I’ve read a lot of books on the topic of meditation over the last few years. Occasionally one will stand out as special. You can just seem to tell when the writing comes from a place of true knowledge and experience. I have, of course, my own tastes and inclinations but I’ve tried to keep the list of best meditation books as broad as possible.
As with others on the site, this “best of” list will be an ongoing project that I will add to as time passes. If you would like to submit your own suggestion please do get in touch or leave your recommendations in the comments.
The Best Meditation Books (for Very Busy People)
For the Ultra-Busy: Making Space Creating a Home Meditation Practice by Thick Nhat Hanh
“Making Space,” by renowned Buddhist monk Tich Nhat Hanh, is a perfect introduction for people who haven’t got time to read a full book. It’s slightly larger than A5 size and only 90 pages long (you could quite easily get through it in an hour).
It outlines two foundational techniques: breathing and metta (loving-kindness) meditation. Alongside this, small practical changes are suggested to make a space in your home that is conducive to practice. A lovely little book.
Matthieu Ricard, the author, is a Buddhist monk and French translator for the Dalai Lama. It’s probably the best overall introduction to meditation that I’ve read. It outlines all of the basic techniques alongside rooting the ideas in the basic tenets of the Buddhist philosophy from which they originate.
There’s a very strong emphasis on the practical applications of meditation. He explains how a practice can aid us in working through our own inner difficulties and in fostering positive states of mind (emotional stability, attention, day-to-day calme etc.) Highly recommended.
Robert Butera is a yoga teacher with a great deal of experience studying contemplative practices from an academic standpoint. That said, his work is never stuffy! The book outlines six different types of meditation – breath, visualization, mantra, devotion, mindfulness, contemplative inquiry – and the emphasis is on finding the best one for your particular temperament.
It’s a great manual, especially because of the personal approach, and Butera’s deep knowledge of his subject shines through on every page. It’s a longer book so it may be best-suited for those with a little more time.
I also included this in my list, “Best Mindfulness Books (for Busy People)“. The unique thing about this book is that Mark’s approach is directed specifically a those who struggle to find time for meditation. His philosophy is simple: capitalize on those moments when you’re not really doing anything (in the shower, on the train to work, walking between meetings or down the street etc.) to practice, even if only for a minute. All of these small moments added up, will create a genuinely transformative force in your life. There’s a lot about this path that I like and it really does make a difference.
It’s also available as an audio-book, read by the author.
B. Alan Wallace is one of my favourite writers period. He’s a deeply insightful teacher with an unrivalled grasp of Buddhist meditation and philosophy. Whilst the earlier parts could be read on their own for a strong understanding of basic meditation techniques, this book is for those who are looking to go further.
It’s an in-depth look at the path to developing mental stability, or shamatha. Wallace also explores many of the common pitfalls of meditative practice and how they can be overcome.
I came across this book by Tobin Blake almost by accident. It’s a great little read and one that includes many areas that aren’t usually given much attention (“Meditating with Music” for example). Each chapter is no more than a few pages so it’s very good for dipping in and out of. As a whole, the book is a concise and comprehensive overview of meditation and the many different techniques therein.
By the founders of the hugely popular meditation app “Headspace.” This simple manual is an original and knowledgeable introduction by a former Buddhist monk. The tone is light and there’s a strong emphasis on meditation seen as a tool to work through the problems of modern life.
It’s a secular book that’s filled with entertaining analogies to illustrate vague concepts.
If you want a more advanced meditation manual from Buddhist perspective I sincerely recommend this book. You may want to read it in conjunction with Rosenberg’s companion book “Breath by Breath.” It’s an edited transcript from a lecture given in Thailand. Not a quick, nor necessarily an easy, read, but an excellent introduction to meditation and its surrounding philosophy from a Buddhist perspective.
This is a book of guided meditations rather than an instructional manual. It’s worth having to dip into every now and again as your mood suits. The meditations are suitable for any situation, not just for calming anxiety.
Image Credit: Reading by Daniele Zanni