Buddhism A-Z: 10 Buddhist books everyone should have

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
by Jack Kornfield
(Bantam, 2000)

According to Jack Kornfield, enlightenment does exist and is even pretty common. The rub is that after achieving it, day-to-day tasks and troubles still await you. This is a guide to translating our spiritual awakenings into our imperfect lives.


A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
by Rod Meade Sperry and the editors of the Shambhala Sun
(Shambhala, 2014)

Advice and inspiration from Buddhism’s most renowned teachers, including many Shambhala Sun readers’ favorites like Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Norman Fischer, Judy Lief, and many more.


Being Peace
by Thich Nhat Hanh
(Parallax, 1987)

Addresses both personal awakening and engaging compassionately in the world. Using anecdotes from his own life, as well as poems and fables, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches his key practices for dwelling in the present moment.


Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
by Chögyam Trungpa
(Shambhala, 1973)

Based on the highest view of the Vajrayana school, it defines basic principles not only of Buddhism but of spiritual practice altogether. Always contemporary and relevant, a profound influence on how Buddhism is understood today.


Happiness Is an Inside Job
by Sylvia Boorstein
(Ballantine, 2007)

With her characteristic warmth, Sylvia Boorstein teaches how practicing right mindfulness, concentration, and effort leads us away from anger, anxiety, and confusion and into calmness, clarity, and joy.


Mindfulness in Plain English
by Bhante Gunaratana
(Wisdom, 1992)

Perfect for anyone interested in mindfulness, Buddhist or not. This classic of the Theravada tradition explains what mindfulness is and isn’t, how to practice it, and how to work with distractions and other obstacles.


Real Happiness
by Sharon Salzberg
(Workman, 2010)

Using almost no Buddhist-specific terms, this helpful little book nonetheless hits all the right notes when it comes to how to do basic meditation and related practices that can help us cultivate more kindness, connection, and contentment in our everyday lives.


What Makes You Not a Buddhist
by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
(Shambhala, 2008)

A precise delineation of the key tenets that define Buddhism, versus what is superfluous, merely cultural, or not Buddhist at all. A good book to read if you’re deciding whether or not you’re a Buddhist, or just want to know what Buddhism really is.


When Things Fall Apart
by Pema Chödrön
(Shambhala, 1997)

If you’re facing a challenging time in life, this is the book you want. It shows how to develop loving-kindness toward yourself and then cultivate a fearlessly compassionate attitude toward your own pain and that of others.


Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
by Shunryu Suzuki
(Weatherhill, 1973; fortieth anniversary edition, 2013, Shambhala)

Though covering Zen basics like zazen posture, bowing, intention, and so on, Suzuki Roshi’s masterwork is hardly just for Zen people—or just for beginners, for that matter. It skillfully introduces important Buddhist concepts like non-attachment, emptiness, and enlightenment.