100 books like Women of Wisdom

By Tsultrim Allione,

Here are 100 books that Women of Wisdom fans have personally recommended if you like Women of Wisdom. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ 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 Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Life and Letters of an Irish Zen Saint

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?

I read this book when it first came out in 1995 and have kept a copy of it for all those years, re-reading it again and again. This book is the journal and letters of Maura O'Halloran, a young Irish-American who went to Japan and joined a Zen Buddhist temple for monks at a time (the early 1980s) when few western women were admitted to such extremely arduous training. It tells of her three years in the temple in a heart-warming, honest way, with an abundance of humor. This book gives a brilliant look into life in a Zen temple, and Maura’s detailed observations and humble descriptions of her breakthroughs are a heartfelt reminder that no matter where we are on our spiritual path, we're human and there’s always hope.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most beloved Buddhist books of all time-having inspired popular musicians, artists, a documentary film, and countless readers-is now in an expanded, new edition, loaded with extras. Absolutely absorbing from start to finish, this is a true story you might truly fall in love with.

At only 24, Maura O'Halloran left her Irish-American family stateside and traveled to Japan, where she began studying under an inscrutable Zen master. She would herself become recognized as a Zen master-in an uncommonly brief amount of time. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind is Maura's beautifully-written account of her journey. These journal entries and…


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 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 Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition

Lorne Ladner Author Of The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology

From my list on biographies within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a clinical psychologist who also writes about and teaches Buddhist philosophy, psychology, and meditation. I've had the great good fortune to be closely mentored by a number of elder Tibetan teachers who were educated in old Tibet.  Over the decades, when seeking wisdom and compassion in the midst of life's challenges, I've repeatedly found inspiration, education, solace, and guidance along my own path in the enlightened and enlightening life stories of a number of the great scholar/yogis of the Himalayan Buddhist traditions. 

Lorne's book list on biographies within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

Lorne Ladner Why did Lorne love this book?

This book does a remarkable job of exploring the nature of spiritual biography itself. It compares and contrasts Western hagiographical traditions with the unique ways that Tibetans (and other Central Asians) use outer, inner, and secret biographies not only to share the stories of great Buddhist masters but also to share history, inspiration, and implicit teachings to apply to one's own practice of the path. Willis explores these themes in complex ways and also provides translations of the life stories of 6 Tibetan lamas of the Ganden tradition who combined profound scholarly and deep yogic pursuits in unique ways.

By Jan Willis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Here, for the first time in any Western language, are the sacred biographies of six great tantric meditators from the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. These life stories - or namtar - are actually tales of liberation. Part of a distinct tradition in Tibetan Buddhism, they are meant not only to inspire but also to instruct others on the path to enlightenment.

In Professor Willis's introduction and detailed annotations, you'll gain a wealth of information about how to read and interpret namtar texts, as well as some valuable insights into the religious and political worlds in which these early Tibetan…


Book cover of The Heart of the Buddha: Entering the Tibetan Buddhist Path

Lodro Rinzler Author Of Take Back Your Mind: Buddhist Advice for Anxious Times

From my list on how to learn Buddhism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lodro Rinzler has taught Buddhism for 20 years, starting when he was just 18 years-old. He is the author of seven meditation books including the best-seller The Buddha Walks into a Bar, and the co-founder of MNDFL meditation studios in New York City. His books Walk Like a Buddha and The Buddha Walks into the Office both have received Independent Publisher Book Awards. Named one of 50 Innovators Shaping the Future of Wellness by SONIMA, Rinzler's new book is Take Back Your Mind: Buddhist Advice for Anxious Times.

Lodro's book list on how to learn Buddhism

Lodro Rinzler Why did Lodro love this book?

Moving from the Zen lineages over to another branch of this tradition, Tibetan Buddhism, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was famous for making the esoteric accessible. In this book he covers a wide variety of topics ranging from the four foundations of mindfulness over to advanced Buddhist views around taking vows and maintaining sacred outlook throughout one’s day. Bonus: there’s a section devoted to a number of modern day issues where he offers Buddhist teachings on relationships, art, and money.

