The most recommended Buddha books

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to Buddha, and here are their favorite Buddha books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of Buddha book?


Book cover of Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children

Koa Lou Whittingham Author Of Becoming Mum

From my list on for new and expectant mothers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a clinical and developmental psychologist, a parenting researcher at the University of Queensland, and a mother. My research is focused on applying and commitment therapy (ACT) to parenting including the parenting of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. I wrote Becoming Mum while becoming a mother for the first time. In fact, much of the book was written while I cuddled my new baby, my laptop propped up on my knees so I could write! I am also the first author of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy the Clinician’s Guide to Supporting Parents. It is the first clinical manual on using ACT with parents.

Koa's book list on for new and expectant mothers

Koa Lou Whittingham Why did Koa love this book?

I’ve always been deeply inspired by the teachings of the Buddha, so naturally, I made sure I read this book. In fact, I first read it years before becoming a mother myself. It is a classic and a treasure, elucidating how to apply concepts like mindfulness and acceptance as a mother, long before any other book had done so. It is certainly relevant to any mother interested in Buddhism, but it is written in such an open way that it is also relevant to other mothers too.

By Sarah Napthali,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Parenthood can be a time of great inner turmoil for a woman, yet parenting books invariably focus on nurturing children rather than the mothers who struggle to raise them. This book is different. It is a book for mothers.

Buddhism for Mothers encourages mothers to gain the most joy out of being with their children. How can this be done calmly and with a minimum of anger, worry and negative thinking? How can mothers negotiate the changed conditions of their relationships with partners, family and even with friends?

Using Buddhist practices, Sarah Napthali offers coping strategies for the day-to-day challenges…

Book cover of Intimacy

Charlene Challenger Author Of The Voices In Between

From my list on with “difficult” protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I find “difficult” characters fascinating because their humanity isn’t easily discerned. They’re often complex and richly drawn and show us aspects of ourselves we may not want to admit to others. Examining the ugly, the hidden, can be exhilarating.

Charlene's book list on with “difficult” protagonists

Charlene Challenger Why did Charlene love this book?

Jay, a selfish, self-absorbed screenwriter, reflects on his failings as a lover, husband, and friend on the eve of leaving his wife and children. From the way Jay describes his marriage and his approach to fatherhood, it’s clear he’s more than willing to throw his comfortable life away and damage three innocent people for no other reason than he’s bored, shallow, and desperate to blame his incompetency on those closest to him. What keeps the reader engaged is how painfully funny it all is – Jay’s obliviousness provides ample opportunity for mature audiences to chuckle and shake their heads at every meanspirited quip he makes at his family’s expense. By the end of the book, readers can only feel relief that he’s done them an incredible, and long overdue, service.

By Hanif Kureishi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.'

Jay is leaving his partner and their two sons. As the long night before his departure unfolds he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with Susan. In an unforgettable, and often pitiless, reflection of their time together he analyses the agonies and the joys of trying to make a life with another person.

Book cover of Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town

Daniel Combs Author Of Until the World Shatters: Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar

From my list on the human toll of civil war.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author, humanitarian, and diplomat, I’ve seen firsthand how the everyday brutality of civil wars and ethnic conflicts is often overlooked in favor of statistics: 100,000 displaced; 500 arrested; 7 villages torched. In places like Myanmar, Ethiopia, Congo, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, I have tried to use human-centered reporting to bring a magnifying glass to the effect of these tragedies on everyday people. By focusing on the stories that most of the world would rather turn away from, I think we have a better chance to understand, and ultimately prevent, these violent political and social upheavals. 

Daniel's book list on the human toll of civil war

Daniel Combs Why did Daniel love this book?

Demick is a master at showcasing the true drama of ordinary people living ordinary lives. In this saga of Tibetan royalty, resistance, and renaissance, she knits these personal stories into a sweeping epic covering the last 60 years of Tibetan history. The characters may at first glance seem innocuous: a long-lost daughter; a shopkeeper; a monk. But together, their stories paint a frightening and vivid picture of the everyday repression and fear under the largest and most sophisticated authoritarian regime on the planet. Throughout, Demick’s narrative displays a profound sense of place, plopping the reader onto the frigid Tibetan plateau, making us feel present to the resistance movement on the rooftop of the world. 

