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Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

Resources for Meditation and Buddhist Study

There are hundreds of books being published every year on the topic of Buddhism and meditation.  This list represents both new and classic books that are faithful to the Buddha’s teaching as taught in the Pali cannon.  You will also want to take advantage of the hundreds of free books and scripture translations available for free on line at Access to Insight,, many by these very same authors.  Other books written by Bhante Gunaratana are listed on Our Books page.  This list is by no means exhaustive and is intended only as a starting point. 

Foundation Books

The Buddha: A Very Short Introduction

Michael Carrithers

A brief non-technical introduction to the life and thought of Buddha. 


Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (2001, 2015)

Bhante Gunaratana

A clear and practical explanation of the Buddha’s doctrine of the Noble Eightfold Path.  Plenty of examples for everyday life.


In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon

Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Translator

Grouped by theme, this collection of scriptures covers the breadth and depth of the Buddha’s teaching.  Introductions to each chapter are written by Bhikkhu Bodhi and provide guidance for those just beginning to work with the scriptures


Mindfulness in Plain English (2001, 2015)

Bhante Gunaratana

A step-by-step guide to Buddhist meditation that is practical and direct. You will refer to this book again and again in your first two or three years of meditation.


Mindfulness with Breathing: A Manual for Serious Beginners

Ajahn Budhhadhasa Bhikkhu

Lays out the practice of anapanasati meditation, literally mindfulness of the in and out breath.


Pure and Simple: The Extraordinary Teachings of a Thai Buddhist Laywoman

Upasika Kee

This is a large collection of Upasika Kee Nanayon’s teachings published by Wisdom Publications.  You can also find selections from this book and other of her writings on the Access to Insight website.

What the Buddha Taught

Venerable Walpola Rahula

A lucid and faithful account of the Buddha’s teachings that includes a number of the basic texts. The Venerable Walpola Rahula was one of Bhante G’s teachers in Sri Lanka. An audio version of the book can be found on the Internet Archive. A full-text PDF document of the book is available from the Purdue University Buddhist Society.


When the Iron Eagle Flies: Buddhism for the West

Ayya Khema

Ayya Khema was born in Germany in 1923 and ordained as a nun in Sri Lanka.  This book gives an introduction to both meditation and fundamental Buddhist teachings.

Further Study

Being Dharma: The Essence of the Buddha’s Teachings

Venerable Ajahn Chah

Ajahn Chah is the founder of the Western Forest Sangha tradition started at his monastery in Thailand Wat Pa Nanachat. A full-text PDF document of the book is available from BuddhaNet.


The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English (2012)

Bhante Gunaratana

The Buddha referred to this teaching as "the direct path for the purification of beings."


The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Venerable U Silananda

This is the basic text of and commentary on the meditative techniques which the Buddha described as the only way to peace and happiness. Written by a Theravada monk with 40 years of meditative experience. Explains in detail all the instructions of the Buddha on how to achieve mindfulness.


The Heart of Buddhist Meditation

Venerable Nyanaponika Mahathera

Eric Fromm said that the work of this scholarly German born Theravada monk might become one of the most important contributions to the spiritual renewal of the West. Written in a simple and direct style, with deep humanity and extraordinary knowledge. Includes important texts and explanations of the basic techniques. Various full-text formats for this book are available from the Internet Archive.


Loving-Kindness in Plain English (2017)

Bhante Gunaratana

The practice of Metta, also translated as loving-friendliness (also available in Spanish).


Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambhala Classics)

Sharon Salzberg

A central meditation subject crucial to the balanced development of the path.

The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon

Venerable Bhikkhu Nanamoli

This book pieces together the chronological story of the Buddha’s life strictly from the standpoint of the Pali Cannon.  More recent translations of the text can be found individually, but this is the most comprehensive anthology of those relating to the Buddha’s path to enlightenment and his long life teaching the Dhamma. A full-text PDF document of this book is available from Pariyatti.


The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya

Translated by Venerable Bhikkhu Nyanamoli and Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Suttas are the primary resource for a practitioner to refer to.  This collection contains 152 Suttas and an invaluable introduction by Bhikkhu Bodhi.  A wealth of footnotes makes the text very accessible to the interested reader.


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