Every Person's Guide to Judaism - Stephen J. Einstein, Lydia Kukoff
The title is misleading: this book is addressed not to "every person", but to potential converts. It strikes a tone of enthusiasm that I found a little overbearing at some moments; but at the same time, the authors' engagement and celebratory attitude towards Jewish community is appealing. Although such a short book can only give sketchy coverage to any one topic, they try to indicate the practices and beliefs of all the various branches of modern Judaism where they differ, very even-handedly. There are a few points where they stress "all Jews believe that...", which I wasn't always convinced by. One good thing they do is point out and clear up common misconceptions that people may have picked up from the Christian society they live in. There was a nice chapter on the meaning of Chanukah. The organization is good, covering holidays and life-cycle events before moving into general theological and religious points. They continually return to the importance of family, community, and historical continuity. On the whole, I thought it was pretty illuminating, even if it could be improved.