Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, Stephen Nachmanovitch
“The most important book on improvisation I've yet seen." -Keith Jarrett
Effortless Mastery, Kenny Werner
You may already be familiar with Kenny’s work, but if not, this is a liberating book.
The Music Lesson, Victor Wooten
A beautiful book by a beautiful guy, full of musical wisdom and warmth.
The Inner Game of Music, Barry Green
An excellent, practical book for all musicians wrestling with inner demons like self-doubt, nerves, and fear of failure
Zen in the Art of Archery, Eugen Herrigel
Fascinating portrait of Zen from the inside; highly relevant to music
The Artist’s Journey, Steven Pressfield
What being an Artist (of any kind) really entails, and a guide to overcoming some of the inner obstacles we all encounter along the way. You may also enjoy The War of Art by the same author.
Notes and Tones, Art Taylor
Interviews with many great jazz musicians by a great jazz musician, thus a very honest and revealing glimpse of jazz in 1968-1972
Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, Peter Pettinger
Great biography of one of the great jazz masters
John Coltrane, His Life and Music, Lewis Porter
Great biography written by a noted jazz scholar who happens to be my friend and bandmate
Thelonious Monk, The Life and Times of an American Original, Robin Kelley
Extensively researched and totally engaging biography
Raga Mala, The autobiography of Ravi Shankar
The fascinating story of the great sitar player who popularized North Indian classical music in the West
Philosophy and World Spiritual Traditions
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
A great introduction to the history of Western philosophy through an engaging (if at times somewhat disturbing) autobiographical story
Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
An illuminating autobiographical portrait of the life of a Self-realized Indian yoga master—the first to settle in the West and teach here. This is also the first book written about yoga in English by a true yogi.
The Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, Translation and commentary by Paramahansa Yogananda
The best translation of the Gita (often called the Hindu bible by Westerners) I have found yet. Not just a translation, but a realization of the deep truths embodied in the Gita.
The Mahabharata, translation by Ramesh Menon
An engaging and modern translation of the colossal, multifaceted Indian epic from which the Gita is but a tiny slice. It reads like Lord of the Rings, but is almost twice the length. (You have to set aside some time for this one, but wow is it amazing!)
The Gift, Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master, translations by Daniel Ladinsky
Heartwarming and inspiring poetry by the most beloved Persian poet
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu (Laozi), translation by Stephen Mitchell
Timeless, pithy wisdom from the great 6th-century-BC Chinese Master and founder of Taoism.
The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton
Written by the 4th-century-BC Taoist Master Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zhou) and follower of Lao Tzu in a similar style to the Tao Te Ching, translated with great affinity by a celebrated author and Trappist (Catholic) monk
Polishing the Mirror, Ram Das (formerly Richard Alpert, Harvard professor and psychedelic pioneer who renounced artificial highs, traveled to India, found a guru, and came back to the U.S. to teach what he learned there)
A Modern, practical, spiritual classic. You may also want to check out Be Here Now by the same author, which is better known, but I this book is more down to earth, practical and helpful.
The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
A modern, readable guide to spiritual enlightenment. Brilliantly written, by one who clearly knows what he’s talking about from personal experience.
Many Lives, Many Masters, Brian L. Wiess, M.D.
The remarkable story of one patient’s past-life regression therapy
Stop Worrying! There Probably Is an Afterlife, Greg Taylor
A refreshingly balanced, well-researched introduction to the idea of conscious survival of death.
Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
If you haven’t read it, take the time to read it! It’s long, but worth the time. Perhaps the greatest and most beloved novel of the 20th century, and definitely the best-selling.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind, Yuval Noah Harari
An absolutely fascinating big-picture view of the history of humanity, by one of the most brilliant minds I have ever encountered. Funny and full of unexpected twists and turns.
John Funkhouser, Berklee College of Music, email@example.com, updated July, 2020