Taoist Library

Here, you will find a list of works on and related to Taoism that I have in my personal library, with brief commentary.  Note that I count in my "library" a number of digital works online whose Web addresses I have saved, as well as physical books.  (Last updated 29 May 2008.)

Apotheonic Tao Te Ching, by Chad Perrin
I have taken it upon myself to produce a new translation of the Tao Te Ching, attempting to adhere with reasonable faithfulness to a direct term-by-term translation of the surviving Chinese text while providing an English interpretation that is as faithful as possible to the spirit of philosophical Taoism.  I endeavor to provide an interpretation of the original that is both appropriate to a first-time reader of the Tao Te Ching and enlightening to a long-time philosophical Taoist who seeks a new meditation on the Tao Te Ching.  Thanks to having misplaced some of my research sources, this is on indefinite hold about halfway through a first draft, though I hope to get back to it soon.

Tao Te Ching (a new English version), by Stephen Mitchell
This is the version of the Tao Te Ching that I first read all the way from beginning to end.  I found it absorbing, enlightening, and thoroughly right.  I have read this version more than half a dozen times from beginning to end, and have read parts of it many times more than that.  I do not find it to be quite perfect, particularly in terms of linguistic faithfulness to a direct term-for-term translation of the surviving Chinese text, but in conveyance of the concepts of the Tao Te Ching it performs admirably.

Tao Te Ching (an authentic Taoist translation), by Taoist Master John Bright-Fey
This translation is pedantically difficult to read, unfortunately.  It attempts to convey all the meaning of the Tao Te Ching not by "direct pointing", where one indicates the direction to search for the Tao oneself, but by explicitly collecting the potential meanings the translator found in an examination of a literal translation of the Chinese text.  It is useful for study by someone already quite familiar with the Tao Te Ching in several versions, as I am, but perhaps not so much for someone new to the Tao Te Ching.

Tao Te Ching (A New Translation & Commentary), by Ralph Alan Dale
This presentation of the Tao Te Ching takes an artistic, impressionistic approach to conveying the Tao Te Ching's message.  As such, it can be both beautiful and subtly misleading, as it errs on the side of poetry rather than faithful conveyance of the spirit of the text.  This, too, has its value, of course — but it is best to start with a more faithful interpretation, I think.  Ultimately, it is very worth reading.

The GNL Tao Te Ching, by Peter A. Merel
In the words of its author, "The intention of this work is to construct a document that closely corresponds with the best modern translations of Lao Tse, but which is blunt, easy and useful to read within a modern context."

The Tao of War (The Martial Tao Te Ching), by Ralph D. Sawyer

The Essential Tao, by Thomas Cleary
This book contains Cleary's translation-interpretations of both the Tao Te Ching and another seminal Taoist work, the Inner Teachings of Chuang Tzu.  It adheres in some places incrementally more closely to the literal translation of the Chinese text than Stephen Mitchell's interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, but it is also loaded with biases and limited perspectives that I find completely miss the point in dismayingly common instances throughout.  On the plus side, the dust jacket on this nearly pocket-sized hardcover is very pretty.  Unfortunately, this is the only copy of the Inner Teachings that I have read, and the only translation of it that I currently own.  I would like to compare Cleary's translation of the Inner Teachings of Chaung Tzu with translations by others, as I have done with his translation of the Tao Te Ching.  I absolutely do not recommend this as first, or perhaps even third, reading by one who wishes to learn about Taoist philosophy.

The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff
This is a charming illustration of Taoist principles through the person of Winnie the Pooh.  There is very little within its pages with which to find fault, and it is an entertaining read.  It is by no means a replacement for a good copy of the Tao Te Ching, but it is good, light meditative material when you want something to read that is fluff on the surface, but subtly profound.

The Te of Piglet, by Benjamin Hoff
After The Tao of Pooh, I found The Te of Piglet to be disappointing.  Whereas the original was charmingly innocent and clearly inspired by the philosophical aspects of Taoism, this sequel is more pedantic, glancingly judgmental, and focused far too much for my taste on concepts of strictly ritualistic Taoist alchemy.

The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts
While technically a treatise on the characteristics, culture, and history of Zen philosophy, there is a fair bit of cross-over with Taoist concepts and historical information due to the origins of Zen Buddhism in the syncretic mingling of Buddhism and Taoism in China, as this book's title suggests.  Alan Watts was an excellent didactic author and scholar whose works are of great value to any Western student of Eastern philosophy.  A philosophical Taoist who does not familiarize himself at least in broad strokes with Zen Buddhist philosophy does himself a disservice, in my estimation, and one could easily do worse than to start such studies with Alan Watts.