10 books like The Hardest Path

By Matt Jardine,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Hardest Path. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

When Buddhists Attack

By Jeffrey K. Mann,

Book cover of When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts

Geoffrey Mann does a great job of laying out the history of Buddhism and Zen and its links to the martial arts. Thoroughly researched and widely referenced, it’s definitely the place to start, and the hardback edition makes a handsome addition to any martial arts library.

When Buddhists Attack

By Jeffrey K. Mann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Uncover the historical truth about Buddhist warrior monks with this informative and enlightening book.

Film, television and popular fiction have long exploited the image of the serene Buddhist monk who is master of the deadly craft of hand-to-hand combat. While these media overly romanticize the relationship between a philosophy of non-violence and the art of fighting, When Buddhists Attack: The Curious Relationship Between Zen and the Martial Arts shows this link to be nevertheless real, even natural.

Exploring the origins of Buddhism and the ethos of the Japanese samurai, university professor and martial arts practitioner Jeffrey Mann traces the close…


The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

By Red Pine, Bodhidharma,

Book cover of The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

A succinct insight into the Bodhidharma legend and some of the sutras he may have written or taught. Nothing much about martial arts, but a good insight into the man, and more importantly the thinking behind the study of the Way.

The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

By Red Pine, Bodhidharma,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fifth-century Indian Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma is credited with bringing Zen to China. Although the tradition that traces its ancestry back to him did not flourish until nearly two hundred years after his death, today millions of Zen Buddhists and students of kung fu claim him as their spiritual father.

While others viewed Zen practice as a purification of the mind or a stage on the way to perfect enlightenment, Bodhidharma equated Zen with buddhahood and believed that it had a place in everyday life. Instead of telling his disciples to purify their minds, he pointed them to rock walls,…


Buddhism Plain and Simple

By Steve Hagen,

Book cover of Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware Right Now, Every Day

This was the first book I ever read that changed my life. It came along at a time when I felt I was missing something. I didn’t know a lot about Buddhism at the time, and therefore didn’t recognize that what I was feeling was a universal phenomenon and that the Noble Eightfold Path was a secular template for contentment. I have read many other Buddhist books since then, but none of them have spoken to me like this one did. I have a notebook that contains entire passages of Buddhism Plain and Simple, and regularly refer back to those passages today.

Buddhism Plain and Simple

By Steve Hagen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Buddhism Plain and Simple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This is the clearest and most precise exposition of Buddhism I have ever read. If you're looking for enlightenment rather than just scholarly knowledge, you'd better read this."
-Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In Buddhism Plain and Simple, Zen priest and longtime teacher Steve Hagen presents the heart of Buddhist teachings, pared down to its essence and explained in simple, everyday language. This best-selling book is the perfect guide to Buddhism for beginners; the text has served international readers at all levels of study and practice since it was originally published over a decade…


Hardcore Zen

By Brad Warner,

Book cover of Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality

Brad Warner is an interesting character, an American Zen master who’s also a punk guitarist and Godzilla fan. Brad studied with Gudo Nishijima Roshi for many years and received Dharma transmission from him. His books are written in a very accessible way that doesn’t take Zen too seriously and get their meaning across all the better for it. Below are the three books I’ve read – I imagine the rest are equally good:

Hardcore Zen

By Brad Warner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zen, plain and simple, with no BS.
 

This is not your typical Zen book. Brad Warner, a young punk who grew up to be a Zen master, spares no one. This bold new approach to the "Why?" of Zen Buddhism is as strongly grounded in the tradition of Zen as it is utterly revolutionary. Warner's voice is hilarious, and he calls on the wisdom of everyone from punk and pop culture icons to the Buddha himself to make sure his points come through loud and clear. As it prods readers to question everything, Hardcore Zen is both an approach and…


Japanese Pilgrimage

By Oliver Statler,

Book cover of Japanese Pilgrimage

After walking the length of Japan, I still wasn’t satisfied. I still needed to find more of ‘the real Japan’. Shikoku was the natural next step, and Statler enthralled me with the story of his personal search for enlightenment on the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku pilgrimage. Not only that, his book tells you how to undertake the pilgrimage in a traditional manner, delving into its history and ‘pilgrimage culture’. This book is entertaining, enlightening, and extremely inspiring – so much so, that after reading this, you might be heading off to Japan and Shikoku on your own search for enlightenment.    

Japanese Pilgrimage

By Oliver Statler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Japanese Pilgramage' is Oliver Statler's account of walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a thousand-mile trek around the fourth largest island in Japan following the path of an ancient Buddhist master. It is a fascinating story of a spiritual journey that shows the many sides of Japan.


Words and Rules

By Steven Pinker,

Book cover of Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language

I’ve always loved observing children as they learn to speak. But I never understood what a triumph that is until I read Stephen Pinker’s book. He explores a huge range of topics, including what we can learn from the mistakes children make, how languages develop, brain imaging, major ideas in philosophy, computer speech simulation, Noam Chomsky’s ideas about linguistics, and genetic research. And he does all that by focusing on regular and irregular verbs. Sounds dull? Think again. It’s a fascinating book.

