The most recommended books on Taoism

Who picked these books? Meet our 44 experts.

44 authors created a book list connected to Taoism, and here are their favorite Taoism books.
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Book cover of The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain

Sean Prentiss Author Of Crosscut: Poems

From my list on trail building and traildogs.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1997, I was hired by the Northwest Youth Corps as a trail crew leader. That season, and across five more seasons, I built trails across the Pacific Northwest and Desert Southwest, including in many national parks. Since then, I have been in love with backpacking trails (including hiking the Long Trail and Colorado Trail), building trails, and writing about trails (Crosscut: Poems). I now live in Vermont with my wife and daughter. We have a trail we built that weaves through our woods.

Sean's book list on trail building and traildogs

Sean Prentiss Why did Sean love this book?

While I could list many great books on backpacking and hiking trails, there are few books devoted to trail building. I’ll leave behind trail building and focus on a poet, Cold Mountain, who, like those of us who were trail builders, lived in the woods. Cold Mountain, an ancient Chinese poet, wrote his poems on rocks and bark and scattered them across his Tiantai Mountains. These poems are beautiful meditations on landscapes, wildness, Taoism/Buddhism, and politics.

By Red Pine (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This authoritative, bilingual edition represents the first time the entirety of Cold Mountain's poetry has been translated into English.

These translations were originally published by Copper Canyon Press nearly twenty years ago. Now, significantly revised and expanded, the collection also includes a new preface by the translator, Red Pine, whose accompanying notes are at once scholarly, accessible, and entertaining. Also included for the first time are poems by two of Cold Mountain's colleagues.

Legendary for his clarity, directness, and lack of pretension, the eight-century hermit-poet Cold Mountain (Han Shan) is a major figure in the history of Chinese literature and…


Book cover of The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao

Jennifer Lin Author Of Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family

From my list on history of Christianity in China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I come from a long line of Chinese Christians. My grandfather, the Rev. Lin Pu-chi, was an Ivy League-educated Anglican minister, and my grandmother’s brother was Watchmen Nee, a leading Chinese Christian whose legacy lives on around the world. Library shelves are filled with books by missionaries. But where are the stories of the Chinese people they encountered? That’s the starting point for my family memoir, which spans five generations, starting with the first convert, a fisherman from Fujian. These are the books I relied on to place the family story into the broader context of what was happening in China from the period after the Opium Wars until today.

Jennifer's book list on history of Christianity in China

Jennifer Lin Why did Jennifer love this book?

Let’s start in the present and work backward. And for a look at religion in China today, there is no better authority than Ian Johnson, journalist, author, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. I knew Ian back in the 1990s when we were both newspaper correspondents in Beijing. Since then, he’s plumbed the depths of the spiritual awakening in China since 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution. In The Souls of China, he examines not just the rise of Christianity through the house church movement, but also explores the revival of interest in Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.

By Ian Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Masterfully opens up a little explored realm: how the quest for religion and spirituality drives hundreds of millions of Chinese' Pankaj Mishra

'A fascinating odyssey ... a nuanced group portrait of Chinese citizens striving for non-material answers in an era of frenetic materialism' Julia Lovell, Guardian

'The reappearance and flourishing of religion is perhaps the most surprising aspect of the dramatic changes in China in recent decades...this is a beautiful, moving and insightful book' Michael Szonyi

In no society on Earth was there such a ferocious attempt to eradicate all trace of religion as in modern China. But now, following…


Book cover of Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Margarette Allyn Author Of Running from Yesterday: A True Story of Hope, Courage and Love

From my list on making it fun to be a better person.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the most important lessons I learned from my grandma is that children have no fear or self-doubt unless they are taught to have these feelings, and then it's a choice to continue to believe in self-doubt. However, I was paralyzed by it after her death. I stopped being a carefree kid and started living through emotional survival. I lived a life of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, and by a miracle, I was spared and given a chance to change it all. I am a dancer, writer, performer, and speaker, following every dream I've had. 

Margarette's book list on making it fun to be a better person

Margarette Allyn Why did Margarette love this book?

