An Introduction to the Ways for Western Readers

A friend asked if I could recommend a bookshelf full of books on Zen. I could…


The Buddha, Karen Armstrong (An accessible biography. For a review. )

Historical Buddha, H.W. Schumann (A, perhaps the academic biography. For a review)

What the Buddha Taught, Rahula Wapola (Good overview of Theravada Buddhist doctrines. For a review)

In the Buddha’s Words, Bhikkhu Bodhi, editor (substantial anthology culled from the Pali canon by one of the foremost Western Theravada monastics. For a review)

First Buddhist Women, Susan Murcott (Anthology of stories of the earliest women Buddhist practitioners. Not a review, but a great article.)


Roaring Stream: a New Zen Reader, Nelson Foster & Jack Shoemaker, editors (An anthology of historic Zen personalities and their teachings. For a review)

The Hidden Lamp, Florence Caplow & Susan Moon, editors (Reclaiming the women of Zen’s history. For a review)

Seeing Through Zen, John Mcrae (A concise description of the emergence of Zen in China. For a review)

The Platform Sutra, Philip Yampolsky, trs (The foundational myth of Zen. Not a review but it is referenced in this good article.)

Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen, Kazuaki Takahashi, editor (as the subtitles says, an introduction to Eihei Dogen. Not a review, but a good brief introduction)


The Art of Just Sitting, Daido Loori, editor (anthology of writings about zazen, shikantaza, silent illumination. For a review)

Book of Mu, James Ishmael Ford & Myozen Blacker, editors (anthology of writings on the “first” koan. For a review)

Sitting With Koans, Daido Loori, editor (anthology of writings about koan introspection. For a review)

On Zen Practice, Taizan Maezumi (a classic overview of Zen practice. For a review)


Encouraging Words, Robert Aitken (reflections of one of the first Western Zen masters. Not a review but an interesting obituary)

Saying Yes to Life, Ezra Bayda with Josh Bartok (aphorisms on the Zen way.For a review)

Everyday Zen, Joko Beck (a spare and compelling introduction to Zen as a way of life. Not a review but a lovely reflection)

If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break, James Ford (Memoir and guidance of a contemporary Western Zen teacher. For a review)

Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh (a solid introduction to the teaching of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. For a review)

Three Pillars of Zen, Philip Kapleau, editor (The first book in English to engage Zen as a spiritual discipline. For a review)

Ordinary Mind, Barry Magid (engaging meeting of Buddhism, Zen, and Western psychology. For a review)

Living by Vow, Shohaku Okumura (A Western classic on the Zen way. For a review)

This Truth Never Fails, David Rynick (a meditation on life from a contemporary Zen teacher. For a review)

The Whole World is a Single Flower, Seung Sahn (talks by the great Korean Zen teacher. Not a review, but a taste of the teacher)

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki (The first Western Zen spiritual classic. For a review)

Don’t Be a Jerk, Brad Warner (a very readable introduction to Eihei Dogen’s teachings in our contemporary idiom. For a review)


Buddhism Without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor (The breakthrough challenge of modernist Buddhism. For some reviews)

After Buddhism, Stephen Batchelor (A comprehensive reflection on a “secular” Buddhism. For a review)

Buddha Eye: Anthology of the Kyoto School & It’s Contemporaries, Frederick Franck, editor (An introduction to the Kyoto School, Japanese philosophers trained in Rinzai Zen and Western philosophical categories. For a review)


Mind of Clover, Robert Aitken (the first overview in English of ethics from a Zen Buddhist perspective. For a review)

Being Upright, Reb Anderson (a lovely engagement of the Zen precept. For a review)

New Social Face of Buddhism, Ken Jones (the classic review of the call of social justice from a Buddhist perspective. Not a review, but an appreciation)

Waking Up to What You Do, Dianne Rizzetto (A practical guide to engaging Zen ethics. For a review)

Radical Dharma, angel kyodo williams, Rod Owens & Jasmine Syedullah (Buddhism in the West and race, critical reflections. For a review)

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