debunks that charge, focusing in psychologically astute ways on human relationships. Topics include revenge, violence, love, and generosity. While scholarly in content, this book has a friendly, informal tone, such as the chapter titled, “One strike and you’re out: hitting and raising a hand in violence.” 

By Daniel Z. Feldman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Right and the Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an effort to respond to the baseless criticism that Jewish law is overly preoccupied with religious ritual at the expense of issues having to do with interpersonal relationships, the author presents a detailed exploration of the vast attention that the masters of Jewish thought have given to relations between and among individuals. This book is not a legal guide to interpersonal relationships in Jewish life, nor is it a volume of moral exhortation. Rather, Rabbi Feldman aims to convey the importance of his subject by exhibiting its hallowed place within the structure of Jewish law and within the analysis…


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