By Barbara Demick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gripping portrait of modern Tibet told through the lives of its people, from the bestselling author of Nothing to Envy

“A brilliantly reported and eye-opening work of narrative nonfiction.”—The New York Times Book Review

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Parul Sehgal, The New York Times • The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • NPR • The Economist • Outside • Foreign Affairs

Just as she did with North Korea, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick explores one of the most hidden corners of the world. She tells the story of a Tibetan…

Book cover of Dark Tales

Paula Uruburu Author Of American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "it" Girl and the Crime of the Century

From my list on the American suburban gothic.

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone who grew up a child of the sixties amidst suburban conformity but with a decidedly nonconformist gothic sensibility, I have wanted to find a way to combine these contradictory forces. Happily, as a professor of literature and film studies at Hofstra University, I was able to achieve my goal last year when I taught "(Un)Dead Girls and (Un)Safe Spaces: The Suburban Gothic in Film" and "Suburban Horrors" (a literature class). Unaware however that a global pandemic would mean teaching these courses via Zoom, my students and I found ourselves trapped within the confines of our own boxes in a suburban nightmare while discussing fictional and film narratives about sinister neighbors, monsters in closets, murderous family members, conspiratorial racists, and uncanny house hauntings. Oh, the horrible irony.

Paula's book list on the American suburban gothic

Paula Uruburu Why did Paula love this book?

The possibility of evil. Not only is this the title of the first selection in this collection of classic and newly printed stories by the queen of suburban gothic – it is the essence of her uncanny literary witchcraft, where subtle twists and sudden turns force readers to confront a creeping unease in post-WWII America. No hideous monsters or grotesque horrors here. Instead, sinister insinuation and irrational fears invade the “safe” suburban spaces. A man believes someone is stalking him on his way home from work.  Anonymous poison pen letters threaten a community. A runaway teenager reappears several years later … and seems to be someone else.

The deconstruction of so-called normality is what makes these stories so unsettling. Who knows what evil lurks behind the white picket fences? Shirley Jackson does.

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The perfect read for Hallowe'en, this new hardback volume of Jackson's finest stories reveals the queen of American gothic at her unsettling, mesmerising best

There's something nasty in suburbia. In these deliciously dark tales, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe, from the city streets to the country manor, and from the small-town apartment to the dark, dark woods...

Book cover of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

Cyndi Lee Author Of May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind

From my list on Buddhist and yoga biographies and memoirs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a practicing yogi and Buddhist for 50 years. For me these lifelong practices started with reading, or as my Zen teacher calls it, being a “Book Buddhist.” Buddhism and Yoga are not typically called “faith-based” practices, but there is an element of faith — it is faith in the process. But you can’t have faith until you have experienced the benefits of practice. The unconventional lives of the yogis told in these books illustrate for all of us how we, too, can develop wisdom, joy, and compassion. I found each of these books really, really fun to read and I’ve gained much insight and inspiration for my own spiritual path.

Cyndi's book list on Buddhist and yoga biographies and memoirs

Cyndi Lee Why did Cyndi love this book?

This book is both a memoir of Stephen Batchelor and a memoir of the Buddha himself. Batchelor integrates these two life stories with his journey through India which followed the footsteps of the Buddha. Batchelor teaches us what Buddha taught, but in a way that inspires as many questions as it provides answers. In this way, the reader goes on her own spiritual quest and perhaps, transformation, just as did Buddha and Batchelor. I love this book so much that it is a re-read for me, a wonderful well of inspiration and contemplation. This is also an easy read and a great way to begin dipping into the story and teachings of Buddha through a contemporary lens.

By Stephen Batchelor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Confession of a Buddhist Atheist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Does Buddhism require faith? Can an atheist or agnostic follow the Buddha’s teachings without believing in reincarnation or organized religion?
This is one man’s confession.
In his classic Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor offered a profound, secular approach to the teachings of the Buddha that struck an emotional chord with Western readers. Now, with the same brilliance and boldness of thought, he paints a groundbreaking portrait of the historical Buddha—told from the author’s unique perspective as a former Buddhist monk and modern seeker. Drawing from the original Pali Canon, the seminal collection of Buddhist discourses compiled after the Buddha’s death…

Book cover of Raising Resilience: The Wisdom and Science of Happy Families and Thriving Children

Linda Graham Author Of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being

From my list on resilience and how to cope skillfully with life’s difficulties.

