The most recommended books about a rabbi

Who picked these books? Meet our 36 experts.

36 authors created a book list connected to rabbis, and here are their favorite rabbi books.
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Book cover of For You When I Am Gone: Twelve Essential Questions to Tell a Life Story

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Author Of Edit Your Life: A Handbook for Living with Intention in a Messy World

From my list on inspiring you to change your life.

Who am I?

I’m an American author and writing teacher for both Harvard and Oxford’s online writing programs. I am also a mother of two who lived three years in a tiny backyard guest house with my family in an effort to focus more on what we love. Editing books is a practice I have honed over decades, and when my family was stuck in a living situation that felt unsustainable, the clearest way forward was for me to ask myself how I might edit our way out of it. It worked! In this book, I share the most valuable eight principles that we learned through the process.

Elisabeth's book list on inspiring you to change your life

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did Elisabeth love this book?

A powerful case for thinking deeply and clearly about what legacies we leave behind for those we love.

Leder suggests that an ethical will—unlike an ordinary will—be a summary of our life’s wisdom. Asking such questions as ‘What do you regret?’ and ‘When did you lead with your heart?’ Leder offers a wise and inspiring way to live a life of value that is a blessing for others to remember.

By Steve Leder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For You When I Am Gone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller!

From the bestselling author of The Beauty of What Remains, a guide to writing a meaningful letter about your life.

Writing an ethical will, a document that includes stories and reflections about your past, is an ancient tradition. It can include joy and regrets, and ultimately becomes both a way to remember a loved one who is gone and a primer on how to live a better, happier life. Beloved Rabbi Steve Leder has helped thousands of people to write their own ethical wills, and in this intimate book helps us write…

Book cover of The Golem and the Jinni

Alison Levy Author Of Magic By Any Other Name

From my list on a mythical creature’s point of view.

Who am I?

I love mythological creatures! I grew up gravitating toward fantasy books but because I have a narcissistic parent, I got teased for reading them. To avoid the teasing, I ended up reading a lot of mythology because that was a “safe” fantasy option; reading mythology was “educational” rather than “silly.”  When I got older, I discovered that there’s a whole category of fantasy books that retell myths from alternative points of view. This subgenre opened new doors of understanding and empathy for me. Reading old stories from new perspectives opens my eyes to a myriad of different types of people and broadens my view of the world. And I’ve been reading them ever since.

Alison's book list on a mythical creature’s point of view

Alison Levy Why did Alison love this book?

The story of two mystical creatures stuck in 1899 New York who have to make their own way in the world.  Despite their different natures, they become unlikely friends and have to work together to survive. 

While I enjoyed the perspective of both supernatural beings in this book, I found the golem especially engaging. Through her eyes, the reader gets an amazingly detailed view of turn-of-the-century New York as well as the intricacies of human behavior. 

The jinni faces different challenges—he’s lost a chunk of his memory—but he also has to adapt to life among people. Wrapped in a rich tapestry of historical details, the story walks us through their processes of acclimating to human society and facing the dangers of their pasts.

By Helene Wecker,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Golem and the Jinni as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of only two novels I've ever loved whose main characters are not human' BARBARA KINGSOLVER

For fans of The Essex Serpent and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.

'By far my favourite book of of the year' Guardian

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in…

Book cover of Satan in Goray

Daniel Torday Author Of The 12th Commandment

From my list on prophetic American stories.

Who am I?

If there's a throughline in all my books, it occurs to me I've always been writing about the dangers of extremism, the times when we get sucked too deeply into ideologies that lead to dangerous action. So this most recent novel felt like an ideal time to take that head-on: to see what would happen within a sect of Kabbalists, led by a self-proclaimed prophet, when things went bad. With that in mind... here's a bunch of books focused around prophecy!

Daniel's book list on prophetic American stories

Daniel Torday Why did Daniel love this book?

