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Recommended Books and Publishers

The question I am most frequently asked is, "Where can I find a book on..." Below is information about some of the resources I have used in compiling the information on this site.
All of the books listed below can be purchased from the online bookseller by clicking the links. You can help support the Judaism 101 website by using the links below to purchase these and other books from Amazon.

Suitable For Beginners

Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Jewish Publication Society
There can be no resource more important than a text of the Bible itself. Those who cannot read Hebrew should use a translation prepaed by Jews, with the Jewish understanding of the scriptures in mind and without a Christological bias. This version, often reffered to as the JPS translation, is the first and most commonly used Jewish translation into English. The language is somewhat archaic, with a feel somewhat similar to the KJV.
The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Soncino Press
The complete text of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, along with the haftarot that go with each parshah. The pointed Hebrew text, along with complete cantillation (musical notation) is displayed side-by-side with the JPS English translation. The text is extensively annotated; footnotes routinely occupy one-third of each page, compiling information from a wide variety of traditional Jewish commentaries on the Bible. Sometimes reffered to as the Soncino Chumash. This is the book used by most Orthodox synagogues, and many non-Orthodox synagogues.
The Stone Tanach, Mesorah Publications
First published less than two years ago, the Stone Tanach is already becoming a standard reference material. Like the Soncino Chumash, the Stone Tanach has pointed, cantillated Hebrew text along side a Jewish translation of the text, but unlike the Soncino, this book contains the full text of the Jewish scriptures, not just the first five books plus haftarot. It also contains a number of useful charts and illustrations, and is very well indexed. The one down side: the commentary is less extensive than that in the Soncino.
To Be a Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, Basic Books
Unquestionably the best resource on Orthodox Jewish belief and practice that is readily available to the general public. Donin begins with an extensive discussion of Judaism's underlying beliefs and ethical structure, then proceeds to discuss Shabbat, kashrut, family life, holidays, marriage, divorce, death and mourning, and many other important aspects of Jewish practice. Donin provides complete details on Orthodox customs as well as the elements necessary to fulfill the various commandments related to each of the subjects he discusses. The companion volume, To Pray as a Jew, is also an excellent resource, but somewhat technical for a beginner.
The Jewish Primer (Hardcover), Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Himelstein, Facts on File, also available in Paperback
An excellent beginner's resource on Jewish belief and observance, written in a very readable question-and-answer style. It covers many of the same subjects that Donin does, but addresses Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist practice as well as Orthodox. It provides far less detail on the intricacies of observance than Donin's work does.
Basic Judaism, Milton Steinberg, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
A concise discussion of Jewish belief, presenting and contrasting the traditional and modern perspectives. It discusses Torah, G-d, life, the Jewish people and our relation to the other nations, Jewish practice, Jewish law, and the World to Come. One of the things I like most about this book is that it shows the commonality underlying the various Jewish movements, and the fact that all Jewish movements have more in common with each other than any has with any other religion.
The First Jewish Catalog, Richard Siegel et al, Jewish Publication Society
A funky, hands-on approach to traditional Jewish observance, with a very Sixties feel about it. It's a little hippy-dippy for my taste (make your own kiddush wine!), but it has a lot of very good information, it's a lot of fun, and it's just too popular not to mention. If you like this, you may also like the Second Jewish Catalog and the Third Jewish Catalog.
The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten, Pocket Books
This is the first Jewish book I ever owned, and it holds a special place in my heart. Rosten describes this work as a lexicon of the Yiddish language, but it is vastly more than that. It is an extraordinary collection of Ashkenazic Jewish wit, wisdom and culture that manages to capture the Jewish soul better than any other book I have ever seen. The book uses common Yiddish words as a jumping off point for presenting a Jewish joke or story, or just for discussing a Jewish custom or practice. This is not written from a traditional perspective, but is generally respectful of the traditional perspective.
Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, Abba Eban, Summit Books
From the PBS series of the same name. The history of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham to the present, relying on both biblical evidence and modern archaeological finds, with extensive illustrations.
Jewish Cookery, Leah W. Leonard, Crown Publishers
Traditional Ashkenazic recipes for holidays and all year round. All of the recipes are kosher. There is a special section for Passover recipes. The book contains a brief discussion of holiday food customs and the laws of kashrut.
The Jewish Fake Book, Velvel Pasternak, Tara Publications
This is an excellent collection of Jewish music, including shabbat and holiday songs, liturgical songs, Yiddish and Israeli folk songs, Klezmer music, wedding music and even some Sephardic tunes. Many of the MIDIs on this site were created with the assistance of the arrangements in this book. For those unfamiliar with fake books: a fake book has only the melody line, chords, and lyrics, rather than a complete piano arrangement.
The Artscroll Siddur (Siddur Kol Yaakov) (Hardcover), Mesorah Publications, also available in Paperback
This is the one that I did not get in a regular bookstore; I got it from a synagogue gift shop. It is an Orthodox daily prayer book, with beautiful, easy-to-read Hebrew text, plain English translations, detailed commentary, and extensive explanation of what to do (it even tells you when to sit down, stand up, bow, etc.) The Artscroll series has an extensive line of similar Jewish books, all of which share these fine qualities. I highly recommend their excellent Passover Haggadah, which I have been using for 10 years.

