The 7 Best Meditation Books of 2021

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Looking for a book to help guide you in your meditation journey? We’ve rounded up the top seven meditation books on the market.

Meditation is one of the most talked about practices in the mental health space because of its multitude of science-backed benefits.

Although the concept of meditation may seem quite straightforward — set aside time to focus the mind on the present moment and attempt to quiet all other thoughts — the practice itself can be challenging.

Some people suggest to think of meditation as a skill and the brain as a muscle that needs to be worked and trained just like any other part of the body.

Still, if you’re just getting started, you may be unsure about where to begin, or you may find the practice harder than you expected. And even if you have some experience with meditation, it can be challenging to stick with it if you’re not noticing any immediate benefits.

A good way to stay inspired as you begin (or continue) your meditation journey is to read a meditation book. Reading about meditation may provide you with a resource you can turn to every day to keep you invested in your practice.

The part of the mind being worked during meditation is primarily emotional and attentional regulation. That’s why studies have revealed meditation can significantly reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Plus, this improvement in mental health may even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Not only does meditation have the ability to improve well-being and memory, but it can also physically alter the brain.

For instance, a 2013 study found that people who regularly meditate had a larger hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning, memory, and emotion.

Plus, research from 2012 notes that people with depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus.

Although it’s still unclear whether people with depression have a smaller hippocampus as a result of depression or as a preexisting condition, studies suggest that increasing the volume of this part of the brain has positive effects on long-term emotional well-being.

Many types of meditation books exist, such as books focused on someone’s personal experience with meditation, the science behind it, advice for meditating, or even just written meditations you can follow along to.

We looked into more than 50 books on meditation and came up with our top seven picks. We ensured that these books were diverse in topic so anyone could find what they were looking for on the list.

To narrow down the list, we considered the following factors:

  • reviews and ratings
  • qualifications of the author
  • number of copies sold
  • readability and overall organization of the book

Best overall

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

  • Price: $
  • Formats: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audiobook

“The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle is one of the most popular books in the meditation space.

This book is more philosophical than others on the list, as many of the chapters focus on the concept of the mind and of enlightenment.

Although Tolle’s book is quite philosophical and spiritual, it doesn’t adhere to any specific religion or doctrine, since Tolle believes each person’s journey to spiritual enlightenment is entirely personal.

If you’re looking for a book that helps you better understand the importance of not just meditation but all practices of self-reflection and remaining in the present, this is a good choice for you.

You can think of this book as more of a spiritual self-help guide than a meditation book. It even includes exercises for you to try to begin your journey of personal growth.

What we like

  • inspiring
  • #1 New York Times bestseller
  • includes exercises to try at home

What to look out for

  • may need to read more than once to understand topics
  • not specific to meditation practices

Popular quote: “The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”

Best for science lovers

The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness

  • Price: $$
  • Formats: paperback, Kindle, audiobook, audio CD

“The Mind Illuminated,” written by John Yates, Matthew Immergut, and Jeremy Graves, explores the science behind why meditation works and how to begin your practice.

The book follows the teachings of Buddhism and is a step-by-step guide for the various obstacles you must overcome to become fully mindful.

The book introduces a total of 10 steps as well as chapters between some of the steps that dive into the science of meditation and the Buddhist understanding of mindfulness.

“The Mind Illuminated” is one of the best meditation books available for people looking for a science-based approach to meditation and overall mindfulness.

The main author of the book, John Yates, has some of the most impressive credentials on this list as he is both a neuroscientist and meditation master of more than 40 years.

What we like

  • step-by-step meditation guide
  • science approach to meditation
  • exceptional qualifications of the authors

What to look out for

  • long (more than 500 pages)
  • very little neuroscience actually included

Popular quote: “As paradoxical as it may seem, the craving to avoid suffering and pursue pleasure is the actual cause of suffering.”

Best for beginners

Mindfulness in Plain English

  • Price: $
  • Formats: paperback, Kindle

“Mindfulness in Plain English,” written by Bhante Gunaratana, is a highly accessible mindfulness and meditation book. It follows the practices of Buddhism and begins by exploring why everyone should meditate and what is and is not meditation.

The remainder of the book walks readers through how to approach meditation and the various challenges they may encounter when beginning their practice.

This book uses simple language to keep the concepts of mindfulness and meditation as accessible as possible. It also contains wit, making it an enjoyable and engaging read.

What we like

  • straightforward language
  • great for beginners
  • engaging read

What to look out for

  • more focused on how to mentally approach meditation than a step-by-step guide for meditating

Popular quote: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is not.”

