The most recommended haiku books

Who picked these books? Meet our 14 experts.

14 authors created a book list connected to haiku, and here are their favorite haiku books.
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Book cover of Book of Haikus

B.L. Bruce Author Of The Weight of Snow: New & Selected Poems

From my list on contemporary nature poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Bri Bruce, writing as B. L. Bruce, and am an award-winning poet and Pushcart prize nominee from California. Over the last decade and a half, my work has appeared in dozens of literary publications. I am the author of four books and Editor-in-Chief of nature-centric magazine Humana Obscura. I was raised with a wildlife biologist/avid gardener for a mother and a forestry major/backpacker/fisherman as a father. Both my parents instilled in me at a young age a love of nature. A lifetime spent outdoors inspires my work—so much so that I’ve been called a “poetic naturalist” and the “heiress of Mary Oliver.”

B.L.'s book list on contemporary nature poetry

B.L. Bruce Why did B.L. love this book?

While Jack Kerouac can arguably be synonymous with the Beat generation, the poems in this collection reveal a lesser-known and seldom seen but poignant side of Kerouac’s legacy. He distills his surroundings into short vignettes, reminiscent of the Beat style and motif, but incorporates a significant amount of nature imagery. They’re beautiful glimpses of the world through the eyes of one of America’s most influential authors.

By Jack Kerouac,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Above all, a haiku must be very simple and free of all poetic trickery and make a little picture and yet be as airy and graceful as a Vivaldi pastorella.' Jack Kerouac. Renowned for his groundbreaking Beat Generation novel "On the Road", Jack Kerouac was also a master of the haiku, the three-line, seventeen-syllable Japanese poetic form. Following in the tradition of Basho, Buson, Shiki, Issa, and other poets, Kerouac experimented with this centuries-old genre, taking it beyond strict syllable counts into what he believed was the form's essence. He incorporated his 'American' haiku in novels and in his correspondence,…


Book cover of Three Simple Lines: A Writer's Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku

Carl Phillips Author Of Seeking the Light: Essays for the Way

From Carl's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Poet Lover of pull ups Traveler Reader

Carl's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Carl Phillips Why did Carl love this book?

As a writer of haiku/short-form poetry myself, this book was one that should have been on my radar long ago, but I only read it this year because of a recommendation by Kevin Rose on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. It’s a gem.  

Natalie transports you to Japan with her writing to be a travel partner to her making the journey of a lifetime to pay respect to her favorite Haiku poet, Buson.

The book is beautifully written and full of moments that will make you smile, laugh, sad, and nod with approval. It’s so much more than a book of poetry; it’s a book that utilizes poetry to tackle some of life’s mystery, fragility, and beauty. She highlights the history of haiku, shows why masters such as Basho and Issa are so revered, and provides insight into writing and reading haiku. 

The book is also a wonderful love letter to Japan…

By Natalie Goldberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the world’s foremost writing teachers invites readers on a joyful journey into the reading and origins of haiku

A haiku is three simple lines. But it is also, as Allen Ginsberg put it, three lines that “make the mind leap.” A good one, he said, lets the mind experience “a small sensation of space which is nothing less than God.” As many spiritual practices seek to do, the haiku’s spare yet acute noticing of the immediate and often ordinary grounds the reader in the pure awareness of now.

Natalie Goldberg is a delightfully companionable tour guide into this…


Book cover of The Malady of Death

Norman Lock Author Of American Follies

From my list on the mind at play.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written stage and radio plays, poetry, short story collections, and, beginning in 2013, novels that comprise The American Novels series, published by Bellevue Literary Press. Unlike historical fiction, these works reimagine the American past to account for faults that persist to the present day: the wish to dominate and annex, the will to succeed in every department of life regardless of cost, and the stain of injustice and intolerance. In order to escape the gravity of an authorial self, I address present dangers and follies through the lens of our nineteenth-century literature and in a narrative voice quite different from my own.

Norman's book list on the mind at play

Norman Lock Why did Norman love this book?

