Sunday, 14 June 2009

12 Books that have influenced me

I know this has been hit on before, but I'd like to hear what other books have deeply influenced you, even beyond the realm of Philosophy or Buddhism.

In no particular order:

Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen - A wonderful basic introduction to Buddhism without much of the 'cultral trappings' of the more traditional forms of Buddhism.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki By far, my favorite book dealing with the Zen practice. Suzuki to this day has a tremendous following.

Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana A must have book on the practice of mindfulness, written in an extraordinarily easy to understand language.

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh Hanh writes is such an eloquent and understandable manner, it's difficult to put the book down for sure.

A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield Kornfield expresses compassion and kindness in his work that bleed from his book into your heart.

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene A wonderful scientific book that explains modern physics in a way that is easy to understand.

Sayings of the Buddha - Buddha (translated by Thomas Byron) - Basically the Dharmapada translated into English. If you can get this book on tape, I think its worth doing.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson Bill Bryson is one of my favorite contemporary writers and this is his Coup de grâce in my opinion.

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman Simply the best book on the beginnings of WW1 and the repercussions on misunderstanding between men and country.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking A great read for anyone interested in astrophysics and understanding quantum physics better.

Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World by Lama Surya Das - A great look into a contemporary view of Tibetan Buddhism.

Thoughts Without a Thinker by Mark Epstein A wonderful book that combines the practice of Buddhism with the philosophy of psychology.


  1. Wow! Great list! What initially got me into Buddhism was Geri Larkin's Stumbling Toward Enlightenment. It was just the immersion I needed. Recently, I have been reading Noah Levine's stuff. I think it is really bringing out the best in progressive Buddhism, helping recovering addicts and anger issues...really hitting hard with Western people with modern problems...

  2. It was "Hermann Hesse - Siddharta" for me. Going to get some of the things from your list too.

  3. I am not sure if it's a "progressive" Buddhism book, but Buddhism for Mothers was a lovely book for me.

  4. Here is my list of twelve that, though may not be the primary influence, at least reflect where I was spiritually at the time I read them (mind you, some of these are really flaky):

    1- The Bible. This is the book I read when I started my spiritual journey when I was 14 y/o (1994).

    2- The Three Battlegrounds [Francis Frangipane]. I 'got saved' in a Methodist Church, but after getting 'baptized in the Holy Ghost' and moving to the Assemblies of God, this was one of the books that was popular at the time . Our church was into wild prayer meetings and 'spiritual warfare'. (1997)

    3- Pigs In the Parlor [Frank Hammond]. This was when I entered my flaky stage in my freshman year of college. I was hanging out with a Deliverance Preacher. I saw some really messed up stuff and was around some really crazy people a the time. (1998-1999) I switched churches to a non-denominational Word-of-Faith church.

    4- The Fabric of the Cosmos [Brian Greene]. I've always loved science, especially quantum physics, and while in college my Christian faith and all the flakiness I was around was challenged by books like this one. (2000-2001)

    5- The Tongue: A Creative Force [Charles Capps]. I almost deconverted in college, but I immersed myself in further into Christian fundamentalism and the Word-of-Faith movement. What influenced me about this book was that idea that I could have what ever I spoke by faith in 'God's Word'. (2003)

    6- The Image of Righteousness [Creflo Dollar]. I also got involved in the Prosperity Gospel. This book was influential in that Dollar was preaching a gospel that Christians are all little gods. It was blasphemous, but very much a part of what the "Name It, Claim It" bunch was about. (2002)

    7- Verbal Judo [George Thompson]. Not a book on spirituality, but on law enforcement. I took a job as a cop and wanted to learn how to talk to people better and in an effective way. (2004-2005)

    8- Restoration [D. Thomas Lancaster]. I started having some real issues with the Word-of-Faith movement at this time. I got involved with the Messianic Jewish movement and trying to find out how "Yeshua [Jesus] really wanted me to live, which was probably more like he lived in the first century... which was Jewish." (2004-2005)

    9- The Real Messiah [Aryeh Kaplan]. A Jewish counter-missionary book that was the icing on the cake as far as convincing me that Jesus (and Christianity) wasn't for me. (2005-2006)

    10- Atheist Universe [David Mills]. I ended up deconverting in December of 2006. This book helped reassure me that my objections to Christianity were solid. (2006-2007)

    11- The Demon-Haunted World [Carl Sagan]. I became a strident atheist and skeptic. Sagan's book was pivotal for me not only in challenging me to be skeptical and ask questions, but also to reclaim a level of personal 'spirituality'. (2007-2008)

    12- Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha [Daniel Ingram]. Though most of my Buddhist readings have been websites, pdf files, blogs, and audio podcasts that were probably more influential, this is a book (since that is what we are talking about) that has helped me become more committed to meditation practice. (2009)