Recommended Reading

  Zen – Practice

These are collections of talks for people who are doing zazen and practicing in daily life.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki contains short talks for zazen practitioners.  This is a book to be read with the heart.  Shunryu Suzuki was the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and the first major teacher of Soto Zen to Americans.

Returning to Silence and You Have to Say Something by Danin Katagiri contain encouragement and coaching talks for zazen and daily life.  Another book to be read with the heart.  A sucessor of Shunryu Suzuki and founder and former abbot of the Minnesota Zen Center.

Sit Down and Shut Up by Brad Warner explanations of some of the writings of the Japanese master Dōgen and how we practice with them. Humorous, clear and insightful. A really good read.

Everyday Zen and Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck contain straightforward, no nonsense advice about how to practice with many examples from the author’s personal experience.  Includes numerous dharma talks about what to expect (and not expect) from zazen and sesshin, and how to make Zen practice a day-to-day, moment-to-moment experience that truly changes the way you see yourself and the world.

Zen Seeds by Shundo Aoyama is a collection of talks on practice by the abbess of Aichi Senmon Nisodo, a women’s training center is Japan.  A fine book for beginning daily life practice.

Warm Smiles from Cold Mountains by Reb Anderson is a collection of zazen and daily life practice talks by the former abbot of San Francisco Zen Center and a longtime student of Shunryu Suzuki.

It’s Easier Than You Think by Sylvia Boorstein is a primer on Buddhism, exploring the path to happiness through the Buddha’s basic teachings and stressing ways to eliminate hindrances to clear seeing. Her personal stories color the teachings with humor, perception and love.

A Still Forest Pool by Achaan Chah is a book of short talks for the spirit by a Thai Theravidin teacher. It describes life in a remote forest monastery in Northern Thailand but always stays relevant to the everday life of a city dwelling westerner. Achaan Chah was one of the masters under whom Jack Kornfield practiced meditation.

Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn begins with detailed instruction in conscious breathing and the awareness of small acts in our everyday lives, and concludes with an exploration of the connection between inner peace and peace in the world.

Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama is a readable, simple introduction to Zen practice and Zen meditation.  It contains good how-to-material for beginning to do zazen.

Zen Unleashed: Everyday Buddhist Wisdom from Man’s Best Friend by Tim Macejak is a summary of Zen by a dog name Sheila.  Cheerfully presented wihile covering a lot of ground, Sheila uses dog haiku with commentary to provide a solid and unique introduction and review to the “bones” of Buddhism and Zen.

  Children’s Books

Ages 2-9

Buddhist Animal Wisdom Stories, Mark W. McGinnis, Shambhala Publications, 2008
I Once Was a Monkey Stories Buddha Told, Jeanne M. Lee, Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. 1999
Moody Cow Meditates, Kerry Lee MacLean, Wisdom Publications 2009
Peaceful Piggy Meditation, Kerry Lee MacLean, Albert Whitman & Company 2004
Zen Ties, Jon J Muth, Scolastic 2008
Zen Shorts, Jon J Muth, Scolastic 2005

Ages 5-11

Prince Siddartha, Jonathan Landaw, Wisdom, 1995
The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Simon and Schuster (Aladdin Paperbacks), 1990

  Zen – Description

These books are good introductions to practice and its meaning for those who are just beginning practice, as well as those who have practiced for a while.  They are also good for those who are interested in learning a bit more about Zen by not necessarily in practicing.

Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken discusses correct breathing, posture, routine, teacher-student relations, and koan study, as well as common problems and milestones encountered in the process. Throughout the book the author returns to zazen, offering further advice and more advanced techniques.

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn is a personable, simply written, short introduction to Zen and Zen practice.  Gentle stories and exercises show that opportunities for mindfulness are numerous and close at hand.

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hahn contains more detailed material about the Buddha’s teaching and our practice.  A very accessible, in-depth description of Buddhist concepts.

Refining Your Life by Kosho Uchiyama is a commentary on Zen Mater Dogen’s instructions to the monastery cook.  It’s an excellent book for beginning practitioners.

Crooked Cucumber: The life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki by David Chadwich presents Zen teaching in the context of a biography of the first major teacher of Soto Zen to Americans.  It’s a fine story and a very clear window onto Zen history, belief, and practice.


These are overviews of Buddhism in all its varieties.

The Buddhist Religion by R.H. Robinson and W.L. Johnson is an account of Buddhist beliefs, their history, and how they developed into the variety of beliefs and practices that we know today.  It is short, readable, comprehensive, and scholarly.

What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula is a more detailed description of Buddhist beliefs, along with translations of some of the more important oldest scriptures.  This portrait of the religion by a practitioner combines a scholarly approach with a depth of understanding that comes from long practice.

How the Swans Came to the Lake by Rick Fields chronicles the coming of Buddhism to the West and to the United States in particular.  The last chapters describe the variety of Buddhist denominations in the West today.

Buddhist Women on the Edge: Contemporary Perspectives from the Western Frontier edited by Marianne Dresser is a collection of essays by a range of contemporary women, from ordained teachers and practitioners to women who have experimented with Buddhism, which explores the role of gender, race, class, and sexuality in Buddhism in North America.

Being Bodies: Buddhist Women on the Paradox of Embodiment edited by Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon is a collection of essays that raises important questions and offers honest answers about the seeming dichotomy of having a female body and a Buddhist practice

Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist Environmentalism edited by Stephanie Kasa and Kenneth Kraft offers contemporary Buddhist insights on environmentalism with contributions from Thich Nhat Hahn, the Dalai Lama, Joanna Macy, Robert Aitkin, and others.

Dharma Gaia: A Harvest of Essays in Buddhism and Ecology edited by Allan Hunt-Badiner and the Dalai Lama offers perspectives on human/Gaia interaction, illustrating that the interdependency of all things is at the heart of Buddhism and that practicing Zen in our everyday lives is the manifestation of compassion for the Dharma-Earth.


Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hahn shows us how our state of mind and body can make the world a peaceful place and how we can take the very situations that pressure and antagonize us and transform them into opportunities for the practice of mindfulness.

Being Upright by Reb Anderson points directly to daily life and gives inspiration for practicing the Precepts. He shows how the Precepts are not black-and-white rule, set in stone, but a way of life that transforms our practice and our lives.

Heart of Being by John Daido Loori offers commentary on the precepts and discusses the ethical significance of these vows within the context of formal Zen training and as guidelines for everyday life.

Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hahn brings his gift of clarity and poetry to an explanation of the basic teachings of Buddhism–the Precepts, the Four Noble Truths, and the Eight-fold Path. These teachings are time-tested means to transforming suffering into into mindfulness, compassion, and joy.

Mind of Clover by Robert Aitken discuss the Precepts, which, Aitken points out, are “not commandments etched in stone but expressions of inspiration written in something more fluid than water.” Aitken approaches these Precepts, the core of Zen ethics, from several perspectives, offering many layers of interpretation.