I suspect that I was led to take The Malady of Death from my shelf by a subconscious directive. I admit that I am afraid of this book, its relentless probing, afraid I will never understand it however much I struggle. Confounded by it twenty-five years ago, I put it aside until my consciousness could mature. (Ha!) The fault must be mine, since her style, language, and structure are as limpid as Ernaux’s or Davis’s, although Duras’s prose carries a poetical charge deliberately absent in the other two writers. I begin to think that the trouble lies in my sex, that as a man, an Other to women, I can’t possibly know what Duras’s narrator is being made to gradually reveal not with the leer of a striptease artist but with the solemnity of a priestess presiding over ancient feminine mysteries.

Would feminists accuse me of being obtuse and,…

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A man hires a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea. The woman is no one in particular, a "she," a warm, moist body with a beating heart-the enigma of Other. Skilled in the mechanics of sex, he desires through her to penetrate a different mystery: he wants to learn love. It isn't a matter of will, she tells him. Still, he wants to learn to try . . .This beautifully wrought erotic novel is an extended haiku on the meaning of love, "perhaps a sudden lapse in the logic of the universe," and of its absence,…


Book cover of If Not for the Cat

Bob Raczka Author Of Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

From my list on children’s poetry that also appeals to adults.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many people are intimidated by poetry. For a big part of my life, I was too. So much of the poetry I had been exposed to was either indecipherable or irrelevant to me. Then I discovered some poems that I loved—accessible poems about subjects I related to. I started collecting poetry books, by both adult and children’s poets. Eventually, I was inspired to write poetry of my own. Today, I’m a poetry advocate, recommending my favorites to anyone who shows interest. The satisfaction I get from poetry boils down to this: When I read a good poem, I think to myself, “Wow, I didn’t know words could do that.”

Bob's book list on children’s poetry that also appeals to adults

Bob Raczka Why did Bob love this book?

After writing 14 children’s books about art appreciation, I decided to try my hand at children’s poetry. When I read this collection of haiku by Jack Prelutsky, it was a revelation. Each poem is a first-person description of an animal, full of rich, unexpected language. By writing in first-person, Prelutsky broke one of haiku’s cardinal rules. But it worked—and inspired me to write my own collection in the first person as well. Here’s one of my favorites poems in his book:

Raucously we caw.
Your straw men do not fool us.
We burgle your corn.

By Jack Prelutsky, Ted Rand (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If Not for the Cat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seventeen haiku composed by master poet Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by renowned artist Ted Rand ask you to think about seventeen favorite residents of the animal kingdom in a new way. 

On these glorious and colorful pages you will meet a mouse, a skunk, a beaver, a hummingbird, ants, bald eagles, jellyfish, and many others. Who is who? The answer is right in front of you. But how can you tell? Think and wonder and look and puzzle it out!

A creature whispers:

If not for the cat,
And the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.

Who is this…


Book cover of Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake

Dennis Kawaharada Author Of Local Geography: Essays on Multicultural Hawai'i

From my list on understanding contemporary multicultural Hawai‘i.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived most of my life in Hawai‘i’s multiethnic community—an amazing place, where, for the most part, people of diverse ancestries got along. The foundation of tolerance was the culture of Native Hawaiians, who lived isolated from outsiders for centuries before the nineteenth century and thus had few prejudicial ideas about others. The natives generally welcomed them and adopted their beliefs. While confrontations and violence occurred, they were limited, not long-term or widespread. Of course, outsiders brought their racial and cultural prejudices, but, today, with a high rate of intermarriages among all the ethnic groups, Hawai'i is one of the most integrated societies in the world.

Dennis' book list on understanding contemporary multicultural Hawai‘i

Dennis Kawaharada Why did Dennis love this book?

Westlake, a poet of Native Hawaiian ancestry, incorporates influences from Chinese Taoist and Japanese haiku poetry, Dada concrete poetry, the writings of Kerouac and Bukowski, as well as local pidgin and Hawaiian literary traditions. Westlake’s editor and friend Richard Hamasaki writes that the early poems are “calm, contemplative, and serene, often playful, celebratory”—humans interacting with nature, from rain, moonlight, and mountains, to bugs, frogs, and dandelions: “Looks of disbelief: / I’m on my knees / Washing a rock.” The later poems are political: “Westlake blasts away at Waikiki’s rampant tourism and American materialism, which replaced the native culture in his native land. He wonders, “how we spose / feel Hawaiian anymoa / barefeet buying smokes / in da seven eleven stoa ...?”

By Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (editor), Mei-Li M. Siy (editor), Richard Hamasaki (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In an all-too-brief life and literary career, Wayne Kaumualii Westlake produced a substantial body of poetry. He broke new ground as a poet, translated Taoist classical literature and Japanese haiku, interwove perspectives from his Hawaiian heritage into his writing and art, and published his work locally, regionally, and internationally. The present volume, long overdue, includes nearly two hundred of Westlake's poems - most unavailable to the public or never before published.


Book cover of Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Danna Smith Author Of How Do You Haiku? A Step-by-Step Guide with Templates

From my list on hooking your kids on poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved words from the moment I met them. I wrote my first poem when I was eight years old and haven’t stopped yet! As a children’s book author, I love incorporating rhyme, poetry, or lyrical prose in the stories I write. I was a shy kid and often felt like my poetry wasn’t “good enough.” It is my goal to get kids excited about all forms of poetry and I want them to know that they can be poets if they want to and that writing, reading, and sharing poetry is fun and rewarding. 

Danna's book list on hooking your kids on poetry

Danna Smith Why did Danna love this book?

A pet adoption story told completely in haiku? Yes, please!

This delightful story begins at a pet shelter when a little boy chooses a cat to take home. It is told from the point of view of the cat with “catitude” and is so clever and funny! I am more of a dog person, but this story won me over and warmed my heart! Younger kids will enjoy the story and darling illustrations while older kids will recognize the three short lines of the clever “one breath” poetry.

By Lee Wardlaw, Eugene Yelchin (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Won Ton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, this adoption story, told entirely in haiku, is unforgettable.

Book Details: Format: Hardcover Publication Date: 2/15/2011 Pages: 40 Reading Level: Age 4 and Up


Book cover of Briefs

Ran Walker Author Of The Library of Afro Curiosities: 100-Word Stories

From my list on microfiction for those with limited time to read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of ten collections of microfiction and poetry. I came to microfiction after having written several novels and short story collections. I just felt that I was saying more than I wanted to say. Microfiction has allowed me to completely distill my stories to the essence of what makes them tick. Of the 26 books I have written, the microfiction collections are my favorites because every word and idea is carefully measured. I am presently working on my next collection of microfiction and have no immediate plans to return to writing at longer lengths. Oddly, writing small has freed me up so I can experiment with various genres, structures, and ideas. I honestly feel microfiction has made me a much better writer.

Ran's book list on microfiction for those with limited time to read

Ran Walker Why did Ran love this book?

John Edgar Wideman is the first African-American writer I can clearly point to who took microfiction seriously enough to write an entire collection. His stories are filtered through the lens of Blackness, but that is not the major reason why I like this book. Wideman does things with language that force me to completely step back and rethink things. I find myself reading his words aloud, simply because they feel as though they transcend the page. If it were not for Wideman, I would not feel as comfortable revealing the authenticity of my experience in my work.

By John Edgar Wideman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

BRIEFS is a groundbreaking new collection of "microstories" from celebrated author John Edgar Wideman, previous winner of both the Rea and O. Henry awards saluting mastery of the short story form. Here he has assembled a masterful collage that explodes our assumptions about the genre. Wideman unveils an utterly original voice and structure-hip-hop zen-where each story is a single breath, to be caught, held, shared and savored. A relief worker's Sudan bulletin, a jogger's bullet-dodging daydreams, your neighbor's fears and fantasies, an absent mother's regrets-Wideman's storytellers are eavesdroppers and peeping Toms, diarists and haiku historians. The characters and compass points…


Book cover of Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons

Danna Smith Author Of How Do You Haiku? A Step-by-Step Guide with Templates

From my list on hooking your kids on poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved words from the moment I met them. I wrote my first poem when I was eight years old and haven’t stopped yet! As a children’s book author, I love incorporating rhyme, poetry, or lyrical prose in the stories I write. I was a shy kid and often felt like my poetry wasn’t “good enough.” It is my goal to get kids excited about all forms of poetry and I want them to know that they can be poets if they want to and that writing, reading, and sharing poetry is fun and rewarding. 

Danna's book list on hooking your kids on poetry

Danna Smith Why did Danna love this book?

I love that this book incorporates riddles and haiku!

