For the reasons explained here, can you recommend one or more books about Buddhism?

  • I suggest a format like,

    Title of Book by Name of Author

    A summary of what's in the book, recommended for these reasons.

  • One book per answer (but multiple answers, a different book for each answer, is welcome)

  • Books -- but not videos -- i.e. readable; published in print, and/or online
  • I think it's more important to mention why you recommend a book, and less important to summarise what's in it

Unlike most other topics on this site, this topic is Community Wiki.

If it's a good introductory book then post it here instead -- Introductory books to Buddhism -- and use this topic for other (non-Introductory) books about any more-specific topics.

12 Answers 12


"In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi. The PDF version of it can be downloaded here.

It is an anthology or selection of translated suttas from the Pali Canon. It is also thematically and systematically arranged.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds the Sutta Pitaka too huge and difficult to traverse. Bhikkhu Bodhi is one of the foremost translators and scholars of the Pali Canon. He also created this 512-page anthology arranged in a systematic manner, for the benefit of Pali Canon students everywhere.

I quote from the Preface:

In an ongoing series of lectures I began giving at Bodhi Monastery in New Jersey in January 2003, I devised a scheme of my own to organize the contents of the Majjhima Nikaya. This scheme unfolds the Buddha's message progressively, from the simple to the difficult, from the elementary to the profound. Upon reflection, I saw that this scheme could be applied not only to the Majjhima Nikaya, but to the four Nikayas as a whole. The present book organizes suttas selected from all four Nikayas within this thematic and progressive framework.

This book is intended for two types of readers. The first are those not yet acquainted with the Buddha's discourses who feel the need for a systematic introduction. For such readers, any of the Nikayas is bound to appear opaque. All four of them, viewed at once, may seem like a jungle—entangling and bewildering, full of unknown beasts—or like the great ocean—vast, tumultuous, and forbidding. I hope that this book will serve as a map to help them wend their way through the jungle of the suttas or as a sturdy ship to carry them across the ocean of the Dhamma.

The second type of readers for whom this book is meant are those, already acquainted with the suttas, who still cannot see how they fit together into an intelligible whole. For such readers, individual suttas may be comprehensible in themselves, but the texts in their totality appear like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered across a table. Once one understands the scheme in this book, one should come away with a clear idea of the architecture of the teaching. Then, with a little reflection, one should be able to determine the place any sutta occupies in the edifice of the Dhamma, whether or not it has been included in this anthology.


This topic should not strict in english version only, because the best buddhist book maybe didn't write in english.

I recommend paṭisambhidāmagga-pāli by sāriputta.


Clearly explanation of every important dhamma, which often appear in sutta, such as ñāṇa, dhammacakkappavattanasutta, vipassanā, pariññā, samatha, sīla, etc.


Sāriputta is in the middle of budhha, upāli, ānanda, atthakathā, buddhagosa, thai monks, and myanmar monks. So, if you can understand his concept, you can understand the whole theravāda canons.

The referene for above reason:

  1. Sāriputta is tipitaka-memorizer who born in the same time with the buddha.
  2. Sāriputta was announced by the buddha as the best teacher in Ekanipātā, Ekapuggalapāli:

    Bhikkhus, I do not know of any other person who could follow up the teaching proclaimed by the Thus Gone One other than Sāriputta.

    Bhikkhus, Sāriputta follows up the teaching proclaimed by me.

  3. In the introduction of dīganikāya's atthakathā wrote that sāriputtas' students were co-designers of tipitaka's structure.
  4. In Sutta. Ma. Mū. Mahāgosiṅgasālasuttaṃ, every leaders of 1st saṅgāyanā's members such as, kassapa, ānanda (sutta-memorizer), anuruddha, upāli (vinaya-memorizer), and their students (memorizer of abhidhamma and athhakathā), often go to listen sāriputta's dhamma explanation.
  5. Budhhagosa used paṭisambhidāmagga as the main reference when he authored the path of purification, visuddhimagga.
  6. The tipitaka-strict monks in Thailand and Myanmar are using visuddhimagga as the main reference to access tipitaka.
  • 4
    People discuss this a little here. An English-language translation titled The Path of Discrimination, tr. Ven. Ñāṇamoli can be bought here from the Pali Text Society.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 10:00
  • 1
    seeingthroughthenet.net has many of Venerable’s other works available free for download but does not include the title listed above. Making mention in the event you are captured by Venerable’s style of sharing the Dhamma in written form. These works are presented in the English language.
    – C Smith
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 18:51

"The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa" in eight volumes.

