100 books like Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind

By Maura O'Halloran, Beth O'Halloran (illustrator),

Here are 100 books that Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind fans have personally recommended if you like Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Cave in the Snow

Diana Winston Author Of The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness

From my list on Buddhist stories from lesser-known women authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

There are so many good spiritual books out there that get little attention, especially books by women and women of color. I have been a meditation practitioner for three decades, running a mindfulness center at UCLA, and been teaching and sharing Buddhist and mindfulness teaching for 20+ years. I need my sources of inspiration too! Each of these books forced me to think—and brought new depth to my own meditation practice. I am interested in how the Buddhist and mindfulness teachings, which I love so deeply, can help us build resiliency and weather the challenges of the intersecting, current ecological, political and social crises. These books are a great start.

Diana's book list on Buddhist stories from lesser-known women authors

Diana Winston Why did Diana love this book?

Ok this is a little off-theme, but I was blown away when I first read this book many years ago and needed to put it on my list. It tells the story of an English woman who lived alone in a cave 13,000 feet up in the Himalayas, practicing Buddhist meditation. I lived as a Buddhist nun in Myanmar, but only for a year, while Tenzin Palmo spent twelve years in silence. Her story is harrowing at times, illuminating, deep, and moving. One interesting tidbit—she never lay down (for 12 years!)!

By Vicki MacKenzie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Cave in the Snow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The biography of the Englishwoman who has become a world-renowned spiritual leader and a champion of the right of women to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Following Tenzin Palmo's life from England to India, including her seclusion in a remote cave for 12 years, leading to her decision to found a convent to revive the Togdenma lineage.


Book cover of The Wild, White Goose: The Diary of a Female Zen Priest

Elles Lohuis Author Of A Pilgrim's Heart

From my list on biographies of Western Buddhist women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write novels that enthrall, enrich, and enliven you. I've been student of Buddhism for more than thirty years and spend long periods of time with the most generous Tibetan Buddhist nuns in their monasteries in the remote Himalayas, relishing the solitude and contemplative life. Their tales of resilience are an enormous inspiration to me. The biographies of Western Buddhist women I’ve selected are everything I look for in ‘great writing’. The stories are engaging and entertaining, but also make us pause and reflect to appreciate the astonishing opportunities of the privileged times we live in, and challenge us once again to be and do better—every moment of this precious life.

Elles' book list on biographies of Western Buddhist women

Elles Lohuis Why did Elles love this book?

This is a diary of an English woman who moved to Japan in the 1950s to study Zen at one of the most prestigious temples at the time and become the first female to be sanctioned by the Soto School of Japan to teach in the West. The diary takes us through her years of arduous training in Japan, through the challenges that beset her, and gives a truly moving account of her brilliant mindset throughout her grueling ordeal to become a Zen priest. 

By Roshi P.T.N.H. Jiyu-Kennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wild, White Goose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book, first published as two volumes in 1977 and 1978, was published purely for the purpose of showing how Buddhist training was done by the Reverend Jiyu-Kennett in the Far East. The material for the book was taken from diaries covering eight years spent by the author in Far Eastern temples, and describe her religious training and her growth of a Zen priest into a teacher, running her own temple.


Book cover of I Give You My Life: The Autobiography of a Western Buddhist Nun

Elles Lohuis Author Of A Pilgrim's Heart

From my list on biographies of Western Buddhist women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write novels that enthrall, enrich, and enliven you. I've been student of Buddhism for more than thirty years and spend long periods of time with the most generous Tibetan Buddhist nuns in their monasteries in the remote Himalayas, relishing the solitude and contemplative life. Their tales of resilience are an enormous inspiration to me. The biographies of Western Buddhist women I’ve selected are everything I look for in ‘great writing’. The stories are engaging and entertaining, but also make us pause and reflect to appreciate the astonishing opportunities of the privileged times we live in, and challenge us once again to be and do better—every moment of this precious life.

Elles' book list on biographies of Western Buddhist women

Elles Lohuis Why did Elles love this book?

