Best Zen Fiction

Maria Johnson
• Friday, 04 December, 2020
• 9 min read

One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Roman When we first start practicing Zen meditation, there is this voracious curiosity to learn more about this fascinating philosophy.

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Luckily, there are several books that explore this vast subject in great detail. The book contains mindfulness advice from one of the greatest authorities on Zen, Which That Hand.

It is full of useful guidelines and principles for leading a mindful, peaceful life and helping those around you do the same. What’s truly wonderful about this book is that the author has lived by these guidelines and principles all his life.

Exiled from his native country Vietnam for his participation in the peace movement, Which That Hand has since lived in France. Though he has authored several books on Zen and on the life and teachings of the Buddha, Peace is Every Step deserves a special mention in this list because it presents mindfulness principles in the context of everyday life.

Which That Hand acknowledges the sorrows and challenges of modern life, but draws our attention back to the power of the present moment. While practicing Taken meditation, it’s important to approach the subject with a beginner’s mind.

And that is the idea Suzuki presents in an eloquent style while demystifying a complex subject like Zen. Suzuki provides helpful and thought-provoking truths about meditation for anyone who wants to lead a more mindful life.

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Best quote from the book: “What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.” If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the history of Buddhism and Zen, this is the book you should read.

Watts effectively outlines the history of Buddhism, its roots in Vedic philosophy, and its travel through China to Japan. Like Zen itself, Alan Watts’ style is simple, straightforward, and devoid of unnecessary jargon.

Any Zen reading list would be incomplete without a book containing the teachings of the Dalai Lama. This book is a series of interviews and meetings between Dr. Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama, as His Holiness explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, and illustrates how one can ride through life’s challenges and obstacles to lead a more peaceful, mindful life.

Though not as comprehensive and detailed as other books in this list, Tableau’s passion for the subject and his enthusiasm to share insights on Zen is remarkable. Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Dec 6, 2016 and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness.

I recently ran into a couple of reading lists (I’ll share them at the end) and realized that I LOVE reading book recommendations. So I decided to compile my own (somewhat eclectic) list of novels I think are amazing and essential to every library.

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If Lear is my favorite, Hamlet just barely lost that title. Gatsby is better known, but Tender is written so beautifully that you have to read it if you haven’t.

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, by James Joyce. A great introduction to this unmatched of modern writers, Portrait is notable for the development of its language as the narrator’s skill with language improves.

Joyce puts the entire scale of human drama and English literature within the span of 24 hours, plotted within one square mile, told through the lives of ordinary people. Also see Joyce’s outstanding book of short stories, Dubliners.

Until then, he held the title of my absolute favorite living writer. A more humorous and raging commentary against war has rarely been written.

This tale of the near future features a Zen -like assassin, among other cool characters, who is one of my favorites in Gibson lore. With this book, Gibson starts a new series, set in the present day.

(Source: www.mediaguru.cz)

One of the greatest living writers of the English language, you could pick up any of his titles (Disgrace would be my other recommendation) and get an excellent book. The best of the detective novelists, Chandler took the genre to new heights that generations of writers have tried to reach.

If you like Chandler and similar tough detective novels, you’ll love Lethe’s brilliant take on the genre. An excellent story featuring a protagonist with Tourette Syndrome, a killer giant and a Zen crime syndicate.

Another excellent detective novel, this one combines the genre with sci-fi. Features talking kangaroos working for the mob and other cool stuff.

It’s hard to describe Sigurd’s writing, except that he really plays with whether the narrator of a story is objective or not. He plays with traditional plot devices and uses the reader’s curiosity of the unfolding story drive the book forward.

Ostensibly a detective novel, it leaves you wondering about a lot of things, including what others really think of the narrator. Very different from most of the fiction you’ll read, anything can happen in a Murasaki book.

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Also see Pratchett’s excellent The Magician’s Assistant The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams. Sure, it’s supposedly a kid’s series, but so is LOTR (next entry, below) and host of other wonderful works.

Set in Czechoslovakia in the late 60s, it explores the insignificance of our actions and existence, in beautiful language. One of the greatest novels of all time, Anna is a tragic heroine brought down by her desire to live and be loved, while Kevin is a wonderful character looking for a satisfactory answer to the only important question to Tolstoy: that of death.

Incredibly interwoven stories presided over by a roving omniscient narrator. Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky.

These two classics are fascinating for their explorations of the human psyche under extreme conditions. An existentialist before his time, Dostoevsky is a powerful writer.

I’ve read and enjoyed all of his books, but the Broker is one of my favorites. A classic from when I was an adolescent, Catcher withstands multiple readings over the years.

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(Source: beetifulbookcovers.com)

Another master of historical fiction, Vidal follows a fictional Version diplomat who meets major philosophers of the time, from Socrates to Zoroaster and Buddha and Lao CSU and Confucius. Another one I enjoyed as an adolescent, it’s a gripping story set in a small southern town with memorable characters.

Compelling story with a main character you’ll wish you could be, especially if you’re a guy. Absolutely hilarious and brilliant social commentary in the guise of a memoir.

OK, this isn’t exactly a novel, but the stories are so exaggerated as to be almost fictional, so I included it. Also read his others, including Naked and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

A monumental classic by a master, explores the plight of the poor who are exploited by modern corporations in an epic tale of struggling sharecroppers. The first of the incredible Travis McGee series, I actually highly recommend all of them.

It’s a masterpiece, really, with intricately interwoven narratives (which can be a bit confusing) telling the story of a hard-nosed logging family in Oregon. A charming story of an Indian boy lost in the middle of the ocean with a tiger.

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(Source: www.pinterest.com)

At first, I didn’t like this book much, as the author seems to dislike and make fun of the main characters. But the deeper you go into the novel, the more you begin to understand and sympathize with the characters.

And beyond an intricately woven tale, it’s also an interesting critique of modern consumerism society. A beautiful love story, told with a unique twist of time travel.

The movie disappointed, but you’ll fall in love with these characters. Incredibly intriguing historical fiction, in this case set in Hong Kong.

Cavell has a whole series of can’t-put-down books set in Asia, including Tai-Pan and Shogun, among others Don Quixote, by Cervantes. Another of the greatest novels of all time, the tales of Quixote and the amazing Sancho Panza will delight you with their humor and wit.

Much of Western literature is indebted to this book, and Cervantes is the only writer who comes close to standing with Shakespeare.

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