What five books should you read to be an educated Jew?

We asked rabbis, scholars, educators, writers and artists to find out.


When I came to Moment over 15 years ago, I wanted to expand my Jewish knowledge and began asking people which books I should read to be an “educated Jew.” I soon found that the list of recommended books varied greatly. At first I was a little surprised. Weren’t there even five books—beyond the Five Books of Moses that make up the annual Torah cycle—that were considered the essential canon? But I came to understand that there could be no one answer, for embedded in my question were many other questions: What is an educated Jew? What do we mean by educated? Even, what is a Jew? Who is a Jew? What is Judaism?

I certainly don’t have the answers. In fact, I believe that there is more than one path to becoming an educated Jew. That’s why I delight in the rich variety of book recommendations you will find on the following pages. We’ve asked rabbis, scholars, educators, writers and artists, not all of whom you would normally hear from on this topic. As I see it, each book is a portal into knowledge; some will beckon to you while others won’t. And while you are unlikely to be able to read all (or most) of them, knowing they are out there is fulfilling in itself. Even if you read just one or two, you will be farther along your path.

If you don’t see a book that’s on your top five list, tell us about it via, on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at #5JewishBooks or by clicking the “Readers’ Picks” link below.
Nadine Epstein, Moment Editor in Chief