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10 Best Alan Watts Books (2024)

Best Alan Watts BooksEastern Wisdom

Anyone who has read a book from this brilliant philosopher knows that he was a man who had figured out a lot of things about life. Watts lived from 1915 to 1973 and in that time has accomplished plenty. He is among the first men to spread Eastern wisdom to a Western audience and although he, like many philosophers, was criticized by society, it didn’t stop him from being a great writer, poet, radical thinker, teacher, and so on.


If you are wondering how many books Alan Watts has written, there are approximately 25 books that focus on the meaning of life, spiritual balance, how we think individually and as a society, and generally what is happiness and how to achieve it. I am sure that you won’t be disappointed by any of the books written by Watts and you will be surprised by how this man was thinking and all the knowledge his work holds. Have a look at what the best Alan Watts books are.

Best Alan Watts Books

The Way of Zen


Precious Knowledge

The first entry on our Alan Watts books list is The Way of Zen. Alan was a man who was familiar with and studied many religions such as Buddhism. In The Way of Zen, he wanted to show all his readers how fascinated he was with this mythical way of life for many Asian people. This is one of Alan Watts’s top books divided into two sections.

Two Parts

The first held precious knowledge about the history of Zen Buddhism as well as important principles and practices. The second half has its own sections that include titles like Empty and Marvelous, Sitting Quietly, Doing Nothing, Za-zen and the Koan, and Zen and the Arts.

It is one of Alan Watts’s spiritual books full of truly valuable information for any reader who wishes to spiritually grow, improve, and make changes in their life. To understand life itself better and see the different ways people live in. 

Ways to Understand Life

It’s believed that Alan’s purpose for this book was mainly to show the Western audience that they were limited to their strict commitment to logical structures, unlike the Eastern people who were far from that.

He wanted to show people that there are many different ways that people understand life and live by different principles, and most important of all, that that is completely okay. Everyone who wishes should learn about new ways of life that might just change theirs for the better. That’s what he hopes to achieve with The Way of Zen, which is one of Alan Watts’s best-known books.

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are


Understanding Yourself

This is the best Alan Watts book about understanding yourself. It is also Watts’s most famous book in general. Watts takes you on a journey through the universe in an attempt to make people understand their meaning and presence in this world. After all, if we understand ourselves we will have a better understanding of what everyone else is going through and what they generally desire happiness.


He believed that he could help people better understand their own personal identity with the help of the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta and by adapting to its principles.

He talks about how we constantly misuse great technology instead of using it to our advantage to grow as a race and to solve life-threatening problems. How we can all work together instead of fighting about things that hurt our ego. The very fact after understanding ourselves will allow us to have peace and have nothing that we cannot solve as a union. As we said above and we are gonna say it again, it is Alan Watts’s best book and one of Watts’s books ranked as the best-selling.

Bigger Picture

Alan very strongly negates what we have been told that we are isolated beings, and unconnected to anything in the universe. From start to finish, Watts covers many topics that we believe are taboo and explains that we give them too much credit.

It’s one of Watts’s most popular books, that will help you find yourself and understand the bigger picture and what is truly important to live happily.

The Wisdom of Insecurity


Looking For Flaws

We as human beings are generally insecure about things that we think about too much and are always prone to finding flaws. We then put aside the many or little positive elements and always focus on the flaws.

Watts goes very in-depth about being insecure about anything in general and finds a way to explain it. He wonders about religion, philosophy, intellectual security, logic, emotions because in fact, insecurity can be born out of anything. It is not only one of Watts’s best-rated books, but also one of Watts’s best-selling books. We think it speaks for itself.

Different View

This book is definitely meant for everyone who constantly thinks about this stuff and is struggling with any kind of insecurity themselves, looking for a way out and a great revelation. Anyone who is interested in logic and scientific facts, anyone who has trouble finding their religious path, anyone who is open to looking at things differently and will give anything that makes sense a chance.

When people find themselves being insecure about anything it is completely normal to want to find new ways of solving their problem and regain certainty. Watts has made brilliant revelations in this book which offer help to anyone who needs it. If you are looking for help in this matter, it is one of our best Watts’s book recommendations and the best Watts book to start with.

Unique Answers

Like many other books of his, this book is all about self-help by understanding something and looking at it from very different ways. He tries to explain to the readers that insecurity is not actually the consequence of trying to be secure like many have argued to be true.

