The Best Buddhist Books
With so many books out there, we compiled this list of what we think are the best Buddhist books on meditation and mindfulness from some of our favorite authors. These books cover a variety of topics including mindfulness, the dharma, meditation practices, and more!
You can scroll down, we have a little bit about why we chose these books and what they are about below the list!.
This list is not in any particular order of ranking.
1. A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage and Wisdom in Any Moment by Spring Washam
An upcoming book by the amazing dharma teacher and healer.
2. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
A simple look at mindfulness and its application in daily life.
3. Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
Further reflections on bringing mindfulness to everyday activities.
5. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
Covers the basics of the four brahma-viharas, or heart practices.
6. Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
A 28-day meditation program to help you build a regular sitting practice.
7. Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg
Investigating mindfulness, kindness, and care in the workplace.
8. A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield
A wonderful investigation of the Buddha’s basics teachings and how to apply them.
9. The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield
A strong look at Buddhist psychology, great for those interested in psychology.
10. Living Dharma by Jack Kornfield
Discussions with twelve Buddhist meditation masters, investigating different perspectives.
11. Against the Stream by Noah Levine
A raw look at the Buddha’s teachings through the eyes of a punk-turned-Buddhist.
13. Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
Using the Buddha’s teachings to completely accept and work with oneself.
14. Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization by Anālayo
A look at the Buddha’s words on establishing mindfulness from a scholar-monk.
15. In the Buddha’s Words by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Selected teachings from the Buddha translated by a scholar-monk.
16. The Middle Length Discourses by Bhikkhu Bodhi
A translation of and comments on the Majjhima Nikaya.
17. The Connected Discourses by Bhikkhu Bodhi
A translation of and comments on the Samyutta Nikaya.
18. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Bodhi
A translation of and comments on the Anguttara Nikaya.
19. Food for the Heart by Ajahn Chah
A collection of talks and writings from Thai Forest meditation teacher Ajahn Chah.
21. Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas by Leigh Brasington
Investigating the practice of cultivating deep concentration in meditation practice.
22. Breath by Breath by David Guy and Larry Rosenberg
Study of the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha’s words on mindfulness and the breath.
23. Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
A beautifully simple and insightful book about mindfulness and how to apply the teachings.
24. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
A discussion on mindfulness from a secular standpoint from the father of MBSR.
25. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening by Joseph Goldstein
A meditation teacher of 40 years looks at the Buddha’s words on establishing mindfulness.
27. The Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson
Neuropsychological look at Buddhist practices and their effect on the brain and body.
28. One Breath at a Time by Kevin Griffin
A Buddhist recovery book looking at the Twelve Steps through the lens of dharma.
29. A Burning Desire by Kevin Griffin
A Buddhist recovery book investigating what a Buddhist “higher power” may be in Twelve Step.
30. Awareness M.O.D.E. by Jeff Camozzi
A raw, insightful, humble book about utilizing our own direct experience in our practice.
Okay, so we can’t say objectively what the best Buddhist books are, but we can give our opinion. People frequently ask us if we have any book recommendations. We read a lot, so we are always happy to share our experience with the many Buddhist books available. We have separated our recommendations out into a few categories. Those in the Buddhist books for beginners section are introductory readings that can help us familiarize ourselves with the dharma. The section on best Buddhist books covers additional Buddhist teachings including the suttas. And finally we have a section on the best books on mindfulness, which are specifically focusing on the practice of cultivating sati, or mindfulness!
Buddhist Books for Beginners
With all of the Buddhist books and books about mindfulness out there, it can be hard to find something to really familiarize ourselves with the teachings. I found this myself when I first was introduced to meditation practice. I read a few books, but they really just went right over my head. There are a few authors we love here for those new to meditation.
Thich Nhat Hanh Books
Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my personal favorite authors. He writes wonderful Buddhist books for beginners that can really help us bring our practice to life. His books hold a special place in my heart because The Miracle of Mindfulness was the first book about meditation that I read. In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh offers stories about mindfulness and pragmatic tips that can help you to find a way to practice in your life.
In my opinion, Peace is Every Step is one of his best books about mindfulness. In Peace is Every Step, we are introduced to many ways to make everyday life part of our practice. From washing the dishes to peeling an orange, Thich Nhat Hanh again shares stories and tips that I have found to be extremely doable in my own life.
Finally, Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Heart of The Buddha’s Teachings offer an incredible overview of the Buddhist path. This book goes through the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the brahma-viharas, and more. Whenever somebody asks for a book to truly familiarize themselves with the Buddhist path, we recommend this book. Again, he has a way of writing that is easy, understandable, and interesting. If you are interested in learning more about what the Buddha actually taught, this is a great place to start!
