100 books like The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912

By Thomas A. Tweed,

Here are 100 books that The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912 fans have personally recommended if you like The American Encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Imji Getsul: An English Buddhist in a Tibetan Monastery

Laurence Cox Author Of The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk Who Faced Down the British Empire

From my list on Buddhism and the West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a street musician, set up kindergartens, worked in special needs education, and run wood-fired showers in a field for meditation retreats. I’m also associate professor of sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I became a Buddhist partly out of interest in a very different culture and started wondering how Buddhism got from Asia to the West. I think about this through my own experience of teaching meditation, being an activist for 35 years, living in five countries, and learning ten languages: what do you have to do to make an idea come alive in a different culture? 

Laurence's book list on Buddhism and the West

Laurence Cox Why did Laurence love this book?

I find the story in Imji Getsul (“English Novice”) incredibly moving. Lobzang Jivaka (Michael Dillon) was an extraordinary human being: the first trans man to have successful genital surgery and a pioneering (anonymous) writer on the subject. Outed by the British tabloid press, this deeply private man fled to India and became a Buddhist novice. In Ladakh he insisted on overcoming his own privilege as a white gentleman, starting at the bottom of the monastic hierarchy in gruelling physical conditions (which ultimately killed him). This book is an honest, funny, and powerful account of personal change and the meeting between cultures.

By Lobzang Jivaka,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the publisher: "Here is the daily life and routine of a very remote monastery on the Tibetan border. The author was a novice there, speaking the language, experiencing the discomfort and the blows and the beauty of that life. Lobzang Jivaka rejected most of the common values of Western life, to search for truth; and found it in an obscure corner of the world. This is fascinating as a work of travel, and as a religious book of some authority. It is an Englishman's account of life at Rizong Gompa in Ladakh, which he came to love as much…


Book cover of All Is Change: The Two-Thousand-Year Journey of Buddhism to the West

Laurence Cox Author Of The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk Who Faced Down the British Empire

From my list on Buddhism and the West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a street musician, set up kindergartens, worked in special needs education, and run wood-fired showers in a field for meditation retreats. I’m also associate professor of sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I became a Buddhist partly out of interest in a very different culture and started wondering how Buddhism got from Asia to the West. I think about this through my own experience of teaching meditation, being an activist for 35 years, living in five countries, and learning ten languages: what do you have to do to make an idea come alive in a different culture? 

Laurence's book list on Buddhism and the West

Laurence Cox Why did Laurence love this book?

I read this book just before I started writing my own book on Buddhism and Ireland. It’s almost an adventure story: there’s Alexander the Great and Aesop’s Fables, Marco Polo and Theosophist fantasies, Christian missionaries to Asia and Buddhist missionaries to the West, Asian immigrants in America, and British spies in Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and today’s western Buddhists. Sutin tells this whole complicated, rambling yarn in an easy-going and enjoyable way, making the book a real pleasure to read.

By Lawrence Sutin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Is Change as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The modern-day creation of a distinctly Western Buddhism is arguably the most significant spiritual development of our time. Few realize, however, that the complicated dance between Western and Eastern religions has gone on for more than two millennia. ALL IS CHANGE is the definitive account of the two-thousand year transmission of Buddhism to the West. From the early exchanges between the Classical Greeks and the Buddhists of India to the encounters between Buddhist and Christian traders and missionaries in China to the influence of Buddhism on Western philosophers and the current fascination with the Dalai Lama, this is a riveting…


Book cover of Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation

Laurence Cox Author Of The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk Who Faced Down the British Empire

From my list on Buddhism and the West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a street musician, set up kindergartens, worked in special needs education, and run wood-fired showers in a field for meditation retreats. I’m also associate professor of sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I became a Buddhist partly out of interest in a very different culture and started wondering how Buddhism got from Asia to the West. I think about this through my own experience of teaching meditation, being an activist for 35 years, living in five countries, and learning ten languages: what do you have to do to make an idea come alive in a different culture? 

Laurence's book list on Buddhism and the West

Laurence Cox Why did Laurence love this book?

One of the first places I heard about Buddhism was through Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gary Snyder. The joy of reading Kerouac has worn off a bit, but Snyder and Ginsberg have become lifetime companions and real sources of inspiration for me, not least in their engagement with Buddhism. This collection of poems, essays, letters, and other writings brings them together with a much wider range of writers – Diane di Prima and Philip Whalen, Anne Waldman and Kenneth Rexroth, William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti – showing how the best minds of two generations heard, felt and responded to Buddhism in their many different ways. It’s a real treasure-house of words.

