7 Sensational American Buddhist Books You Must Read

With all due respect—and much is due—to Eastern Buddhist authors whose writings are probably more authentic by virtue of being closer to the source, for those of us who were born in the USA, there is something special about how American Buddhist teachings reach the modern American (expats, too!) by filtering the dharma through the lens of our inimitable popular culture.
Here is a list of seven indispensable, accessible, relatively recent American Buddhist books that I highly recommend for meditators and mindful folks of all levels of experience, whether you self-identify as Buddhist or not.
I smuggled this book into my first Vipassana course, because ten days of silence and intense meditation felt like too much to bear without reading and writing a little bit each day, although books and journals are prohibited. I am so glad that I did. It helped alleviate my confusion and served as a salve for my mental woes during those ten days. With a no-nonsense, concise, direct voice, Goldstein addresses many of the issues that come up for meditators of all ages.
At the one class I was able to attend this summer vacation at my all-time favorite yoga studio, Dharma Yoga in Austin, Texas, my teacher held up a copy of this book. I read it a couple of years ago and found Tara’s style so therapeutic and helpful. As the title implies, it is all about accepting the situations life brings with openness and compassion. This book is offers thorough explanations of how to accept without being a doormat and includes many useful guided meditations.
One of Pema’s more recent works, this volume focuses on the Tibetan Buddhist teaching of shenpa and how to get unhooked or unstuck when we find ourselves ruminating and stewing in negativity and fear. I read it as 2011 came to a close, during the fateful week that I happened to spend with a new friend, the man who would eventually father my child and become my husband, at a time in which I needed to unhook from future expectations more than ever. Unhooking is tough, but Pema’s clear teachings show the way with humor, candor and brilliance.
Thanks to this timely Elephant post, I learned about the existence of  this new book. It consists of one long, meandering conversation between actor Jeff Bridges and Jewish Buddhist teacher Bernie Glassman. The two pals riff on everything from love and marriage to earthquakes and movie-making, all within the framework of the many Zen-like quotes uttered by The Dude, the classic character Bridges portrayed in the Cohen brothers film, The Big Lebowski.
Yes, Pema made the list twice. She is that good. She has written many books of great value, but this is probably my personal favorite. Reading it is like taking medicine. As Pema non-preachily preaches, we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. Her work in this book shows us just how to avoid the former and do the latter.
The great philosopher Ken Wilber has published many thick volumes, many of which are esoteric, dense and difficult for the layperson to really absorb. Not so with this touching book, published in the early nineties after the death of his wife Treya of breast cancer. It is a unique book, in that it intersperses Treya’s personal diary entries from before, during and after her five year battle with cancer with Ken’s amazing writings on spirituality, Buddhist teachings and the struggles and joys of being a caretaker of a terminally ill person.
This book elaborates on the key principles outlined in the Buddha’s noble Eightfold Path and covers Wisdom Training (developing clear vision, insight, and inner understanding — seeing reality and ourselves as we really are), Ethics Training (cultivating virtue, self-discipline, and compassion in what we say and do) and Meditation Training (practicing mindfulness, concentration, and awareness of the present moment). It is full of prescient teachings that are well worth reading and re-reading.
I include this title as a bonus because I know for non-parents, blog posts and books about babies, kids and parenting are bo-ring! This one is fantastic though, with lots of useful anecdotes and lovely, practical teachings from mindfulness mogul Jon Kabat-Zinn and his wife Myla, who have raised five children of their own.
Obviously, this list is only the beginning. What other American Buddhist books would you include? Please leave a comment below and share your favorite title(s).
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