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6 Books to Read for the New Year If Prayerbooks Aren’t Your Thing

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Prayerbook doesn’t do it for you? Sermons are touch and go? Or just looking for some extra reflection?

Whatever your religious leanings, if you are looking for Jewish inspiration over the High Holidays, here are a few book recommendations to inspire thought, curiosity and contemplation for the year ahead.

L’shana tova tikatevu!

This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe As A Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew.

This book is a game-changer for me, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Lew was a Zen rabbi who examined Judaism through the lens of Buddhism and vice-versa—but this book is an accessible and engaging look at the High Holidays and what they are supposed to accomplish. It is one of my favorite books in the world and I hope you will feel the same way when you read it.

If All The Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan

This book is a thoughtful examination of one woman’s life through the prism of reading Daf Yomi, or a page of Talmud a day. Kurshan’s intellectual dexterity and emotional vulnerability make this a gripping, smart read and encourage the reader to think about contemplating her own life.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz, wrote this slim but mighty book on finding the will to survive through a sense of meaning and purpose. A fabulous read.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

How do you cope with life when your spouse dies suddenly, leaving you with two young children? Admittedly, Sandberg as COO of Facebook is more economically well-prepared to stand on her own two feet than most. But this book should be read as an instruction manual for how to express compassion and empathy for others–and what better way to start the new year than that?

The World to Come by Dara Horn

Yeah, OK, so the author is my sister. I am particularly recommending this beautiful book, however, to the pregnant women among us, for its beautiful, jaw-dropping description of what happens to babies before they are born, and what it implies for our lives and the lives of those who have come before us.

If Not Higher,” a short story by I.L. Peretz

This story is perhaps the most beautiful High Holiday story I have ever read. It will make your heart resonate like a bell after you read it, and will make you contemplate the true meaning of prayer and of our very existence on this earth.

The Book of Separation, by Tova Mirvis.

This memoir describes the writer’s experiences with parting company from both her marriage and Orthodox Judaism. Her brilliance is luminous in her writing and will force every reader to examine her life choices. It’s perfect for this time of year.
The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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