By Carole Tonkinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Essays, poems, photographs, and letters explore the link between Buddhism and the Beats--with previously unpublished material from several beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, and Diane diPrima.


Book cover of Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

Laurence Cox Author Of The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk Who Faced Down the British Empire

From my list on Buddhism and the West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a street musician, set up kindergartens, worked in special needs education, and run wood-fired showers in a field for meditation retreats. I’m also associate professor of sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I became a Buddhist partly out of interest in a very different culture and started wondering how Buddhism got from Asia to the West. I think about this through my own experience of teaching meditation, being an activist for 35 years, living in five countries, and learning ten languages: what do you have to do to make an idea come alive in a different culture? 

Laurence's book list on Buddhism and the West

Laurence Cox Why did Laurence love this book?

When my grandparents died they left small presents for their grandchildren, and in a way that many Buddhists would recognise I bought a book about Buddhism – a funny and sad one. Lopez’s book tells the story of how Western fantasies talk over actual Tibetans and their struggles, from what we think we know about the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” to Lobsang Rampa’s spurious The Third Eye, passing through how we talk about Tibetan art and what we say about the mantra “Om mani padme hum”. This is a deeply humane book about how Tibetans are trapped not only by superpower politics and colonialism but also by how they are represented to the West. 

By Donald S. Lopez Jr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Prisoners of Shangri-La as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To the Western imagination, Tibet evokes exoticism, mysticism, and wonder: a fabled land removed from the grinding onslaught of modernity, spiritually endowed with all that the West has lost. Originally published in 1998, Prisoners of Shangri-La provided the first cultural history of the strange encounter between Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Donald Lopez reveals here fanciful misconceptions of Tibetan life and religion. He examines, among much else, the politics of the term "Lamaism," a pejorative synonym for Tibetan Buddhism; the various theosophical, psychedelic, and New Age purposes served by the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead; and the unexpected history…


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 Japanese Temple Buddhism: Worldliness in a Religion of Renunciation

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

Most books on Buddhism emphasise the monastic tradition, meditation and a life of strict morality, removed from the everyday world of ordinary people. Much of Japanese Buddhism, however, is conducted by married priests living modern lives in direct interaction with secular society. This book provides an important antidote to contemporary stereotypes.

By Stephen Covell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japanese Temple Buddhism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There have been many studies that focus on aspects of the history of Japanese Buddhism. Until now, none have addressed important questions of organization and practice in contemporary Buddhism, questions such as how Japanese Buddhism came to be seen as a religion of funeral practices; how Buddhist institutions envision the role of the laity; and how a married clergy has affected life at temples and the image of priests. This volume is the first to address fully contemporary Buddhist life and institutions - topics often overlooked in the conflict between the rhetoric of renunciation and the practices of clerical marriage…


Book cover of Honen the Buddhist Saint: Essential Writings and Official Biography

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

Honen Sangha (1133-1212) revolutionised Japanese Buddhism. Famous in his own time yet exiled near to the end of his life he introduced an approach to practice that embraced ordinary people and appealed to all ranks of society. His mould breaking innovation paved the way for the emergence of the several new schools that still dominate the Buddhist scene in Japan today. and his humanity and warmth of character still inspire.

By Joseph A. Fitzgerald, Harper Havelock Coates, Ryugaku Ishizuka

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Honen the Buddhist Saint as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Priest, saint, and founder of the independent school of Pure Land (Jodo) Buddhism in 12th century Japan, Honen Shonin's importance has been largely unrecognised in the West, even though his legacy includes over twenty million living practitioners of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. "Honen the Buddhist Saint: His Life And Teachings" is the first and only English translation of a biography of this remarkable man. Edited by Joseph A. Fitzgerald, this edition combines illustrations from Japanese religious sites as well as Honen's own words which allow him to speak "from across the ages", to any human being, Buddhist or non-Buddhist,…


Book cover of Tonoharu: Part 1

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

From my list on life in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sam Baldwin spent two years living in Ono, Fukui, a rural area of Japan. For Fukui's Sake is a true account of his adventures. He has written about travel for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent and has contributed to numerous magazines and guidebooks. After returning to his native UK, he relocated to Slovenia where he writes about the adventures of restoring a 300-year-old mountain cabin

Sam's book list on life in Japan

Sam Baldwin Why did Sam love this book?

