Some of My Favorite Books
The War on Cops – by Heather Mac Donald: If you want to understand policing in America – why, for example, police seem to shoot black people so often (hint: it has something to do with who commits crimes) – this book is a must. It changed my thinking on crime.
Life at the Bottom – by Theodore Dalrymple: A damning indictment of the welfare state, this book was written by a physician who tended to the lowest classes of British society and saw firsthand what living on the dole does to your moral and spiritual character.
Judaism and Psychology – by Rabbi Abraham Amsel: One section in this book is boring thanks to a super long excerpt from Cheshbon HaNefesh. Otherwise it’s really good. One of Rabbi Amsel’s main theses is that almost every mental health problem is really a character problem (which should rightfully be solved by working on one’s character). This book is not politically correct.
Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews – by Rabbi Meir Kahane: I was absolutely mesmerized by this book when I first read it in 10th or 11th grade. Rabbi Kahane doesn’t really need an introduction. If you're going to read one Kahane book, I recommend this one; if you fall in love with him as I did, I recommend proceeding to his last book, Israel: Revolution or Referendum.
The First Tithe – by Israel Eldad. The title is boring, but the book is anything but. Eldad was one of the heads of Lechi, which helped kick the British out of Palestine in 1948. Two of the most fascinating facts in the book: 1) Lechi wanted to blow up Buckingham Palace! 2) After the Altalena incident, Eldad suggested to Begin that they set up an independent Jewish state in Yerushalayim.
On Israel, I would recommend two other books: The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul by Yoram Hazony and Eim Habanim Semeichah by Rabbi Yissochar Shlomo Teichtal. A word of warning about the latter book: Don’t read it unless you’re open to making aliyah or feeling guilty for not doing so. Rabbi Teichtal was as charedi as they come, but changed his mind on Zionism during the Holocaust and wrote this sefer while the killing was ongoing.
What It Means to Be a Libertarian – by Charles Murray: This book is pretty slim, easy-to-read, and a good introduction to libertarianism. I’ve read most of Murray’s books. Almost everything he writes is good.
The Challenge of Creation – by Rabbi Natan Slifkin: If you’re curious about apparent conflicts between science and Torah – particularly regarding the creation and age of the universe – I would recommend this book. The beginning also has some great material on the religious assumptions undergirding the entire modern scientific enterprise. If you’re interested in conflicts between science and statements in Chazal, I highly recommend Rabbi Slifkin’s Mysterious Creatures with chapters on phoenixes, salamanders, unicorns, sea serpents, and more!
Animal Farm – by George Orwell: Super clean, short, excellent – that’s how I would describe this work. If you want to read a perfect mashal on how communist (or “woke”) society develops and to where it leads, look no further. It’s really great, and a classic too.
The Nineteen Letters – by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: Skip the long quotes from the nevi’im if necessary and most definitely skip Rabbi Elias’s notes (they undermine the book in an almost criminal manner). The rest of the book is gold. I’ve read it at least three times. It’s a very unique take on Judaism, although I still can’t say I understand it fully.
The Faith of Judaism – by Rabbi Isidore Epstein: This book is an erudite exposition on Judaism and its place in the modern world.
Masters of the Word – by Rabbi Yonatan Kolatch: You won’t find a better introduction to the mefarshim on Chumash than this. It has a chapter on every major meforash – when he lived, why he wrote his peirush, the nature of the peirush (pershat, derash, etc.). Volumes one and two are available. I believe volume three is set to be published soon.
The Well-Behaved Child – by John Rosemond: If you’re a parent who suspects that something is off with modern parenting advice, read this book. You’ll find it refreshing. Yes, it will take you back to the spirit of the 1950s, but kids back then seemed pretty happy and well-behaved (and grew up to be successful adults), so why exactly did we abandon that era’s parenting style?
The Holocaust in American Life – by Peter Novick: This book challenges almost every orthodoxy about the Holocaust you’ve heard – that America is to blame for not saving more Jews, that studying the Holocaust in school is vital, that building Holocaust museums is wise, and more. I confess to agreeing with the author much more than I disagreed.
The Big Fat Surprise – by Nina Teicholz: Another fascinating book (and, amazingly, a New York Times bestseller). It’s ostensibly about dietary fat – whether it’s good or bad for you. It’s really, however, about the politicization of science. If you want to know how a scientific consensus is really reached, read this book. (Hint: Tony Fauci wasn’t the first doctor to use his powerful position to silence opponents.)
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