Trying to answer these simple questions has awakened me to how few of the books I hold dear are theological texts. I could easily recommend titles relating to Torah study or to Jewish practice, but theology qua theology turns out to be a challenge for me.
My choices are fairly idiosyncratic, and say at least as much about me as they do about contemporary Jewish theology! So I welcome suggestions and discussion in the comments section of this post, if anyone is so inclined.
Three of the most influential works of contemporary Jewish theology:
Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology by Arthur Green. Rabbi Green uses the lens of Jewish mysticism to explore the nature of God and the levels of access toward God to which we can strive. This book offers a framework for seeking God, organized into four sections which relate to the four worlds, four levels of soul, and four letters of the Tetragrammaton.
Standing Again at Sinai: A Jewish Feminist Theology by Judith Plaskow. I'm not sure this counts as "contemporary" anymore -- it came out in 1991 -- but it had a tremendous impact on the Jewish world, and it certainly had a tremendous impact on me as a Jewish woman. This is one of the germinal texts of Jewish feminism, and still really worth reading.
I'm having a tough time choosing a third essential text, so I'll offer a couple of options for those wanting an overview of this field: Contemporary Jewish Theology: A Reader, ed. Elliot Dorff and Louis Newman, and The Many Faces of God: A Reader of Modern Jewish Theologies, ed. Rifat Sonsino.
Three lesser-known books almost everyone should read:
This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Spiritual Transformation by Rabbi Alan Lew. I posted about this one a while back, and though it's seasonal (read it in the weeks leading up to the Days of Awe for most impact) I recommend it at any time of year.
The Path of Blessing by Rabbi Marcia Prager. I alluded to this one in a recent post -- it's Reb Marcia's exploration of and meditation upon the six words which begin every Hebrew blessing. She goes deep into word roots here, and high into allusions; the whole thing is at once theology and poetry (and therefore very much the kind of thing I dig.)
God In Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness, and Embodied Spiritual Practice by Jay Michaelson. This is brand-new from Jewish Lights. Jews are, Jay says, people of the body as much as we're people of the book -- and God can be found through mindful awareness of our embodied experience. (Read excerpts here.)
A bonus fourth rec: The Volcano Series by Alicia Ostriker. This collection of poems is also a powerful work of contemporary Jewish theology. These poems engage with God on a variety of levels; many consciously evoke psalms, and wrestle with questions of divinity, theodicy, gender, and ruach ha-kodesh.
I'd love to see answers to this from any of you. If you've done this meme, please drop me a comment and point me to your post; and if you haven't done it, and would like to, please consider yourself tapped.