In cel­e­bra­tion of the High Hol­i­days, we asked sev­er­al rab­bis for their rec­om­men­da­tions of books to read dur­ing this sea­son of reflec­tion and renewal.

Rab­bi Danya Ruttenberg

I’m going to sug­gest S. Bear Bergman’s Spe­cial Top­ics in Being a Human (illus­trat­ed by Saul Freed­­man-Law­­son), which serves up, in graph­ic nov­el for­mat, indis­pens­able wis­dom in short, bite-sized nuggets. Ten­der, thought­ful, and wit­ty, they offer advice on how to make big deci­sions, how to have a dis­agree­ment with­out hav­ing a fight, how to take both crit­i­cism and a com­pli­ment, how to apol­o­gize prop­er­ly, and more. This is a book for this reflec­tive sea­son, but also for all year-round. 

Rab­bi David Wolpe

I would rec­om­mend read­ing the book of Koheleth, Eccle­si­astes. It will take less than an hour. You can reread it through­out your life and your under­stand­ing of it will deep­en as you do. It is a chance to see a deep mind grap­ple hon­est­ly with the pains, con­tra­dic­tions, and con­fu­sions of life. It epit­o­mizes the words of the poet Yeats: from my quar­rel with oth­ers I make rhetoric; from my quar­rels with myself I make poetry.”

Rab­bi Deb­o­rah Miller

I rec­om­mend My Jew­ish Year by Abi­gail Pogre­bin. As we gath­er with our fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties to reflect on the past year and to wel­come in the new one, Pogrebin’s book offers an acces­si­ble and thor­ough overview to the pos­si­bil­i­ties for Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tion. Read­ing it helps me to focus on some of my best mem­o­ries from the out­go­ing year and to iden­ti­fy new ways to con­nect with Jew­ish life and prac­tice in the com­ing year. 

Rab­bi Marc Katz

I rec­om­mend Nine Essen­tial Things I’ve Learned About Life Harold Kush­n­er. Kush­n­er is known for writ­ing acces­si­ble and thought-pro­vok­ing books that merge Jew­ish text with mod­ern life. In the past he has explored issues as diverse as evil, God, over­com­ing dis­ap­point­ment, and for­give­ness. Now, after a sto­ried career, Kush­n­er has merged many of his most impor­tant ideas togeth­er into one book. Each chap­ter sum­ma­rizes his book length treat­ments of sub­jects into digestible bits, mov­ing his read­ers to con­sid­er how to grow and inspir­ing us to live our best lives. This is the per­fect book to sit­u­ate us in the Jew­ish con­ver­sa­tion and intro­duce us to the most help­ful ideas as we head into the High Holy Day season.

Rab­bi Yaakov Bieler 

I rec­om­mend Stop, Look, Lis­ten: Cel­e­brat­ing Shab­bos Through a Spir­i­tu­al Lens by Nehemia Polen. While this book pri­mar­i­ly deals with the spir­i­tu­al aspects of observ­ing week­ly Shab­bat there is a clear link to aspects of Shab­bat to Yom HaKip­purim, the cul­mi­na­tion of the Days of Awe. There­fore, the con­nec­tion between Shab­bat and the Ten Days of Repen­tance should become obvi­ous to the read­er. Dr. Polen dis­cuss­es in depth Chas­sidic prac­tices, e.g., Nig­gun and Sto­ry­telling, to which atten­dees of ser­vices at this time of year will cer­tain­ly be exposed.

Simona is the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s man­ag­ing edi­tor of dig­i­tal con­tent and mar­ket­ing. She grad­u­at­ed from Sarah Lawrence Col­lege with a con­cen­tra­tion in Eng­lish and His­to­ry and stud­ied abroad in India and Eng­land. Pri­or to the JBC she worked at Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press. Her writ­ing has been fea­tured in LilithThe Nor­mal School, Dig­ging through the Fat, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She holds an MFA in fic­tion from The New School.