For starters, the title caught my attention; I was in a lot of emotional pain and doubted many of my decisions. I didn't realize I was seeking outward contentment and happiness for many years.

This book was written after I read The Secret. So, it was in the same genre of books I had started to read. I listened to Wayne Dyer on YouTube and loved his talks, and when I heard of the book, I felt it wouldn't hurt to read it.

I was drawn in with his simple way of pointing out that maybe we are the reason for our misery, and we, along with faith, can turn our lives in a different direction. Start by loving ourselves enough to know that we don't deserve misery. And no matter what someone else did to us in the past, forgiveness is possible, and healing starts right then and…

By Wayne W. Dyer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a God-realized being named Lao-tzu in ancient China dictated 81 verses, which are regarded by many as the ultimate commentary on the nature of our existence. The classic text of these 81 verses, called the Tao Te Ching or the Great Way, offers advice and guidance that is balanced, moral, spiritual, and always concerned with working for the good. In this book, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer has reviewed hundreds of translations of the Tao Te Ching and has written 81 distinct essays on how to apply the ancient wisdom of Lao-tzu to…


Book cover of The Girl with Ghost Eyes

Rebecca Buchanan Author Of Asphalt Gods, and Other Pagan Urban Fantasy Tales

From my list on fantasy and science fiction for Pagans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up with a serious passion for mythology and fairy tales. By the time I reached college, I knew that would be my path in life: honoring the Old Deities, honoring the earth, and writing new myths and fairy tales. To that end, I have published numerous short stories, novellas, and poems (the majority with a Pagan focus), serve on the board of directors of a Pagan publisher and a Pagan non-profit organization, and edit a Pagan literary ezine.

Rebecca's book list on fantasy and science fiction for Pagans

Rebecca Buchanan Why did Rebecca love this book?

Most urban fantasy is very firmly fixed in the modern world, and the protagonists are overwhelmingly Caucasian. Boroson’s The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a wonderful change of pace. Not only is our hero a Chinese woman in 19th century San Francisco, but she is also a trained Daoshi priestess — who cannot take over her father’s practice precisely because she is a woman. The Girl with Ghost Eyes deftly deals with sexism, racism, labor exploitation, and immigration, while also introducing the audience to traditional Chinese beliefs and practices about magic, shapeshifters, spirits, and the afterlife. A terrific reminder that tradition can simultaneously strengthen and imprison us. 

By M. H. Boroson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girl with Ghost Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a fun, fun read. Martial arts and Asian magic set in Old San Francisco make for a fresh take on urban fantasy, a wonderful story that kept me up late to finish."
#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs

It's the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco's Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and…


Book cover of The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai (Li Po)

Derek Sandhaus Author Of Drunk in China: Baijiu and the World's Oldest Drinking Culture

From my list on Chinese alcohol and drinking culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

Derek Sandhaus is an award-winning American author of several books on Chinese history and culture. He worked as an editor, publisher, and tour guide in Shanghai, then moved to Chengdu and turned to drink. In 2018 he co-founded Ming River Sichuan Baijiu with China’s oldest distillery, and now spends most of his time talking about Chinese alcohol to anyone who will listen. He currently lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and a very well-traveled dog.

Derek's book list on Chinese alcohol and drinking culture

Derek Sandhaus Why did Derek love this book?

Li Bai is the best known of China’s “Eight Immortals of the Wine Glass,” a group of Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) poets famous for their drinking prowess. Using historical records, Ha Jin’s biography is a portrait of a frustrated half-Chinese outcast, brilliant but arrogant, who struggles to find a place in a world where talent alone is not enough. Brought down to earth, Li the man is less inspiring than the legend but far more sympathetic.

