The Best Meditation Books and How to Use Them

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Now that the link between practicing meditation and improved mental health has been firmly established, even if you hadn’t considered trying it before, you may be at least curious about how it works, and the potential health benefits.

“Meditation can help with relaxation and focus,” Heidi J. Dalzell, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and practicing therapist with 25 years of experience, says. “It lowers stress and improves self-awareness and self-esteem. It can also support people in changing negative coping strategies, such as addictive behaviors.”

While that all sounds great, if you’re new to meditation, it may also sound vague or daunting (or both). That’s where meditation books come in. “I often recommend meditation books to my clients in both my therapy and coaching practice, since they offer a way to extend the things that we do together in our sessions,” Dalzell says.

Similarly, Kamlesh D. Patel, a meditation teacher and spiritual guide at Heartfulness, says that meditation books can help deepen a person’s understanding of the practice, and provide individual support as they start out. “Good meditation books are like maps to a journey,” he says.

With a wide variety of meditation books available, readers should look for ones written by experts in the field and ones that match their experience level—whether you're an experienced meditator or a novice, you can find a book that's tailored to your needs.

Here are the best meditation books on the market.

Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You

Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You

Source: Benjamin W. Decker

Pros
  • Spiral-bound

  • Ten different approaches to meditation

  • 10-day timeframe

Cons
  • Small print

  • Some people may find writing dry

If you’re new to meditation and looking for a straightforward, easy-to-use book, this book by Benjamin W. Decker—a self-described social activist, meditation teacher, and entrepreneur—is a safe bet.

The writing is clear and concise and walks the reader through easy steps to getting started. It’s also a great choice for someone who is interested in learning multiple meditation techniques, as it features ten different approaches. If you've tried meditating before but haven't been able to stick with it, this book will open your eyes to other methods of meditating that might be easier to stick to.

The Daily Meditation Book of Healing: 365 Reflections for Positivity, Peace, and Prosperity

The Daily Meditation Book of Healing: 365 Reflections for Positivity, Peace, and Prosperity

Source: Worthy Stokes

Pros
  • Focuses on recovery from various types of distress

  • Daily reflections and affirmations

Cons
  • No written-through daily guided meditations

  • Can veer into mystical/spiritual territory

Although it was written to help people address trauma, anxiety, and emotional distress, this book by Worthy Stokes can benefit anyone looking to heal in any capacity (which really, is all of us). A trauma survivor herself, Stokes teaches readers how to heal from past emotional distress through meditative practices.

The book can be especially helpful for people prone to negativity, prompting readers to look inward, challenge negative thought patterns, and approach themselves with compassion.

Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners: 50 Meditations to Practice Awareness, Acceptance, and Peace

Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners: 50 Meditations to Practice Awareness, Acceptance, and Peace

Source: Dawn Mauricio

Pros
  • Provides background on mindfulness and meditation

  • Includes breathing exercises

  • Offers 5- to 15-minute mindfulness exercises

Cons
  • Focused specifically on one type of meditation

  • Book takes a Buddhist approach, which isn't for everyone

Of all the types of meditation, many people find mindfulness to be the best fit for them and the easiest to get into. And for those without the option of attending a mindfulness class in person, this book by Dawn Mauricio—experienced mindfulness and meditation teacher—is the next best thing.

In addition to providing background information explaining the practice, the book also comes with more than 50 mindfulness exercises that take between five and 15 minutes each to help readers develop the skills they need to get more out of this type of meditation.

Meditations on Self-Love: Daily Wisdom for Healing, Acceptance, and Joy

Meditations on Self-Love: Daily Wisdom for Healing, Acceptance, and Joy at Amazon

Source: Laurasia Mattingly

Pros
  • 365 meditation prompts

  • Quick entries for those short on time

Cons
  • No written-through daily guided meditations

At times, it can be really hard to love yourself, and author Laurasia Mattingly knows that. That’s why this book focuses on the positive and encourages readers to work towards greater self-acceptance. Having used meditative practices to deal with grief and wean off of her anxiety medication, Mattingly wants to teach you how to listen to your heart more while letting go of the anxieties of the mind.

While the prompts may not be the most original in the world, they’re pleasant and brief, which makes it easier to incorporate meditation into your daily routine when you're short on time.

Zen Meditation for Beginners: A Practical Guide to Inner Calm

Zen Meditation for Beginners: A Practical Guide to Inner Calm

Source: Bonnie Myotai Treace

Pros
  • Compact size

  • Walks readers through the basics of Zen principles

Cons
  • Instructions may be unclear to newbies

Whether or not you’re familiar with Zen Buddhism, you’ve probably at least heard the word “zen” thrown around as a synonym for something or someone being calm and balanced. But there’s far more to the practice than that, and Bonnie Myotai Treace (a Zen priest and teacher of the practice) introduces readers to the tradition in this book.

