5 Reality-Shattering Books Like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was absolutely transformative when I read it.

Maybe because I like motorcycles and reading philosophy, I was the perfect fit for the target demographic of the book.

Having said that, you certainly don’t need to love bikes to benefit from the philosophical nuggets of wisdom offered.

I’ve since expanded my search to similar titles and so humbly present five more recommendations which will make you look at the world slightly differently after reading them.

So let’s dive in.

Books Like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

1. Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

In Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel tells the story of his journey to learn the Japanese art of archery from a Master.

Herrigel, a German professor, was living in Japan when he first became interested in the ancient practice.

Although archery was once an important part of samurai culture, by the time Herrigel began his studies, it had become more of a sport.

Herrigel’s teacher, Ogasawara Kenzo, was a traditionalist who believed that archery should be about more than just hitting the target.

For Kenzo, the key to good shooting was to achieve a state of “no-mind” or total concentration.

This required years of practice and led Herrigel to some frustrating setbacks.

Eventually, however, he did achieve a moment of pure focus, known as “satori.” In satori, he finally understood the true nature of Zen archery.

Herrigel’s book is both a fascinating account of his own journey and a valuable introduction to Zen philosophy.

Pros

  • Zen in the Art of Archery is an excellent introduction to Zen philosophy.
  • It’s also a great story of one man’s journey to mastery.
  • The concept of replaced attention can be applied to multiple pursuits.

Cons

  • The book is a bit dated and some of the ideas might be tough to grasp for modern readers.
  • Some Zen practitioners might feel some of the language is at odds with traditional teaching.

Bottom line

Zen in the Art of Archery is a classic book on Zen philosophy. If you’re interested in learning more about Zen, or if you just enjoy a good story, this book is definitely worth a read.

2. The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey is a self-help book that applies the principles of Zen to the game of tennis.

The book’s title refers to the idea that the biggest obstacle to success in any challenge is not external, but internal.

In other words, it is not our opponents or the environment that stand in our way, but our own doubts, fears, and other negative emotions.

Gallwey argues that we need to learn to quiet our inner dialogue in order to succeed.

He provides a number of exercises and techniques to help readers do this.

The book was originally published in 1974 and has since sold millions of copies worldwide.

It remains one of the most popular books on tennis and has been praised for its insights into human psychology.

Pros

  • The Inner Game of Tennis offers a unique perspective on the psychological aspects of sport.
  • It will improve your performance in any activity you apply it to (I’m speaking from personal experience here!)
  • It provides practical advice and exercises.

Cons

  • Some readers might be put off by the use of tennis as a vehicle for the message.
  • As with anything, it takes repeated practice to apply these insights in your life.

Bottom line

The Inner Game of Tennis is a must-read for any athletes or coaches. But even if you’re not interested in sports, the book’s insights into human psychology are valuable for anyone who wants to improve their performance in any area of life.

See my summary of the book here.

3. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha is a novel by Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha.

The book, Hesse’s ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple and lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s.

The titular character experiences a spiritual journey as he comes of age.

The book follows Siddhartha’s search for enlightenment, and his eventual realization that it can be found within oneself.

Along the way, Siddhartha encounters various teachers and mentors, each of whom Impacts his understanding of the world in different ways.

After many years, Siddhartha finally achieves enlightenment after he understands the true nature of the Self.

The book explores themes of self-discovery, spirituality, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Hermann Hesse’s writing is beautiful and lyrical, and provides readers with a deep understanding of Siddhartha’s journey.

Pros

  • Like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, this book documents a transformative physical and spiritual journey.
  • It is a beautiful and poetic book that is easy to read and understand.
  • The book shows that everyone experiences phases in life where they are searching, but that invariably, we already possess all the answers.

Cons

  • The book does not provide any easy answers or simple solutions, especially in its story format.
  • It may be too “out there” for some readers.

Bottom line

Siddhartha is a classic novel that is required reading for anyone on a spiritual journey or interested in incorporating Buddhist principles into their lives.

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is a novel by Paulo Coelho that tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

His quest takes him from his home in Spain to the Egyptian desert, where he meets a wise alchemist who helps him to find the treasure he seeks.

Along the way, Santiago learns to listen to his heart and follow his dreams, even when they lead him into personal danger.

The Alchemist is ultimately a tale about the importance of finding one’s true purpose in life and pursuing it with courage and determination.

While the book has been criticized for its simplistic prose and New Age themes, it has also been praised for its inspiring message and engaging storytelling.

The Alchemist has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 80 languages, making it one of the most successful novels of all time.

Pros

  • The book has a simple, yet profound message.
  • It is an easy read with a fast-paced story.
  • The book is full of symbols and allegories that are easy to interpret.

Cons

  • The book has been criticized for its simplistic prose and New Age themes.
  • Some readers may find the underlying themes in the book to be too obvious or heavy-handed.

Bottom line

The Alchemist is a classic novel that is required reading for anyone on a spiritual journey or interested in incorporating New Age principles into their lives.

5. Way of the Peaceful Warrior Book by Dan Millman

Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior has become a classic, selling millions of copies worldwide since its publication in 1980.

The book tells the story of Dan, a college gymnast who has a life-changing encounter with a mystical being called Socrates.

Through their conversations, Socrates helps Dan to see that there is more to life than just winning and that true happiness comes from being at peace with oneself.

Along the way, Dan learns valuable lessons about meditation, mindfulness, and living in the present moment.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior is an inspiring read that has touched the lives of many and continues to do so today.

Pros

  • A wonderful use of storytelling to convey a powerful message.
  • Some memorable quotes and passages for further contemplation.
  • The book is a quick read, but it is packed with valuable information.

Cons

  • The book may be too “woo-woo” for some readers.
  • Serious Buddhist practitioners might not feel it’s an accurate portrayal of their teachings.

Bottom line

Way of the Peaceful Warrior is an inspiring read that has touched the lives of many and continues to do so today. If you are looking for a book that will change your perspective on life, this is it.

Read my summary of the book here.

Summary

By presenting their material in a story format, these books bypass our normal cynical filters, affecting us on an atavistic emotional level.

Such is the beauty of good books.

Furthermore, they all contain inherent human truths, making us bubble with existential questions, in a good way!

Hopefully, with enough introspection, we can also find some answers 🙂