He looks at things in a completely different way that actually makes a lot of sense and has some unique and outstanding answers for you to find out for yourself when you start reading this book.

Tao: The Watercourse Way


Great Introduction

This is the last of Watts books in order, due to his death, it is a short book that holds five chapters but, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good one. Far from that actually. It’s a great book that is considered to be the perfect introduction to Taoism.

Healing Power

He had actually planned to write two more chapters about how Taoism can help sick people and mainly show the people from the west that everyone can be healed from life-threatening illnesses by practicing some of the many great techniques of it.

The book holds priceless information backed up by his own studies of Taoism accompanied by historical facts. Much like Watts’s first book The Way of Zen, he explains in this one a different lifestyle of different people and the great advantages it holds. He has also included calligraphic samples of many of the cited Chinese texts.

Priceless Ways

This man makes every book he writes a masterpiece by explaining so gracefully priceless ways of life and information to people who just adore reading about these topics and are always amazed by every new book Watts releases. So if you are looking for good books by Watts, this is one of the essential Watts books.

Although it is his last book ever made from him, it certainly deserves a place in the best books by Watts ever written. Trust me, it’s pretty hard to decide which fit the top 5 list in our Watts book review because Alan couldn’t write a bad book even if he wanted to. It does not matter, which book you chose, every single one is the best of Alan Watts.

Out of Your Mind


Breaking Limits

Alan Watts invites readers to immerse themselves in 12 of his pinnacle thinking sessions in this best book. Carefully chosen from hundreds of recordings by Watts’ son, this book consists of seminars that captures Watts at his most brilliant. He teaches things like how to break the limits of your rational mind and expanding your awareness.

This is something different than what I usually reference in book reviews, because it is an audio book with recordings of all of Watts’ favorite pathways out of the trap that he calls ‘conventional awareness’, so that we can learn to appreciate the Great Game that is all around us. It’s just so good that I couldn’t help but add it to this list.

Deeper Insights

There are many subjects that these seminars cover, but one of my favorites is the art of the controlled accident. It’s all about not taking life so seriously and to actually start enjoying it. Watts also talks about fully embracing the chaos around us to enable us to find our deepest purpose. I particularly enjoyed his insights into the deeper philosophical principles of Buddhism and Hinduism.

If you are familiar with Alan Watts’ work then you are the last person I need to convince to give this audio book a try, but if you are completely new to his work, then this would be a good place to start. It’s an opportunity to see Watts at his best – he’s not called a spiritual entertainer for nothing!

Become What You Are


Deep Places

Finally, last but definitely not least, this is one of the must-read Watts books that take you to some deep places in your mind and makes you think radically. A quick suggestion from me is to make sure you are familiar with Alan’s philosophy before you dive into this book.

Harsh Truth

It covers a lot of things he has written about earlier, like the amazing and life-changing practice of Taoism, the knowledge of one’s true self, Zen, and so on. This man has always been real in what he says in his books, and sometimes the truth can be harsh, but Watts urges everyone to always face the truth and deal with it as it does make us stronger beings.

In the book, he talks about how important a balance in life is, as we would not know what is good without bad, what love feels like without knowing how it feels to hate someone, how important and good it feels like to be happy without suffering through something tragic and feeling sad.

Understanding the Balance

He urges us to understand the balance so that we can appreciate the good times. Otherwise, life would be very dull and we wouldn’t even be aware that we are even alive.

Become What You Are will most surely change your way of thinking and urge you to become better as a person. It’s the closest thing to help you understand how Watts was thinking in general and what were his motivations for this way of life. He involves everything people believe in like religion, logic, emotions to make sure we understand what he is saying and to understand the nature of life itself.

Life-Changing Books

These are our choices for Alan Watts’s best books out there, but if you do have the time, read all of Watts’s books and rest assured that you will start thinking and understand life in very different and life-changing ways.

Thanks to this astonishing philosopher, we have a lot of priceless information and thoughts about life that are just mind-blowing and make his readers feel absolutely amazed.

This is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience


Being Present

This collection of essays from Alan Watts are all brought together in this highly rated book and deals with the relationship of mystical experience to ordinary life. Watts goes into the experience of things and recognizing that being truly present is the only way you actually have an experience.

