If you ever went to Sunday School, then you probably know the story of Daniel and the lion's den. This is the same Daniel. What stands out as immediately different in this book from any of the Protestant translations that I grew up with, is the Appendix, adding an additional two chapters to the initial twelve, the story of "Susanna's Virtue" and the story of "Bel and the Dragon".
Baruch is basically a continuation of the book of Jeremiah the Prophet, Baruch being his secretary and familiar with the warnings of Jeremiah, has in these six chapters, a series of poetry and prose, both of prayer and of warnings to those who are exiled in Babylon.
It's the story of God's salvation of the Israelite people through the rebellion of one family, the family of Mattathias and their skill in war. It should be noted here that the word 'maccabees' is believed to mean 'hammer' and is applied to Judas, the firstmost of the family to fight, think of the moniker, 'Judas the Hammer' and you've got a fair idea.
I've read the book of Esther, many, many times. I've also lost track of how many times I've seen the films. I'm a bit of a Bible nerd. I think I own at least two different versions and can recall at least three versions that I've seen in recent years. If you haven't already and enjoy historical fiction, I strongly recommend Tommy Tenney's Hadassah, and the film based off the book, One Night With the King. What I didn't know about the book of Esther, is that in the deuterocanonical books, there are selections that are included that were left out of my non-Catholic, Christian Bible.
It's a story that will sound familiar to many Christians: a Jewish people threatened by their enemies, and then saved by the courage of one woman willing to be used by God. If your first thought was 'Esther', you may have been raised with a Christian background, or at least familiar with one of the films. If your answer was 'Judith', you are probably an art fan or have a Catholic background. Caution: Some content not appropriate for all audiences.
The book of Tobit is one of the literary books in the OT, so, it's approachable for first-time readers (like I was) and is the same type of writing that you'd find in the book of Ruth, or Esther, or Judith, to name a few examples. The short book has some fantastical elements in it, like something out of the Arabian Nights, like a love curse, demons prowling the desert, and supernatural helpers in disguise.
The book of Sirach feels like a conversation between someone sitting down with their mentor for some thoughtful wisdom on how to live. It reminds me of an etiquette manual in part, breaking down different life situations by category and detailing the writer's advice for those circumstances.
Wisdom. Solomon calls her more precious than rubies, more desirable than gold (Proverbs 3). The source of wisdom is the Lord and in the fear of God, we set ourselves on the path towards gaining God's understanding to help us make good life decisions and avoid evil. But what is the 'fear of the Lord'?
I've read the Bible before. Honest. All sixty-six books of it. At least twice! When I was a kid, I even made a game of memorizing all of the book names and the order they fell in, the way some people memorize the order of the presidents of the United States.