Readers’ Favorite Buddhism Books

Readers’ Favorite Buddhism Books

Recently we asked our readers – what is the most important Buddhist book to you? Some chose books they said made sense of a profound or difficult concept easily. For others it was the first text that ‘turned them on’ to Buddhism. Others again said it was ones that were beautifully written. Mostly, these are books people return to again and again. They are presented in no particular order.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying Perhaps the most popular Buddhist book in the West, despite – or perhaps because of – its difficult subject matter. Sogyal Rimpoche retells the classic “Tibetan Book of the Dead” in modern language, to explain exactly what happens to us during the dying process – before, during, and after death. Important information then. Most of all, this is a book on how most successfully to live your life (Steve) read more >
The Dharma Bums. A rare fiction entry to our favorites list – and many people’s all time favorite (if not earliest) books on Buddhism. If you haven’t read it yet, enjoy this hilarious and sweet journey into early American Buddhist bohemianism! (Duncan) read more >
A Buddhist Bible. An interesting project where the classic scriptures of the various Buddhist traditions were collected into one large book – to see what a Buddhist ‘Bible’ might be like. A Western attempt to impose order on a fluid and responsive tradition, or a masterpiece of scholarship, A Buddhist Bible is at least a perfect reference book to have at hand for all the major texts. (Helen) read more >
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
This is the classic collection of zen (and pre-zen) short stories and sayings, that are so popular. We have some of these reprinted on our zen tales page – but this little volume is a treat to own and dip into again and again. (Curtis) read more >
Reborn in the West: The Reincarnation Masters
A real thriller and amazing read – it tells the story of Westerners who grew up being told – or just discovered themselves – that they were reincarnations of Tibetan high lamas. (Jessy) read more >
How to Practice : The Way to a Meaningful Life Not just a book on meditation, this is a book on how to live everything you do as a profound spiritual practice. Recommended (Lisa) read more >
The Heart of Understanding, by Thich Nhat Hanh I have to declare a bias here – this is the editor’s favorite Buddhist book! A tiny volume that retells the brief Heart Sutra (perhaps the most important of all the sutras) in the clearest, most modern, and poetic language. I still remember holding the book and realizing how I was not separate from the person who cut down the tree to make it. A real treasure. (Dan) read more >
Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Not an ‘easy’ book, by any means – but many people have a soft spot for this (sometimes ruthless) unraveling of how our spiritual efforts are most normally a continuation of the strategies of the ego to survive, and even thrive. As much as any on this list, a must-read. (Sue P.) read more >
Beyond the Self, Thich Nhat Hahn. In a sense it is hard to pick a ‘favorite’ Thich Nhat Hahn book, as he always writes so beautifully, simply, and poetically. Put it down to meditative focus and true understanding.  Here he once again reveals our true nature. (Leanne) read more >
The Good Heart, The Dalai Lama. For many Christians discovering Buddhism, it can be a very real difficulty in how to reconcile one’s faith from birth with a very new and different religion. For people in that position, this book is very literally a Godsend. (George) read more >
An Open Heart – The Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama speaking on Compassion, perhaps one of his greatest messages. A big seller on its release and reached a wide audience with this message. (Amy) read more >
Mindfulness in Plain English “This was my first introduction to meditation, and with it Buddhism. I found it a very clear, and compelling, explanation of why and how to meditate. I still refer to it, and can see by all my underlinings how important it was to me.” (Adam S.) read more >
Buddhism for Beginners
Thubten Chondron has written some profoundly transformative texts. This is the only one so far to be suggested so far in our list – an excellent, steadfast illustration of the Buddhist path. (Alex) read more >
The Compass of Zen

If you’ve never read Seung Sahn (I have to admit I’d never even read any Korean zen before this book) – you’re in for a treat. Humorous, he makes even the most difficult concepts like emptiness easy to grasp. Somebody who can make your old illusions humorous! I was bought this book as a present, and considered it very good karma I was introduced to it (Kyle) read more >

No Death, No Fear. “I used to be gripped by a fear of death, that no amount of religion could help! Now I really see how it could be possible that death is a construct of the human mind, and it really not be a problem at all that it exists” (Harvey) read more >
How to Meditate This was recommended as a good introduction to sitting meditation – a no small thing. (Brie) read more >
The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hahn Thich Nhat Hahn is known as a master of mindfulness, and this is perhaps his best known book. Learn from the best. (Jon) read more >
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism
This was recommended by Gary for its very Western (ie. understandable and relateable) introduction to the key ideas of Buddhism. (Kim) read more >
What How to See Yourself as You Really Are What could be better than the highest lama in Tibet explaining how to see yourself as you really are? (Sandra) read more >
Buddhism for Dummies. Because there’s no point in denying we could all learn a little more! (Sue T.) read more >
Browse many more Buddhist books here …

Do you have a favorite Buddhist book? One that you have held as special over many years? Or a new one perhaps, that has lead you to become newly inspired? Perhaps you have found a book that has helped make sense of Buddhism to you – and you think it could help make sense to others. If so, we want to hear from you. Simply add the name of the book that is special to you below, and a little about why, and we’ll make sure we publish the best suggestions.

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