The best 27 Eastern Philosophy books

1
The Book of Five Rings

The Book of Five Rings

Miyamoto Musashi
A Classic Text on the Japanese Way of the Sword
4.6 (301 ratings)

What's The Book of Five Rings about?

The Book of Five Rings (1643) is one of the most insightful texts to have ever been written about the nature of confrontation. Penned by a wandering samurai in seventeenth-century Japan, it’s a timeless study of the mindset of the warrior – literal and figurative.

Who should read The Book of Five Rings?

  • Martial artists
  • Strategists  
  • Leaders

2
The Analects

The Analects

Confucius
Aphorisms and Anecdotes from the Paragon of Chinese Sages
4.6 (388 ratings)

What's The Analects about?

The Analects is a collection of twenty “books” that contain valuable quotes and sayings from the Chinese philosopher Confucius, as well as his disciples. These words of wisdom date back thousands of years, but they have remained remarkably relevant throughout the ages. 

Who should read The Analects?

  • Anyone interested in ancient wisdom from the East
  • Leaders looking for philosophical guidance in their lives
  • History buffs and folks who enjoy ideas from the past

3
Tao Te Ching

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu
Taoist Philosophy for Peace, Contentment & Balance in Life
4.2 (129 ratings)

What's Tao Te Ching about?

Tao Te Ching (circa 400 BC) is one of the foundational texts of Taoism, the enduring philosophical and religious movement that can be traced back to around the fourth century BC. Throughout the ages, its poetic wisdom continues to be relevant, inspirational, and timeless.

Who should read Tao Te Ching?

  • Spiritual or philosophical guidance seekers
  • People interested in living a more virtuous life
  • Admirers of Eastern schools of thought

4
Sun Tzu and the Art of Business

Sun Tzu and the Art of Business

Mark R. McNeilly
Six Strategic Principles for Managers
4.6 (200 ratings)

What's Sun Tzu and the Art of Business about?

Sun Tzu and the Art of Business (1996) explains how ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu’s classic text The Art of War applies to the hyper-competitive environment of modern business. These blinks explore how business leaders can integrate Sun Tzu’s battle strategies into their own plans for market domination.

Who should read Sun Tzu and the Art of Business?

  • Entrepreneurs hoping to disrupt their industry
  • Strategy consultants wanting a new angle
  • Business students looking for fresh insights

5
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig
An Inquiry into Values
3.9 (227 ratings)

What's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance about?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), using the allegory of a motorcycle road trip, guides you through one man’s questionings of the philosophical and metaphysical order of the world.

Who should read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

  • People searching for the key to what makes a good life
  • Fans of author Jack Kerouac or the Beat Generation
  • Artists or creatives who feel they just don’t fit in

6
The Way of Zen

The Way of Zen

Alan W. Watts
The history and core principles of the Eastern philosophy of Zen
4.5 (574 ratings)

What's The Way of Zen about?

The Way of Zen (1957) is a classic work that lays out the historical origins and core principles of Zen Buddhism. Our world is changing at breakneck speed, and it often seems that the old rules cease to apply as soon as we’ve gotten used to them. The Eastern philosophy of Zen can help us find the mental stillness and the joy in uncertainty we desperately need.

Who should read The Way of Zen?

  • Newcomers to Eastern philosophy and history
  • Those who want to challenge their minds to see the world differently
  • Fans of Alan Watts

7
Kaizen

Kaizen

Sarah Harvey
The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time
4.6 (545 ratings)

What's Kaizen about?

Kaizen (2019) is a guide to the improvement philosophy known as kaizen, which encourages taking small steps to complete ambitious goals. Already well established in the world of business and sports, this method can also be applied to personal development. Using practical examples, this guide explains how to take a kaizen approach to setting goals that’ll improve health, relationships, money, and work.

Who should read Kaizen?

  • Anyone trying to overcome a habit or take up a new challenge
  • Anybody wishing to improve an aspect of their life
  • Anyone interested in Japanese culture and philosophies

8
The Art of Simple Living

The Art of Simple Living

Shunmyo Masuno
100 Daily Practices from a Japanese Zen Monk for a Lifetime of Calm and Joy
4.6 (495 ratings)

What's The Art of Simple Living about?

