11 Best Meditation Books for Beginners
Meditation and mindfulness are now commonly-heard words in the West, growing in popularity in recent decades. Although these practices have existed and evolved over thousands of years, it is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. We’re often asked for our favorite meditation books, and created a page on some of our favorite Buddhist books a while back. You can also check out our favorite books on Tibetan Buddhism.
This list contains books about meditation aimed at beginners to meditation practice. Whether you’re hoping to deal with some anxiety, de-stress your life, begin to investigate the Buddha’s teachings, or are just curious about the benefits of meditation, there’s a book in our list for you!
Check these books out and if you have a question, please reach out to us. We are happy to provide recommendations and share our thoughts about these meditation books! You can click on each book to learn more about it or buy it.
The Book List
1. A Fierce Heart
A Fierce Heart came out in late 2017, and is Spring Washam’s first published book. Spring is one of the founders of East Bay Meditation Center, a teacher at Spirit Rock, and a healer with Lotus Vine Journeys. This book tops our list as it is new, relevant, and timely. Spring shares about her experience coming to the practices of mindfulness and compassion, running an urban meditation center, and how we can all incorporate these practices into our daily lives to help transform suffering. This book is a truly beautiful offering, and we personally are grateful for Spring and her teachings. It is at the top of our list of meditation books for a reason.
2. A Path with Heart
A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield is a book that we highly recommend, returning to it ourselves repeatedly. First published almost 25 years ago, this is one of the best meditation books for beginners out there. Jack is a master in the art of storytelling, and uses his skill and wisdom to explain these practices in a way that is easy to understand. Each chapter has practices for you to try, stories from Jack’s own life, and allegories and fables from various traditions. This book is an absolute must-read for anybody new to meditation practice.
3. Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation
Sharon Salzberg’s Real Happiness is a fantastic book for beginners to meditation. The book offers a 28 day program for investigating different meditation practices. The founder of multiple meditation centers in the United States, Sharon is a leading teacher on the practice of metta, or loving-kindness. This book offers guidance and practices for engaging in a month of meditation practice, and can help you build a regularly daily practice. We strongly recommend giving this program a shot. We do this challenge every year ourselves, and know many people who began their investigation of Buddhist meditation with this book.
4. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings by Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite books. Although it’s not strictly about meditation, this book offers a deep look at the teachings surrounding Buddhist meditation and ethics. The author, activist, poet, and monk expertly explains basic Buddhist teachings and makes them simple to understand. It’s not easy to take complex ideas and simplify them so a beginner can understand, but Thich Nhat Hanh does so with incredible tact and wisdom. If you’re new to meditation, this book can help give you a deeper understanding of the framework surrounding the practices.
5. The Heart of the Revolution
Noah Levine’s book The Heart of the Revolution is one of our favorites, especially for newcomers to practice. The punk-rock meditation teacher who founded Against the Stream and built the Buddhist recovery program Refuge Recovery wrote this book as an investigation of the heart practices. Noah teaches about compassion, loving-kindness, forgiveness, and more with an intense honesty and authenticity. This book is raw, relatable, and incredibly useful. Noah offers insights, stories, and practices to help us understand what these meditation practices are and how they can be used to help cultivate some peace in our lives.
6. When Things Fall Apart
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron is a curated collection of talks that Pema gave in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This book is beautiful because it specifically addresses using meditation to open the heart during difficult times in our lives. I have returned to this book time and time again, as it is full of wisdom for facing everyday pains and difficulties. Pema Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and one of the most well-respected Buddhist leaders in the modern era. Reading this book on meditation will give you a toolbox of practices and ideas to which you can return for the rest of your life. If you’re struggling with anything like a breakup, anxiety, physical pain, or anything else, this book offers a fantastic introduction into the world of meditation and the heart practices.
7. Radical Acceptance
Tara Brach has many wonderful books and teachings, but Radical Acceptance is hands-down our favorite. Tara Brach has a Ph.D. in psychology and is an established meditation teacher. She is the founding teacher of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and speaks all over the world about meditation and psychology. In Radical Acceptance, Tara investigates meditation practice and how we can use the practice of self-acceptance to transform our experience. This book focuses on meditation and how we can train ourselves to work with our shadow side, addressing issues like trauma, eating disorders, addiction, and some of the heavier pains many of us go through. We strongly recommend reading this book and giving these practices a shot. Using foundational Buddhist teachings and her extensive experience and education, Tara has crafted these practices to address issues we face with a caring and patient wisdom.
8. Buddha’s Brain
Buddha’s Brain is not directly a book about meditation, but it is an incredibly useful book for newcomers to meditation practice. Dr. Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist who utilizes his deep understanding of the human brain to explain how meditation practice can help us in different areas of our lives. Dr. Hanson offers scientific evidence and research to back up his claims, and offers practices outside of formal meditation that we can utilize in daily life to train our minds. This is a great book for those new to meditation who want to understand the science behind practice. By understanding how it all works, we can be more effective in our practice and perhaps have some more faith in the potential for meditation to alter our experience.
9. Awakening the Buddha Within
Awakening the Buddha Within is one of many meditation books by the American Buddhist teacher Lama Surya Das. A strong voice in the movement of Buddhism in the West, Lama Surya Das teaches in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage. This book is full of powerful thoughts, insights, stories, and practices for those new to meditation. The author’s ability to explain ideas through storytelling and examples makes this book an incredible tool to help us understand meditation practice. The book focuses on the cultivation of qualities we already have within us, rather than pulling things in from the outside. Through meditation, ethics, chanting, and other mindfulness practices, Lama Surya Das offers a path to help us cultivate qualities of compassion, kindness, mindfulness, and wisdom
10. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening
Joseph Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening is exactly as it sounds: a guide to practicing mindfulness and awakening. By investigating the Satipatthana, the Buddha’s words on mindfulness, Joseph explains clearly what it means to practice mindfulness meditation. A pioneer of meditation in the United States, Joseph uses his extensive experience and studies of the Buddha’s teachings and words to offer a pragmatic way to understand these ancient teachings and cultivate mindfulness, wisdom, and insight. You’ve probably heard the word mindfulness in your life, and this book can help you to actually understand what it means, how we can cultivate it, and what the experience of mindfulness feels like.
11. The Miracle of Mindfulness
The Miracle of Mindfulness is a book that focuses on cultivating mindfulness in daily life. I have a soft spot in my heart for this book, as it was the first meditation books that I ever read. Thich Nhat Hanh, a master in engaged mindfulness, offers practices, stories, and insights regarding mindfulness in our daily lives. From peeling oranges to doing dishes, the author offers ways we can cultivate awareness and presence in daily activities. This book is a great one for beginners, as we can use it to begin to understand meditation off the cushion and in the real world.