Why am I passionate about this?

Resilience - helping people recover their capacities to deal with any adversity, stress, loss or trauma – is the heart of my work as a licensed psychotherapist (25 years) and an international trainer of mental health professionals (more than a decade). Bouncing Back is the book I wanted to be able to hand my clients to help them learn to use the capacities of resilience innate in their brains to develop more effective patterns of response to life crises and catastrophes. No such book was available at the time, so I wrote my own. It has become a tremendous resource for people to learn to how to be more resilient, and to learn that they can learn.

Linda's book list on resilience and how to cope skillfully with life’s difficulties

Linda Graham Why did Linda love this book?

In a charming, reader-friendly style, this book offers ten universal principles for skillful parenting that lead to genuine goodness and happiness in their children. A delight to know it’s possible.

By Christopher Willard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In every spiritual tradition, we find teachings on the virtues and qualities that we most want to pass on to our kids-such as generosity, kindness, honesty, determination, and patience. Today, a growing body of research from neuroscience and social psychology supports these teachings, offering insights into cultivating these virtues in ourselves and in our families. Raising Resilience is a practical guide for parents and educators of children from preschool through adolescence, detailing ten universal principles for happy families and thriving children.

Bridging the latest science with Eastern wisdom to explore ourselves and share with our children, Dr. Christopher Willard offers…

Book cover of The Circle of the Way: A Concise History of Zen from the Buddha to the Modern World

James Ishmael Ford Author Of Introduction to Zen Koans: Learning the Language of Dragons

From my list on Zen from a Zen teacher.

Why am I passionate about this?

James Ford is a Zen teacher and the author or editor of five books on Zen history and spirituality. His history of Zen in the West, Zen Master Who? captured the personalities who formed our emerging Western schools, while the Book of Mu, which he compiled and edited with Melissa Myozen Blacker is considered essential for any contemporary student of koans, Zen’s arcane spiritual discipline.

James' book list on Zen from a Zen teacher

James Ishmael Ford Why did James love this book?

Journalist and long-time Zen student Barbara O'Brien offers the only readable, concise, and yet comprehensive survey of Zen's history, the development of its teachings from the beginnings of Buddhism to the dawn of the twenty-first century. She finds a genuine middle ground between an appreciation of the received tradition and the best of modern scholarship. A masterful accomplishment. 

By Barbara O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A comprehensive, accessible guide to the fascinating history of Zen Buddhism--including important figures, schools, foundational texts, practices, and politics.

Zen Buddhism has a storied history--Bodhidharma sitting in meditation in a cave for nine years; a would-be disciple cutting off his own arm to get the master's attention; the proliferating schools and intense Dharma combat of the Tang and Song Dynasties; Zen nuns and laypeople holding their own against patriarchal lineages; the appearance of new masters in the Zen schools of Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and later the Western world. In The Circle of the Way, Zen practitioner and popular religion writer…

Book cover of The Financial Expert

George Anders Author Of Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business

From my list on financial heroes and villains.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first job after college was at The Wall Street Journal, working evenings as a copyreader. It was thrilling to enter a big-league newsroom, but torture to be confined to putting tiny headlines on even tinier stories. Then at age 23, after a whirlwind staff shuffle, I started writing the paper’s premier stock-market column, “Heard on the Street.” Daylight had arrived. For the next 11 years, I covered finance. I met billionaires and people en route to prison. It wasn’t always easy to tell them apart! My writing career has widened since then but sizing up markets – and the people who rule them – remains an endless fascination. 

George's book list on financial heroes and villains

George Anders Why did George love this book?

This is a 1951 Indian novel, but don’t let that deter you. Narayan’s central character is a dreamy village banker who ends up running a bit of a hustle on all of the townspeople. I was braced for this to have an ugly, Bernie Madoff style ending. But that’s not exactly where it goes! I read this on a long flight from San Francisco to Bangalore – and this journey into a culture that was both familiar and surprising made the miles go by very fast. 

