THE BEST BUDDHIST WRITING 2004

Melvin McLeod, Editor, Shambhala Sun, Editor . Shambhala $14.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59030-189-0

Most of the usual Buddhist teachers—the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön et al.—are rounded up in this anthology of contemporary American Buddhist writers and writings. The subjects range widely: explanations of Buddhist teachings, a travel essay, musings anchored in ordinary family life. What stretches the book beyond the usual and enhances its variety is the inclusion of lesser-known voices, such as the American Theravadan monk Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, novelist Charles Johnson and Oprah Winfrey–connected "life coach" Martha Beck. Editor McLeod says the writings were chosen for depth of insight as well as writing quality, and both aspects vary. Longtime Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman's piece is a disappointingly simple paean to his teacher and associate the Dalai Lama, for example. But writer David Guy's essay on a Buddhist approach to stage fright is a fresh example of the everyday applications of Buddhist wisdom. Although anthologies often serve as gateways, this contains so many selections that it's not the best choice for beginners. Greater selectivity or longer introductory notes might help make key writers more accessible and more distinct from one another. Anthologies can generate quarrels about who's in and who's left out, yet this one provides a valuable cross-section of American Buddhist writers and merits continuing annually. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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