By Chögyam Trungpa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The basic teachings of Buddhism as they relate to everyday life—presented by the esteemed Tibetan meditation master
 
In The Heart of the Buddha, Chögyam Trungpa examines the basic teachings of Buddhism and places them within the context of daily life. Divided into three parts, the book begins with a discussion about the open, inquisitive, and good-humored qualities of the “heart of the Buddha”—an “enlightened gene” that everyone possesses. Next, Chögyam Trungpa moves to the stages of the Buddhist path, presenting the three vehicles—Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—that carry the Buddhist practitioner toward enlightenment. Finally, he describes the direct application of Buddhist…


Book cover of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Mada Eliza Dalian Author Of In Search of the Miraculous: Healing into Consciousness

From my list on spirituality and self-discovery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 5 when I saw my grandfather die. He drank morphene from a bottle, to stop his cancer pains, and soon after he stopped breathing. In the silent peace that followed, I realized that I too shall die one day, and life on earth will continue. The questions, Who am I? Where do I come from? What am I doing here? and Where will I go when I die? felt like the most important questions to find answers to before I die. The book, In Search of the Miraculous: Healing into Consciousness, was written fifty years later, and is the fruit of my search and discovery of answers to these questions.

Mada's book list on spirituality and self-discovery

Mada Eliza Dalian Why did Mada love this book?

If we want to live life fully we must embrace death fully.

Death is an integral part of life, which cannot be ignored.

This book helps the reader understand the wisdom of the Tibetan Book of the Dead and its purpose to help the dying soul to dis-identify from the worldly attachments and find liberation from within.

By Sogyal Rinpoche,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Explains the Tibetan understanding of what happens when a person dies, and how this can help in a person's daily life, in caring for the terminally ill and the bereaved, and to deepen one's understanding of life.


Book cover of Magic and Mystery in Tibet

David Thorpe Author Of Hybrids

From my list on books that changed my life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love books that boggle my mind. Take me away from mundane reality. That’s the kind of book I like to write.

David's book list on books that changed my life

David Thorpe Why did David love this book?

Looking around me as a young man I found a grey world that had been stripped of all its glory and fabulousness by the exploitation and utilitarianism of human beings. 

Alexandra David-Neel was an amazing explorer. She was the first European woman to meet the Dalai Lama and in 1924 became the first to enter the forbidden Tibetan capital, Lhasa. She had already spent a decade travelling through China, living in a cave on the Tibetan border, where she learned about Buddhism from hermits, mystics, and bandits. 

She describes in this book how these people learnt such seemingly impossible skills such as telepathy, defying gravity, running for days without food or drink or sleep, and surviving with hardly any clothes in the subzero Himalayan blizzards. 

This magical world vanished when the Chinese invaded in 1947. 

To think that this miraculous way of life existed in the same century as me…

By Madame Alexandra David-Neel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Magic and Mystery in Tibet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For centuries Tibet has been known as the last home of mystery, the hidden, sealed land, where ancient mysteries still survive that have perished in the rest of the Orient. Many men have written about Tibet and its secret lore, but few have actually penetrated it to learn its ancient wisdom. Among those few was Madame Alexandra David-Neel, a French orientalist. A practicing Buddhist, a profound historian of religion, and linguist, she actually lived in Tibet for more than 14 years. She had the great honor of being received by the Dalai Lama; she studied philosophical Buddhism and Tibetan Tantra…


Book cover of The Third Eye

Tommy Chong Author Of The I Chong: Meditations from the Joint

From my list on for seekers, poets, and philosophers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tommy Chong is a Canadian-American actor, writer, director, musician, cannabis rights activist, and comedian. He is known for the Cheech and Chong comedy albums and movies along with many other roles. He is a poet and a philosopher and these are his picks for the books that mark his spiritual journey through life.

Tommy's book list on for seekers, poets, and philosophers

Tommy Chong Why did Tommy love this book?

A long time ago, I used to own part of a Jazz club. There was a jazz guitar player named Sunny Greenwich and he turned me onto this book. It is a compelling story of an English man who was a reincarnated Tibetan lama. This book changed my life and it gave me a vision of who we really are, why we are, and how we are. And, how we are all connected to our spiritual selves. When our bodies die they go back to their spiritual selves, and we are just out here to gain experience. This book sent me to some good places and helped open my eyes so I could see the next book on my path.

By T. Lobsang Rampa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

T. Lobsang Rampa was preordained to be a Tibetan priest, a sign from the stars that could not be ignored. When he left his wealthy home to enter the monastery, his heart was filled with trepidation, with only a slight knowledge of the rigorous spiritual training and physical ordeal that awaited him.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in China, Tibet, and Buddhism?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about China, Tibet, and Buddhism.

China Explore 591 books about China
Tibet Explore 40 books about Tibet
Buddhism Explore 271 books about Buddhism