There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books on how to meditate. Some are so general as to offer no real guidance to beginners or more advanced practitioners. Other offerings are highly specialized, employ advanced concepts, and thus are worthwhile to just a tiny number of meditation enthusiasts.
The question is where to find worthwhile, understandable meditation books for beginners and those who already have some experience. With meditation books the real trick is to find the ones written by experts, and that can include folks from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Some of the best meditation books have been compiled from historical texts, either from Hinduism, Buddhism or other religious traditions. Still others are completely secular and are the work of psychologists and similar medical types who have approached the practice with more of a scientific eye than a spiritual one.
The bottom line is this: Check out the following list of what we consider to be the nine very best meditation books and choose one or two that fit your own goals. Whether you want to use meditation to relieve stress, fight chemical dependency, help you sleep better, or find spiritual truths, there’s something for everyone on our list of the “best of the best” meditation books, below.
1. Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
Okay, I can’t pronounce the author’s name either, but don’t let that mislead you. He’s a very old Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, now in his 90s, and is considered one of the world’s most informed people on the topic of meditation and mindfulness.
By some measures this book is the king of the pile in the genre, but oddly does not include the word “meditation” in its title. Maybe that’s part of the mystery, but the main thing is that MIPE, as many readers call it, goes into excruciating detail about how to begin, what to expect, how to expand your experience, and how to get the most from real, ancient meditative practices.
This book has often been copied but never surpassed, in our opinion. It seems to have everything a beginner needs. Need to know how to sit? Check. Want suggestions on how to dampen nagging thoughts? Check. Want to learn a secular form of meditation? Check.
The Bhante is a devout Theravada Buddhist but offers up a non-religious version of what is sometimes labeled vipassana-style meditation. That’s a fancy way of saying “insight” meditation, as opposed to the other kind where you spend long hours trying to focus your attention on an object or concept. The latter is often called “mindfulness” or “tranquility” meditation, or samatha.
2. Meditation For Beginners: A 22 Day How To Meditate Course, by Vern Lovic
Author Vern Lovic is not your typical meditation instructor. He’s really just a regular guy who wanted to learn how to calm his mind and gain some insight into the human condition along the way.
The author “distilled” (his word) a non-religious approach to Buddhist meditation by reading lots of books and speaking with monks in Thailand, where he has spent much of his adult life.
The result? One of the best meditation books for beginners you’ll find. It’s not steeped in jargon and lingo but simply delivers a straightforward technique that anyone can follow. Lovic breaks the process down into very digestible chunks of teaching. There aren’t many chunks, by the way.
The key thing that sets this book apart is its simplicity. The author tells it like it is. He says things that you won’t hear in other books, namely that meditation really isn’t hard to learn.
The hard part, for those who choose to pursue the practice, is staying with it and being able to bear a good deal of boredom (especially at first) and sitting still during long battles with intrusive thoughts.
If you want to learn to meditate without taking a psychology course, this book and the one by Gunaratana, above, are your two best bets. Lovic’s main strength is his unadorned English, non-judgmental attitude, and super-positive “if I could learn this, so can you” philosophy.
3. Meditation: Meditation for Beginners – How to Relieve Stress, Anxiety and Depression and Return to a State of Inner Peace and Happiness, by Yesenia Chavan
For people who enjoy good self-help books, Chavan’s “Meditation” is a nice little piece of work. Like all the books on this list, it never gets bogged down in heavy vocabulary or force you to break out a dictionary.
Chavan delivers a “course” in meditation that you might hear from a psychologist friend during a short phone conversation.
The just-the-facts approach is refreshing, and there’s a nice dose of facts about the history of meditation, proven physical and mental benefits, and places where you can find out more if you really get into meditating.
The core of this book is its method for beginning and sticking to a daily meditation practice. That’s the main way to acquire the long-term benefits, according to the author. Simply learn the basic-basic technique, spend five, ten or more days practicing for the first few weeks, and take it up as much as you want from there.
The rest of the book in packed with useful information about how to made meditation a habit, how to learn all the methods that have come down through the ages, how to solve some personal problems with meditation, and even how to meditate while you walk!
4. Meditation For Dummies®, Mini Edition
Do you like a good bargain? Do you want to learn how to meditate? This is the book for you. We all know that the famous “For Dummies” series offers books that somehow manage to be either terrible or terrific. Well, this one is the latter (or else it wouldn’t be on our list, right).