I recommend this three-part series of graphic novels for their beautiful artwork and painstaking attention to detail. Illustrator Martinson has a superb knack for observing the smallest aspects of the Japanese environment, with every frame bursting with the minutiae of everyday Japan.

The story follows ‘Dan’ a downbeat American, working as an English teacher in Japan who is experiencing severe isolation in his host country. Dan’s attitude to his new life is at the very extreme end of the culture shock spectrum, whereas in my experience, most foreigners embrace life more than he does, and therefore enjoy a more balanced experience. However for the artwork alone, I recommend the three part Tōnoharu series which are truly beautiful works, and make a worthy addition to any Japanophile's library.

By Lars Martinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Daniel Wells begins a new life as an assistant junior high school teacher in the rural Japanese village of Tonoharu. Isolated from those around him by cultural and language barriers, he leads a monastic existence, peppered only by his inept pursuit of the company of a fellow American who lives a couple towns over. But contrary to appearances, Dan isn't the only foreigner to call Tonoharu home. Across town, a group of wealthy European eccentrics are boarding in a one-time Buddhist temple, for reasons that remain obscure to their gossiping neighbors.


Book cover of Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan

Bryan S. Turner Author Of The Body in Asia

From my list on making you wish you lived in Asia.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an undergraduate at the University of Leeds in the 1960s the principal influence on my life and thinking was Trevor Ling an Anglican Priest and Buddhist who eventually became a Professor of comparative religion at the University of Manchester. He was the start of my research on Islam and Asia and my peripatetic career having lived in Scotland, Germany, Holland, America, Australia and Singapore. I became a professor of the sociology of religion in the Asia Research Center at the National University of Singapore. I have published two books on Singapore, a handbook of religions in Asia, and several works on the body, medicine, ageing and human vulnerability.

Bryan's book list on making you wish you lived in Asia

Bryan S. Turner Why did Bryan love this book?

Most of us probably grew up with the idea that above all Buddhism rejects the body to attain spiritualty. It is actually the reverse. This study looks at the idea of the materiality of Buddhist texts (sutras) and the narratives and sermons that accompany them (setsuwa). Both body and book are corruptible , and hence great efforts are made to protect these ancient texts. Eubanks argues that there is an intimate connection between book and body as matter. The human body (especially the brain) is thus a container of Buddhist teaching. Scroll and stupa are critical for protecting this precious wisdom of the Buddha. Body and book are the witnesses to our suffering and impermanence. The stupa may contain the relics of past buddhas (and ash) just as the scroll contains the wisdom of buddha teaching.

By Charlotte Eubanks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Miracles of Book and Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Miracles of Book and Body is the first book to explore the intersection of two key genres of sacred literature in medieval Japan: sutras, or sacred Buddhist texts, and setsuwa, or "explanatory tales," used in sermons and collected in written compilations. For most of East Asia, Buddhist sutras were written in classical Chinese and inaccessible to many devotees. How, then, did such devotees access these texts? Charlotte D. Eubanks argues that the medieval genre of "explanatory tales" illuminates the link between human body (devotee) and sacred text (sutra). Her highly original approach to understanding Buddhist textuality focuses on the sensual…


Book cover of The Monk Who Dared

David Brazier Author Of The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen's Genjo Koan

From my list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

David Brazier ordained as a Buddhist priest in 1976, studied all the major schools of Buddhism, and eventually founded Amida Shu, a Pure Land order, of which he was head from 1996 until retiring in 2020. His close disciples now meet as “Global Sangha”. He holds a doctorate in Buddhist psychology, has initiated socially engaged projects in several countries, and still teaches internationally and online. He is the author of more than a dozen books and many chapters, monographs, and podcasts.

David's book list on the spirit of Japanese Buddhism

David Brazier Why did David love this book?

A gripping work of fiction constructed around the known facts of the life of Shinran, the founder of Shin Buddhism which is today the largest denomination in Japan. The novel reveals a thorough appreciation of the social climate and circumstances while telling the tale of Shinran who - “neither monk nor layman” - carried forward the religious revolution of the Kamakura period.

By Ruth M. Tabrah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Monk Who Dared as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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