The Art of Simple Living (2019) explores the little habits that will make a big difference in your daily life. It explains the teachings of Zen Buddhism and reveals how to put them into practice. Packed with useful tips, this is your how-to guide for a more tranquil life. 

Who should read The Art of Simple Living?

  • Anyone interested in Buddhist philosophy
  • Minimalists looking for a new angle
  • Self-help buffs seeking a fresh perspective

9
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching

Thich Nhat Hanh
Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and Liberation
4.7 (293 ratings)

What's The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching about?

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (1998) explains core Buddhist teachings, including the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. It shows how to apply these practices to daily life to transform suffering into joy and heal the pain of others.

Who should read The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching?

  • People who are suffering
  • Those wishing to adopt Buddhist practices
  • Anyone who wishes to lead a more joyful life

10
Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life

Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life

Wayne W. Dyer
Living the Wisdom of the Tao
4.5 (299 ratings)

What's Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life about?

Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life (2007) takes you through each verse of the Tao Te Ching, the classic text related to the philosophical and spiritual traditions of Taoism. Drawing from different modern interpretations, the author draws out the fundamental teachings and suggests ways in which Taoism continues to be relevant and beneficial today.

Who should read Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life?

  • Individuals seeking guidance on how to live a virtuous life
  • Spiritual people interested in learning about Taoism
  • Students of Eastern religions

11
The Four Noble Truths of Love

The Four Noble Truths of Love

Susan Piver
Buddhist Wisdom for Modern Relationships
4.6 (436 ratings)

What's The Four Noble Truths of Love about?

The Four Noble Truths of Love (2018) brings ancient Buddhist wisdom out of the monastery and into the bedroom. By adapting the timeless insights taught by the Buddha 2,500 years ago to the nature of love, it shines a light through the murky mess of modern romance.

Who should read The Four Noble Truths of Love?

  • Long-term couples who want to rejuvenate their love life
  • Singles who want to improve their dating experiences
  • Anyone who wants to experience a deeper, more mature love

12
The Wisdom of Insecurity

The Wisdom of Insecurity

Alan Watts
A Message for an Age of Anxiety
4.4 (306 ratings)

What's The Wisdom of Insecurity about?

In The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951), author Alan Watts discusses the paradoxical nature of modern life: we pursue goals and covet material goods that promise happiness, but which leave us feeling empty and more anxious than ever. As we indulge in unproductive thoughts about the future or the past, we tend to forget about what is most meaningful – the present moment.

Who should read The Wisdom of Insecurity?

  • Anyone feeling unfulfilled in life
  • Anxiety sufferers searching for the secrets to happiness
  • People interested in contemporary philosophy

13
How to Live a Good Life

How to Live a Good Life

ed. Massimo Pigliucci
A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy
4.3 (444 ratings)

What's How to Live a Good Life about?

How to Live a Good Life (2020), edited by Massimo Pigliucci, Skye Cleary, and Daniel Kaufman, is an introduction to 15 philosophies for living our lives. Ranging from ancient ideologies, through the major religions, to contemporary schools of thought, 15 leading scholars enlighten us with the philosophies that guide their lives.

Who should read How to Live a Good Life?

  • Those in search of a new philosophy of life
  • People wanting to do good
  • People interested in learning about philosophy

14
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Translated and commentated on by Sri Swami Satchidananda
Timeless Teachings for Mind, Body, and Emotional Harmony
4.7 (294 ratings)

What's The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali about?

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1978) is a classic text on yogic philosophy and practice. Written in ancient Sanskrit, it explains the core metaphysical, spiritual, psychological, moral, and ethical ideas of yoga. It also lays out the principles of how to practice yoga, so you can put those ideas into action and use them to achieve lasting happiness and inner peace. 

Who should read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

  • Seekers of wisdom, happiness, and peace 
  • Followers of Eastern spiritual traditions 
  • Anyone interested in those traditions

15
On Having No Head

On Having No Head

Douglas Harding
Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious
4.0 (123 ratings)

What's On Having No Head about?

