Mindfulness has exploded in popularity over the last couple decades, aided by the growing number of Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, and authors lauding its everyday benefits.
Google established a corporate initiative on mindfulness that has increased its workers' productivity while lowering stress and anxiety levels.
A number of guests on podcasts, including Tim Ferriss', swear that mindfulness has changed their lives.
Then there's Sam Harris, a leader in the mindfulness sector who continues to influence others on the benefits of mindfulness, even for non-spiritual practitioners.
I first fell into mindfulness as a reprieve from anxiety several years ago. It damn near saved my life. As someone who now practices mindfulness on a daily basis, I love seeing the attention it gets and hearing about it changing peoples' lives.
All that said, I fear many people still never allow mindfulness a fair chance to become a part of their lives. It can be an intimidating topic to dive into, especially for those who still believe you have to think like a Buddhist monk to truly “get it”.
Most times, you can’t just throw somebody into a book on mindfulness and expect them to not be turned off by it. The way you peak somebody’s interest is through small nudges. Ease them into it.
Start with a blog post here and there. Link them a few articles from the HuffPost or Psychology Today. Send a snippet or two from your favorite book on mindfulness. Then, when they’re ready, suggest a book and see what happens.
The Best Books for Learning Mindfulness
Every once in a while, I come across a book that I realize would be perfect for a person who is new to or just beginning to discover mindfulness.
What I’ve done here is my best to give you the perfect books for taking a beginner’s mind in mindfulness, and branching it out into the many different flavors that you may find.
Some of these are strictly related to meditation and mindfulness, others focus on some tertiary aspects of mindful living.
Either way, they are all fantastic reads that I highly recommend to anyone after discovering mindfulness and eager to learn more.
Heads up! Some of these links, mainly the Amazon ones, are affiliate links. This means at no extra cost to you, you support my work here at The Monk Life. And if you don't, well that's OK too. Just make sure you check out the books directly from Amazon or somewhere else. Trust me, they're worth it.
1. 10% Happier by Dan Harris
Modern society does a fantastic job of pushing us into a continual state of stress and worry. This, to no one’s surprise, has serious consequences on our physical and mental well-being. Dan Harris masterfully shares the story of his own life and how meditation has helped him live with more compassion and fulfillment.
Dan is the perfect example of just your regular, non-spiritual guy who discovers that meditation doesn’t have to greatly alter your life – sometimes, it just makes your current one much happier. I found this book extremely relatable to my use of meditation and would be a great book for anyone interested in meditation, but skeptical of the real-world benefits.
2. Waking Up by Sam Harris
(Sam and Dan aren’t related, no matter how much we want them to be)
Admittedly, Sam’s book is slightly harder to comprehend for someone who has never practiced mindfulness before, but I still feel that it is an incredible book to read early on in your journey.
Sam basically explains that our concept of the “self” is false and keeps us stuck in a dream-like realm of discontent and misdirected thinking. By practicing meditation, we can “wake up” from this state and actually live life, rather than sputtering along on autopilot.
Sam is a thought leader in mindfulness for a reason, and his book is a must-read for many.
3. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
We all have an inner monologue that rambles non-stop, all day, every day, like clockwork. This voice is always talking, changing how we pilot our lives, and almost never shutting off. The first step towards a life of freedom and peace is realizing that this is going on, because then you can pause, step back, and view your thoughts from a totally new perspective.
The Untethered Soul is my most recommended book for anyone looking to get out of their own head, transcend their ego, and get a handle on their anxiety in the process. This was the book that helped launch my own journey of self-exploration and mindfulness.
My favorite lesson from this book (that becomes clear quite early) is that your thoughts do not define you, they’re simply outputs of an always active mind.
4. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
While mindfulness may be an ancient Buddhist practice, it certainly isn’t just for Buddhists. Mindfulness is all about waking up to the world around you and living in peace and harmony with oneself.
In this book, Jon Kabat-Zinn provides chapter-by-chapter glimpses into the many different facets of mindfulness. It’s a practice about letting go, being non-judgmental, kind, and embracing the present moment.
In a way that can’t be explained, this book will help you become more comfortable in your own skin.
5. The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day by Andy Puddicombe
The Headspace app changed my life, and without a doubt has changed the lives of many others as well. To this day, I still find myself going through its beginner 10-day mindfulness challenge as a friendly reminder of the principles, and for the fact that just 10 minutes of meditating can make a world of difference.
Headspace’s founder, Andy Puddicombe, is a former Buddhist monk with many years of experience teaching the practice. Andy began his meditative journey much like the rest of us – a regular, busy guy with everyday problems and stress. He does a marvelous job of introducing the topic of mindfulness with stories from his own life and helping people understand just how powerful 10 minutes per day can be.
6. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements isn’t your traditional book about mindfulness. Instead of ramming the practice of meditation down your throat, Don Miguel Ruiz very gently provides a guide to living life and staying mindful.
Don brilliantly introduces ancient Toltec wisdom into our modern world. The Four Agreements he discusses are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.
His ideas offer a formidable code of conduct that no one can disagree with. I’m convinced that making this book required reading in any level of education would make the world a much better place for everyone.
Be warned, this is a book that you will want to carry around with you everywhere. It’s that good.
7. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Most of the books on this list offer incredible insight and wisdom into the world of mindfulness, but few offer a step-by-step plan to get there.
Mark Williams and Danny Penman are at the forefront of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), the main topic of this book. Their plan incorporates a series of simple, powerful practices that you can start doing today to disrupt the merry-go-round of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and depression.
With science as a cornerstone of their methodologies, it’s safe to say that this stuff works. This book was a surprisingly good read and highly recommended for anyone looking for a hand to hold through their journey.
8. The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle
What kind of mindfulness book list would this be without Eckart Tolle? While Tolle would most likely agree that there isn’t anything new about his ideas in The Power of Now, he certainly has a way of revealing them in a different light.
The message Tolle delivers is that of living “in the now” – a concept many adept mindfulness practitioners understand, but one that beginners don’t quite comprehend. Tolle’s enthusiasm and clear, compassionate voice is what makes this book stand out and change the lives of those who read it.
9. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Before a reader of mine recommended this book to me, I had never heard of it. But Jon Kabat-Zinn made this list twice for a good reason. Full Catastrophe Living is for everybody from the sick to the healthy, young or old, and everything in-between.
It’s an amazing book on meditation and explaining the power of mind-body medicine. Since it provides many different types of meditative therapies, it doesn’t go super in-depth, which means it’s the perfect introductory book for anyone whose interest has been peaked.
For anyone looking for alternative ways to cope with stress and deal with pain, Full Catastrophe Living is worth the read.
Thank you truly for the recommendation, you know who you are.
10. The Mindful Path Through Worry and Rumination: Letting Go of Anxious and Depressive Thoughts by Sameet Kumar
Probably the only “sleeper” book on this list, but one that deserves more attention. As someone who’s struggled in the past with worry, rumination, and obsessive thoughts, I wish I had come across this book sooner.
Kumar’s book is highly relatable to people on all different paths of life. Its main focus is on mindfulness and disrupting the destructive tendencies of your thoughts.
It’s a good book to read (and re-read) for stepping out of your constant states of worry and regret. It’s also a great recommendation for anyone struggling with depression or broader negativity.