The best way to explain this would be a quote from Watts himself, where he says that in order to understand music you have to listen to it. However, if you sit there and think, “I am listening to music”, you’re not actually listening to it. The reason why Watts pushes awareness to present experience is because he believes that people are always trying to grasp at security and certainty in the future, something which remains abstract.

Not Self-Improvement

The idea that Watts is trying to put across is that happiness is not about improving our experience, but rather about remaining present in the fullest possible sense. He actually admonishes the notion of self-improvement. He points out in this book that the reason we cannot live with pure awareness is because of memories and our warped relationship with time.

At 158 pages, this isn’t a long read, and it is definitely one worth your time. It’s a casual ease into the idea of Zen, and the essays are really interesting and might just surprise you. They’re easy to digest as well, kind of like sitting next to a stranger in a coffee shop and having a conversation.

Nature, Man and Woman


Dangerous Thinking

If you have ever had an interest in Chinese Taoism, then this best rated book from Alan Watts is what I would recommend to you. It is a provocative look into humanity’s place in the natural world and how the human spirit relates to human flesh, and Watts considers this in the light of Chinese Taoism.

What this book looks at is how human beings are separate from the nature around them, yet they view nature as something that needs to be controlled. It is also looking at how humans consider the mind to be superior to the body, and how sexuality is viewed as always having an element of seduction. Watts believes this way of thinking to be dangerous, a thought process which is based on Western thought and culture.

A Different View

Watts certainly has a unique way of thinking, and he believes that this Western view is what underlies human exploitation of the earth, our natural inclination towards distrusting our emotions, and our overall pandemic of loneliness and rejection of love. You won’t come across many authors who challenge the status quo the way that Alan Watts does in this highly rated book.

Drawing on Taoism, Watts gives the reader a completely different view of life, one that I am sure most people have never even considered. I really had my eyes opened while reading this; it is one of those rare books that truly has an impact on the way you think, feel and love. It offers a more holistic view of nature, man and woman, and how they all interact.

Does It Matter?


The Important Things

Here we have a series of essays written by the great Alan Watts, representing his thoughts on one of the most astonishing problems of our time: how man relates to his material environment. The overall theme of these essays is how civilized man often confuses symbol with reality, specifically in the way that man measures the world with the world itself.

To put it simply, these essays from Watts cover things like why people seem to prefer money over wealth or eating the entire menu rather than the dinner. People today seem to be caught up in the numbers of it all, worried about trivial things and forgetting about the important things in nature that we actually rely on to live, such as insects, the air, animals, water, plants and bacteria.

Nitty Gritty

Watts believes that the greatest issue that people are facing today is that we view nature as separate from us, rather than as part of us. We view the external world as a cluster of objects that we encounter, something we come into, as opposed to something we come out of. In doing so, Watts believes that we are settling in for our impending doom.

Watts really gets into the nitty gritty with these essays, writing about world economic problems, but also about clothing, housing and cooking. The tone of the essays is somewhat snarky, with Watts calling the reader out on the way they treat not only themselves, but other people and nature too. To anyone who decides to read this, I would recommend reading it with a pen in hand, because you will be coming across some great advice in this book!

Cloud-Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown


Mountain Retreat

Another collection of essays from the great Alan Watts, but this time things are a bit more philosophical. He writes about a wide range of topics, from the philosophy of nature and ecology, to religion, aesthetics and metaphysics. There truly is something for everyone in these nineteen essays.

An interesting fact about this book is that Watts wrote it during a retreat he took in the foothills of Mount Tamalpais in California. He delves more into his favorite topic, Chinese Taoism, and the human relationship with nature. Watts encourages readers to embrace a contemplative form of meditation, one which will allow us to not overanalyze our experiences and actually just start living them.

No Stone Unturned

Some other themes that Watts explores in these essays are race relations, karma, reincarnation, the natural world, and established religion. He even writes about yoga, astrology and the nature of ecstasy. It would appear that he leaves no stone unturned – the man clearly did a lot of thinking in those mountains! I guess that’s one of the benefits of being out in nature; getting to really spend time with your thoughts.

The thing I have found that I love most about reading Watts’ books is how comfortable he makes you feel with every single topic, even ones that you may not be entirely familiar with. He explains things so eloquently that you won’t find yourself sitting there thinking you don’t understand what he’s saying. He also is so honest, almost to a fault, but you can tell that he truly lives the things he shares.

Michael Englert

Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.