The only other novel I know, along with my book, directly about the 17th-century false prophet Sabbetai Tzvi. Singer's is a kind of historical novel of that moment, imagining the effect of that prophet on a small European town during his days of false prophecy. It's a good one.

By Isaac Bashevis Singer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Satan in Goray as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As messianic zeal sweeps through medieval Poland, the Jews of Goray divide between those who, like the Rabbi, insist that no one can "force the end" and those who follow the messianic pretender Sabbatai Zevi. But as hysteria and depravity reign free, it becomes clear that it is not the Messiah who has come to Goray.


"Beautifully written by one of the masters of Yiddish prose, and beautifully translated, ''Satan in Goray'' is folk material transmuted into literature." — The New York Times Review of Books

"A gripping parable of reason versus revelation, hysteria in the face of apocalypse"…

Book cover of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Debbie Chein Morris Author Of We Used to Dance: Loving Judy, My Disabled Twin

From my list on getting through life’s challenges.

Who am I?

At the age of fifty-three, I was suddenly thrust into the role of primary caregiver for my disabled twin sister who was unable to sit, stand, feed herself, eat solid foods, or communicate. Up to that point, that role had been my mother’s with the help of home-attendants; but my mother was aging and the care provided by the ever-changing attendants was wanting. I was forced to place Judy in a nursing home. The challenge left me overwhelmed with the responsibility of overseeing her care and there were days I wondered if I could go on. With the support of family and friends, I was able to make it through.

Debbie's book list on getting through life’s challenges

Debbie Chein Morris Why did Debbie love this book?

I first read this book shortly after it was published in 1981. I was looking for the answer to the question of why bad things happen in this world.

Kushner did not have an answer to that question, but insights into how we might face the challenges that life can present when those “bad things” happen. He, himself, went through a significant trauma: hearing that his young son had a progressive disease that would not allow him to live into adulthood. Yet Kushner found a way to survive and to move forward.

I’ve read this book multiple times. It always reinforces for me the idea that the difficulties we face in life are just part of living and that even though we may suffer through hard times, life is, indeed, worth living. We can and we must go on.

By Harold S. Kushner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Bad Things Happen to Good People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 bestselling inspirational classic from the nationally known spiritual leader; a source of solace and hope for over 4 million readers.

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that meant the boy would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. In these pages, Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad…

Book cover of The Frozen Rabbi

Mary Glickman Author Of An Undisturbed Peace

From my list on southern themes you’ve never heard of (maybe).

Who am I?

My heart has been Southern for 35 years although I was raised in Boston and never knew the South until well into my adulthood. I loved it as soon as I saw it but I needed to learn it before I could call it home. These books and others helped shape me as a Southerner and as an author of historical Southern Jewish novels. Cormac McCarthy doesn’t describe 19th-century North Carolina so much as immerse his voice and his reader in it. Dara Horn captures her era seamlessly. Steve Stern is so wedded to place he elevates it to mythic. I don’t know if these five are much read anymore but they should be.

Mary's book list on southern themes you’ve never heard of (maybe)

Mary Glickman Why did Mary love this book?

For my money, Stern is the South’s premiere literary comic writer. In this one, he is a Southern Philip Roth with an I.B. Singer twist. A teenage boy discovers a frozen rabbi in the Kelvinator inside his parent’s Memphis basement. The rabbi’s been frozen for one hundred years. Bernie thaws him and what ensues covers a universe of incident: teenage hope and angst, Talmudic wisdom, kabbalistic film-flammery, the seduction of all of Memphis, from lowlifes to elite, by a rabbi (who can fly) selling himself as the font of all magic and knowledge. Stern obviously loves his Memphis and his Jews. At the same time he skewers them with the sleekest wit. Even Israel gets a gratuitous knock. It was the only thing I did not like in the book but it was fleeting, so I got over it. Such is the power of genius.