Sharon Salzberg is one of my favorite authors and teachers. She has a special way about her, and really embodies the teachings. Although she is incredibly wise in regards to many Buddhist teachings, Sharon’s specialty is in teaching the brahma-viharas, or heart practices. Her book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness is a book I myself return to over and over. It is a beautiful investigation of the practice of metta, or lovingkindness. With relatable personal stories, a deep understanding of the Buddha’s teachings, and meditations and practices, Lovingkindness is a great way to begin investigating the Buddhist heart practices.
Sharon’s book Real Happiness offers a 28 day meditation challenge, and served as a catalyst for us in our own practices. If you are struggling to build a regular sitting practice, this book is for you. In Real Happiness, Sharon offers a path for you to practice over the course of a month. It serves as an inspiration for our own Monthlong Meditation Challenges, and we do the 28-day program every year with her online.
The third book of hers we love is a recent one called Real Happiness at Work. As you may have guessed, Real Happiness at Work is a book investigating compassion, kindness, and mindfulness in the work environment. For so many of us, work is a major cause of stress. In this book, Sharon Salzberg dives into way in which we can be present at work and create the causes for mindfulness and joy.
Jack Kornfield is one of the greatest Buddhist authors in the West. He has written quite a few books, and it’s hard for us to choose just a couple. However, our favorite beginner-oriented book he has written is certainly A Path With Heart. In true Jack Kornfield style, A Path With Heart offers numerous personal stories, myths, and allegories from different spiritual traditions to help readers deeply understand the Buddhist path. One of my favorite parts of the book is that he ends each section with a practice which you can do on your own.
The Wise Heart is another Jack Kornfield classic read. In The Wise Heart, Jack investigates Buddhist psychology. Using his deep understanding of the dharma and modern psychology, Jack Kornfield gives some insight into how the Buddha’s teachings are relevant to us in our time with our knowledge. If you are a mental health professional or interested in psychology, this may be the book for you!
Our personal favorite piece from Jack Kornfield is Living Dharma (formerly Living Buddhist Masters). In Living Dharma, Jack Kornfield discusses Buddhism and meditation with twelve wise teachers. The beautiful part about this book is that each meditation teacher has a unique perspective about how we should practice. In reading this book, we see there is not just one way to meditate, and may connect with one individual teacher more than others.
Other Buddhist Books for Beginners
There are a few other books by various authors that we often recommend to those new to meditation. Noah Levine’s books Against the Stream and The Heart of the Revolution are great introductory books. These two books cover Buddhism and the heart practices, respectively. As a young person myself, I found Noah’s books relatable, honest, and raw. His insights and sharing of personal stories are authentic, showing the truth of the human mind.
Phillip Moffitt’s book Dancing with Life is another great read. As the former editor in chief at Esquire magazine who turned toward Buddhism, Phillip Moffitt has found the dharma as a great tool to lessen suffering in the world. Dancing with Life covers the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path in depth. Upon reading this book myself, I found these teachings truly easy to understand for the first time. It provides a great outline of these important teachings, and how we can actually work with them in our lives and our practice.
Not just for beginners, Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a must-read. It is one of my favorite Buddhist books for beginners, offering a unique approach to bringing the practices to our relationship with ourselves. Tara Brach, Ph.D. shares her experience with the transformative Buddhist teachings, offering insights and practices that we can utilize in our own meditation work.
Best Buddhist Books
These books offer a deeper understanding of what the Buddha actually taught. Although the books above are great ways to begin investigating the dharma, these books below are ones we recommend to really dive in more deeply to the Buddha’s true teachings.
The first book to mention here is Anālayo’s Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization. This is simply one of the most important books you can read about Buddhism. Dr. Bhikkhu Anālayo is a Buddhist monk with a Ph.D. in the Satipatthana Sutta. That is, he has a doctorate in the Buddha’s discourse on establishing mindfulness. Anālayo’s expertise comes from his scholarly understanding and his personal practice as a monk. He dives into the discourse on establishing mindfulness in great depth, really breaking down this important piece of writing.
Bhikkhu Bodhi is a Buddhist monk and scholar with great expertise in translating the Pali language into English. He has quite a few books worth reading, but there are a few we really love. First, there is In the Buddha’s Words, a collection of the Buddha’s words on various topics. If you wish to investigate the Buddhist suttas, or discourses, this is the place to start. Bhikkhu Bodhi offers wonderful introductions to each section, and his translations are widely regarded as some of the best available. He also has large translations of the suttas in his books The Middle Length Discourses, The Connected Discourses, and The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha.
