Summer Reading
Recently, someone - I can't remember now who it was - asked me for a Buddhist reading list. My suggestions are usually geared to what I know of the person asking, so I hesitate to put forth a general list, but these are favorites of mine.
Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken Roshi
This is the book that started it all for me, and thus it is a sentimental favorite of mine, but it is also an excellent introduction to Zen.  I am unable to own this book - everytime I buy a copy, I meet someone who needs to read it. I think I have given about 7 copies away. If you like Aitken's style, try The Mind of Clover next.
Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau Roshi
This one is a bit more ambitious. It contains not only instructions on how to begin, but also a section on monastic life, and several people recant their enlightenment experiences. This one is a bit dense for beach reading, but worth the effort.
Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters by Bernie Glassman is a update of a 13th Century japanese manual of the same name. The gist of the original was that attention to the small things in life leads to an understanding of the larger issues. The new version brings that idea to the 21st Century, and applies it to everything. Glassman is one of the Roshi at the Los Angeles Zen Center where I studied briefly, and he is a genuine bodhisattva. He is also the co-founder of the Zen Peacemakers
Stumbling Toward Enlightenment by Gerry Larkin
Larkin is a Michigan-based single mother who, accompanied by her 12 year old daughter, moved into a fulltime monastic center and became a Zen priest. It is funny, sweet, and full of the humanity of Buddhism. A good read for those dark times. There is also a sequel, called First you Shave your Head.
That's Funny, You don't Look Buddhist by Sylvia Boorstein
Boorstein is the Erma Bombeck of Buddhism. Her work is funny in a Jewish sort of way, but the messages are sound Buddhist teaching. She has several other titles out there as well; It's Easier than You Think, Pay Attention for Goodness Sake, and my personal favorite, Don't Just Do Something, Sit there! All are quick reads, good for a summer afternoon.

The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi by Susan Ichi Su Moon
Tofu Roshi is a classic of modern Zen humor. This should not be your first book on Zen or Buddhism (you won't get most of the jokes), but once you have read Aitken or Kapleau it is hilarious. Consider this poetic excerpt:
                  Several birds wanting the same branch. 
                  A cherry blossom dropped halfway down.                   
                  I forget what I was trying to say.
It also contains a letter from a concerned student whose practice is breath counting. He is concerned because he seems to inhale more than he exhales...  It's funny stuff, and it is broken down into short sections so you can just dip into it for a few minutes.

There are many more, but if I had to cut my bookshelf down to just 6, these would be the ones I'd keep. I encourage all of the cult of blog to put forth a similar list - I'd love to see what y'all are reading.


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