The Best Books On How to Learn Buddhism

The Books I Picked & Why

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

By Thich Nhat Hanh

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering Into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Why this book?

If you’re interested in learning about Buddhism, you don’t want to go the route of Buddhism for Dummies; you want to read the words of true Buddhist masters who are pioneers in the field of making this ancient tradition accessible and relevant to our modern world. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is famous for his peaceful demeanor as well as making Buddhism applicable and meditation easy to grasp and practice. While all of his books are lovely (you can even check out the recent shorter books such as How to Love or How to Fight) this book goes over the foundations of what the Buddha taught so for our purposes it hits the top of the list.


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Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

By Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Why this book?

At the core of Buddhism lies the question: how much are you moving toward your inner peace and awakening and how much are you indulging in your own confusion and suffering? This classic text from the Zen master Suzuki Roshi was written here in the West half a century ago yet is still relevant today because it helps us quickly figure out what it means to be in touch with that sense of awakening by coming into the present moment and accessing the “Zen mind” right here and now.


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The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path

By Chögyam Trungpa

The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path

Why this book?

Moving from the Zen lineages over to another branch of this tradition, Tibetan Buddhism, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was famous for making the esoteric accessible. In this book he covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the four foundations of mindfulness over to advanced Buddhist views around taking vows and maintaining sacred outlook throughout one’s day. Bonus: there’s a section devoted to a number of modern day issues where he offers Buddhist teachings on relationships, art, and money.


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Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

By Sharon Salzberg

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Why this book?

The first Westerner on this list, Sharon Salzberg is an OG student of the Buddhism here in America, having traveled to India back in 1970 and learned from a wide variety of masters before co-founding the Insight Meditation Society. In this classic text she talks about one of the most essential Buddhist concepts: living with an open and awake heart. When we open our heart, love can manifest in a number of ways, including the four immeasurables known as loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These are not just ideas but things we can embody, thanks to the teachings in this book and with that in mind it is full of practices for you to engage with in order to connect to that feeling of boundless love.


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Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

By Pema Chodron

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Why this book?

I vacillated wildly on which of Pema Chödrön’s books to include here, as many of them cover Buddhism in such a way that the teachings are made modern and relevant to whatever readers are going through. This book, for example, covers the ancient lojong, or mind-training, slogans of the Buddhist master Atisha and shows how this very old text has a lot to say about how we can live a life based in mindfulness and compassion. I don’t think you can go wrong by picking up any of her books (or any books written by any of these authors, frankly), but this one fits best for our purposes for a strong introduction to the fundamental teachings of Buddhism.


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