Kids can turn the pages and travel through the seasons (spring through winter) in an illustrated playful guessing game. “I am a wind bird/ sky skipper, diamond dipper,/ dancing on your string.” If you guessed a kite, you are right! A clever combination of art, riddles, and poetry wrapped up in a beautiful picture book package.

Spoiler Alert: Lion of the Sky is a firework!  Wow! 

By Laura Purdie Salas, Merce Lopez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lion of the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

you gasp as I roar,
my mane exploding, sizzling―
lion of the sky!

Haiku meet riddles in this wonderful collection from Laura Purdie Salas. The poems celebrate the seasons and describe everything from an earthworm to a baseball to an apple to snow angels, alongside full-color illustrations.


Book cover of Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary

Craig McLachlan Author Of Tales of a Summer Henro

From my list on understanding Japan and the Japanese.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for Japan and the Japanese stretching back over four decades. I’ve done a lot of wandering around my wife Yuriko’s home-country – walked the 3200km length of it; hiked across it from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific, climbing all 21 of its 3000m peaks; broken the record for climbing its 100 Famous Mountains; walked around the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage; and journeyed around the Saigoku 33 Temples of Kannon Pilgrimmage – and written books on all these adventures. I’ve co-written Lonely Planet’s “Japan” and “Hiking in Japan” guidebooks since the late 1990s, covering everywhere from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

Craig's book list on understanding Japan and the Japanese

Craig McLachlan Why did Craig love this book?

Matsuo Bashō is considered the most influential figure in the history of hokku (or haiku) poems and this book brings them to life with excellent English translations and commentary. I particularly enjoy Bashō because he was a traveller. He didn’t just sit and write poems in comfy surroundings. He hit the road and wrote about his experiences, be they good or bad. In many ways, they are the humorous, spontaneous, gritty writings of a fatigued experiencer of life. One of my favourites - “My summer robe, there are still some lice, I have not caught”. Ueda’s book is brilliant and allows English speakers to glimpse Bashō’s true thoughts as he rambled about the countryside in 17th century Japan.

By Makoto Ueda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book has a dual purpose. The first is to present in a new English translation 255 representative hokku (or haiku) poems of Matsuo Basho (1644-94), the Japanese poet who is generally considered the most influential figure in the history of the genre. The second is to make available in English a wide spectrum of Japanese critical commentary on the poems over the last three hundred years.


Book cover of Open Shutters

Gabriel Spera Author Of Twisted Pairs: Poems

From my list on for people who enjoy poetry that looks like poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t guess how many great poems I have committed to memory. In waiting rooms, or in the checkout line, I recite them to myself. In this way, poetry helps me not only understand the world we live in, but live in it without going crazy. And while I love all poetry, I’ve always found that poetry in traditional forms—with meter and rhyme—is easier to remember. That’s one reason why I’ve always been drawn to formal verse. In my own poetry, I strive to uphold that tradition, while inventing new forms that spring organically from the subject at hand. I trust these books will demonstrate I’m not alone.

Gabriel's book list on for people who enjoy poetry that looks like poetry

Gabriel Spera Why did Gabriel love this book?

I love the music in these poems! I love the wry wit and unexpected turn of phrase—which may well be Salter’s hallmark. The title is, of course, a vivid example of her playful phrasing.

Salter is a deft formalist, and I am impressed by her effortless handling of some very demanding forms: villanelles, quatrains, sonnets, blank verse, haiku, and ghazals, not to mention various invented rhyme schemes. She is also a master of the slant rhyme, which, for a poet, is akin to the blue note in jazz.

As a parent, I am particularly moved by the poems about her daughters, which are tragically poignant and all too familiar. Salter is a devotee of James Merrill—one of my central poetic influences—and I think she has carried on his tradition more than any other poet I can name.

By Mary Jo Salter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mary Jo Salter’s sparkling new collection, Open Shutters, leads us into a world where things are often not what they seem. In the first poem, “Trompe l’Oeil,” the shadow-casting shutters on Genoese houses are made of paint only, an “open lie.” And yet “Who needs to be correct / more often than once a day? / Who needs real shadow more than play?”

Open Shutters also calls to mind the lens of a camera—in the villanelle “School Pictures” or in the stirring sequence “In the Guesthouse,” which, inspired by photographs of a family across three generations, offers at once a…