Book reviews
Best Books by Thich Nhat Hanh

Best Thich Nhat Hanh Books

by Katinka Hesselink - Spirituality on January 23, 2015

Anybody interested in Buddhism today knows about Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. His lectures, books and videos are wildly popular because he manages to translate the practice of Vietnamese style Buddhism into something that is relevant to our everyday lives. 

For this occasion I checked out the top most popular of Thay’s books and downloaded them on my Kindle. I was looking for two things:

  • What book by Thich Nhat Hanh would I most recommend to someone just starting out in Buddhism, Meditation or Zen.
  • How much actual Buddhism is there in each of these books.

I already had two books by Thich Nhat Hanh in my library so I will review those as well. Unlike his more popular books, which are written for the lay reader, these are intimate looks into the literature of Vietnam and East-Asian Buddhism. As with my previous list of the best books by H.H. the Dalai Lama, I organized them by popularity: the ones with the most amazon reviews first. I have included meditation quotes to give a flavor of each book. 

I hope you enjoy my list. The first three are best sellers. The others are more specialized. 

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

I wonder, as I read the introduction paragraphs of this book, how anyone can stand the cheerfulness of it:

Of course, planning for the future is a part of life. But even planning can only take place in the present moment. This book is an invitation to come back to the present moment and find peace and joy. I offer some of my experience and a number of techniques that may be of help. But please do not wait until finishing this book to find peace. Peace and happiness are available in every moment. Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand. Bon voyage.

I am sure that is just me. My own teacher is often quite grumpy and I tend to see that as a sign that I can trust him. In fact, it makes me smile just thinking of it. I am sure that for most people Thich Nhat Hanh’s cheerfulness is just what they need: a reminder that smiling is an option. A reminder to be in the moment and relax and enjoy what is. 

However, it is also a reminder that however accessible this book is, it is not for everybody. As the most popular of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, it is however a great introduction to his work. 

Another quote – one that doesn’t rub me the wrong way (p. 72):

When we look at our parents with compassion, often we see that our parents are only victims who never had the chance to practice mindfulness. The could not transform the suffering in themselves. But if we see them with compassionate eyes, we can offer them joy, peace and forgiveness. In fact, when we look deeply, we discover that it is impossible to drop all identity with our parents. 

In summary: Peace Is Every Step is a great Thich Nhat Hanh book to start with. It is not too Buddhist – in fact, I don’t think there is anything specifically Buddhist about it – but it is a great introduction to mindfulness.  [click to continue…]

Best Dalai Lama Books List

Best Dalai Lama Books List

by Katinka Hesselink - Spirituality on January 21, 2015

Top books by the most inspiring spiritual teacher today: best sellers

The Dalai Lama is that unique mix of a spiritual teacher and a political leader. Unlike the Pope he is virtually uncontested as a spiritual inspiration. His attempts at peaceful dialog with the Chinese government were amazing. Now that he’s retired as a political leader, he can put all his energy into his spiritual teachings. His attempts at finding a meeting ground between Buddhist philosophy and practice and scientific research is inspiring.

What follows are the top books he has written – though in most cases he had a co-writer. I start with the best sellers and have added my own favorites towards the bottom. I have organised the books by the amount of amazon reviews. However, I have also made sure that the most important TOPICS are listed. 

The Art of Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Handbook for Living

A best seller with a whopping 595 reviews in Amazon when I last checked.

This book is based on interviews psychiatrist Howard Cutler had with His Holiness about the most essential questions in human existence: about the nature of love, happiness, kindness and sorrow. This new edition was updated with new material by Cutler and His Holiness. 

Added to these interviews are Cutler’s insights based on the Western psychological tradition. This makes the book more accessible, as well as placing the Buddhist teachings in a modern context. All in all a classic that anyone who has read it is likely to come back to, time and again.

A reader says: 

The Art of Happiness is a wonderful read. My copy is almost falling apart with over-use. The thing I like about this book is that you don’t have to start at the beginning and read through. I often just open it at random and find something helpful, meaningful, or just soothing that helps me get through a sticky patch.

Another reader: 

I have read The Art of Happiness but it was quite some time back. It’s not a religious book but more about universal values and common sense. It’s a book that you can read and put it down to take in what was said before continuing on. If you want something by the Dalai Lama that touches on everyday life problems, then it’s the book to get.

Also available on Kindle [click to continue…]

Thumbnail image for Creative Evolution by Amit Goswami PhD

Creative Evolution by Amit Goswami PhD

January 3, 2015

A Physicist’s Resolution Between Darwinism And Intelligent Design Inspiring integration of the latest in physics with a spiritual perspective. Convincing in the point that since consciousness is part of the universe now (in us), consciousness must have played a part in creating it and guiding evolution at crucial points in evolution. I’ve included quotes from […]

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Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas

December 4, 2014

Getting to know the Sanskrit Puranas There are several ways to approach Hindu myths. One is to study what stories Hindus tell each other these days. Another is to delve into the oldest texts containing such myths in existence. This book follows the latter method. Translating versions of classic Hindu tales that had not, or […]

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Thumbnail image for The Buddhist Handbook, by John Snelling

The Buddhist Handbook, by John Snelling

December 2, 2014

I bought a previous edition of this handbook in the late 90s. The current edition was updated after the author’s decease so it probably involves no more than updated information on the organisations listed and perhaps some minor alterations to the biographies. This is precisely what the title suggests: a complete guide to Buddhist teaching […]

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Thumbnail image for Best Dalai Lama Biography: Kundun by Mary Craig

Best Dalai Lama Biography: Kundun by Mary Craig

November 21, 2014

Mary Craig’s biography of the 14th Dalai Lama and his family is so good it was turned into a movie. That makes sense: it’s an inspiring story about the Dalai Lama, his family and culture. However, beyond that it’s the story of surviving the track through the Himalaya’s, the Chinese always on their trail and […]

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Meditation books for kids

November 14, 2014

Can children learn about meditation? Sure they can! The books on this page are meant for pre-school children and kids in primary school. They make meditation and spirituality fun. It’s not a good idea to make it all too heavy for them: you don’t want them rebelling later and forgetting about these options for a […]

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Love: The Saint and the Seeker – Mother Teresa and Christina Stevens

November 1, 2014

Some books defy categorization. ‘Love: The Saint and the Seeker‘ by  Christina Stevens is one such book. It’s marketed – understandably – as a biography of Mother Teresa. However, Christina Stevens has only known the saint for a couple of days. Instead the book is mostly an autobiography of Christina Stevens and how Mother Teresa’s life […]

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The View From Within: First Person Approaches To The Study Of Consciousness

July 17, 2014

Miscellany of articles on the edge of the science of consciousness. Challenging and fascinating. On the roll of the body in consciousness and healing, about the metaphysics of introspection and more. View from Within: First-person Approaches to the Study of Consciousness is all that and more. On the attempt to integrate the experience of consciousness with […]

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Dakini Power: Twelve Extraordinary Women Shaping the Transmission of Tibetan Buddhism in the West

May 5, 2014

When I first became a Buddhist, and did so within Tibetan Buddhism, I got a few emails (from men!) warning me that I had entered a patriarchal movement. They were not wrong, though my teacher seems (while himself male) pretty good at giving his female students the same opportunities as his male students. In fact, […]

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