The “Dummies” approach of full-on, 100 percent, complete coverage of a topic is in full bloom here. The book might be called a “mini edition” but it weighs in at 1,097 KB, or 329 printed pages if you want to give your ink cartridges a workout.
But all kidding aside, “Meditation for Dummies” is an ideal starting point for beginners who want a classroom-style teaching method that covers all the bases.
You’ll learn about the different styles of meditation, how to set up a daily routine in your favorite one, how to stay with the “meditation habit” and much more. There are very informative sections about the medical evidence in support of meditation for better health, both mental and physical.
Oh, and you can learn all these ancient and modern secrets for the nice price of 99 cents. A price like that belongs on the OM-Shopping Network.
5. Real World Mindfulness for Beginners: Navigate Daily Life One Practice at a Time, edited by Brenda Salgado
Brenda Salgado edited this collection of meditation instruction that can be a real help for people in the midst of life problems big and small. Anxiety, depression, stress, grief, anger and major loss are just some of the life obstacles that the book addresses.
This sort of treatment, by the way, is sort of new in the world of meditation. For centuries, meditation was taught as a way to see oneself, learn about reality, and have some sort of communion with mankind or God.
Nowadays everything gets funneled through the “problem-solver” filter, for better or worse. But if you are among those interested in using meditation to remove pain from your life, this is the best book in that vein.
The techniques are simple and well-explained. The authors, ten of them, are among the world’s best authorities on meditation and its power to hear. The chapters are logically organized so you can skip around and focus on the ones most useful for your own life. There’s no need to read the book all the way through, or even to read every chapter.
6. Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You, by Ben Decker
Ben Decker’s book is a success for many reasons. It was written specifically for beginners, it contains extremely specific instructions about each step of the meditation process, each step includes the amount of time you should practice that technique, and there are helpful suggestions before and after each tier of the practice session.
For people who like to learn things with numbered steps and detailed instructions, this is a winning book. There’s really no room for error if you follow his lead. What you bring to the table is a bit of self discipline and patience.
It’s not criticism but praise to say that this book is sort of like a dot-to-dot drawing for small children. Bring your dedication and follow the instructions. This learning style is excellent for many people and that’s proven by the book’s commercial success.
7. You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life: Simple 4-Minute Meditations for Inspiration, Transformation, and True Bliss, by Rebekah Borucki
Author Rebekah Borucki hit on a clever method for teaching meditation. She simply explains, step by step, how she uses an exceedingly simple, four-minute meditation routine to quash the stressors in her daily life. She’s a busy mom with no time to sit on cushions for hours on end. This is a practical method for those who want to incorporate meditation into their busy lives.
8. An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation: Learn how to meditate easily – without the religion, fluff or hippie stuff, by John Weiler
John Weiler’s book should get an award for best title of the year, but it’s also a very good intro book for beginning meditators. He teaches his simple, daily meditation technique with unvarnished words and concepts. He humorously notes that the method also works for “dudettes,’ so the ladies need not worry.
The serious side is this: John has been meditating daily for more than 13 years and has discovered some valuable gems of truth during that time. He shares them with readers in this clever, short book (90 pages) that should be on every beginner’s list. If you want to learn a solid, basic technique, learn it quickly and adapt it to your own needs, then this book will exceed your expectations.
9. If You Can Worry, You Can Meditate: A Simple Guide to Meditation, by Jason Napolitano
The author does a good job telling how his own life led him to the path of meditation. The technique is simple and easy to learn but stands out for its focus on removing stress as a first step.
After that, Napolitano’s teaching style will make you feel like you’re in a class with a personal meditation teacher. He answers the questions that all beginners have and shows why each piece of the process is necessary. This is a worthy entry in the top nine list of meditation books for beginners.
After you find the right book
After you try out a meditation book that fits your own requirements, remember to keep an open mind. If you don’t get the results you want after a few weeks (or months, preferably) of trying, consider taking a different approach. The good news is that there are many different styles and methods of meditating, and humans have been engaging in this type of mental contemplation for thousands of years.
So if your first book choice isn’t a winner, choose one that uses a totally different style and even consider joining a community-based meditation group for some first-hand learning.
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