The Best Books Introducing Buddhism To Western Readers

The Books I Picked & Why

Mindfulness in Plain English

By Henepola Gunaratana

Mindfulness in Plain English

Why this book?

Too many books purporting to explain basic Buddhist teachings to the uninitiated quickly bog down in jargon and philosophy, but Bhante Gunaratana, a Sri Lankan monk living and teaching in West Virginia, offers clear, practical, but authentic interpretations that are fully accessible and inspirational. Mindfulness in Plain English is a classic modern text, essential for anyone wanting to understand the simple truth of mindfulness practice.


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Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

By Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Why this book?

Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh removes all the mystery from basic Buddhist practices of breathing and mindfulness and shows us how our everyday activities, such as walking, talking with friends, even washing the dishes, can be moments of spiritual awakening. His gentle approach has earned him hundreds of thousands of followers and his wisdom is boundless. This book is a great start, but Nhat Hanh, a peace activist, teacher, and community leader, has written many more, and all of them are brilliant and inspirational.


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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

By Pema Chodron

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Why this book?

Appreciating the beauty around us and feeling calm inside can seem easy when all goes well in our lives, but Pema Chödrön's When Things Fall Apart offers insight into how the basic Buddhist teaching can be essential lifelines during the most difficult times. Chödrön demonstrates with ease and compassion how our anxiety and fear can be turned into opportunities for growth, and she offers, most of all, hope for those who feel that their lives are “falling apart.” Even Oprah is a fan.


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Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

By Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

Why this book?

A stress reduction expert with a PhD in molecular biology, Kabat-Zinn shows us the science behind meditation and mindfulness by examining how the human brain reacts to stress and how breathing can alter unconscious patterns and involuntary reactions. Kabat-Zinn’s work has transformed the teaching of mindfulness not just in medicine and psychology, but in prisons, professional sports, the corporate world, and in schools. If you want to know how it all works and why, this is the book for you.


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Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

By Sharon Salzberg

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Why this book?

Sharon Salzberg understands that “the love we give” is every bit as important as the love we receive, and Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness is an excellent introduction to her teachings. This guidebook for those seeking ”radiant joy” amidst the stress of modern life offers readers the path toward loving ourselves first so as to love others better.


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