A few weeks ago, one of our authors on Elephant Journal asked for book recommendations on Buddhism.
As I replied to her, I remembered the major role that books had played in my life when I was still a newcomer. During the first couple of years, I sought any kind of information that would teach me more about The Buddha and what he had taught.
Way before traveling to Nepal and India to take Buddhist courses, I immersed myself in so many videos and books. They were, at the time, my only reliable (and available) sources.
After coming back from India and living and studying with Buddhist monks, my list of books kept growing. But, by then, I understood the importance of the content and not being lured by books that had “positive” or “happy” on the cover. It was crucial for me to read books that were written by monks or nuns so I could gain a better and clearer understanding of Buddhism. That said, the list I have chosen for you is mostly written by Buddhist monks; their books are extremely accessible and mindful.
Now, I have more than 100 books in my library about Buddhism and spirituality. A great deal of authors, gurus, and teachers played an important part in my journey when I was first interested in Buddhism. Teachers like Krishnamurti, Deepak Chopra, Osho, The Dalai Lama, and Pema Chödrön all expanded and shaped my thinking.
However, there are a few books (out of many) that have personally touched my heart and soul on a deeper level. They taught me extensively about Buddhism, guided my way, and still are, to this day, on my nightstand. I haven’t read them once or twice. They’re my “bible,” and I believe I will never stop reading them.
Here are my top six books on Buddhism for beginners:
1. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle
That was the very first spiritual book I bought when I was 23 years old. And that was the book that forever changed my life. I’d say that The Power of Now set me on the path of spirituality. It taught me so much about how my mind works and how it affects my day-to-day life.
2. What Makes You Not a Buddhist, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
I bought this book during my first visit to Nepal and from the library of Kopan Monastery. I’ve lost count of how many times I have read this book. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse’s words are characterized by humor and confrontation—the kind of humor that will make you laugh and cry simultaneously.
3. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche
This book tackles what most of us are afraid of: death and what comes after it. Sogyal Rinpoche offers many extraordinary teachings on how to live a satisfactory life and support others to peacefully cross into the afterlife. This is an intense book that might shatter everything you know about death, so be ready for some surprising revelations.
4. Ego, Attachment and Liberation, Thubten Yeshe
This was one of the books that the monastery where I studied Buddhism distributed to all the students for free. The minute I started reading the first chapter, I couldn’t stop. Lama Yeshe has so much wisdom to offer us about the ego, our false identities, and unhealthy sources of attachment.
5. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice, Shunryu Suzuki
If you’re wondering what Zen is about and how one can get a “beginner’s mind,” this book will stay with you. It’s easy, simply, and extremely accessible. The talks of Shunryu Suzuki are full of wisdom and so easy to grasp (and practice).
6. Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs, Steve Hagen
Steve Hagen is a Zen priest, and I honestly can’t imagine how my life would have been if I haven’t come across his book. His words will make you think twice about everything you have ever said and done in your life. I had to pause many times when reading, as some of his ideas shatter many misconceptions we have about life.