In this guide I’ll be sharing with you all the best Zen books for beginners to read in 2019.
Zen has become highly popular in the past 50 years. Today, there are hundreds of books about Zen Buddhism and the Zen mindset. Picking the best Zen book is not an easy feat.
As a meditation teacher and author, I am often reading books about Zen Buddhism. Some suck. Some are okay. And then there are the absolute best Zen books in the world.
This list of Zen books shares all the very best Zen books that I have personally read.
Ready to put your reading glasses on? Then let’s get into the list. And don’t forget to read my own guide to Zen meditation.
The Very Best Zen Books For Beginners To Read In 2019
As well as the books below, I’ve written lists of the best meditation books on specific topics.
Take a look at my lists for:
- Best meditation books
- The Best Chakra Books
- The Best Mantra Books
- The Best Mudra Books
- The Best Mindfulness Books
1. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice (Get it on Amazon)
This is arguably the best book on Zen ever written. It’s only a small book but oh my goodness is it packed full of wisdom and insights.
Published more than 40 years ago, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind has grown to be one of the most highly regarded spiritual books in the world. It is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in learning the philosophy of Zen.
If you are a beginner looking to get into Zen you will learn everything you need to know to get started, including posture and breathing techniques, as well as the most important practices used in Zen.
But what makes this book so exceptional is the clarity with which it is written. Remarkable.
2. The Way of Zen by Alan Watts (get it on Amazon) (Get it on Amazon)
Alan Watts is one of the true masters of Zen interpretation, and oh boy does he show it in this, one of the best Zen books ever written.
In The Way Of Zen, Alan Watts takes us back to basics a he reveals the true interpretation of the philosophy of Zen. He journeys all the way back to the birth of Zen as it arose from the concepts of Hinduism. From there we journey through the development of Zen and onwards to today with the symbolical representation of Zen in Japanese art.
What makes this one of the best Zen books of all time is the way in which Watt’s explains the core concepts of Zen for a Western audience.
As insightful as it is inspiring, this is a must read.
3. Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance (Get it on Amazon)
Yes, this book has the best title of any Zen book ever written. And it also is one of the best Zen books ever written.
In Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert M Pirsig shares the transformational story of a journey across America with his son. The journey becomes a story of personal growth and transformation as Pirsig delves into the most fundamental questions of modern day living. And through it all he answers many of those deepest philosophical questions we all struggle with.
As personal as it is universal, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance is an unforgettable read.
4. The Three Pillars Of Zen (Get it on Amazon)
For those seeking spiritual guidance, let me suggest this: The Three Pillars Of Zen. In it, Roshi Philip Kapleau [founder of Rochester Zen Center, a leading Zen center in the U.S] presents an examination of the three core pillars of Zen Buddhism: teaching, practice and enlightenment.
What makes this one of the best Zen books ever is Kapleau’s ability to merge his personal story in technical teachings on the practice of Zen. As we journey through Kapleaus time from student to master, we are led along our own path of spiritual development. The author’s story serves as inspiration, and the insights serve as guides for our own growth.
Revised to celebrate its 30th anniversary, the current edition features beautiful illustrations and photographs that are really just the icing on the cake.
5. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection Of Zen And Pre-Zen Writings (Get it on Amazon)
Originally published in 1957, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones immediately won the hearts of readers who were just beginning to learn about Zen. Subsequently, Zen Flesh Zen Bones has become one of the most influential books about Zen, inspiring students and teachers alike.
The book presents Zen texts and challenges the readers to make their own interpretations of the core philosophies of Zen Buddhism. Included in this collection are 101 Zen Stories (a collection of real-life stories of Zen teachers across 5 centuries, The Gateless Gate, and Ten Bulls.
6. An Introduction To Zen Buddhism (Get it on Amazon)
D.T Suzuki is one of the biggest names in the world of Zen books, having written more than a hundred books and being read by hundreds of millions of readers. Suzuki is one of the most prominent luminaries in the field, inspiring millions to adopt the Zen lifestyle.
Arguably Suzuki’s finest book on Zen Buddhism is An Introduction To Zen Buddhism (the book is more inspiring than its title).
What makes this one of the best Zen books of all time is that Suzuki makes Zen Buddhism accessible for all. There’s depth and insight for the most ardent Zen Buddhism, and there is clear instruction and advice for newcomers.
This is arguably the number one best Zen book of all time. And is on my favorite gifts for Buddhists who meditate.
And those are the best Zen books for beginners to read in 2019
How many of the books on this list have you read? Which was your favorite? And which will you read next?
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Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book: Your Best Meditation