22 books directly related to Tibet 📚

All 22 Tibet books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town

By Barbara Demick

Why 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,…

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The best books on the human toll of civil war

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Book cover of The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet

The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet

By Graham Earnshaw

Why this book?

Graham Earnshaw, who has resided in the Middle Kingdom for the past 40+ years (longer than any other living expat here today), has also been casually strolling from Shanghai due west toward Tibet over the past two decades. Fluent in Mandarin, his spontaneous conversations with local peasants he has encountered along the way make The Great Walk a delightfully pleasant and profoundly insightful read. Published in 2010 by a small Hong Kong indie press and tragically overlooked by most Sinophiles, I can’t recommend this enough to anyone seeking an upbeat, unpretentious narrative of a foreigner drifting among the Chinese.
From the list:

The best books about expats in China

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Book cover of Japanese Children's Favorite Stories

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories

By Florence Sakade, Yoshisuke Kurosaki

Why this book?

As a little kid, I read the Japanese version of these stories and I was delighted when I found the English version to read to my then tiny daughter. “Momo-Taro,” or Peach Boy, is one of my favorite tales from childhood and there are so many others included in the book that I had forgotten about. These classic stories are a wonderful addition to any library!

From the list:

The best children’s books about and from Japan

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Book cover of Magic and Mystery in Tibet

Magic and Mystery in Tibet

By Madame Alexandra David-Neel

Why 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…

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The best books that changed my life

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Book cover of Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West

By Donald S. Lopez Jr

Why 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…

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The best books on Buddhism and the West

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Book cover of The Little Luminous Boy

The Little Luminous Boy

By Samten G. Karmay

Why this book?

The Little Luminous Boy is both a 7th c. Tibetan master who acquired the light body, Tapihritsa, as well as the potential that we all have in our search for enlightenment. Samten Karmay relates Tapihritsa’s life story in the context of the lineage of masters before and after him. It is a story of the transmission of knowledge and wisdom, of the precious Zhang Zhung lineage passed from mind to mind, by signs, orally, and finally put into writing. The Masters are shown through beautiful tsakli or cards that allow us to enter into their world through those images.…

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The best books into the Tibetan Bon-Buddhist yogic path

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Book cover of Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet, Japan

Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet, Japan

By Hajime Nakamura

Why this book?

The book shows some of the remarkable ways that Eastern and Western thought differs. I read the book 10 years before a brilliant Chinese student named Kaiping Peng came to work with me and told me right off the bat that I thought linearly and logically and he thought non-linearly and dialectically. That sounded like an exaggeration, but Nakamura’s book encouraged me to take Peng seriously. Our research together showed he was absolutely right. East Asian thought was shown by our experiments to be radically different in many ways from Western thought.

From the list:

The best books on thinking

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Book cover of Tents in the Clouds: The First Women's Himalayan Expedition

Tents in the Clouds: The First Women's Himalayan Expedition

By Monica Jackson, Elizabeth Stark

Why this book?

Betty Stark was the aunt of a friend of mine, and she was part of the first all women Himalayan expedition in 1955. It is an antidote to the very all-male outlook and structures of many climbs of that time. It had no leader, no ‘lead climbers’. Instead, they were a small team of friends, all experienced and capable, who wished only to explore, encounter, and climb as high and hard as they could. It is anti-heroic, recording the pains, sufferings, and losses and highs, quietly downplaying and yet the efforts and dangers come through. They were outliers and trailblazers.…

From the list:

The best books from the other side of the mountain

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Book cover of Tibet in Agony: Lhasa 1959

Tibet in Agony: Lhasa 1959

By Jianglin Li, Susan Wilf

Why this book?

For years, the Dalai Lama was courted by Beijing in efforts to incorporate Tibet into the new Chinese Communist State. Drawing on official Chinese documents and memoirs and interviews with Tibetan emigres, Li pulls together a dramatic account of the maneuverings, miscalculations, and events during a critical period that culminated in an uprising in Lhasa that was violently crushed by the People’ Liberation Army, leading to the dramatic flight of the Dalai Lama to India. The account provides fresh new light on a dramatic failure of Chinese policy whose consequences are felt to the present day.

