Since I started the topic, I may post something as well.
- Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind - Shunryū Suzuki
First book on Buddhism that I have read. It was about 14 years ago when I took it from the shelf, pointed to me by my mother. Frankly, it caused more confusion than actual merit. Concepts explained in the book are not laid out very well, and concept of non-duality presented may be counterproductive taking emptiness for nihilism by ordinary person. It is quite shocking given how popular this book still is. Nonetheless, this was the first touch and opportunity for getting to know Buddhism per se, as such it has only sentimental value.
Greatly inspired by Suzuki's book I delved deep into Dogen's work and Zen in general. Shobogenzo and Dogen's postulates didn't make much sense to me at the time, but eventually, what I considered utter nonsense came back to me with the wave of understanding as a surprise, only after reading bits and pieces from Pali canon by Buddha - the proper way, ground-up as it should be. Dogen's work is a true masterpiece that anyone should read, I much believe so. I recommend Gudo Nishijima's translation along with commentary.
Whoever wrote this sutra, that person was a realised being at a great level of understanding. A mother and father of all koans, it’s a Diamond that cuts through illusion, a cleaver penetrating through consciousness. With all the Theravadin heritage to Buddhism, and all the reflection that Mahayanists had at gradual, patient ways of understanding, with all the respect towards rich and rigid Pali vocabulary and knowledge-centric drills of understanding - here’s something different, the Diamond sutra, a complete antithesis of the above. The text that negates all the subtle, patient ways to experience glimpses of Enlightenment. It is meant to shock, to violently prod in order to rewire the way brain perceives and understands things. Diamond sutra is best to be taken by an inexperienced person, the unprepared lost sheep that will become a wolf and then ultimately shepherd of the sheep (Bodhisattva). It hammers with shocking and fearful statements, only to bring joy and understanding borne out of shortcutting and cracking the mind open. All to arrive at the true door of the dharma eye. There was nothing starker that stood in contrast with traditional ways of teaching, teaching not by laying out mere intellectual knowledge, but by exposing direct experience of states of mind beyond concepts and cognition. It is more than sutra - it is a deeply meditative experience, just by barely reading it.
- Thich Nhat Hanh - A poem on Vietnam war crimes.
The poem was written shortly after Hanh's followers faced brutal execution. I cried when I first read it, it struck me deeply how much compassion a person might have, then I first realised what burden it is to take up a Bodhisattva vow and what it actually means. Link: Promise me, promise me this day, promise me now...
- Eight Verses on Training the Mind - Geshe Langri Thangpa
Following on concept of Bodhisattva, this is a great text when one feels down and needs a hint or a reset on the path. It conveys all of the advice required to get back on track in the moments of confusion. I chose this text due to simplicity and because it's very concise (short) as a memo.
- Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment - Atisha
Another profound text that tackles on Bodhisattva discipline, profound insight into Emptiness and meditational advice. This is from the perspective of Vajrayana and the last stanzas tackle Greater tantras. Just as Eight Verses for Training the Mind, I use it as a supplement whenever confused, and in need of clarity. An invaluable read of greatest value.
- Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way - David J. Kalupahana
This book is actually very interesting as it was written by Theravadin and aims to prove that Nagarjuna was no Mahayanist. Rather, later some of the interpretations and commentaries oftentimes distorted many points of Nagarjuna's message. In my opinion the book does prove its presumption successfully. It also describes false prophet phenomenon in which Nagarjuna was given too much credit without actually being revolutionary with his philosophy. Furthermore, it tackles why Mahayanists chose a new icon that many times was worshipped and the put on pedestal above Buddha in the canon. Kalupahana there concludes that it was merely a rivalry aspect/tactics between the two schools, purely to undermine Theravada. The book also includes Kalupahana's translation of Nagarjuna's work.