Although reading about the Dharma is no substitute for practicing it, a good book on Zen or Buddhism can set you on the course of practice or, when you feel stalled, kick-start it. The following list is not meant to be comprehensive; there are just too many good books on Zen and Buddhism, with more published every year. But this offers a sampling of some of our current favorites. In bold print are those we see as particularly helpful.

Title Author/Translator Comment

Contemporary Zen Teachings

Finding Your Seat: A Zen Handbook Sensei Amala Wrightson, Kathryn Argetsinger  
Illuminating Silence: Insights on the Path of Chinese Zen Chinese Zen master Sheng-yen, (John H. Crook, Ed.)  
The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics Robert Aitken, Roshi  
Opening the Hand of Thought: Foundations of Zen Buddhist Practice Kosho Uchiyama, Roshi, (Jisho Warner, Shohaku Okumura, & Thomas Wright, eds.)  
Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks Gary Thorp  
Taking the Path of Zen Robert Aitken, Roshi  
The Three Pillars of Zen: Teaching, Practice, Enlightenment Philip Kapleau, Roshi Roshi Kjolhede’s Afterword 
The Way of Korean Zen Master Kusan Sunim, (Martine Batchelor, tr. & Stephen Batchelor, ed.)  
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice Shunryu Suzuki, Roshi, (Trudy Dixon, ed.)  
Zen: Merging of East and West Philip Kapleau, Roshi  
Zen: Tradition and Transition Kenneth Kraft, ed.  

Introduction to General Buddhism

Buddha Karen Armstrong  
Buddhism: A Concise Introduction Huston Smith & Philip Novak  
Buddhism: A Way of Life and Thought Nancy Wilson Ross  
What the Buddha Taught Walpola Rahula, tr. & ed.  

Zen Teaching Classics

Dream Conversations on Buddhism and Zen Muso Kokushi, (Thomas Cleary, tr.) 14th-century Japaneses Zen master
The Essential Teachings of Zen Master Hakuin Norman Waddell, tr. 18th-century Japanese Zen master
The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women Zenshin Florence Caplow and Reigetsu Susan Moon, eds.  
How to Cook Your Life: From the Zen Kitchen to Enlightenment Zen Master Dogen & Kosho Uchiyama-roshi, (Thomas Wright, tr.)  
Instant Zen: Waking Up in the Present Foyan, (Thomas Cleary, tr.) 11th to 12th-century Chinese Zen master
Mud and Water: A Collection of Talks by the Zen Master Bassui Arthur Braverman, tr. Japanese, 14th-century
The Original Face: An Anthology of Rinzai Zen Thomas Cleary, tr. Japanese masters, 13th to 18th centuries
Swampland Flowers: The Letters and Lectures of Zen Master Ta Hui Christopher Cleary, tr. Chinese, 12th-century
Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen Robert E. Buswell, Jr., tr. 12th-century father of Korean Zen
The Unborn: The Life and Teachings of Zen Master Bankei Norman Waddell, tr. Japanese, 17th-century
Zen Essence: The Science of Freedom Thomas Cleary, tr. and ed. Chinese Zen masters of the Tang and Sung dynasties (8th to 14th centuries)
Zen Letters: Teachings of Yuanwu J.C. Cleary & Thomas Cleary, trs. 11th to 12th-century Chinese Zen master
The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma Red Pine, tr. the Indian-born Founder of Zen
The Zen Teaching of Huang Po on the Transmission of Mind John Blofeld, tr. 9th-century Chinese Zen master
Zen’s Chinese Heritage: The Masters and Their Teachings Andy Ferguson, tr. a Tang Dynasty compilation

Other Non-Zen Buddhist Teachings

Being Dharma: The Essence of the Buddha’s Teaching Ajahn Chah Theravada Buddhism
Dhammapada Buddha, (Eknath Easwaran, tr.) pre-Zen Buddhism
Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master Amy Schmidt Indian woman master
Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression – An Introduction to Mahayana Buddhism Taigen Dan Leighton Mahayana Buddhism
Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics Gunapala Dharmasiri Theravada Buddhism
Mindfulness in Plain English Bhante Gunaratana Theravada Buddhism
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times Pema Chödrön Tibetan Buddhism