The best books for the rest of us to absorb Buddhist essence

Who am I?

I became Buddhist while I was working in Southeast Asia, in Thailand specifically. Here’s one of the great lessons I learned, or perhaps it’s merely a koan, and that is this, no true Buddhist is Buddhist. It’s my own saying and one that I live by because Zen, Tibetan or Theravada are all structured disciplines with ritual and even recognized leaders. And I think the Buddha would laugh one of his full bellied roars to learn that there were, in some cases, global organizations all named in his honor. That’s not to make light of the way of organized Buddhism, merely to say that it isn’t my way.

I wrote...

Book cover of The Power of Awareness: And Other Secrets from the World's Foremost Spies, Detectives, and Special Operators on How to Stay Safe and Save Your Life

What is my book about?

A spy is suddenly aware she's being stalked through the streets of an overseas city. A special ops soldier intuitively recognizes something's "off" during a high-risk mission. In these life-threatening situations, experts know exactly how to use their senses and what actions to take. The Power of Awareness will make sure you will, too.

In his empowering book, Dan Schilling shares how to identify and avoid threats using situational awareness and intuition just like the pros. Told with wit and wisdom, this compelling guide uses harrowing stories from Dan's special operations career and those of other experts to outline six easily implemented rules you can apply anywhere to improve your personal safety. By the last page you'll know that your own Power of Awareness can save your life.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Why did I love this book?

This book saved my life. That’s no exaggeration. When I was at my darkest, struggling with things I’d done in the military and in a destructive relationship with no perceived way out, Eckhart’s nondiscipline-specific approach to non-suffering (the essence of Buddhist philosophy) reached down and pulled me up from a black well of despair. I would not be here but for this amazing guide. My own book is titled partially in homage to his.

By Eckhart Tolle,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Power of Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The international bestselling spiritual book, now with a new look for its 20th anniversary. Eckhart Tolle demonstrates how to live a healthier, happier, mindful life by living in the present moment.


'I keep Eckhart's book at my bedside. I think it's essential spiritual teaching. It's one of the most valuable books I've ever read.' Oprah Winfrey

To make the journey into The Power of Now we will need to leave our analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind. Although the journey is challenging, Eckhart…

Book cover of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Why did I love this book?

Rinpoche’s tome on life and, most importantly for those of us in the western hemisphere, death is the essential classic. It transformed my relationship with death into the positive acceptance I now embrace. This isn’t merely theoretical, it served as a guide when I helped my own father pass away. Biggest takeaway: consider and explore death when you’re in a good place, not while in the process of losing someone you love or your own demise.

By Sogyal Rinpoche,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explains the Tibetan understanding of what happens when a person dies, and how this can help in a person's daily life, in caring for the terminally ill and the bereaved, and to deepen one's understanding of life.

What the Buddha Taught

By Walpola Rahula,

Book cover of What the Buddha Taught

Why did I love this book?

Looking for the vehicle to understand Siddhartha Gautama’s journey to enlightenment and teachings but worried you’ll never remember the four noble truths or eight-fold path? Search no more, my friends. Of all the books on Buddhism ever written this simple and compact distillation delivers what Siddhartha (the Buddha) taught which is really nothing more complex than, “You must figure it out for yourself, but here’s how I did it.”

By Walpola Rahula,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What the Buddha Taught as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This clear and informative guide draws on the words spoken by the Buddha to convey the true nature of Buddhist wisdom. It also features an illustrative section of texts from the Suttas and the Dhammapada, a glossary of Buddhist terms and an up-to-date bibliography.

Book cover of The Essential David Bohm

Why did I love this book?

I first encountered the philosophy of physicist Bohm in another book by the philosopher Renée Weber (Dialogues with Scientists and Sages) in which she, the Dalai Lama, and Bohm (among others) explore, well, everything. But Bohm’s own exploration blends Buddhist concepts with physics. One of the many reasons I am Buddhist myself is its architecture and allowance for new concepts including physics theory and the reality of light itself. His implicate order for the universe explains more about its reality than accepted current theory. I’m no physicist nor towering intellectual, but I am following the Buddha’s advice to figure it out for myself. This book helped immensely. Sadly his work is overlooked by the scientific community.

By Lee Nichol,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Essential David Bohm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There are few scientists of the twentieth century whose life's work has created more excitement and controversy than that of physicist David Bohm (1917-1992). For the first time in a single volume, The Essential David Bohm offers a comprehensive overview of Bohm's original works from a non-technical perspective. Including three chapters of previously unpublished material, each reading has been selected to highlight some aspect of the implicate order process, and to provide an introduction to one of the most provocative thinkers of our time.

Book cover of Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Why did I love this book?

One of the greatest books for finding liberation through seeing the universe and reality for what they are, merely our own perceptions. How we choose to do that determines whether we’re happy or not. To quote the character Chiang who vanishes and then returns in an instant by way of demonstrating to Jonathan that any number (including speed) is merely a limit, “It’s kind of fun.” While not a Buddhist book per se, it is one of the most timeless guides one can find. And it’s kind of fun.

By Richard Bach,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Jonathan Livingston Seagull as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic work is now available for the first time in paperback. Since 1951, when the last of the Witchcraft Acts was repealed, many books have been written about the reappearance of witchcraft and the development of a pagan theology. Churchmen have denounced it. Sociologists have wondered at it. Journalists have penned sensational stories about it. But until the publication of this book, no one had told the real story of it from the inside as frankly as it is told here.

Doreen Valiente, one of witchcraft's most widely known figures, was a close friend of the late Gerald Gardner,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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