For More Advanced Study

The Essential Talmud (Hardcover), Adin Steinsaltz, Basic Books, also available in Paperback
Adin Steinsaltz is widely consideed to be one of the greatest Talmudic minds of our century. His commentaries on the Talmud are gaining wide acceptance as standard study materials. In this relatively short book, Steinsaltz gives an overview of the Talmud, discussing its history, structure, content, and methodology. He gives brief summaries of significant Jewish law on matters like prayer, Shabbat, holidays, marriage and divorce, women, civil and criminal law, animal sacrifice, kashrut, ritual purity, ethics, and Jewish mysticism.
Everyman's Talmud, A. Cohen, Schocken Books
A comprehensive summary of the Talmud's teachings about religion, ethics, folklore and jurisprudence. For the most part, Cohen allows the Talmud to speak for itself, quoting extensively and providing limited commentary. I am particularly fond of this book because it is one of the few books I have seen that seriously addresses the folklore contained in the Talmud (although Steinsaltz talks about mysticism, he mostly discusses the fact that it was taught to a select few). Cohen talks extensively about demonology, angelology, magic and dreams.
Women and Jewish Law, Rachel Biale, Schocken Books
An in-depth examination of certain areas of Jewish law that pertain to women including marriage, divorce, sexuality, rape, abortion exemption from certain commandments and other subjects. Biale starts with the original biblical and talmudic texts and works her way up to present day commentaries. My only concern about this book is that it is sometimes hard to tell from her presentation where Orthodoxy ends and Reform begins.
The Concise Book of Mitzvoth, The Chafetz Chayim, Feldheim Pubs
A list of all of the commandments that can be observed today, with a brief explanation of the source and meaning of the commandment. Printed with English and pointed Hebrew side by side.
The Mishnah - a New Translation, Jacob Neusner, Yale University Press
Yes, the entire mishnah is available in a single (albeit very large) volume, in English. Neusner provides absolutely no commentary or explanation, but does break each passage down into phrases, which helps the reader figure out who said what and what the final decision was on each matter.
To Pray as a Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, Basic Books
An in-depth examination of the form and content of Jewish prayer, explaining the significance and history of prayers and the procedures for reciting them.

Publishers and Booksellers On Line

Note: The links below will take you to several Jewish publishers and booksellers with sites on the Web. Many of these sources sell materials that are not Orthodox. Sites are listed in alphabetical order.

An mail order service offering a wide variety of Judaic materials.
Artscroll/Mesorah Publications
Without a doubt the finest publisher of Orthodox Jewish materials. Their materials are suitable for readers at all levels.
Feldheim Publishers
One of the oldest publishers of Jewish books in the U.S. There is a lot of good material here, covering all movements of Judaism.
Jason Aronson Publishers
Their prices are a bit high, but they have an unusually broad selection of Judaic materials. They specialize in secondary sources, not primary reference material.
KTAV Publishing House
This is another of the oldest Jewish book publishers in the US. Your grandfather probably learned Hebrew from one of their books. KTAV specializes in Jewish religious objects, scholarly books and textbooks for Hebrew schools.
The online bookseller is not specifically a Jewish bookseller, but they have an excellent selection of Jewish books. The link above will take you to their Judaism section, or use the form below to search for books or music from their catalog.

For additional sources, see the list of Jewish book publishers on Yahoo. NOTE: Exercise extreme caution when searching for Jewish materials on Yahoo! They have a long history of failing to distinguish between real Judaism and Christian missionary activity targeted at Jews!

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