Matthew Southey half-baked half-thoughts    About    Archive    Feed

Books: Some Book Recommendations on Buddhism

This is a list of books related to Buddhism that I made for a friend. Most of these books have a high signal/noise ratio, although some of them are quite academic.

Resources for New Meditators

There is a massive amount of material on meditation – choosing where to start can feel like drinking from a firehose. Here are some recommendations.

The Mind Illuminated by John Yates
One-stop-shop for all your meditative needs. Covers every step of the path from absolute beginner to stream-entrant.

Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
The classic no-nonsense introduction to meditation, with many solutions to common problems.

Waking Up by Sam Harris
A good introduction to Buddhism for atheists and skeptics. Surprisingly even-handed and non-judgmental.

Overviews of Buddhism

Introduction to Buddhism by Peter Harvey
A very good overview of Buddhism. Scholarly and reliable introduction that is fairly comprehensive. I first read this book in college for a “Buddhism 101” class. I’ve re-read it multiple times since.

Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations by Paul Williams
A good resource, but a little textbookey (it’s a textbook).

Tibetan Buddhism and Tantra

Introducing Tibetan Buddhism by Geoffrey Samuels
A good ethnographic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.

Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by John Powers
Another very good, and perhaps more well-rounded, intro that goes in-depth on key aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Alchemical Body by David Gordon White
An amazing introduction to tantric ideas of the body.

Tantra in Practice by David Gordon White
A great collection of essays concerning Tantra in different contexts.

Tantric Treasures by Roger Jackson
Incredible poetry from old-school Tantric masters Saraha, Tilopa, and Kanha. I recommend digging into Saraha’s poetry, a real goldmine of fascinating tantric ideas.

For canonical texts of Tibetan Buddhism, I really like the series put out by Library of Tibetan Classics particularly their editions on Mind Training and Mahamudra.


Two of the best books on Buddhist philosophy are Indian Buddhist Philosophy by Amber Carpenter and Buddhism as Philosophy by Mark Siderits. Carpenter is a little bit more accessible in my opinion.

Buddhism and Cognitive Science

If you’re interested in the field, you should read the holy grail of Buddhism and cognitive science: The Embodied Mind by Varela, Thompson, and Roche. From there you can dig deep into Varela (I recommend Ethical Know-How) or Thompson (Mind in Life is his scientific magnum opus and Waking, Dreaming, Being is a popular introduction to a variety of problems at the intersection of Buddhism and cognitive science). Oh, and The Bodhisattva’s Brain by Owen Flanagan is great too.