By Ha Jin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his own time (701–762), Li Bai’s brilliant poems—shaped by Daoist thought, filled with an irrepressible lust for life—were never given their proper due. Nonetheless, his lines rang out on the lips of tavern singers, soldiers, and writers throughout the Tang dynasty, and his deep desire for a higher, more perfect world gave rise to his nickname: the Banished Immortal. With the instincts of a master novelist, Ha Jin draws on a wide range of historical and literary sources to weave the great poet’s life story, following Bai from his origins on the western frontier to his rambling travels as…


Book cover of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought

Colm O'Shea Author Of James Joyce's Mandala

From my list on rationally investigating mystical and psychotic experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research into the overlap between mysticism and schizophrenia has garnered one academic monograph on James Joyce, with another on Charlie Kaufman’s films and fiction due out in 2025 (both from Routledge). For 15 years, I’ve been a writing professor at New York University, and the two things I want to impart to my students are: 1) the courage to pursue a singular question or unique viewpoint and (2) the compassion to write clearly for the reader! All five books on my list don’t shy away from profound questions of what it is to be a complex spiritual being, but they always remain lucid and engaging for a general audience. 

Colm's book list on rationally investigating mystical and psychotic experience

Colm O'Shea Why did Colm love this book?

John Suler is a prodigious writer of academic books, but that’s not what impresses me. Instead, what I love is to read prose that can take dense subject matter and make it accessible to the general reader.

When I was trying to reconcile my own research into Eastern mysticism with Western-oriented approaches to psychology, I found Suler’s work to be the Rosetta Stone I urgently needed to make sense of the impasse.

It’s like having a knowledgeable but personable mentor teaching you how to translate from one “language” about consciousness into another.   

By John R. Suler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book explores the convergence of psychoanalysis and Asian thought. It explores key theoretical issues. What role does paradox play in psychological transformations? How can the oriental emphasis on attaining "no-self" be reconciled with the western emphasis on achieving an integrated self? The book also inquires into pragmatic questions concerning the nature of psychological change and the practice of psychotherapy. The Taoist I Ching is explored as a framework for understanding the therapeutic process. Principles from martial arts philosophy and strategy are applied to clinical work.

Combining theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical data, literary references, and anecdotes, this book is…


Book cover of City of Lingering Splendour: A Frank Account of Old Peking's Exotic Pleasures

Isham Cook Author Of At the Teahouse Cafe: Essays from the Middle Kingdom

From my list on old Beijing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having lived in China for almost three decades, I am naturally interested in the expat writing scene. I am a voracious reader of fiction and nonfiction on China, past and present. One constant in this country is change, and that requires keeping up with the latest publications by writers who have lived here and know it well. As an author of three novels, one short story collection, and three essay collections on China myself, I believe I have something of my own to contribute, although I tend to hew to gritty, offbeat themes to capture a contemporary China unknown to the West.

Isham's book list on old Beijing

Isham Cook Why did Isham love this book?

English expat John Blofeld spent two decades in China (1932–51) before living out the last three of his life in Thailand. A renowned scholar of Buddhism and Taoism, Blofeld (like fellow expat Sinologists Edmund Backhouse and E.T.C. Werner) effectively disappeared into the woodwork, consorting almost exclusively with locals and mastering both vernacular and classical Chinese. In his City of Lingering Splendour, he looks back on his sojourn in the capital in the bustling 1930s-40s. But in contrast to standard accounts of Beijing’s palaces and temples (such as by Bredon and Arlington & Lewisohn above), Blofeld evocatively spotlights the often overlooked secular sites, the bathhouses and restaurants, opium dens, and bordellos, along with his connoisseurship of Chinese tea, thus conferring important archival value on his portrait of the city. This is also the side of Beijing I can relate to – the dark side, the underbelly of the great city –…

By John Blofeld,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his early twenties, John Blofeld spent what he describes as "three exquisitely happy years" in Peking during the era of the last emperor, when the breathtaking greatness of China's ancient traditions was still everywhere evident. Arriving in 1934, he found a city imbued with the atmosphere of the recent imperial past and haunted by the powerful spirit of the late Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. He entered a world of magnificent palaces and temples of the Forbidden City, of lotus-covered lakes and lush pleasure-gardens, of bustling bazaars and peaceful bathhouses, and of "flower houses" with their beautiful young courtesans versed…


Book cover of I Ching

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?

