Josep’s Reading List

I seem to have a habit of sending Josep to the library.

So for his convenience and yours, I created this page of titles I have recommended to Josep, divided by category and in alphabetical order.

Jewish History

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, recommended in “How to Teach Children About the Holocaust (And How… Not To)” as a good, gentle introduction to the topic of the Holocaust for middle-school-aged children.

Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg, mentioned in “The Great Post of Jewish Conspiracies!” This book explores the unique nature of antisemitism and its fundamental role in modern Western society.

A Damaged Mirror: A story of memory and redemption by Ovadya ben Malka and Yael Shahar, reviewed in “A Damaged Mirror: A Holocaust Memoir Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Seen“: “[I thought] my trip to Poland was the climax of my Holocaust education. I didn’t think another level could possibly exist. Well, it did, and this book is it.”

Don Isaac Abravanel: Statesman & Philosopher by B. Netanyahu, recommended in “Awesome Jews of History #2: Don Isaac Abravanel“: a biography of this celebrated Biblical commentator and historical figure who had a pivotal role during the period of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

A History of the Jews by Solomon Grayzel, recommended in “Why We Fast for Gedaliah.” This book is a one-volume crash course in 2,000 years of Jewish history and I can’t think of a better word to describe it than “inspiring.” There is another book by the same name by non-Jewish historian Paul Johnson, which I have not read, but I have been told it is also excellent (and which I quoted briefly in this entry).

The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History by Bernard Spolsky, recommended in “10 Essential Words in Judeo-English“. It documents the unique phenomenon of Jews developing their own dialect of local languages throughout history.

Jewish Life & Culture

The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York by Claudia Roden, reviewed in “The Book of Jewish Food: A Refreshing (and Mouth-Watering) Ode to Jewish Diversity“: “It isn’t so much a cookbook as a comprehensive anthropological/historical exploration of the entire Jewish diaspora through a culinary lens.”

Judaism for Everyone by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. This wasn’t actually a recommendation; I sent Josep this book a couple months after we met. It was his first ever Hanukah gift. 😉 It was the best book I could think of to send to someone with minimal knowledge interested in learning about Judaism before…….

Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism by yours truly. Seems a little funny to put this here, but hey, it’s a book, and I’ve recommended it!

Philosophy & Politics

If You Were God by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, recommended in “Imagine This: In Defense of Nationalism.” An essay using a powerful allegory to explain the role of the Jewish people according to Judaism and its turbulent history. Can be read in its entirety online here.

Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, reviewed in “Not in God’s Name: Rabbi Sacks Confronts Religious Violence“: “The main goal of the book is not necessarily to explain why religious violence happens, but to provide a theological approach to confronting this phenomenon. The book seeks to answer these difficult questions: ‘Does the God of Abraham want his disciples to kill for his sake? Does he demand human sacrifice? Does he rejoice in holy war? Does he want us to hate our enemies and terrorise unbelievers?'”

A World of Love by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, recommended in “The Battleground of Good and Evil: Human Nature in Judaism and Christianity.” A philosophical essay explaining, to the best of our human understanding, why God created the world the way He did. Can be read in its entirety online here.

Psychology & Science

Genesis and the Big Bang and other works by Gerald Schroeder, Ph.D, recommended in “Your Personal Jewish Calendar Elaborates on… the Jewish Calendar.” Dr. Schroeder is a religious Jewish physicist who uses his extensive knowledge of both Judaism and science to explain how the two are not at odds with each other.

Heart 2 Heart Healing by Shira Chernoble, recommended in “Clinging to Light in the Darkness: On Grappling with Loss & Fear of Loss“. A collection of deeply inspiring stories about coping with loss. Unfortunately this book is not available for purchase online, but you can e-mail Shira to order a copy: shirachernoble[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl, recommended in “The Battleground of Good and Evil: Human Nature in Judaism and Christianity.” A book chronicling the author’s experiences and observations at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust, and describing the psychotherapeutic approach he developed as a result, which he called “logotherapy.”

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray, Ph.D., recommended in “Letter to a New Father“. No, it has nothing at all to do with Judaism or Israel, but neither did that post. 😉 My husband and I found it extremely helpful in learning about each other’s communication styles and why we act and speak the way we do. It made it much easier to navigate conflicts in our relationship.


By Light of Hidden Candles by yours truly. The story of a Sephardic Jew and a Catholic Spaniard who travel to Madrid together to research their family histories, and what they discover about their ancestors in 15th century Spain. Josep helped me a great deal with my research for the book, and some aspects of it were inspired by our friendship!

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, recommended in “Starving for God: Jewish Fast Days.” BECAUSE YOU SHOULD READ THEM, THAT’S WHY. (Okay, seriously, no, they have nothing to do with Judaism or Israel, but they are truly excellent, poignant, inspiring and hilarious books, and J. K. Rowling was my personal hero as a teen.)


(Did I miss anything? Let me know!)