Recommendations are a tricky thing. So I won’t be making them. Instead, I’ll do you a favour and take the very best bits of the very best books I read, so you don’t have to go through all the trouble I did finding them.

That said, because I was looking for the most amount of value in the shortest amount of space, some of them can be a little dense and heady. So no worries if they don’t do much for you.

Maybe start with the Zhuangzi passage on worldly life — that one has a very readable explanation by yours truly at the end.

Or the ones on Mao Ni and the “wandering from convention” Taoists — those are pretty fun.

The Buddhadasa one on “No Religion” might also be a useful starting point, distinguishing between normal, “worldly” language and the often paradoxical language of “Religion”, understood in the broadest possible sense.

The most concise summary of what to do with your life you’re likely to find
Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect – Baruch Spinoza

The most concise summary of Chinese philosophy you’re likely to find
Disputers of the Tao – A.C. Graham

How to deal with people and worldly life
Zhuangzi – Zhuangzi

How to manage one of the most difficult aspects of the spiritual path: maintaining mindfulness through the day
Toegye, via Michael Kalton

What they’re up to in China these days
The Path Toward Heaven – Mao Ni

Some emotional and drunken Taoists
Anecdotes from the “Wandering from Convention” phase, out of the Shisuo Xinyu

Directions on Spiritual Training
Abba Dorotheus of Gaza

A Sufi take on things
Dhūl-Nūn al-Miṣrī

“No Religion”, and the two kinds of language: worldly vs. ‘religious’

Absolutely stunning selections from Pessoa’s poetry
Fernando de Pessoa