Words and Rules

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How does language work? How do children learn their mother tongue? Why do languages change over time, making Shakespearean English difficult for us and Chaucer's English almost incomprehensible? Why do languages have so many quirks and irregularities? Are they all fundamentally alike? How are new words created? Where in the brain does language reside?In Words and Rules , Steven Pinker answers these and many other questions. His book shares the wit and style of his classic, The Language Instinct , but explores language in a completely different way. In Words and Rules , Pinker explains the profound mysteries of language…


The Dream of Reason

By Anthony Gottlieb,

Book cover of The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance

While critical thinking is not synonymous with philosophy, philosophical principles like logic and epistemology play a huge role in thinking systematically and productively. If you’re interested in how these new and revolutionary ways of thinking were born, I highly recommend this 2003 tour of the history of early Western philosophy, from Ancient Greece through the Medieval Age, by former Executive Editor of the Economist Anthony Gottlieb. If that book leaves you hungry for more, Gottlieb’s second title the series, The Dream of Enlightenment, continues the story of Western philosophy through the start of the modern era.  

The Dream of Reason

By Anthony Gottlieb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Already a classic, this landmark study of early Western thought now appears in a new edition with expanded coverage of the Middle Ages. This landmark study of Western thought takes a fresh look at the writings of the great thinkers of classic philosophy and questions many pieces of conventional wisdom. The book invites comparison with Bertrand Russell's monumental History of Western Philosophy, "but Gottlieb's book is less idiosyncratic and based on more recent scholarship" (Colin McGinn, Los Angeles Times). A New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Best Book, and a Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2001.


The Story of Philosophy

By Bryan Magee,

Book cover of The Story of Philosophy

Magee’s splendid introductory book is my go-to recommendation for those who wish to enter the world of philosophical ideas. Yes, it’s old-school in the sense that it can be annoyingly androcentric and Eurocentric. A supplement like Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting’s remarkable Philosopher Queens or Julian Baggini’s volume below should be read in tandem. Having said that, however, no one else pulls together the history of western philosophy with terse, informative, and fascinating accounts of important figures and schools as well as Magee. Plus, Magee’s text luxuriates amidst the lush, generous, and illuminating visuals that make Dorling Kindersley volumes so voluptuous. 

The Story of Philosophy

By Bryan Magee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explore 2,500 years of Western philosophy, from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers, with this ultimate guide's stunning and simple approach to some of history's biggest ideas.

This essential guide to philosophy includes thoughts on our modern society, exploring science and democracy, and posing the question: where do we go from here?

Easy-to-understand text is accompanied by works of art and artifacts from history, as the big ideas and important thinkers are introduced through time. Famous quotes are highlighted, and the sidebars discuss other ideas or key works to include extra context around the theories and people.

Celebrate the world's…


On Garbage

By John Scanlan,

Book cover of On Garbage

Sh*t happens (bad relationships, business failures, burnt toast). That’s OK, says Scanlan, because making garbage is an essential part of any activity. In fact, you can’t get anywhere, or achieve any kind of personal or intellectual growth, without some detritus. To me, this explains why humans make so much trash of the kind that I’ve spent my life digging up in archaeological sites. And it makes me feel quite OK about spending a day writing stuff that might go straight into the shredder tomorrow…

On Garbage

By John Scanlan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first work to examine the detritus of our culture in its full range; garbage in this sense is not only material waste and ruin, environmental degradation and so on, but also residual or 'broken' knowledge, useless concepts, the remainders of systems of intellectual and cultural thought. In this unique and original work (a kind of intellectual scavenging in its own right) the author shows why garbage is, perversely, the source of all that is valuable. The author considers how Western philosophy, science and technology attained mastery over nature through what can be seen as a prolonged act…


A History of Western Philosophy

By Bertrand Russell,

Book cover of A History of Western Philosophy

Whatever those deep questions are that you have, somebody’s already thought about them, and this masterwork of a book will show you that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re thinking and feeling the same way women and men did a couple thousand years ago – and some very wise individuals have thought through what you’re thinking through. This book will change your life and your mind. You have to be patient, but it’s worth it. Read three pages (no more) a day, every day. Plan on sticking with this for more than a year, then do so. Use a highlighter for a bookmark. It changed me. It’ll change you, too.

A History of Western Philosophy

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of Western Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1946, History of Western Philosophy went on to become the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century. A dazzlingly ambitious project, it remains unchallenged to this day as the ultimate introduction to Western philosophy. Providing a sophisticated overview of the ideas that have perplexed people from time immemorial, it is 'long on wit, intelligence and curmudgeonly scepticism', as the New York Times noted, and it is this, coupled with the sheer brilliance of its scholarship, that has made Russell's History of Western Philosophy one of the most important philosophical works of all time.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in western philosophy, zen, and martial arts?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about western philosophy, zen, and martial arts.

Western Philosophy Explore 20 books about western philosophy
Zen Explore 70 books about zen
Martial Arts Explore 14 books about martial arts