I first did the I Ching when I was in my 20s. The first reading I had was by a guitar player in Vancouver, and it came out like perfection. This was before my success, before Cheech, and it just lit up my path forward in life. It wasn’t until I was headed to jail that I picked it up again. My brother-in-law sent me a copy, and it was the first thing I did when I got inside. The first line I got back was “you are in jail for a reason”. It was astounding. The word penitentiary comes from the word penance, I took that to heart and that is what I did. I view my time in jail as a religious retreat.

By Alfred Huang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Translated by the eminent Taoist Master Alfred Huang, The Complete I Chinghas been praised by scholars and new students of the I Ching since its first edition. A native Chinese speaker, Master Huang first translated the original ideograms of the I Ching into contemporary Chinese and then into English, bringing forth the intuitive meanings embodied in the images of the I Ching and imbuing his translation with an accuracy and authenticity not possible in other English translations. However, what makes his translation truly definitive is his return to prominence of the Ten Wings, the commentaries by Confucius that are essential…


Book cover of Tao Te Ching

Traci Harding Author Of The Twelve Chapters of the Infinite Night

From my list on inciting the imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was in my teens when I discovered that if I focused on something hard enough I could manifest it. During my investigations into whether others had experienced this, I discovered the Adyar Bookstore in the Strand Arcade in Sydney, and that I had an insatiable thirst for all texts metaphysical, historical, and quantum theory. Turns out that many of the greatest thinkers in history believed that humans hold sway over many of the events and occurrence of their own lives, including Einstein, Plato, Tesla, Carl Sagan, and more. My books are the product of my exploration into the nature of personal reality, spirituality, and the meaning of life.

Traci's book list on inciting the imagination

Traci Harding Why did Traci love this book?

Tao de Ching is the basis of the Taoist belief system, which, unlike other spiritual text, is filled with not just profound, but practical advice for navigating this world in a way that benefits the self, others, and the world at large. 

Tao de Ching simply means ‘The Book of the Way’. The name of the sage to whom this book is attributed, Lao-tzu, could be translated to mean ‘the Old Master’.

I was so inspired by these writings that I wished to create a book about such a Master - based in the time of those great adepts like Confucius, the Buddha, and indeed Lao-Tzu - and weave these life-changing teachings throughout. 

Hence the idea for my own book was ignited.

By Lao Tzu, Stephen Mitchell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

' What is rooted is easy to nourish

What is recent is easy to correct'

Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching (The Book of the Way) is the classic manual on the art of living. In 81 short, poetic chapters, the book looks at the basic predicament of being alive and teaches how to work for the good with the effortless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao, or the basic principle of the universe.

Stephen Mitchell' s acclaimed translation is accompanied by ancient Chinese paintings that beautifully reflect Lao Tzu' s timeless words.

An illustrated edition of…


Book cover of A Floating Life: The Adventures of Li Po: A Historical Novel

Yun Rou Author Of The Monk of Park Avenue: A Modern Daoist Odyssey

From my list on better understanding and appreciating China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born to privilege in Manhattan. A seeker from the get-go, I perpetually yearned to see below the surface of the pond and understand what lay beneath and how the world really works. Not connecting with Western philosophy, religion, or culture, I turned to the wisdom of the East at a young age. I stayed the course through decades of training in Chinese martial arts, eventually reached some understanding of them, and realized my spiritual ambitions when I was ordained a Daoist monk in China in an official government ceremony. I write about China then and now and teach meditation and tai chi around the world. 

Yun's book list on better understanding and appreciating China

Yun Rou Why did Yun love this book?

This novelized biography of a poet some consider China’s greatest pleases me over and over again. Rendering Li Po (sometimes Li Bai) as a libertine living on a barge, drinking too much and partaking with gusto in the pleasures of the flesh at the red-candle district near which he moors, really helps bring alive the great man’s life and work. There’s also a bit about his relationship with Du Fu, more of a straight arrow. Those two, along with Wang Wei really offer a picture of the Daoist life I so adore and the feeling of watching the world spin out of control in war but also the peace and solitude of a mountain retreat.

By Simon Elegant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The studious young son of a vintner takes down the life and exploits of Li Po, China's legendary poet, as the poet recalls his outlandish adventures