The breadth of Jewish literature is often compared to the sea, as it is seemingly without bounds and of immeasurable depth. The Torah and the Bible, Mishnah and Talmud are our most central books. Each of these is supplemented by literally thousands of books and commentaries--too, too many to report here. Instead, I've curated the resources below as they directly relate to the most prominent of Jewish life cycle events, are easily obtained and are most accessible to any reader. Don't hesitate to ask, however, for additional suggestions.
The Torah, also known as the Pentateuch and the Five Books of Moses, is Judaism's most central document. It contains the ever familiar books called Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Torah recounts creation, the birth of Judaism, our enslavement in Egypt and eventual redemption, the epiphany on Mt. Sinai, and one of the world's first legal codes. The Jewish Publication Society's translation of our most central book, completed in 1985, still ranks as one of the finest works of Jewish scholarship.
TaNaKh / The Bible
The Jewish Bible is known by the Hebrew acronym TaNaKh. It is comprised of three collections of "books"; they are the Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). TaNaKh is Judaism's canon of sacred literature. It is the original Bible, commonly referred to by others are the "Old Testament." The Jewish Publication Society's translations of our core body of literature, completed in 1985, still ranks as one of the finest works of Jewish scholarship.
The Jewish Wedding
Anita Diamant has published a number of books relating to Jewish life cycle events. The New Jewish Wedding captures the essence of a traditional Jewish wedding as well as modern approaches and adaptations. Her writing style is easily accessible and the book is a must read for couples contemplating their nuptials and planning their big day.
Death and Mourning
The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning is an essential read for those who wish to prepare for the loss of a loved one. While the book presents only Judaism's most traditional approach to the end of life and ritualized mourning, it is both comprehensive and easy to understand. While there are other books which touch on more progressive approaches, Maurice Lamm's The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning remains the quintessential volume.
Having a Baby
The New Jewish Baby Book, also by Anita Diamant, is a helpful guide to customs new and old relating to introducing a new child into the Jewish Covenant. Diamant includes a list of Jewish boy's and girl's names and meanings for consideration, and various rituals associated with birth and the baby naming itself. This is a must read for new parents.
Jews by Choice
Choosing a Jewish Life, also by Anita Diamant, is an essential read for anyone considering entering the Jewish Covenant. Diamant's book is a sensitive take on what it means to convert, identifying potential pitfalls along the way and reporting the conversion process and rituals associated with becoming a Jew.