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The best books about China from the Mao years through Tiananmen

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Book cover of The Way, My Way

The Way, My Way

By Bill Bennett

Why this book?

Bill Bennett’s book is written in a typically frank, down-to-earth Aussie manner – yet the author manages to combine humour with humility. He writes with an engaging yet self-deprecating style about his thoughts and emotions, the entertaining characters, and unusual situations he encountered along the journey - as well as the highs and lows of his journey. These are all described without reservation, giving the reader an insight into not only his journey but also his own personal struggles.

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The best books about the Camino de Santiago from someone who walked it

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Book cover of The Way To Shambhala

The Way To Shambhala

By Edwin Bernbaum

Why this book?

It is eminently possible that author James Hilton modelled his Shangri-La hideaway on the Tibetan realm of Shambhala. The two fabled realms share a lot in common. There are several Tibetan versions of the legend of Shambhala, but they run in the same pattern. Somewhere to the north of India is a kingdom ringed by impenetrable snowcapped mountains. In this sanctuary, poverty, hunger, crime, and sickness are unknown, and people live a hundred years. In the city of Kalapa, there is a glittering palace where sacred teachings are kept.

In a future several hundred years from now, the world will…

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The best books on the best places you have never been to

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Book cover of Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers

Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers

By Jane Robinson

Why this book?

Florence Nightingale, Freya Start, Gertrude Bell, Karen Blixen, and many other well-known women share their travel adventures in this wildly audacious and inspiring collection of stories. From encountering a madman in the Amazon to surviving a shipwreck, these intrepid globe-trotters overcome many challenges in their dauntless explorations. This book will show you a different side of these famous women.
From the list:

The best travel books for women

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Book cover of Prisoners of Geography, 1: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World

Prisoners of Geography, 1: Ten Maps That Explain Everything about the World

By Tim Marshall

Why this book?

Tim Marshall has had a long and illustrious career in journalism as a foreign correspondent and Prisoners of Geography absolutely sparkles with his fascinating insights and clarity of thought. How have the development and fate of modern nations been defined by their locale? This is Big History lapping right up to the newspaper headlines of today.

From the list:

The best books on big history

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Book cover of White Lama: The Life of Tantric Yogi Theos Bernard, Tibet's Lost Emissary to the New World

White Lama: The Life of Tantric Yogi Theos Bernard, Tibet's Lost Emissary to the New World

By Douglas Veenhof

Why this book?

This book is as much fun to read as an Indiana Jones story! Theos Bernard, born in 1908, was a grad student at Columbia University in 1936 when he decided he needed to go to India to do research on Tantric Yoga. He eventually became only the third American to even be allowed to enter Tibet, where he finally was able to study with the highest Tantric masters. But he was still and always an American; a big, strapping, handsome guy with a great asana practice and so his story unfolds in New York, California, Arizona just as much as…

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The best Buddhist and yoga biographies and memoirs

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Book cover of Wonders of the Natural Mind: The Essense of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet

Wonders of the Natural Mind: The Essense of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet

By Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Why this book?

This is Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s first book in English. And what I love about this book is that he puts it all out, no withholding. He talks about his life as a child entering the monastic life, at the monastery not too far from his house, and relates how he visited his mom, and the mantras he would recite if he was scared at night coming back to the monastery.

He describes his powerful dreams and the practice of dark retreat, where he stayed for the traditional 49 days when he was only fifteen years old. And the wonderful experiences,…

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The best books into the Tibetan Bon-Buddhist yogic path

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Book cover of In the Land of the Blue Poppies: The Collected Plant-Hunting Writings of Frank Kingdon Ward

In the Land of the Blue Poppies: The Collected Plant-Hunting Writings of Frank Kingdon Ward

By Frank Kingdon Ward

Why this book?