On Having No Head (1961) is a one-of-a-kind classic of philosophy, spirituality, and mysticism. Combining empirical observations, mystical experiences, logical arguments, personal introspection, practical exercises, Zen Buddhism, and other Eastern spiritual traditions, its aim is to smash through the dualisms that lie beneath much of Western thought: subject and object, mind and body, self and non-self, internal and external world. In their place, the author contends that we can see ourselves and the world around us in a radically different way.

Who should read On Having No Head?

  • Students of Western and Eastern philosophy 
  • People wanting to understand the nature of consciousness 
  • Anyone interested in Zen Buddhism

16
Karma

Karma

Sadhguru
A Yogi's Guide to Crafting Your Own Destiny
4.6 (181 ratings)

What's Karma about?

Karma (2021) is a crash course in karma. Filled with explanations, stories, and personal anecdotes, it dispels myths and common misperceptions about karma, explains the science and universality behind the concept, and presents practical tips on how to live a free and joyful life.

Who should read Karma?

  • Anyone interested in spirituality, mysticism, and the afterlife
  • Students of Hinduism
  • Seekers of techniques to find peace and joy

17
The Tao of Physics

The Tao of Physics

Fritjof Capra
An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism
4.2 (172 ratings)

What's The Tao of Physics about?

The Tao of Physics (1975) explores the relationship between the hard science of modern physics and the spiritual enlightenment of Eastern mysticism. These blinks lay out striking parallels between relativity theory and quantum theory on the one hand and Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism on the other.

Who should read The Tao of Physics?

  • Those with an inclination toward rational thought
  • Practitioners of Eastern mysticism and anyone with a spiritual side
  • Students of philosophy, science and religion

18
The Earned Life

The Earned Life

Marshall Goldsmith
Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment
4.4 (449 ratings)

What's The Earned Life about?

The Earned Life (2022) poses a simple yet profound question: Why does a life of constant achievement often leave us feeling empty? The answer can be found in ancient Buddhist wisdom: it’s not meeting ambitious goals but rather working on meaningful goals that really brings fulfillment and happiness. 

Who should read The Earned Life?

  • High achievers who feel like something’s missing 
  • Anyone interested in personal improvement 
  • Secular-minded folks interested in spirituality

19
Destiny Disrupted

Destiny Disrupted

Tamim Ansary
A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes
4.4 (97 ratings)

What's Destiny Disrupted about?

Destiny Disrupted (2009) tells history from an Islamic perspective. It begins before the emergence of Muhammad and Islam in the seventh century CE and ends with the decline of the Islamic empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On this epic journey, Tamim Ansary describes the fascinating stories of great Muslim states, scholars and leaders – a perspective on history that is, unfortunately, widely unknown to most Westerners.

Who should read Destiny Disrupted?

  • Historians and students of religion
  • Westerners curious about the Islamic perspective on world history
  • Readers eager to learn more about Islamic culture and religion

20
What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader

What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader

Alison Reynolds
Learn how to use philosophical principles in your personal and work life
4.3 (127 ratings)

What's What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader about?

What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader (2019) explains how we've lost sight of some of the most important aspects of leadership, and it presents helpful philosophical perspectives to get us back on track. Drawing from both ancient and modern philosophy, the authors outline simple yet powerful approaches to rethinking strategy, management, and communication. And what’s even better is that these philosophical “hacks” aren’t just for CEOs. By using these thought experiments and insights, we can all flourish at work and outside of it. 

Who should read What Philosophy Can Teach You About Being a Better Leader?

  • Business leaders wanting to take their leadership skills to the next level
  • Managers who have already tried all the psychology hacks and need something more
  • Anyone interested in philosophy

21
Walden

Walden

Henry David Thoreau
Life in the Woods
4.6 (172 ratings)

What's Walden about?

Walden (1854) is the result of the two years Henry David Thoreau spent in the woods on the north shore of Walden Pond, a lake in Massachusetts. It is both a practical and philosophical account of how he sustained himself through farming and by building his own house, and what he learned about human nature by living a simpler life. Although it was a deeply personal experience, Thoreau’s approach to society teaches us how we, too, can approach the modern world.