Brings together the writings of one of the first and most influential and inspirational Tibetan teachers to present Buddhism in the West.


The Way of Zen By: Alan Watts

The PDF version of it can be downloaded here.

Yes its Zen but it outlines the origin and basics of Buddhism very clearly and it is a very good read.


The Buddha's Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, In the World by Bhikkhu Basnagoda Rahula

The author was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Texas.

This book is written for laypeople. It's structured as several chapters. Each chapter a different topic (e.g. "choosing a marriage partner"). Within each chapter, the author selects relevant suttas (intended for laypeople), and paraphrases them to summarise the advice in them.

In other words it's a summary of suttas intended for laypeople, organised by topic.

It's helpful because many of the suttas in the whole Sutta Pitaka may be intended more for monks, so this book helps to answer laypeople's requests for "practical" advice ... about work and family etc.

Here was an example of a summary of one chapter.


Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book by Daniel Ingram

My practice and life was irreversibly changed. The author provides every practical piece of information that you could possibly need to attain enlightenment. It is the core teachings of the Buddha with almost all dogmatic additions of practice stripped away. I attribute the current state of my perceptions to the increased clarity of meditation practice that this book guided me towards.


"The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma" by Chogyam Trungpa is a three-volume set compiled from the seminary transcripts:

  • Volume One, The Path of Individual Liberation
  • Volume Two, The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion
  • Volume Three, The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness

Covers the spirit of the Teaching, over the three teaching styles: hinayana, mahayana, and vajrayana.


"Treasury of Precious Qualities" by Jigme Lingpa, Volume One.

A concise summary of the entire curriculum studied by Tibetan Lamas.


"The Buddha's Way: A Socio-Historical Approach" by Nalin Swaris

Chapters 9-14 explains the main point, the true essence of Buddha's teaching.


The Buddha and his Dhamma by Dr. B.R Ambedkar. It can be downloaded here : http://www.satnami.com/buddhdhamma.pdf

It is the best book on Introduction to Buddhism that I have come across. It contains detailed and well-researched information on the life of Buddha and a very understandable introduction to the Dhamma.


Try books written by venerable Rerukane Chandawimala thero and venerable Mankadawala Sudassana thero.
As far as I know the if you search, you might find English translations. All books are good. As I know Rerukane Chandawimala theor's books are directly written by referring "thripitaka". Depend on your level select the book. If you are a beginner "Handbook of the Buddhist" will be a great start.

If you are totally new and if you have no idea about Buddhism just try to get the background idea about it instead of trying to dig deep. Reason is, you wont be able to handle complex things if you haven't solve your small doubts and clear things properly.

  • online.buddhistcc.com/books/… is a link to Handbook of the Buddhist (Sinhala only).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 11:41
  • This should work. But not for free. Google it. You will find a pdf to download for free.
    – Syrus
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:18

The most important book for most Buddhists (who are not stream-enterers) for the reason they don't end up in hell due to misrepresenting the Lord Buddha is:

Two Kinds of Language by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Everyday language vs Dharma language: In every day language the term birth refers simply to physical birth from a mother's body: in Dharma language birth refers to a mental event arising out of ignorance, craving, and clinging. Whenever there arises the mistaken idea "I," the "I" has been born; its parents are ignorance and craving. The kind of birth that constitutes a problem for us is mental birth. Anyone who falls to grasp this point will never succeed in understanding anything of the Buddha teaching.

The word "birth" refers to the arising of the mistaken idea "I," "myself". It does not refer to physical birth, as generally supposed. The mistaken assumption that this word "birth" refers to physical birth is a major obstacle to comprehending the Buddha's teaching.

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