Best Alan Watts Books That Will Open Up Your Perspective
Alan Watts was a British prolific author, writer and speaker. He produced his first booklet in 1932 when he was seventeen years old. And during his lifetime, he wrote 25 books in total.
He was best known for interpreting Eastern philosophies and religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism and making them accessible to the Western audience. From a young age, the author was fascinated by Asian art, literature, and philosophy and later became an active member of the London Buddhist Lodge.
But as an Episcopal priest for a period of time in his middle years, he was also well-versed with the Western religions. In his books, you will find him drawing insights from both the Eastern and Western philosophies.
Below is a mixture of books written by Alan Watts and posthumous books curated by his son, Mark Watts. Choose a book that resonates with you the most.
Top 10 Best Alan Watts Books
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1. The Wisdom of Insecurity
“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present.”
Are you someone who is so future-focused that you forget to enjoy today? If yes, then this book is for you.
When we spend all of our time trying to plan for the future, we become less aware of the present moment. Our perpetual habit of seeking a better tomorrow and reviewing the past creates anxiety and prevents us from living fully in the now.
In order to lead a fulfilling life, we must embrace the present since it is only in the present that we live. In this book, the author also explores how separateness prevents us from truly feeling free and being present.
2. The Way of Zen
“When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”
If you want to learn more about Zen Buddhism, this book will give you a comprehensive introduction and a great overview of the subject.
In this book, the author not only explores the history and origins of Zen but he also explains its principles and practices.
This book is intended for both the general reader and the more serious student. It is written in such a manner that is easy for Western readers to understand and accessible to masses, so anyone who reads this book will find value in it.
3. The Book
“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.”
This book explores the taboo against knowing who we really are.
We have been taught that we are isolated beings and separated from the rest of the Universe. However, this false belief leads us to perceive the world and others with hostility. In this book, the author discusses how our misunderstanding of who we are is the root of human conflicts.
If you have questions about your personal identity or your place in the universe, this book will open your mind and show you a new way of looking at the world. By adapting the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta, the book will help you understand that your true nature is divine and you are connected to everything else.
4. Out of Your Mind
“Everything is change. Nothing can be held on to. And if you go with the flux, you flow with it. However, if you resist the stream, it fights you.”
This book is a compilation of the author’s six most engaging seminars in the late sixties and early seventies. Even though it was recorded decades ago, the teachings are timeless.
The author often said, you sometimes need to go out of your mind in order to come to your senses. In this book, you will learn how to break through the limits of the rational mind, expand your awareness, and appreciate your life instead of taking it too seriously.
Drawing refreshing insights from various religions, especially Buddhism, the author explores and tackles several assumptions that many of us have taken for granted.
“Trust in human nature is acceptance of the good-and-bad of it, and it is hard to trust those who do not admit their own weakness.”
This is the last book written by the author before he died. It was completed by Al Chung-Liang Huang.
Similar to the book The Way of Zen, this book gives you a great introduction to the history and philosophy of Tao.
Tao is impossible to describe beyond thought or concepts. If you have read Tao Te Ching before but find it somewhat ambiguous and frustrating to understand, this is the book for you.
The author is great at bridging the gap between Chinese philosophy and the western mindset and making it accessible to all. Subtitled the watercourse way, this book masterfully captures the spiritual essence of the mystical Tao.
6. The Meaning of Happiness
“Those who search for happiness do not find it because they do not understand that the object of the search is the seeker.”
If you think that happiness comes from having or doing something, this book will open you to a new perspective of happiness.
Originally published in 1940, it’s remarkable that this book was written by the author in his early twenties. At that age, he already realized that authentic happiness comes from embracing life as a whole in all its contradictions and paradoxes. It comes from our profound acceptance of both our outer and inner world.
Happiness is not something that we can obtain by doing something to obtain it. Instead, it arises when we are aware of the illusion that we need to find happiness!
7. Nature, Man and Woman
“The answer to the problem of suffering is not away from the problem but in it. The inevitability of pain will not be met by deadening sensitivity but by increasing it.”
If you feel disconnected or isolated from the world and with other people, this book will help you understand your deep, spiritual connection with nature and others.
In this book, the author reexamines humanity’s place in the natural world and the relation between body and spirit. In our culture, nature and we are often divided and the mind is somehow superior to the body. However, at our core, we are all connected.
Then, in the second section of the book, the author went on to discuss the relationship between man and woman and addressed the seeming contradiction between spirituality and sexuality.
8. Still the Mind
“You may think there’s no point in singing unless you are good at it, but that is like saying there is no point in doing anything at all unless you are particularly gifted at it, which is ridiculous.”
Apart from having a vast knowledge of both Eastern and Western religious and spiritual traditions, the author embraced and actually practiced the various traditions he studied.
This book is a compilation of several journals and transcripts of audiotapes that the author delivered in his lectures. In this book, the author explains the basic philosophy of meditation, how individuals can practice a variety of meditations, and how inner wisdom grows naturally.
Only read this book if you want insights into meditating. It’s not a practical guide on how to meditate.
9. In My Own Way
“Much of the secret of life consists in knowing how to laugh, and also how to breathe.”
If you are a fan of Alan Watts and want to learn about his life and his influences, this is the book to read.
This book is an autobiography of his spiritual and philosophical evolution. However, the author does not subscribe to the chronological or historical illusion that events follow one another in series. So his autobiography is told in a nonlinear style.
In this book, you will not find his usual insights on spirituality and philosophy. Instead, you get a deeper look into the life of this interesting, non-conformist, his observations on Western culture, and often hilarious accounts of gurus, celebrities, and psychedelic drug experiences.
10. Become What You Are
“A man does not really begin to be alive until he has lost himself, until he has released the anxious grasp which he normally holds upon his life.”
This book is a collection of the author’s articles and short essays that touch on the dilemma of seeking our true self. In the midst of our search and improving ourselves, we often fail to stay content.
Drawing on a variety of religious traditions such as Taoism and Christianity, this book addresses our challenge of seeing our life “just as it is”. It helps us realize we can’t control everything. It also reminds us to appreciate the present moment, for it’s only at this very moment that we truly exist.