Who should read Walden?

  • Students of philosophy and literature
  • Environmentalists and nature enthusiasts
  • Readers who support a move back to simple living

22
Trying Not to Try

Trying Not to Try

Edward Slingerland
Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity
4.1 (64 ratings)

What's Trying Not to Try about?

Trying Not to Try (2014) is your guide to ancient Chinese philosophy. These blinks explain why you should allow life to manifest itself to you without forcing things to happen. They also introduce ways to live a less stressful life.

Who should read Trying Not to Try?

  • Young people who feel burdened by the need to accomplish something in life
  • Readers with an interest in ancient Chinese philosophy

23
The Quiet Mind

The Quiet Mind

John E. Coleman
The firsthand account of a CIA agent who traveled the Eastern world in search of mindfulness
3.9 (151 ratings)

What's The Quiet Mind about?

The Quiet Mind (1971) is the firsthand account of an American intelligence agent who traveled the Eastern world in search of inner peace. Throughout his remarkable life, author John. E. Coleman explored a wide breadth of spiritual paths, from Thai Buddhism to Zen to Quakerism. Ultimately, he found the greatest success with vipassana, a type of meditation he later imparted to his own students.

Who should read The Quiet Mind?

  • The spiritually open-minded
  • Those looking to understand the differences among several Eastern philosophies
  • Admirers of D. T. Suzuki, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and U Ba Khin

24
Sovereign Self

Sovereign Self

Acharya Shunya
Claim Your Inner Joy and Freedom with the Empowering Wisdom of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita
4.8 (363 ratings)

What's Sovereign Self about?

Sovereign Self (2020) explores the Vedas. Revealed over 5,000 years ago, these texts are a cornerstone of Hinduism, Buddhism, and countless other religious traditions in the Indian subcontinent. Packed with spiritual insights, the Vedas revolve around a single central question: How to live in accordance with the true nature of reality? As you’ll discover in these blinks, the answer begins by discovering your own, true self. 

Who should read Sovereign Self?

  • Spiritual seekers
  • Open-minded atheists 
  • Self-improvers looking for new ideas

25
Living Presence

Living Presence

Kabir Edmund Helminski
A Sufi Way to Mindfulness and the Essential Self
4.4 (186 ratings)

What's Living Presence about?

Living Presence (1992) explores how the teachings of the ancient Islamic practice of Sufism can act as a balm against our fractured, ego-driven age. Sufism teaches that an infinite spirit connects all life and that by becoming mindful of the here and now, we can glimpse this spirit in ourselves and others. Ultimately, in connecting to this presence we allow ourselves to become kinder, more intentional, and more alive. In short, more human.

Who should read Living Presence?

  • Curious minds interested in exploring the practice of Sufi Islam
  • Big thinkers who sense there’s a greater truth beyond the veil of perception
  • Anyone looking for a guiding light through dark times

26
Nine Lives

Nine Lives

William Dalrymple
In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
4.1 (68 ratings)

What's Nine Lives about?

Nine Lives (2009) is a study of spirituality and religion in contemporary India. Drawing on William Dalrymple’s in-depth interviews with religious practitioners, these blinks will whisk us from Tibet to Karnataka to Kerala and West Bengal as we explore four remarkable – and remarkably pious – lives. Along the way, we’ll unpack the social and historical context in which these believers’ faiths emerged and continue to be practiced.

Who should read Nine Lives?

  • Globetrotters fascinated by the world’s diversity 
  • Atheists interested in what motivates the faithful
  • History buffs

27
Gemba Kaizen

Gemba Kaizen

Masaaki Imai
A Common Sense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy
4.4 (80 ratings)

What's Gemba Kaizen about?

Gemba Kaizen (1997) is an introduction to the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen, which revolutionizes working standards to reduce waste and increase efficiency at little cost. Author Masaaki Imai reveals the aspects of Kaizen that are crucial to building lean business strategies.

Who should read Gemba Kaizen?

  • People working in production and managers who supervise standardized processes  
  • Anyone interested in Japanese management philosophies
  • Anyone who wants to improve their overall workflow

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