This list is in order of increasing difficulty/abstraction/trust required, therefore:
- if you find the ones at the top too easy/not radical enough, try something further down;
- if you find something unpalatable/unbelievable/nonsensical, try higher up the list.
For most people, I recommend starting with Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
1. For skeptics
The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa (John Yates, PhD)
Combines neuroscience with Buddhist concepts and practises - very well written.
2. For newbies
Buddha and his Friends by S. Dhammia & Susan Harmer
A Tintin-like book depicting the life of Siddhartha Gautama
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
Autobiographical account of a westerner teaching in Japan, who manages to persuade a zen master to train him
Loving What Is (or really anything) by Byron Katie
I don’t know what to say, I love her so much. Byron Katie’s way has been the basis of my thinking for the last ~15 years. And she’s kind.
More helpful for those who project outward (being mostly a self condemner I had to do the process in reverse for life changing effect).
Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton
I think everyone (including Brad) can agree it’s a terrible book. More helpful for those who project inward.
3. The poetry of enlightened humans
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones compiled by Paul Reps
Zen stories, Zen problems, Zen stages, Zen poetry. To me this little book is timeless. It was the first book about Buddhism I read, and its relevance seems unaffected by shifts in my understanding, practise and experience.
Anything by Hafiz
Hafiz (a 14th-century Persian mystic) seems to see the world much as I do, but unlike me has perfected the art of kindness and has the eloquence to express it in equisitely beautiful poems.
4. The next level
The Disappearance of the Universe + sequels by Gary Renard
This unremarkable guy Gary, opens is eyes one day after a meditation session to see two people sitting on his sofa, apparently having materialised out of thin air. Despite the strangeness he finds himself engaged in a conversation with them. And it is a fascinating conversation - the most interesting conversation I’ve ever read. At the end of the conversation they say they’ll be back, and then they disappear before his eyes. They visit him a total of 17 times and discuss many things and answer all his foolish questions. The book is mostly just a transcript of those conversations.
A Course in Miracles (no author)
I’ve been a devoted student of ACIM since 2011. I don’t recommend it to anyone.
Anything by Kenneth Wapnick
Ken is the greatest teacher of A Course in Miracles. I wholeheartedly agree with everything he says.
- A Field Guide to Earthlings by Ian Ford - an excellent exposition of the limitations of the ordinary mind, by and for autistic people
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle - a very simple, modern guide to spiritual enlightenment - not in the main list because he includes a lot ‘new age’ ideas, though perhaps it’s a necessary stepping stone - I certainly found it helpful
- E.T. 101 by Zoev Jho - by and for incarnated extraterrestrials
- No Time For Karma by Paxton Robey - kind of rambly ACIM-meets-new-age - has some useful concepts
- David Hoffmeister (ACIM teacher) - what he says is correct, but I find him less incisive than Kenneth Wapnick
- Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa - What I read of it was great, but I never finished, and I nolonger consider it essential.
- Tara Singh (ACIM tearher/author) - He had me at “non-comercialised action”, talks like he’s not in a hurry. Haven’t delved deep into his work though.
- Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch - includes common misconceptions; if you’ve read this, try Spoken Miracles by Martha Lucía Espinosa
- Marianne Williamson (ACIM teacher) - not teaching the same thing as Kenneth Wapnick
- Robert Perry (ACIM teacher) - not teaching the same thing as Kenneth Wapnick
Ignorant omissions - additions suggested by others that I can’t recommend because I haven’t read them
- I Am That by Sri Maharaj Nisargadatta - I know very little about this book but lots of people say it’s very good.
- anything by Osho - based on my friend showing me an “Osho card” or two, I’d put it in the For newbies section
- The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life by Emmet Fox - I’m so skeptical about anything based on the Bible, but apparently it can be a good preparation for Disappearance and the Course, especially for those with a Christian background - and I’d probably put it in the For newbies section
- Julian of Norwich - another intermediate step for Christians. A fellow Course student says Julian of Norwich is about as close as you can get to ACIM’s thought system whilst staying within Christianity.