Michael Amram Rinast has invited me to list the ten books that have influenced me the most. I will gladly name ten books that have had great impact on my life, but I can’t swear there are not others that have had equal significance to me. These are the ten that come to mind now:
1. What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives — Forgive me if this seems egotistical, but this book has been percolating in my mind and heart for forty years.
2. The Book of Genesis–The first book of the Torah–more than any others has influenced the way I think and try to act. Other biblical books could easily make this list, but one biblical bookstands out for me, and I want to make note of that.
3.The Days of Awe by S.Y. Agnon–Within the next few days I will post another essay that will make clear why this book means so much to me.
4. The Rabbi by Noah Gordon–It is no exaggeration for me to say that reading this book for the first of many times when I was 18, shaped the direction of my life. It was an honor to mer Mr. Gordon in 2001and share this with him in person
5. Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss–To me this is by far the greatest of many great Dr. Seuss books. It is a marvelous lesson in loyalty and honor that first touched my heart when my teacher, Mrs. Naomi Asher, read it to us in second grade. It still touches my heart today.
6. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth–The gritty story of Davy Pearl’s coming of age inspires me for its lack of sentimentality and the amazing insight it offers into childhood emotions. As an adult I continue to resonate to those emotions.
7. The Jews of Silence by Elie Wiesel–This ground breaking expose of the plight of Soviet Jews in the sixties alerted the world to the issue which galvanized the Jewish world for nearly two decades
8. Night by Elie Wiesel–It is hard to imagine that the Holocaust would hold nearly the place it does in the minds of people of all backgrounds today were it not for Wiesel’s haunting memoir.
9. Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon–Unsurpassed for it realism and sensitivity to the issues of people with disabilities
10. (TIE) Basic Judaism and As A Driven Leaf both by Milton Steinberg. Basic Judaism opened my eyes as a high school student to the necessity of distilling the essence f Judaism in such a way that encourages people to build on their learning. As A Driven Leaf, which weaves a magnificent historical novel from a few small fragments of Talmudic and Midrashic evidence, opened my eyes to the beauty and possibilities inherent in creative Biblical interpretation.
I hope you like my choices and invite interested readers to share yours.