The People of the Books

People of the Book

By Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov

Every year, the month before Hanukkah is dedicated as “National Jewish Book Month,” by the Jewish Book Council. Since we Jews are the “People of the Book,” one could say that this is the most important of all months of the year (even though there are no Jewish holidays this month)!

This year’s poster and theme for Jewish Book Month

In honor of Jewish book month, (and because I like lists), I’ve decided to offer a list of “Seven Essential Jewish Books for Every Jewish Home.”  Here goes:

  1. The TaNaK– I think EVERYONE would agree that the most important book for every Jew to own is a TaNaK-The Hebrew (Jewish) Bible. This book consists of the Torah, the Prophets (Neviim) and the Writings (Ketuviim). When it’s said we are the “People of the Book” THIS is THE book! I suggest getting a version by The Jewish Publication Society or even going one step further and getting “The Jewish Study Bible” which includes commentary.
  2. A Prayerbook– I recommend purchasing your very own copy of “Mishkan Tefillah” the newest siddur of the Reform Movement,  which is also available for your ipad, or you may want to have one of the other prayerbooks that was put out by CCAR Press such as “Gates of Prayer” or “The Union Prayerbook.”
  3. On The Doorposts of Your House”(also published by the CCAR and also available as an “e-book”)- This great book, which many congregations give to Confirmation students has many wonderful daily prayers as well as prayers for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and even starting college. This great book also contains prayers and meditations to help during life’s difficult times.
  4.  “The Jewish Book of Why” (By Alfred J. Kolatch) – Since we are known as “Israel” which means to “wrestle with God”- all the more so we should “wrestle with our religion” and be able to ask lots of questions. This is a great book (and there are subsequent volumes, as well) which will help to answer a number of both basic and essential questions.
  5. NightBy Eli Wiesel- This is a very powerful and personal book about Wiesel’s experiences during the Holocaust. You can even download it for free here. Another important Holocaust book is that of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We must read and reread these stories so that we never forget and so we do our part to make sure it never happens again.
  6. When Bad Things Happen to Good People” (by Rabbi Harold Kushner)- It’s crucial to note that this book is called “When” and not “Why.” This is a great book about Jewish philosophy without being too esoteric. If you like Jewish philosophy, then I also suggest books by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rachel Adler, and Martin Buber.
  7. Exodus”- by Leon Uris- This is one of my favorite books of all time! While it is a novel, it is a great piece of historical fiction which gives accurate details on the birth of the state of Israel. Yes, the movie is good, but for sure the book is even better!

A great book by my friend, Andi Rosenthal. I hope to do a book review of this for a future post.


This list could easily keep going with many books such as one of my new favorite books, “The Bookseller’s Sonnets” (by Andi Rosenthal),  “Tuesdays With Morrie” (by Mitch Albom), The Sabbath (by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel), books by Chaim Potok or Isaac Beshevis Singer and books from categories such as those about Jewish Humor or even Jewish Cooking.  And every home should have at least one Haggadah (yes, the Maxwell House edition is good enough).

Now I’m curious…What do YOU think are the most important Jewish books or simply what is your favorite Jewish book?


May this Jewish Book Month and always be a time to appreciate all the Jewish books and    a time to celebrate our love of reading and love of learning!


NB- This list is based on my own suggestions, those of friends and a few ideas from some websites, as well…

Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov is the rabbi at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, NY.


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