Post­ed by Nat Bern­stein

Each year pro­duces a fresh crop of fic­tion, non­fic­tion, poet­ry, and mem­oir address­ing the Jew­ish High Hol­i­days and the themes they embody: reflec­tion on the past, for­give­ness and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, spir­i­tu­al cleanse and per­son­al redemp­tion, and tran­si­tion­ing into a new phase of life — both as an indi­vid­ual and as a com­mu­ni­ty. Build­ing on last year’s list, here are ten rec­om­men­da­tions for the first ten days of 5776.

1. The Lost Book of Mor­mon: A Jour­ney Though the Myth­ic Lands of Nephi, Zara­hem­la, and Kansas City, Missouri

One of the most com­pelling con­tem­pla­tions of faith — a thor­ough­ly Jew­ish faith, and the faith of a writer in his own work — which might be the same thing — to fly under the radar, Avi Stein­bergs sopho­more mem­oir is as pro­found as its premise is bizarre. To study Joseph Smith’s life and lega­cy is, for Stein­berg, a refresh­ing reflec­tion on the Hebrew Bible, our hero’s child­hood in Jerusalem, the nos­tal­gia for belief of his youth.

2. The Book of Num­bers: A Novel

Joshua Cohens bril­liant­ly unset­tling imi­tates-life bend of fic­tion hits full force with his lat­est nov­el. Play­ing with sci­ence fic­tion, tech­nol­o­gy, and iden­ti­ty cri­sis The Book of Num­bers traces the ram­bling paths of con­tem­po­rary quests for for­give­ness and redemp­tion that emerge when titan of the Dig­i­tal Age con­tracts a free­lancer who shares his name to write his biog­ra­phy, all in Cohen’s sig­na­ture engross­ing, thor­ough­ly Jew­ish-post­mod­ern voice.

3. Made in Detroit: Poems

Marge Pier­cy ded­i­cates an entire sec­tion of her nine­teenth col­lec­tion of poet­ry to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kip­pur, and the turn of the Jew­ish year in stir­ring imagery and recur­ring med­i­ta­tions on fam­i­ly, love, and wish­es and fail­ure to be bet­ter next year. 

Apples and hon­ey for the new year
but you are my year round sweet
apple. The apple of my eye, apple
of temp­ta­tion and delight. My honey:

I was nev­er tru­ly hap­py before you.
I was nev­er tru­ly whole before you.

4. Mis­sion at Nurem­berg: An Amer­i­can Army Chap­lain and
the Tri­al of the Nazis

This year marks the 70th anniver­sary of the Nurem­berg Tri­als, revis­it­ed in Tim Townsends riv­et­ing account of U.S. Army chap­lain Hen­ry Gerecke, a Luther­an cler­gy­man assigned to min­is­ter to the Protes­tant defen­dants tried and impris­oned in the Nurem­berg Palace of Jus­tice fol­low­ing World War II. The sto­ry is a fas­ci­nat­ing his­to­ry of America’s mil­i­tary chap­lain­cy, the Luther­an Church and its mis­sion in the Unit­ed States, and the jurispru­den­tial and jour­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ty encouched in post­war Ger­many — as well as a com­pelling biog­ra­phy of Gerecke and a respect­ful exam­i­na­tion of the mem­bers of his flock await­ing con­dem­na­tion. Besides being my go-to rec­om­men­da­tion for a non­fic­tion read, Mis­sion at Nurem­berg is a fas­ci­nat­ing study of con­fronting evil, reli­gious com­pas­sion, and the impos­si­ble ques­tion of what redemp­tion means for the Nazi arbiters of the Holocaust.

5. A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined
House in France

Miran­da Rich­mond Mouil­lots mem­oir of root­ing about her fam­i­ly his­to­ry in attempts to uncov­er the secret that sep­a­rat­ed her grand­par­ents half a cen­tu­ry ago is a reflec­tive work of self-dis­cov­ery and rumi­na­tion on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Get a taste of the book and its author with Miranda’s Vis­it­ing Scribe posts on ques­tion­ing Holo­caust sur­vivors about their past and the madeleine moments” she shares with and observed in her grandfather.

6. After Abel and Oth­er Stories

A rich­ly provoca­tive per­spec­tive to car­ry in reread­ing the Torah afresh start­ing next week, Michal Lem­berg­ers col­lec­tion of nine heart­break­ing sto­ries imag­ines the expe­ri­ence of the women of the Bible, trans­lat­ing their tra­di­tion­al depic­tions as vir­tu­ous, vil­lain­ous, or sim­ply present into human actions and respons­es to the expe­ri­ences and events they wit­ness with­out voice in the orig­i­nal text. Also a Vis­it­ing Scribe on The ProsenPeo­ple, Michal shared her fas­ci­na­tion with the sto­ry of Lot’s Wife, the nar­ra­tive strug­gle of turn­ing King David into a vil­lain, and what the Life­time adap­ta­tion of The Red Tent got wrong with the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil way back” in 5775.

7. Thresh­olds: How to Thrive through Life’s Tran­si­tions to Live a Fear­less­ly and Regret-Free Life

The ten-day peri­od between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip­pur is one of tran­si­tion in the Jew­ish year and with­in. If you’re look­ing to embrace this moment of spir­i­tu­al trans­mi­gra­tion beyond the cus­tom­ary litur­gy and rit­u­al prac­tices, embark on the per­son­al exam­i­na­tion of self in time and place with Rab­bi Sherre Hirschs mind­ful guide to discovery.

8. Ghet­to Broth­er: War­rior to Peacemaker

Julian Voloj and Clau­dia Ahler­ing present a graph­ic nar­ra­tive of the 1971 Hoe Avenue peace meet­ing bro­kered by the Ghet­to Broth­ers’ pres­i­dent and Nuy­or­i­can mar­ra­no Ben­ji Melen­dez to estab­lish a truce between the war­ring gangs of the Bronx. Along­side Melendez’s dis­cov­ery of his cryp­to-Jew­ish her­itage and return to the hid­den reli­gion of his ances­tors, Ghet­to Broth­er is an absorb­ing true sto­ry of unlike­ly rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and the birth of Hip Hop.

9. How’s Your Faith? An Unlike­ly Spir­i­tu­al Journey

Cer­tain­ly you rec­og­nize David Gre­go­ry from his career as a for­mer NBC news­man and Meet the Press mod­er­a­tor, but you might not know how his strong Jew­ish iden­ti­ty instilled from his upbring­ing devel­oped into belief over the course of a decade of study with an Ortho­dox Jew­ish schol­ar. Prompt­ed by a ques­tion from George W. Bush dur­ing David’s assign­ment as chief White House cor­re­spon­dent, How’s Your Faith? con­sid­ers the “ Unlike­ly Spir­i­tu­al Jour­ney” from one of tele­vi­sion journalism’s most rec­og­nized faces.

10. Days of Awe: A Novel

You name your book Days of Awe, it pret­ty much has to be on this list. While the nov­el does not overt­ly address the Ten Days, it spins around themes of past wrongs, for­give­ness, and the rend­ing process of begin­ning anew. One of Jew­ish Book Council’s Vis­it­ing Scribes over the Ten Days of Awe 5776, read Lau­ren Foxs entries on The ProsenPeo­ple here.

Relat­ed Content:

Nat Bern­stein is the for­mer Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Con­tent & Media, JBC Net­work Coor­di­na­tor, and Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and a grad­u­ate of Hamp­shire College.