Suggested Reading by Topic

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Many folks I speak with say their first taste of Buddhism came from a book they read out of curiosity. This was the case with me in 1972 when I found What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula in my high school library. I must have read it six times, cover to cover, each time gleaning a new insight into the remarkable teachings of the Buddha.

The suggestions I offer below are personal ones of books I have read and which have been a tremendous support over the years.

If you purchase any book from this list, as an Amazon Affiliate I will earn a tiny commission–and you don’t pay anything extra. This helps me keep the website up and running. Thanks.

I. Books for Beginners or the Simply Curious 

If you could choose only 1 book from the above list and you didn’t want to spend much money–I would suggest Mindfulness in Plain English. The author, A Sri Lankan monk his Western students call “Bhante G.” offers straightforward, accessible and inspiring meditation guidance. Highly recommended.

Freebie Alert
In each section I try to find free PDF alternatives to the recommended books. In this section, two authors have provided free PDF versions of their works:

The issue at Hand, by Gil Fronsdal, is a s short, clear and helpful introduction to Buddhist meditation. The author has made it available as a free download in seven languages here–> The Issue At Hand.

The number 1 recommendation in this section, Mindfulness is Plain English, is also available in an early version as a free download from the excellent online library at A Handful Of Leaves –> Mindfulness in Plain English.

II. Guidance in Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation

III. The Theravada, or Early Buddhist, Tradition

Freebie Alert
You might find these works on the Early Buddhist tradition helpful, provided freely by their author:

How Buddhism Began: The conditioned genesis of the early teachings, by the respected professor Richard F. Gombrich. Well-written and authoritative, it presents the Buddha’s ideas in their historical context.

Another celebrated professor, Rupert Gethin, has made his imminently readable book The Foundations of Buddhism available as a PDF. This volume was on by bed-stand for many years.

The late professor J. N. Jayatilleke, of the University of Sri Lanka, wrote a clear and thorough introduction the the Buddha’s teachings–>The Message of the Buddha.

IV. The Suttas of Early Buddhism

This section presents what I consider are accurate and readable translations of the suttas–an immense collection of about 10,000 discourses by and narratives about the Buddha.

Only about 1,000 of these texts are currently available in English translation–see Befriending the Suttas Tips on Reading the Pali Discourses for an introduction to this fascinating literature.

The discourses of the Buddha offer a vast range of practices, from ethical guidelines for wise daily life and relationships, instructions for meditation and inner cultivation, all the way to descriptions of the deepest truths of reality. As a general introduction see–> Introduction to Sutta Central.

Here are a few timeless and priceless suggestions to get you started:

V. Secular Buddhist Wisdom

 VI. People of Color and Buddhism


VII. Books for Children

 VIII. Buddhism/ Mindfulness and Parenting


IX. Books of Interest to Teens and Youth


X. Women and Buddhism


XI. Socially Engaged Buddhism


XII. Buddhism and Interfaith Dialogue


XIII. Buddhism and Popular Psychology


XIV. Mindfulness Approaches to Issues in Medicine, Neuroscience and Psychology







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