This is the life story of Ayya Khema (1923-1997), who was the first Western woman to be ordained a Theravadin Buddhist nun. In this book, she recounts her rich and adventurous life. Born in Germany to Jewish parents before WWII, she joined a children's transport group going to England after the Kristal Nacht. After a year she met up with her parents in Shanghai, where the Japanese invasion forced them to give up their lives and live in a ghetto. From there on, her life takes many turns. She marries, has children, travels all over, and eventually steps onto the spiritual path in later life. She ordains as a Buddhist nun, initiates Nun's Island, a Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka, and eventually comes back to Germany to create Buddha Haus. Ven. Ayya Khema writes more ‘from a distance,' and although we do not always get a glimpse into her inner…

By Ayya Khema,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Give You My Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ayya Khema (1923-1997) was the first Western woman to become a Theravadan Buddhist nun. As such, she has served as a model and inspiration for women from all the Buddhist traditions who have sought to revive the practice of women's monasticism in modern times. Though her renown as a teacher is widespread, few know the truly amazing details of her life before her monastic ordination at the age of fifty-eight. And what a life it was. Born Ilse Kussel in Berlin, Germany, she grew up in a prosperous Jewish family that was broken up by Nazi terror in 1938. The…


Book cover of Women of Wisdom

Elles Lohuis Author Of A Pilgrim's Heart

From my list on biographies of Western Buddhist women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write novels that enthrall, enrich, and enliven you. I've been student of Buddhism for more than thirty years and spend long periods of time with the most generous Tibetan Buddhist nuns in their monasteries in the remote Himalayas, relishing the solitude and contemplative life. Their tales of resilience are an enormous inspiration to me. The biographies of Western Buddhist women I’ve selected are everything I look for in ‘great writing’. The stories are engaging and entertaining, but also make us pause and reflect to appreciate the astonishing opportunities of the privileged times we live in, and challenge us once again to be and do better—every moment of this precious life.

Elles' book list on biographies of Western Buddhist women

Elles Lohuis Why did Elles love this book?

This book is a wonderful collection of the lives of six Tibetan female mystics, brought together by the American Lama Tsultrim Allione, the emanation of the renowned 11th-century Tibetan yogini, Machig Labdrön, and one of the few women Lamas in the world today. The book includes an extensive autobiographical preface and introduction in which Lama Tultrum Allione shares her own story and experience of the difficulties and triumphs of women in Tibetan Buddhism, and of women pursuing a spiritual life in the West with candid honesty. The stories of these remarkable women's pasts and brought together in this book offer a wealth of insight and encouragement for both women and men who aspire to a spiritual life in the face of adversity.

By Tsultrim Allione,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women of Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A “fascinating and inspiring” celebration of women’s spirituality and the female mystics of Tibetan Buddhism—now featuring an updated and expanded author autobiography (San Francisco Chronicle)
 
Women of Wisdom explores and celebrates the spiritual potential of all women, as exemplified by the lives of six Tibetan female mystics. These stories of great women who have achieved full illumination—overcoming cultural prejudices and a host of other problems which male practitioners do not encounter—offer a wealth of inspiration to everyone on the spiritual path.

In this revised and expanded edition, Tsultrim Allione’s extensive autobiographical preface and introduction speak directly to the difficulties and…


Book cover of Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America

Teena Raffa-Mulligan Author Of Just Write: An easy guide to story writing

From my list on books that helped shape me as a writer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t remember a time in my life without stories in it. I grew up in an English/Italian family where everyone’s tales about their lives captured my imagination. Books also opened a window into the wonderful world of stories and my ambition to be a writer was born. I decided to write for children in 1971 after our son was born. Ten years of rejections later, my author dream came true and my first picture book was published. It was a stranger danger story that attracted some publicity, which led to invitations to speak at schools. Inspiring children to go on their own story writing adventure has become one of my greatest joys.

Teena's book list on books that helped shape me as a writer

Teena Raffa-Mulligan Why did Teena love this book?

Natalie Goldberg is an internationally acclaimed teacher of writing and Zen practice and her autobiography Long Quiet Highway resonated deeply with me. I’ve considered myself a spiritual seeker since the age of 13 and knew from much earlier that writing is an intrinsic part of my creative expression. Yet I had never considered these two important aspects of my life together. After I read this book, my workshop presentations for adults took a different direction where I was no longer teaching what I knew but sharing a learning experience together. 

By Natalie Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Long Quiet Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A moving memoir of a journey of self-discovery through Zen Buddhism
In this autobiographical work, Natalie Goldberg takes us on a journey from her suburban childhood to her maturation as a writer. From the high-school classroom where she first listened to the rain, to her fifteen years as a student of Zen Buddhism, Natalie Goldberg’s path is by turns illuminating, disciplined, heartbreaking, hilarious, and healing. Along the way she reflects on her life and work in prose that is both elegant and precise, reminding the reader of what it means to be fully alive. This ebook features an illustrated biography…


Book cover of Novice to Master: An Ongoing Lesson in the Extent of My Own Stupidity

Henry Shukman Author Of Original Love: The Four Inns on the Path of Awakening

From my list on inspiring your spiritual path.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got on the trail of awakening, without knowing it, at the age of 14, when I started reading the early Zen poets of 8th century China. They inspired me to start sleeping rough in the countryside where I grew up, around Oxford, UK, and to write scraps of poetry myself, which I traded with an aspiring poet friend. Then, despite a savage skin condition that dogged me from infancy, I had a spontaneous awakening at the age of 19, followed soon after by a minor but miserable nervous breakdown, which led to a slow path of healing through meditation and therapy while gradually developing a career as a poet and author.