By Steve Stern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Award-winning novelist Steve Stern's exhilarating epic recounts the story of how a nineteenth-century rabbi from a small Polish town ends up in a basement freezer in a suburban Memphis home at the end of the twentieth century. What happens when an impressionable teenage boy inadvertently thaws out the ancient man and brings him back to life is nothing short of miraculous.

Book cover of Crave

C.P. Rider Author Of Spiked

From my list on urban fantasy with a simmering romance.

Who am I?

Not only am I a writer of urban fantasy romance, I've been a huge fan of the subgenre since I was a kid—since before it was called urban fantasy. When I happened upon a series I liked back then, I'd track down every book, stack them on the green shag carpet beside my bed, and read one right after another until I was finished. Thankfully, my mom and grandmother were readers and understood my obsession. If you like action, suspense, a little magic, and a splash of romance in your fiction, consider giving one of these stories a try. Enjoy!

C.P.'s book list on urban fantasy with a simmering romance

C.P. Rider Why did C.P. love this book?

My last pick is action-packed, sexy, and pure fun.

Nava Katz’s twin brother, Ari, was chosen at birth to join the Brotherhood of David, a secret organization of demon hunters. The induction ceremony takes a turn when Nava is chosen instead. The first female ever to be chosen, and everyone—her parents, her rabbi, and the other hunters—all agree this must be a mistake. It might seem that this one doesn't qualify as slow burn since it's sexy right from the start, but it's the heart connection that takes time and therefore, qualifies it for inclusion.

By Deborah Wilde,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Enjoy this urban fantasy series by best-selling author Deborah Wilde. Featuring a snarky heroine, kickass action, and spicy romance, this hilarious adventure sucker-punches you in the heart when you're not looking.

What doesn’t kill you ...
… seriously messes with your love life.

Nava is happily settling into her new relationship and life is all giddy joy and stolen kisses.

Except when it’s assassins. Talk about a mood killer.

She and Rohan are tracking the unlikely partnership between the Brotherhood and a witch who can bind demons, but every new piece of the puzzle is leaving them with more questions…

Book cover of Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World's First Female Rabbi

Erica Lyons Author Of Zhen Yu and the Snake

From my list on illustrated stories that are Jewish&.

Who am I?

As a Jew that is both Ashkenazi and Persian that lives in Hong Kong where I’m raising my Jewish Chinese children, I see Judaism for its rich diversity. I’m passionate about changing people’s perceptions about what Jews look like and where we hail from. We are not a single story. To further that goal, in 2009, I founded Asian Jewish Life - a journal of spirit, society, and culture, have penned book chapters and articles on Jewish Asia, have written children’s books about communities that are Jewish&, and have lectured internationally on related topics. These books are about Jewish communities, but they’re really about family and tradition. Read diverse books! 

Erica's book list on illustrated stories that are Jewish&

Erica Lyons Why did Erica love this book?

Osnat and her Dove is so much more than a book that reflects Iraqi Jewish culture.

It is a book that will inspire girls to see the limitless possibilities that they have to choose their own paths. It’s a window into a community and history that readers likely know little about. The layered gouache illustrations create the illusion of texture and make the book even more magical. 

By Sigal Samuel, Vali Mintzi (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Osnat and Her Dove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Osnat was born five hundred years ago - at a time when almost everyone believed in miracles. But very few believed that girls should learn to read.

Yet Osnat's father was a great scholar whose house was filled with books. And she convinced him to teach her. Then she in turn grew up to teach others, becoming a wise scholar in her own right, the world's first female rabbi!

Some say Osnat performed miracles - like healing a dove who had been shot by a hunter! Or saving a congregation from fire!

But perhaps her greatest feat was to be…

Book cover of Passover Haggadah: The Feast of Freedom

Ron Isaacs Author Of Seder in Motion: A Haggadah to Move Body and Soul

From my list on Haggadahs for a meaningful Passover Seder.

Who am I?

