I love to read and have a diverse nightstand. The top book, All the Light We Cannot See, is gripping and sobering. My daughter and book-buddy Yitty read it and kept leaving it in strategic places so I’d start it. Once I did I couldn’t stop. It’s historical fiction, meticulously researched, set in World War II France and Germany. It will help you understand how a regular person could become a Nazi. I cried more than once, mostly over parent-child interactions.

Jewish Soul Food was sent to me as a review copy by the author Carol Ungar. It’s part cookbook, part history and meaning of Jewish food. Kinda reminded me of this post from 5 years ago. It’s got a lot of great content and recipes. Anything But Typical was recommended to me by one of OOTOB’s readers, Should be Working. It’s a fictitious account written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s. Guess if I cried? I did – but it left me more uplifted than sad. The main thing I took away was how rich the inner emotional world is of the Aspie; the gap occurs in the transmission of that world to others. This is OK with me. I don’t have to know all of it. I just want to know it’s there.

The next book, There’s Nothing Wrong With You, was written by a Zen woman. The premise of this is that most people grow up thinking, due to external messages, that they are deficient and must change. Wendy, my friend who recommended this book to me, is a regular attendee of my mussar classes, wherein we talk almost exclusively about growth and change. The premise of mussar is addressing the ennui and complacency that many feel, and seeking to inspire people to rise above and become better. This work comes at personal growth from the other angle: for those of you who are constantly berating yourselves, relax and love yourselves just as you are. I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of these ideas.

Breakthrough is a book written by Rabbi Uri Zohar, Israel’s most famous celebrity-turned-religious rabbi. My friend Aliza Bulow recommended this on Facebook and it’s the combined wisdom of his story raising a large family of religious kids in Israel after renouncing his wildly successful secular celeb lifestyle. Most of Rabbi Zohar’s children left the fold and most have returned to a religious life. He chronicles ideas of love, respect, and compassion. He is a beautiful soul.

And finally, The Rainbow Comes and Goes – by Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper. Full of betrayal, mistakes, trauma, and lost opportunities, it is haunting. Each author is so honest and real. Some of the escapades were hard for me to swallow, and I also couldn’t help feeling a wee bit commercialized. Like, if they wouldn’t be famous, would the book be as interesting? I think so, but I also think Cooper’s side could have been deepened. I’m not sure why it wasn’t.

Here is my favorite book list compiled over several years. I’d love to hear your favorites and why. Next to each I wrote who recommended it to me. As you can see I don’t just read. I need to know before I devote my precious time that it’s a worthwhile read, and I rely on my friends and family for the referrals.

Quiet by Susan Cain – Shari Goldberg
Spark by Kristine Barnett – my sister-in-law’s mother actually sent me a random email about it
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman – everyone I know, but first Robin Green
Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott – Shari Goldberg
Climbing Jacob’s Ladder by Alan Morinis – gosh, I can’t remember
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalathiri – Yitty
Lucky Man by Michael J Fox – I read about it in a magazine at a doctor’s office
For Parents and Teenagers by William Glasser – one of my therapists
Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin – probably Shari Goldberg!
How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlisch – I read this like 15 years ago and can’t remember who suggested it but it’s a classic
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – can’t remember
Mindset by Carol Dwek – found it while googling something for a class
The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine – I think I read about it in a magazine

Happy reading!