Henry's book list on inspiring your spiritual path

Henry Shukman Why did Henry love this book?

I go back to this again and again. Morinaga’s hilarious and frank take on his blundering attempts to stumble into Zen is irresistible.

The way he tracks his own arrogance, stubbornness, and misunderstandings as he tries to stand up to his austere master, by turns humiliated and scolded, then drinking up any faint praise, and just occasionally starting to open to the down-to-earth, kind but stern guidance his teacher is actually offering—all make for a book I love again and again, and don’t want to put down any time I pick it up. (I use it in Zen teaching frequently.)  And how he finally enters a deep, enlightened friendship with his master still moves me every time. It’s a timeless gem for me.

Novice to Master

By Soko Morinaga Roshi, Belenda Attaway Yamakawa (translator),

What is this book about?

Everybody loves Novice to Master! As you'll see in the glowing endorsements and reviews included below, this modern spiritual classic has been embraced by readers of all types.

In his singularly humorous and biitingly direct way, Zen abbot Soko Morinaga tells the story of his rigorous training at a Japanese Zen temple, his spiritual growth and his interactions with his students and others. Morinaga's voice is uniquely tuned to the truth of the condition of the human mind and spirit and his reflections and interpretations are unvarnished and succinct. His great gift is the ability to lift the spirit of…


Book cover of Zen Therapy: Transcending the Sorrows of the Human Mind

Alvin Raja Hornstein Author Of Working With the Dying: Compassion, Shame, and the Illusion of Loss

From my list on how psychotherapy and meditation work together.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a meditator for fifty years, learning from many teachers. I've been a psychotherapist for twenty years. The connections between meditation and psychotherapy are subtle and powerful. When I started my psychology studies, I went to my Zen teacher and asked for his guidance. I knew I couldn't survive the academic path without more depth in my meditation practice. There were two professors who captured my attention: one, the most psychoanalytic teacher at my school, and one, a student of the same Zen master who taught Leonard Cohen. They guided my research. If you're a psychotherapist, are in psychotherapy yourself, or are a meditator, you will love these books.

Alvin's book list on how psychotherapy and meditation work together

Alvin Raja Hornstein Why did Alvin love this book?

Brazier begins with his own experience of Zen training, and then continues on to a survey of Buddhist ideas and how each of them relates to the practice of psychotherapy. For example he takes the profound and mysterious concept of karma and then shows us how this is related to the process of helping a patient understand their repetitive psychological patterns. He addresses the topic that was central to my own path of merging psychotherapy and meditation: how loss and death are teachers. He explains the main lesson they teach: what is lost is our illusion of how the world is put together.

By David Brazier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zen Therapy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Buddhism, from Abhidharma to Zen, offers a practical path to harmony of head and heart. For over 2,000 years Buddhists have been developing sophisticated psychologies to guide the work of achieving freedom from mental suffering. Now East and West are beginning to learn from each other.

In a readable and practical manner, this book challenges basic assumptions of Western psychology, demystifies Buddhist psychology and presents Zen as a therapy. Giving examples of its effectiveness in psychotherapeutic practice, the author shows how Zen derives from the Buddhist theory of the mind and throws new light upon the Buddhist theory of relations…


Book cover of A Bigger Sky: Awakening a Fierce Feminine Buddhism

Diana Winston Author Of The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness

From my list on Buddhist stories from lesser-known women authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

There are so many good spiritual books out there that get little attention, especially books by women and women of color. I have been a meditation practitioner for three decades, running a mindfulness center at UCLA, and been teaching and sharing Buddhist and mindfulness teaching for 20+ years. I need my sources of inspiration too! Each of these books forced me to think—and brought new depth to my own meditation practice. I am interested in how the Buddhist and mindfulness teachings, which I love so deeply, can help us build resiliency and weather the challenges of the intersecting, current ecological, political and social crises. These books are a great start.

Diana's book list on Buddhist stories from lesser-known women authors

Diana Winston Why did Diana love this book?