Best for guided meditation

Dear Universe: 200 Mini-Meditations for Instant Manifestations

  • Price: $
  • Formats: hardcover, Kindle, audiobook, MP3 CD

“Dear Universe,” written by Sarah Prout, is a good option for people looking for a book that offers actual meditation sessions.

While most meditation books act as a guide to approaching meditation, “Dear Universe” actually offers short meditations you can return to whenever you like. You can choose from a total of 200 meditations, with half focusing on rising above fear and the other half focusing on embracing love.

In the first section of the book, Prout opens up to readers about her own journey discovering meditation and mindfulness, and then moves into what readers can expect as they begin their own spiritual journey.

The middle part of the book includes 200 different affirmations you can recite to yourself. The book ends with suggestions for maintaining your meditation practice.

If you’re looking for a meditation book on the more spiritual side and one that you can return to whenever you need a moment to self-reflect or cultivate gratitude and strength, “Dear Universe” may be a good choice for you.

What we like

  • includes mini-meditation sessions
  • beautiful layout
  • personal and intimate

What to look out for

  • more anecdotal and spiritual than a step-by-step guide to meditation

Popular quote: “Compassion over criticism is the path of love and least resistance.”

Best for meditation skeptics

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works — A True Story

  • Price: $
  • Formats: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audiobook

“10% Happier,” written by Dan Harris, is one of the best autobiographies focused on mindfulness and meditation.

Harris began his meditation journey after he had a panic attack on national television in 2004 and realized he needed to make serious changes in his life.

If you’re looking for something funny and relatable that shows the benefits of meditation, “10% Happier” is a good option. This book isn’t as much of a self-help book or meditation guide as others on the list, but it’s a great story and may inspire even the biggest skeptics to give meditation a try.

What we like

  • firsthand account of the power of meditation
  • funny and engaging
  • #1 New York Times bestseller

What to look out for

  • autobiography, not a self-help book or meditation guide

Popular quote: “Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”

Best for cultivating happiness

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living

  • Price: $
  • Formats: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audiobook

“The Art of Happiness,” written by the Dalai Lama himself and psychiatrist Dr. Howard Cutler, explores the relationship between happiness, inner peace, and compassion.

Cutler helps the Dalai Lama explain Buddhist teachings on meditation and mindfulness in a more digestible manner, and provides insights into the Dalai Lama’s own personal life story.

This book is not as good of a meditation guide or self-help book as other books on our list, but it does provide excellent insights into what happiness can look like and how to go about cultivating it in everyday life.

If you’re interested in what the Dalai Lama has to say about happiness and to learn more about his life story, this is a great choice that will likely leave you feeling inspired.

What we like

  • inspiring
  • great insights about cultivating happiness
  • includes the life story of the Dalai Lama

What to look out for

  • not a step-by-step guide
  • can feel more like Dr. Cutler’s book than the Dalai Lama’s

Popular quote: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Best for depression

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness

  • Price: $$
  • Formats: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, audiobook, audio CD

Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and John Kabat-Zinn’s book, “The Mindful Way Through Depression,” uses both cognitive therapy techniques and meditation practices to help readers manage their depression.

The book can help you learn how to stay in the present moment and begin to let go of what you cannot control.

A CD also comes with this book that offers guided meditations. This way, you can easily transfer what you learn from the book to the audio meditation sessions.

The purpose of this book is to combine Western and Eastern views on depression and happiness to provide a more holistic approach for navigating depression.

What we like

  • authors are cognitive therapy and mindfulness experts
  • comes with a CD that offers guided meditation
  • focuses exclusively on managing depression

What to look out for

  • focuses on more than just meditation techniques

Popular quote: “Being mindful means that we suspend judgment for a time, set aside our immediate goals for the future, and take in the present moment as it is rather than as we would like it to be.”

Meditation has been shown to offer a range of science-backed benefits. For example, it may help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Though it cannot replace treatment if you have a diagnosis of a mental health condition, meditation may be an effective complementary tool to help you manage symptoms.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditation and how to do it, meditation books can be a great way to get you started.

While some books on our list are step-by-step self-help books and meditation guides, others are more autobiographical and offer readers inspiration to begin their own mindfulness journey, or simply insights into what meditation and mindfulness actually are.

Additionally, some books listed focus solely on Buddhist teachings, while others focus on a range of mindfulness practices.

In any case, we hope you find an option that suits your purpose.

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