Using ten featured Zen principles, the book provides brief exercises designed to help people get into a peaceful, positive headspace.

Bedtime Meditations for Kids: Quick, Calming Exercises to Help Kids Get to Sleep at Amazon

Bedtime Meditations For Kids

Source: Cory Cochiolo

Pros
  • 30 calming bedtime exercises

  • Makes meditation seem fun, rather than a chore

  • Bright, engaging illustrations

Cons
  • Only available in paperback

  • Not for those looking for kids' bedtime stories

Geared towards kids ages four through eight, this book by Cory Cochiolo, a certified hypnotherapist teacher, introduces little ones (and, in some cases, their parents) to the concept of meditation. But rather than using the usual terms, exercises and activities are given child-friendly names, like “vacuum cleaner breathing,” “bubble mansion,” and “roar like a lion.”

While anyone can benefit from the exercises, they are especially helpful for little ones who tend to get scared or anxious at night.

The No-Nonsense Meditation Book: A Scientist's Guide to the Power of Meditation

The No-Nonsense Meditation Book: A Scientist's Guide to the Power of Meditation

Source: Steven Laureys

Pros
  • Ideal for meditation skeptics

  • Uses science and research to back meditation

Cons
  • Not for those looking for strictly spiritual or religious approach

Not everyone considers themselves a “spiritual” person, so given meditation’s roots as a spiritual practice, it can be a tough sell at times. But today, not only is a lot of meditation offered and practiced in secular settings but there’s also plenty of research explaining the mental health benefits people have been experiencing for centuries.

That’s the approach author Steven Laureys, a board-certified neurologist, takes in this book—in which he makes a very interesting and compelling case, explaining what, exactly, meditation does to our brains. He follows that with some practical and highly accessible tips for getting started in meditation.

Final Verdict

Though each of these books brings something different to the table, there are two that stand out. The first is Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You (view at Amazon) by Benjamin W. Decker. With a spiral binding that allows the book to lay flat, along with introductions to ten different types of meditation, and clear, concise writing, this book is perfect for someone looking to learn the basics and test the waters of meditation.


The second is The No-Nonsense Meditation Book: A Scientist's Guide to the Power of Meditation (view at Amazon) by Steven Laureys. Not only will this book appeal to those who are convinced and motivated primarily (or solely) by logic and science, it’ll also appeal to those who are drawn to meditation as a spiritual practice, as it backs up several of their longstanding claims about the mental health benefits.

How We Selected

While there are many excellent meditation books that have been around for decades, the ones on this list were published no earlier than 2017 and were all written by meditation experts and/or authorities in that space. We selected each book based on thorough research and by consulting four experts for input—one licensed clinical psychologist, one meditation teacher, one meditation expert and yoga therapist, and one meditation and yoga teacher.

We asked each expert what readers should look for when selecting the right meditation book for them, as well as how readers can benefit from learning about meditation through a guided book.

What to Look for in a Meditation Book

Length

Look for a book that provides the detail and information you need, but doesn't become overwhelming. “It is not so much about the length of a book, as much as it is about its structure and type of meditation you want to learn about,” Patel says. “Still, anything over 200 to 250 pages would be an overkill for a beginner. Any book that theorizes the content instead of coming directly to simple practices is not walking the talk.”

Michelle Thielen, C-IAYT, a meditation expert and yoga therapist, has similar advice. “If one is dabbling or dipping their toes into the waters of meditation, a shorter book that focuses on the introduction to the practice will suit their needs,” she says. “If one wants to immerse themselves in the practice as a discipline, dive into philosophy, traditions and the benefits of meditation, a lengthier book is recommended.” 

Content

In some cases, meditation books are geared towards a specific audience, or focus on a particular challenge, like managing stress and anxiety. Before purchasing a meditation book, make sure the content addresses your needs and is relevant to your situation.

“Many of us read books on meditation because we are trying to solve a problem, be it stress, or a conflict in our relationships, or something that is negatively affecting us,” Patel says. “A book that shares how someone has applied meditation techniques to their own life problems can resonate with a reader and help them understand how they can apply meditation to their lifestyle.”

Because there are so many different types of meditation, Thielen suggests looking for a book with a broad and objective perspective. “Learn how any person can practice meditation and how various cultures, religions, and traditions practice this ancient discipline,” she says. “Ask yourself, why do I want to start meditating? Is it to ease anxiety and stress in a temporary season? Is it to implement a daily habit and a more permanent practice? Is it to connect to your spirituality? Or simply to see what the hype is about?”