This book tells the story of Pamela’s spiritual journey into Zen and other meditative practices. It’s a memoir laden with spiritual stories, a fight against patriarchal norms, and her take on contemporary issues. She offers a feminist critique of aspects of Buddhism while sharing her hard-won wisdom. Her writing is beautiful and thought-provoking.

By Pamela Weiss,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Bigger Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reimagining Buddhism through a feminine lens: A powerful memoir of healing, strength, and spiritual awakening.

Written by the first and only layperson to receive full dharma transmission in the Suzuki Roshi Soto Zen lineage, A Bigger Sky explores what it means to traverse the gaps of a Buddhism created by and for men, navigate the seemingly contradictory domains of secular and spiritual life, and walk a path through the heart of the world. Blending memoir, Buddhist practice, and cultural observation, Weiss reorients Buddhism through a wider and more inclusive feminine lens. Her personal and spiritual journey speaks to the bits…


Book cover of Jewish Meditation Practices for Everyday Life: Awakening Your Heart, Connecting with God

Brenda Shoshanna Author Of Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen

From my list on Zen and Judaism.

Why am I passionate about this?

A lifelong practitioner and teacher of both Zen and Judaism, I am also a psychologist, who has constantly grappled with human needs, suffering, and the craving for meaning. The focus of my life has been to integrate the profound teachings of East and West and provide ways of making these teachings real in our everyday lives. An award-winning author, I have published many books on Zen and psychology, and have been the playwright in residence at the Jewish Repertory Theater in NY. Presently, I offer two weekly podcasts, Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, and One Minute Mitzvahs. I also provide ongoing Zen talks both for Morningstar Zen and Inisfada Zen, workshops, and other talks for the community.

Brenda's book list on Zen and Judaism

Brenda Shoshanna Why did Brenda love this book?

This approach to meditation includes the wisdom of Buddhism and Judaism as a way to learn from life experience. By combining these two traditions, Rabbi Roth presents a model that allows westerners―both Jews and non-Jews―to embrace timeless Eastern teachings and integrate them with Jewish practice as well.

By Rabbi Jeff Roth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jewish Meditation Practices for Everyday Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Awaken your heart and mind to see your own capacity for wisdom, compassion and kindness.

"When we awaken to our own light, it becomes possible to develop real wisdom about our life. As wisdom allows us to see clearly, our hearts break open with compassion for the struggles of our own lives and the lives of all beings. Awakened with wisdom and compassion, we are impelled to live our lives with kindness, and we are led to do whatever we can to repair the brokenness of our world."
—from the Introduction

At last, a fresh take on meditation that draws…


Book cover of Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Lynda Allen Author Of Grace Reflected

From my list on life-changing world-rocking books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I think of myself as a listener and life in progress. As a poet and author, I’m always listening to the words that move through my heart. I’m also a spiritual seeker, always looking for the Divine in the world around me and almost always surprised by the ways it shows up when I’m paying attention. Yet, there’s another part of me that is a Jersey girl through and through, looking for humor or irreverence in the face of life’s challenges. All these aspects come together in an unusual harmony, creating an openness to being changed by the things that come into my life. Hence, a list of life-changing books.

Lynda's book list on life-changing world-rocking books

Lynda Allen Why did Lynda love this book?

It spoke to my heart. It opened up a world of spirit and intuition, of love and grace that I had never connected with before. Discovering this book was like discovering a new and deep friendship.

The book read like poetry. It provided inspiration in my life at a time when I was new to spiritual seeking. I was so inspired by its words and insight that I typed up pages of quotes I wanted to remember. It felt as if it spoke to a wisdom deep within me and called it to awaken.

I’ve gone on to love other books written by John O’Donohue, but Anam Cara will always be my favorite.    

By John O'Donohue,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Anam Cara as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Anam Cara is a rare synthesis of philosophy, poetry, and spirituality. This work will have a powerful and life-transforming experience for those who read it." —Deepak Chopra

John O'Donohue, poet, philosopher, and scholar, guides you through the spiritual landscape of the Irish imagination. In Anam Cara, Gaelic for "soul friend," the ancient teachings, stories, and blessings of Celtic wisdom provide such profound insights on the universal themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death as:

Light is generous The human heart is never completely born Love as ancient recognition The body is the angel of the soul Solitude is luminous Beauty…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in spirituality, Ireland, and zen?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about spirituality, Ireland, and zen.

Spirituality Explore 296 books about spirituality
Ireland Explore 289 books about Ireland
Zen Explore 88 books about zen