Ajahn Chah, the Thai Forest meditation master, has a great book called Food for the Heart. Ajahn Chan was the teacher of many well-known teachers and monks, including Ajahn Sumedho, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg. He has a dry sense of humor, quick wit, and can be quite blunt in his teachings. Food for the Heart is a big book with a lot of information, but we love reading what such a wise and revered man has to say about the path.
Guatama Buddha is in our opinion one of the best biographies of the historical Buddha. Using the suttas, historical understanding, and leaving some space for what we don’t know, Vishvapani Blomfield covers the life of the Buddha wonderfully. In order to truly understand Buddhism, we must familiarize ourselves with Siddhartha Guatama himself. Although there are many books about the Buddha’s life, this is the one we found most interesting.
One of the pieces of meditation practice often left by the wayside in the West is the practice of concentration. Leigh Brasington’s Right Concentration: A Practical Guide to the Jhanas is exactly as it sounds. It’s a practical guide to investigating wise concentration and deep states of concentration known as the jhanas. If your practice is lacking concentration, this book offers great tips that are helpful in truly investigating a concentrated mind.
Best Books on Mindfulness
The books below are some of what we believe to be the best books about mindfulness. Although mindfulness is a part of the Buddhist path, some of our best mindfulness books are written from a secular standpoint. These books about mindfulness span a variety of viewpoints, as there are many different ways people look at these practices. For what it is worth, Anālayo’s aforementioned Satipatthana is in our opinion the best book on mindfulness. We highly recommend checking it out if you wish to investigate mindfulness more deeply.
Another one of our favorite mindfulness books is Larry Rosenberg’s Breath by Breath. In Breath by Breath, Larry Rosenberg looks at the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha’s instructions on establishing mindfulness and insight through looking at the breath. This is a fantastic and well-respected study of this sutta, really offering an understandable way to dive into a dense and important discourse.
Henepola Gunaratana’s Mindfulness in Plain English is a great introduction and study of mindfulness. Especially if you are relatively new to mindfulness meditation, this book can really help you understand exactly what mindfulness is and how we can cultivate this quality.
We couldn’t talk about mindfulness without mentioning Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of Mindfulness-
Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). His book Wherever You Go, There You Are has sold almost a million copies, and for good reason. It’s a great book that discusses mindfulness in a secular manner, approaching the practices from a scientific point of view. Kabat-Zinn’s experience with psychology comes through in his look at mindfulness as exercise for the brain and consciousness, making the practices approachable for those of any backgrounds or faiths.
Another investigation of the Satipatthana Sutta, Joseph Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening is an important book to read. Joseph Goldstein has been teaching for 40 years in the United States, and is one of the most well-respected teachers in the insight tradition.
Random Favorites of Ours
These books are some of our personal favorites. They don’t fit in to the other categories perfectly, but they are books that have helped us greatly in our own practices. We encourage you to check out these books for some more specific investigations of Buddhism in relation to the world and our lives.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book with Dr. Lilian Cheung about eating mindfully. I used this book to begin investigating mindful eating myself, and found it incredibly helpful. Over the course of a few years, I have lost over 40 pounds from simply eating healthily and mindfully. The book, Savor, is easy to read, pragmatic, and incredibly insightful.
If you’re interested in psychology or the brain, Rick Hanson’s The Buddha’s Brain will surely interest you. Rick Hanson has a Ph.D. in psychology, and in this book discusses the neuroscience behind meditation, mindfulness, and compassion practices. Although I didn’t graduate college myself, I found this book easy to read, super helpful, and incredibly interesting. It was one of those hard-to-put-down books, which is rare for a nonfiction book in my experience.
Kevin Griffin, a personal teacher of mine, writes great books about Buddhism and recovery. His book One Breath at a Time is probably his most popular, investigating the Twelve Steps and how the Buddhist path can be worked in conjunction. Personally, I think his book A Burning Desire is his best book. The book discusses the idea of a higher power in Twelve Step and how we can reconcile this with our Buddhist practice. It also makes a list we like of the best books on alcoholism and addiction.
I am currently reading Awareness M.O.D.E. by Jeff Camozzi. M.O.D.E. stands for My Own Direct Experience, and that idea had me hooked from the beginning. Jeff has been a longtime friend of One Mind Dharma, and we are grateful for him sharing his experience. His writing style is authentic and relatable. He doesn’t claim to be a guru. He is just a man sharing his experience with the hope it may help somebody, and his humility comes through in his writing.
These are what come to mind for us. We will make sure to update as we continue to think of more books or read new ones! If you have any recommendations, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] and let us know! You can also check out our favorite books on Tibetan Buddhism.
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