Last week I mentioned that sometimes I get two of the same question at the same time. Well it happened again, this time regarding reading material:
Hi, I wanted to know if we are new to Buddhism what reading material would you suggest to start out. Thank you,
I’ve been interested in Buddhism for quite some time and have done a bit of reading/meditation/study here and there. However, I was wondering if there are any books you can recommend on the basic foundations: the four noble truths, the eight-fold path, the five precepts. I’d really prefer something that’s easily understandable to someone new to Buddhism–something in layman’s terms, if you will.
My first recommendation is, of course, to read and subscribe to the Daily Buddhism. I did a series from February 2nd to Feb 6th called the “Foundations of Buddhism.” Go back and find the posts and read them, or listen to Podcast episode 43, the audio version of the same material. These are free and available to you immediately, so I see no reason not to start there. You can also purchase it in printable pdf format, and here are links:
Beyond that, here are a few good beginner books that I recommend:
Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1573226564/?tag=askdrarca-20
This is the book that “converted” me when it first came out. It explains all the basics of Buddhism without relying on mysticism and religion. I have long since given my copy away and it’s been years since I read it, but I’ll recommend it just for the impact it had on me.
Buddhist Scriptures by Edward Conze
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0140440887/?tag=askdrarca-20
This one has excerpts from all the major “scriptures” of Buddhism and will give a good overview of what all has been written in the past 2500 years. There are lots of stories, doctrines, and so forth here, but this is not a “What is Buddhism about” kind of book. This is a good book for when you have a grasp of the basics, but don’t buy this as a first book.
Meditation for Dummies by Stephan Bodian
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0471777749/?tag=askdrarca-20
I like this one because it’s not actually about Buddhism. It focuses on many different forms of meditation, allowing you to try various ways of meditating without “preaching” to you about which one is best for your sect of Buddhism. I think it is best to learn Buddhism and Meditation separately and then find a way to make the two mesh with each other in your own mind.
Thich Nhat Hanh: Essential Writings by Thich Nhat Hanh
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1570753709/?tag=askdrarca-20
Thich Nhat Hanh is easily my favorite Buddhist author living today. You just have to like the guy, he’s warm, honest, gentle in the extreme, and possibly the biggest pacifist ever. Nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for a Nobel prize, he’s written a gazillion books, and I’d recommend just about any of them. This one is a good starting point.
The Five-Minute Buddhist by Brian Schell
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B0G1QH4/?tag=askdrarca-20
MY Book. Of course I’m going to recommend it here. It’s got all the best posts from the Daily Buddhism, as well as new material. If you like reading this web site, you should absolutely pick this one up.
I’ve also reviewed quite a few books here on the Daily Buddhism site, and I recommend most of them (I don’t like to write about the books I disliked).