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Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs and Rituals is a brief but comprehensive layman's handbook to Jewish prayer, worship, festivals, customs, history, language, philosophy, and ideology. Its author, George Robinson, returned to synagogue after a 20-year absence and found himself utterly confused about the basics of his religion, despite having attended Hebrew school. He looked far and wide for a reference work that would help him get his bearings but did not find one; so he wrote one himself. Robinson's background as a journalist proved to be an asset in this project, which shows evidence of much detective work, the results of which are plainly described and clearly organized. Robinson is sensitive to the many perspectives of contemporary Judaism without being mealy-mouthed. His work is a triumph of diplomacy and clear thinking; his overview of Hebrew Scripture, and his excellent Kosher primer, would be worth the price of this book in themselves. [via]