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The 12 Best Spiritual Books for a Fulfilling and Enlightened Life

From ancient Sanskrit wisdom to the brain science of spiritual seeking, here are 12 books on spirituality to guide your journey towards joy, purpose, and peace.
by Tania Strauss | Apr 21 2022

Modern life is chaos for the brain. We live in a 24/7 information cycle full of distressing news and mindless distraction, and technology has made it near impossible to truly unplug. And while pressure to succeed in a competitive world is nothing new, these days everyone seems to be flaunting their “best life” online. Our connection to the world around us can suffer for it, to say nothing of our relationships, personal happiness, and peace of mind. 

Spirituality can be a powerful way to cut through the noise, though what exactly that means will vary. Many still find meaning in monotheistic faith, but others are locating that “higher realm” in a different place than their forebears. There’s been a shift away from religious institutions towards Eastern-inspired meditation and mysticism – to say nothing of the contemporary fascination with astrology, healing crystals, and forms of esotericism like witchcraft

With so many influences at our disposal, we can draw from multiple sources to find a spiritual philosophy and practice that resonates. Knowing where to start can be tough, but more stress is the last thing you need. So from the ancient basics of meditation to the modern union of spirituality and psychology, here are twelve books that can start you on your spiritual journey – or help you take it even higher:

Best Books on Eastern Spirituality Basics: 

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

The Miracle of Mindfulness was one of the first books to popularize the Buddhist concept of mindfulness in the West. A monk and peace activist who was exiled from his native Vietnam because of his opposition to war, Thich Nhat Hanh became a prolific writer and teacher admired by Dr. Martin Luther King. This book explores how to practice mindfulness and tap into the “miracle” of life in the present, laying the foundation for many of Nhat Hanh’s later works.  

 

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki

 

For those interested in the basics of Zen Buddhism and meditation, Suzuki’s book is an ideal starting point. Both a deep investigation of Zen philosophy and a very clear guide to the practical aspects of meditation, this book is frequently recommended as the first to read on the subject. It was a favorite of iconic Apple founder Steve Jobs.

 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Timeless Teachings for Mind, Body, and Emotional Harmony

 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a modern translation of an ancient Sanskrit text by the sage Pantajali, who is believed to have lived between the 4th and 5th century CE. Compiling information from even older traditions, Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras is a foundational text of modern yoga – as a spiritual, philosophical, and metaphysical framework, as well as a physical discipline. This is a great read for beginners or even seasoned yoga enthusiasts who want to go deeper into their practice. 

 

Best Spiritual Self-Help Books to Fight the Pressures of Modern Life: 

 

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle 

 

A New Earth promises that by emphasizing the present moment, we can put an end to both individual and global suffering and build a better world. It was endorsed by the queen of book recommendations herself, Oprah Winfrey – she selected it for her ever-popular Book Club, and found Tolle’s spiritual teachings so powerful that she partnered with him on a chart-topping podcast to bring his methods to a wider audience.

 

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle 

 

A New Earth was actually not Tolle’s first earthly success: it builds on the teachings of his previous blockbuster book, The Power of Now. Whereas A New Earth explores the collective implications of Tolle’s ideas, The Power of Now is focused on the individual. It offers a method for setting aside the ego and living fully in the present – arguing that by doing so, we can put an end to our pain and suffering and achieve peace. 

 

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills

 

Another Oprah-endorsed title, The Four Agreements draws from ancient Toltec wisdom to help readers break free of limiting beliefs and other negative patterns. The book posits that we arrange our lives around “agreements” that govern our self-image, behavior, and sense of what is possible. Often these agreements come from toxic influences like fear, shame, and cultural value systems that don’t serve us. By replacing our inherited “agreements” with the four beneficial agreements outlined in this book, we can chart a more organic path and find greater personal happiness. 

 

Best Books on Happiness by the Experts

 

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard Cutler

 

A guide to happiness that blends Tibetan Buddhist philosophy with Western therapeutic practice, The Art of Happiness is drawn from a series of interviews between Cutler, a psychologist, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They suggest that individual happiness comes not from external circumstances, but from a person’s state of mind. Thus, once our basic survival needs are met, we can condition our minds for happiness and lead a more joyful life. 

 

The  Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu 

 

The Book of Joy is the Dalai Lama’s collaboration with theologist, human rights activist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Dalai Lama and Tutu were great friends in life, drawn together by their spiritual callings and a common history of exile, oppression, and peace activism. The Book of Joy is based on a weeklong conversation between the two men, held in honor of the Dalai Lama’s birthday. In it, they tackle the question of how to find joy in the face of suffering.

 

Best Books on Spiritual Practice at Work 

 

Seeking Wisdom: A Spiritual Path to Creative Connection by Julia Cameron 

 

The connection between spirituality and creative work was the backbone of Julia Cameron’s popular self-help book for artists, The Artist’s Way. Nearly two decades later, Cameron has published Seeking Wisdom, which further emphasizes the spiritual side of creativity and draws from her past journey through addiction and recovery. In it, Cameron offers a six-week program in “creative prayer” to help open the floodgates for blocked artists.

 

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Pocketbook Guide to Fulfilling Your Dreams

By Deepak Chopra

 

Another book about the spiritual approach to worldly pursuits, The Seven Spiritual Laws packaged Chopra’s teachings into a pocket-sized manual for better living. Drawn from Hindu philosophy and other spiritual concepts, The Seven Spiritual Laws encourages us to draw on universal and natural forces in our quest for fulfilling work, monetary wealth, and better relationships – as well as personal wellbeing and joy. 

Best Books on Psychology and Spirituality

 

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

 

A classic of “spiritual psychology,” The Road Less Traveled combines Peck’s background as a psychiatrist with religious teachings. Peck uses anecdotes from his own life and those of his (anonymous) patients to create something approachable and compassionate, and that stresses the importance of love in the hard work of personal growth and development.

 

The Awakened Brain: The New Science of Spirituality and Our Quest for an Inspired Life by Lisa Miller

 

While many of the books on this list draw heavily from ancient ideas, Dr. Lisa Miller brings the newest science to some of our oldest questions – and the reasons why we ask them in the first place. Drawing on her scientific work as well as her own spiritual seeking, Miller explores the biological mechanisms that equip our brain for spirituality and the intellectual and emotional benefits that we reap when we “awaken” these capacities in ourselves.

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