I shouldn’t say that most people have never read it, but as I travel in various circles within Torah observance, and discuss writings that really give a clear image (in my opinion) of what a traditional view is our our faith, the book JEWTHINK by Rabbi Avi Shafran usually doesn’t come up in conversation.
While it was originally written in 1973 and published in 1977, I only found out about it in 2000. I was in Boston for an interview with an outreach organization and was looking through the books in the home of the organizations’ director. I read the whole thing in one sitting. It was such a concise summary of Yiddishkeit. I would humbly put it up there as a must read if you travel in the secular world.
I have used the book as a basis for outreach with both teens and adults, as well as for discussions with not-yet-religious Jews. It’s is a relatively easy read. Rabbi Shafran quotes great sources and it is written in a very clear and straighforward manner. Look at this passage from chapter 13-Fear of God:
There is yet another concept (this one more an emotion or feeling than an attitude) which goes by the nickname of “fear”. This is the “fear of G~d’s greatness” which we mentioned in passing back in the first chapter.
This is the emotion felt when one is confronted with, for instance, the vastness of the universe, or the wonders of biology, the kindness of G~d towards His creations, or, spare us, His power of destruction and retribution. In short, whenever G~d’s presence makes itself particularly evident and jolts us into a stronger realization of Him, we are experiencing this “fear”. A storm rolling in, a glance through a telescope, a baby’s development, an earthquake, or a solar eclipse all have the potential to arouse this emotion in human beings.
This is one of those books that I try to read once a year (along with the Nineteen Letters). If you have a few minutes, it worth the look.
It is available on online, by simply googling JEWTHINK and going to the first hit.