By R. K. Narayan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the novels of R. K. Narayan (1906-2001), the forefather of modern Indian fiction, human-scale hopes and epiphanies express the promise of a nation as it awakens to its place in the world. In The Financial Expert, a man of many hopes but few resources spends his time under a banyan tree dispensing financial advice to those willing to pay for his knowledge. As charming as it is compassionate, this novel provides an indelible portrait of India in the twentieth century.

Book cover of What the Buddha Taught

Dan Schilling Author Of The Power of Awareness: And Other Secrets from the World's Foremost Spies, Detectives, and Special Operators on How to Stay Safe and Save Your Life

From my list on for the rest of us to absorb Buddhist essence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became Buddhist while I was working in Southeast Asia, in Thailand specifically. Here’s one of the great lessons I learned, or perhaps it’s merely a koan, and that is this, no true Buddhist is Buddhist. It’s my own saying and one that I live by because Zen, Tibetan or Theravada are all structured disciplines with ritual and even recognized leaders. And I think the Buddha would laugh one of his full bellied roars to learn that there were, in some cases, global organizations all named in his honor. That’s not to make light of the way of organized Buddhism, merely to say that it isn’t my way.

Dan's book list on for the rest of us to absorb Buddhist essence

Dan Schilling Why did Dan love this book?

Looking for the vehicle to understand Siddhartha Gautama’s journey to enlightenment and teachings but worried you’ll never remember the four noble truths or eight-fold path? Search no more, my friends. Of all the books on Buddhism ever written this simple and compact distillation delivers what Siddhartha (the Buddha) taught which is really nothing more complex than, “You must figure it out for yourself, but here’s how I did it.”

By Walpola Rahula,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This clear and informative guide draws on the words spoken by the Buddha to convey the true nature of Buddhist wisdom. It also features an illustrative section of texts from the Suttas and the Dhammapada, a glossary of Buddhist terms and an up-to-date bibliography.

Book cover of After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age

Guy Claxton Author Of The Heart of Buddhism: Practical Wisdom for an Agitated World

From my list on Buddhism that get to the heart of the matter.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a long-time meditator and student of Buddhism, and a retired but still active academic. I am a cognitive scientist specialising in the learnable aspects of real-world intelligence. My meditation ‘career’ started when I was an undergraduate studying psychology at Cambridge in the late 1960s, and has since taken me to America, India, and Japan, as well as to many retreats in the UK with visiting teachers from all the main branches of Buddhism. In my academic life, I have a doctorate in psycholinguistics from Oxford and have been Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Bristol and the Research Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning in Winchester. My books on the crossover between Eastern and Western Psychology include The Psychology of Awakening, Wholly HumanNoises from the Darkroom, and The Heart of Buddhism.

Guy's book list on Buddhism that get to the heart of the matter

Guy Claxton Why did Guy love this book?

Stephen Batchelor is an old and dear friend of mine – partly because I love his radical ‘take’ on Buddhism. He knows his traditional Buddhist stuff all right: he was a Tibetan Buddhism monk for eight years, and studied in a Korean Zen monastery for four. To some, he is a heretic because his books peel away the cultural superstitions that have befogged the Buddha’s original teachings – such as karma and reincarnation - and reveal a message that is as relevant and insightful today as it was two and a half millennia ago. But his deep and lightly-worn scholarship shines through and – to me at least – he is bang on: both down to earth and utterly inspirational.

By Stephen Batchelor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A renowned Buddhist teacher's magnum opus, based on his fresh reading of the tradition's earliest texts

Some twenty-five centuries after the Buddha started teaching, his message continues to inspire people across the globe, including those living in predominantly secular societies. What does it mean to adapt religious practices to secular contexts?

Stephen Batchelor, an internationally known author and teacher, is committed to a secularized version of the Buddha's teachings. The time has come, he feels, to articulate a coherent ethical, contemplative, and philosophical vision of Buddhism for our age. After Buddhism, the culmination of four decades of study and practice…