Yesod summer reading list

Judaism and Jewish Thought

Leadership and General Thought

Jewish Fiction


Judaism and Jewish Thought:

Pirkei Avot: A Social Justice Commentary -Shmuly Yanklowitz

Pirkei Avot is the oldest text of Jewish practical wisdom. In many ways, the words of Pirkei Avot were the first recorded manifesto of social justice in Western civilization. This commentary explores the text through a lens of contemporary social justice and moral philosophy, engaging both classical commentators and modern thinkers.

Future Tense: Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the Twenty-first Century – Jonathan Sacks

Historically, Jews have thought of themselves in terms of the biblical phrase, ‘The people that dwells alone.’ In the current global environment, this is dangerous. It leads to the isolation of Jews, Judaism and Israel. Future tense attempts to persuade Jews and non-Jews alike that Jews, Judaism and Israel have something unique to contribute to the future. It provides an overarching vision for the future of Judaism, Jewish life and Israel for the twenty-first century.


A Passion for a People: Lessons from the life of a Jewish Educator – Avraham Infeld with Clare Goldwater

Avraham Infeld’s book takes the reader on a journey through Jewish Peoplehood, that powerful yet intangible idea that connects Jews together, no matter where they live or how they practice. Starting with the core components of Peoplehood, and ending with his ideas about the future of the Jewish People.


A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood – Raymond P. Scheindlin

Written by a respected Hebrew scholar, cultural historian, noted author, and rabbi, A Short History of the Jewish People carefully describes the story of a people as varied as the many cultures in which they have lived. Including detailed maps and stirring photos, as well as timelines and sidebars, this pioneering work is a valuable resource for anyone broadly curious about the Jewish people.


I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology -Abraham Joshua Heschel

Considered by many to be one of the most significant Jewish theologians of the 20th century, Abraham Heschel finds just the right words to startle the mind and delight the heart. He addresses and challenges the whole person, portraying that rarest of human phenomena—the holy man.


Leadership and General Thought:

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts -Brene Brown

In her #1 NYT bestsellers, Brené Brown taught us what it means to dare greatly, rise strong and brave the wilderness. Now, based on new research conducted with leaders, change makers and culture shifters, she’s showing us how to put those ideas into practice so we can step up and lead.


Thinking, Fast and Slow -Daniel Kahneman

A groundbreaking tour of the mind, explaining the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.


The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters -Priya Parker

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive–which they don’t have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.


Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War – Micah Goodman

A controversial examination of the internal Israeli debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a best-selling Israeli author Since the Six-Day War, Israelis have been entrenched in a national debate over whether to keep the land they conquered or to return some, if not all, of the territories to Palestinians. In 2017, best-selling Israeli author Micah Goodman published a balanced and insightful analysis of the situation that quickly became one of Israel’s most debated books of the year.


The Road to Character -David Brooks

In this New York Times Number One Bestseller, David Brooks David Brooks argues that our hunger for wealth and status is eroding our ability to create meaningful inner lives. To show us how to live better, he looks at people whose sense of humility was fundamental to their success. What they all understood was a simple but counterintuitive truth: in order to fulfil yourself, you must learn how to forget yourself.


Jewish Fiction:

 As a driven Leaf -Milton Steinberg

First published in 1939, this masterpiece of modern fiction tells the tale of renegade Talmudic sage Elisha ben Abuyah s struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Set in Roman Palestine, As a Driven Leaf draws readers into the dramatic era of Rabbinic Judaism. Watch the great Talmudic sages at work in the Sanhedrin, eavesdrop on their arguments about theology and Torah, and agonize with them as they contemplate rebellion against an oppressive Roman rule.


The Red Tent by-Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah’s voice, it opens with the story of her mothers – the four wives of Jacob – each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah’s own startling and unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love.


 The Chosen -Chaim Potok

Following a baseball game that nearly became a religious war, two Jewish boys become friends. Danny comes from the strict Hasidic sect that keeps him bound in centuries of orthodoxy. Reuven is brought up by a father patently aware of the twentieth century. Everything tries to destroy their friendship, but they use honesty with each other as a shield and it proves an impenetrable protection.


Eternal Life -Dara Horn

Celebrated American-Jewish author, Dara Horn’s latest work of fiction is about life and death, the power of the generations and much more, as she imagines Rachel, a Jewish woman whose life spans more than 2000 years. Rich, beautiful and profoundly contemporary.


 The Hilltop -Assaf Gavron

On a rock-strewn hilltop in the heart of the West Bank stands a lone second-hand shipping container, a generator and some goats. On this contested land, Othniel Assis – under the wary gaze of the neighbouring Palestinian village – installs his ever-expanding family. As he cheerfully manipulates government agencies, more settlers arrive and, with a hodge-podge of bankers, teachers, kibbutzniks and townies, religious and secular, the outpost takes root. But when a curious journalist stumbles into their midst, the settlement becomes the focus of an international diplomatic scandal.


See our Chanukah list for some more book ideas, including topics such as Jewish holidays, Israel, leadership, spirituality and contemporary Jewish life.