Style

Meditation books can come in different sizes, shapes, weights, and formats—including hardcover, paperback, or spiral-bound. And while not every book is available in multiple styles, if you’re likely to use one type more than the others, it’s something to consider before making a purchase. “Meditation books are ready reckoners, and not just for one-time reads or references,” Patel says. “Hence the weight, packaging, and ease to carry it matter a lot. A bedside easy access also helps.”

Paperback or workbook-type spiral-bound books are ideal for beginners, Thielen says, because “it’s helpful to be able to open the book while you practice, implementing those step-by-step guidelines.” And speaking of size, Dalzell recommends getting a book with print large enough for you to read without straining your eyes or losing your place.

If the book that best fits your meditation needs doesn’t come in your preferred format, Patel suggests getting a separate journal “to take notes from the book and to observe progress in your meditation practice.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long should you meditate for?

    The meditation experts we interviewed had a range of responses to this question—from a minute or two to ten to 15 minutes. “Anyone can meditate anywhere, anytime: the duration is up to the individual,” Stacy Newfeld, a meditation and yoga teacher, says. But for beginners, she suggests sitting quietly for at least one or two minutes, and then once that feels comfortable, adding time if you’d like. 

    “Some people are under the false belief that you need to commit an extensive amount of time daily for meditation,” Dalzell says. “That is actually not the case. Any meditation break is good.” She recommends sitting for between ten and 15 minutes daily, with some longer meditation sessions from time to time. “This allows people to develop a habit of meditating,” she says, adding that it’s also important to go into meditation without judgment or expectations.

  • How do you sit for meditation?

    According to Thielen, the best way to sit for meditation is in a chair, or on the floor against the wall. “You’ll want to be fully supported so that the body will not interfere with the mind,” she says. 

    Whether you opt for the chair or the ground, “sit with a tall spine, with your head, shoulders, and hips over each other,” Newfeld says, adding that you should “feel regal, not rigid.” And if you’re not used to sitting on the ground, she recommends starting off using a cushion. 

    Patel also says that it’s fine to sit on the ground or a chair, but either way, recommends interlocking the fingers of both hands, and overlapping and locking both legs around the ankle. “By doing this, we pull our energy inward,” he explains, adding that you should also try to sit in the same spot every day and make sure that you’re comfortable.

    If you’d prefer not to sit, Dalzell has another option. “Walking meditation is also a nice alternative, and involves experiencing the senses as you move through space,” she says. “You can notice the sounds, feeling of your feet and body, smells, etcetera.”

  • What are the benefits of meditation?

    According to Patel, there are many mental health benefits of meditation. “When practiced regularly, meditation can help the stillness of the mind to address confusion, anxiety, and stress,” he says. “Meditation can help us connect with our most natural self. When we do this consistently, we can remove heavy emotions, such as anger or frustration. Instead, we react with the natural emotions of the heart: love, patience, empathy.” 

    When people meditate, Patel says, they gain the clarity needed to resolve their problems and create meaningful and effective solutions that genuinely resonate with them. “We gain perspective and we learn to pick the right problems to solve and the right solution to challenges with clarity and confidence,” he notes. “This leaves the mind less disturbed and agitated. Regulation of the mind leads to better mental health.”

  • How often should you meditate?

    Not only does Thielen recommend meditating once a day, but she also says that on some days, you may feel the need to do it more than once. “Meditation doesn’t require any equipment or a special place,” she explains. “If you’re having a stressful day at work, get outside if weather permits, walk around while breathing deeply. Or you can sneak away into the bathroom stall at work. You can do it anywhere at any time, completely free of charge.” Similarly, Dalzell suggests engaging in some meditative process daily, but clarifies that “this could mean sitting in meditation, chanting, [or] listening to quiet music.”

    Along the same lines, Newfeld says it’s best to practice every day—ideally, at the same time of day—for even a small amount of time, rather than skipping it, or getting in the habit of practicing sporadically. “Think of meditation as you would any exercise program,” she says. “The more it’s done, the better and more cumulative the results will be.”

Why Trust Verywell Mind

As a seasoned health writer and editor with a special focus on mental health and well-being, Elizabeth Yuko understands how powerful stress-relieving activities can be for many people—as well as the fact that they’re not one-size-fits-all. With decades of first-hand experience dealing with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, she’s always on the lookout for new (and research-backed) products, techniques, and services that can help people cope with stress and other mental health challenges.

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