Once upon a time, “plant explorers,” intrepid botanists (mainly from the UK) fanned out over the lesser-known world looking for interesting plants to bring into wider appreciation and cultivation. Frank Kingdon Ward (1885-1958) is best known for introducing the breathtakingly beautiful Tibetan blue poppy. There’s an internet meme featuring his grizzled face with the caption “Make sure you want it enough,” a clear reference to what he went through to bring his prizes back. (Imagine: you spot the fabulous blue poppy in some remote place, but, you have to find a way to return in a few months to get…

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The best books about flowers

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Book cover of Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China

Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China

By Colin Thubron

Why this book?

I must have read dozens of books on China but Colin Thubron’s elegiac account comfortably takes the crown. Behind the Wall captures a unique moment in China’s history when foreigners were first allowed to travel around the country but the nation was yet to be influenced by the outside world. Having learnt to speak Mandarin in advance of travelling, the author probes deep into the rural areas and distant desert outposts of a closed communist empire still recovering from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

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The best solo adventure books

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Book cover of Tea Horse Road: China's Ancient Trade Road to Tibet

Tea Horse Road: China's Ancient Trade Road to Tibet

By Michael Freeman, Selena Ahmed

Why this book?

This hefty tome is a dream book for anyone fascinated, as I am, by the ancient trade road, dating back to the 7th century AD and stretching over 1000 miles, along which tea was carried on the backs of pack animals from southwest China up to Lhasa, where it was traded for Tibetan ponies. Freeman’s wonderful photographs and Ahmad’s text capture and explain the life of the villagers in the famous tea mountains of southern Yunnan, where tea trees live up to 3,000 years; the rituals of the Buddhist priests in their temples; the different ethnic peoples that live…

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The best books about tea and tea history

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Book cover of A Poisoned Arrow. The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama

A Poisoned Arrow. The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama

By Bskal-bzaṅ-tshe-brtan

Why this book?

I once saw the 10th Panchen Lama give a very rare press conference in Beijing. This remarkable Tibetan endured years of imprisonment for writing a report describing mass arrests, political executions, and man-made starvation in Tibet in the early 1960s. The report makes it clear that the famine and the eradication of religion was a deliberate policy. It was quite likely that more than any other group the Tibetans suffered more than any other group in China. Although he was at times criticised as a collaborator, compared to the Dalai Lama, who escaped to India, the report reveals that there…
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The best books to understand the history of communism

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Book cover of Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism

Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism

By Lama Anagarika Govinda

Why this book?

In the preface, Govinda explains: Anticipating the future, Tomo Geshe Rinpoche, one of the greatest spiritual teachers of modern Tibet and a real master of inner vision, left his remote mountain hermitage ... and proclaimed that the time had come to open to the world the spiritual treasures which had been hidden and preserved in Tibet for more than a thousand years. Because humanity stands at the crossroads of great decisions: before it lies the Path of Power ... leading to enslavement and self-destruction – and the Path of Enlightenment ... leading to liberation and self-realization.

This deeply spiritual book…

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The best books on tarot archetypes and the I Ching

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Book cover of Real Happiness: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation

Real Happiness: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation

By Sharon Salzberg

Why this book?

The first book I ever read by Sharon Salzberg was her memoir, Faith. And then, I had the opportunity to study with her at Tibet House in New York City for several years. One of the things that I love so much about Sharon as a teacher is how simple, practical, and approachable she makes meditation. There’s nothing complicated or intimidating in her instruction—whether you’re a beginner or an advanced practitioner, you always feel like you’re practicing with a good friend who is super smart, exceptionally generous, and consistently humble. All of those qualities are immediately accessible and apparent…

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The best books for living a simple, rich, and intentional life

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Book cover of All Is Change: The Two-Thousand-Year Journey of Buddhism to the West

All Is Change: The Two-Thousand-Year Journey of Buddhism to the West

By Lawrence Sutin

Why this book?

I read this book just before I started writing my own book on Buddhism and Ireland. It’s almost an adventure story: there’s Alexander the Great and Aesop’s Fables, Marco Polo and Theosophist fantasies, Christian missionaries to Asia and Buddhist missionaries to the West, Asian immigrants in America, and British spies in Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and today’s western Buddhists. Sutin tells this whole complicated, rambling yarn in an easy-going and enjoyable way, making the book a real pleasure to read.

From the list:

The best books on Buddhism and the West

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