I'm a Conservative Rabbi who served Temple Sholom in Bridgewater NJ from 1975-2015. I'm currently the Rabbi of Beth Judah Temple in Wildwood New Jersey. I've always been intrigued with the Haggadah and its origins, and for almost 50 years I've hosted the Passover seders at my home. I always wanted to search for just the right Haggadah that I could use to make the experience fun and participatory for all. Because of my passion for wanting to give participants at my seder a positive experience, I decided to write my own Haggadah, I've written several including Seder in Motion: A Haggadah to Move Body and Soul coauthored with my wife Leora Isaacs.

Ron's book list on Haggadahs for a meaningful Passover Seder

Ron Isaacs Why did Ron love this book?

This Haggadah is a product of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, the Union of Conservative Rabbis of which I am a proud member. We have used this Haggadah when our participants at our seder included more adults than children. The Haggadah includes a guide to the requisite rituals, detailing how and why each ritual is performed. There is also ample commentary on the text, explaining passages and provoking questions, in order to engage participants, Finally, alternative readings are included to replace or augment the text. 

By Rachel Anne Rabbinowicz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This bestselling Passover haggadah has been a user-friendly favorite at seders for a generation. Provocative and stimulating commentary, clear instructions, and bold artwork grace the pages of this contemporary American classic. Full-color artwork by Dan Reisinger.

Book cover of My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

Stephanie Chitpin Author Of Keep My Memory Safe: Fook Soo Am, The Pagoda

From my list on expanding perspectives and empathy for others.

Who am I?

I am a Full Professor of Leadership within the Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa, Canada. I am the recipient of the 2020 Research Excellence Award. My research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Ontario Ministry of Education, Canada, is international in scope. I am also the founder of the Equitable Leadership Network at the University of Ottawa. 

Stephanie's book list on expanding perspectives and empathy for others

Stephanie Chitpin Why did Stephanie love this book?

I love the stories presented in Dr. Remen’s book. They are simple yet profound.

Her stories are centered on the concepts of healing, kindness, compassion, love, and living which she learned from her grandfather. She emphasizes the value of helping others as a way to help ourselves and find meaning in the world.

By Rachel Naomi Remen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Grandfather's Blessings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In My Grandfather's Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen, a cancer physician and master storyteller, uses her luminous stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive.

Dr. Remen's grandfather, an orthodox rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah, saw life as a web of connection and knew that everyone belonged to him, and that he belonged to everyone. He taught her that blessing one another is what fills our emptiness, heals our loneliness, and connects us more deeply to life.

Life has given us many more blessings than we have allowed ourselves to receive. My…

Book cover of Moses Maimonides: The Man and His Works

Joshua A. Fogel Author Of Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

From my list on Jewish history.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of China and Japan whose work has hewed close to the cultural interactions between Chinese and Japanese over recent centuries. I’m now working on the history of the Esperanto movement in China and Japan from the first years of the twentieth century through the early 1930s. The topic brings together my interests in Sino-Japanese historical relations, linguistic scholarship, and Jewish history (the creator of Esperanto was a Polish-Jewish eye doctor). Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly interested in Jewish history. I think by now I know what counts as good history, but I’m still an amateur in Jewish history. Nonetheless, these books all struck me as extraordinary.

Joshua's book list on Jewish history

Joshua A. Fogel Why did Joshua love this book?

The late Herbert Davidson wrote on medieval Jewish and Muslim philosophy, and Maimonides was a natural topic for him.  Of the roughly eight or ten biographical studies of Maimonides that I have read, Davidson’s stands out for the strength of its logical analysis and its great breadth.  It offers numerous insights into the polymath that is its subject.

By Herbert A. Davidson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Moses Maimonides (1137/38-1204), scholar, physician, and philosopher, was the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages. In this magisterial biography, Herbert Davidson provides an exhaustive guide to Maimonides' life and works. After considering Maimonides' upbringing and education, Davidson expounds all of his many writings in exhaustive detail, with separate chapters on rabbinic, philosophical, and medical texts. Moses Maimonides has been
recognized as the standard work on a towering figure of Western intellectual history.