The best books for those interested in Zen Buddhism

David Reich Chadwick Author Of Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki
By David Reich Chadwick

Who am I?

I got involved in Zen Buddhism in 1966 because Shunryu Suzuki was a Zen Buddhist and the San Francisco Zen Center which he founded was where I went to meditate with others free of any heavy trips, not pushing a rigid belief system, just learning to include stillness and silence in our lives so that we can feel and hear what the cosmos has to say to us. 


I wrote...

Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

By David Reich Chadwick,

Book cover of Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki

What is my book about?

Shunryu Suzuki is known to countless readers as the author of the modern spiritual classic Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. This most influential teacher comes vividly to life in Crooked Cucumber, the first full biography of any Zen master to be published in the West. To make up his intimate and engrossing narrative, David Chadwick draws on Suzuki's own words and the memories of his students, friends, and family. Interspersed with previously unpublished passages from Suzuki's talks, Crooked Cucumber evokes a down-to-earth life of the spirit. Along with Suzuki we can find a way to "practice with mountains, trees, and stones and to find ourselves in this big world."

The books I picked & why

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The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master

By Peter Levitt, Kazuaki Tanahashi,

Book cover of The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master

Why this book?

Dogen is one of the great original minds from all of Japanese history and human history. This book contains an ocean of Dogen’s profound writing. One can return time after time to delve into new layers of wisdom. 


The Heart Sutra

By Red Pine,

Book cover of The Heart Sutra

Why this book?

Red Pine’s in-depth translation of and commentary on the heart of the Prajna Paramita Sutras, of the wisdom that has gone beyond, of the heart of Mahayana Buddhism, and brings this ancient text, chanted daily by Zen monks and lay followers, skillfully into our hearts.


Just This Is It: Dongshan and the Practice of Suchness

By Taigen Dan Leighton,

Book cover of Just This Is It: Dongshan and the Practice of Suchness

Why this book?

Penetrating into the original Chinese texts, Leighton brings us close to the incomprehensible teaching of suchness, also called thusness, a positive approach to emptiness. Buddha is the Tathagata, the thus come. Suchness reminds us that the world, our lives, and emptiness are identical.


Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings

By Andy Ferguson,

Book cover of Zen's Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings

Why this book?

A virtual encyclopedia of great Zen stories translated by Ferguson that takes the reader through twenty-five generations of Chinese Zen ancestors with commentary that paints a rich picture of the background. 


Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey

By David Schneider,

Book cover of Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey

Why this book?

Tommy Issan Dorsey was a beloved Zen priest who founded the Hartford Street Zen Center in the Castro section of San Francisco, the heart of the Bay Area gay community. This book shows Zen practice that is for anyone interested, rooted in compassion. The lotus blooms in muddy water.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in zen, Buddhism, and gay men?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about zen, Buddhism, and gay men.

Zen Explore 62 books about zen
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Gay Men Explore 37 books about gay men

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Way of Zen, The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics, and Nothing Special if you like this list.