"Each time you sit down to meditate, you are reenacting the Buddha's enlightenment experience," writes Jean Smith, author of four collections of Buddhist teachings including 365 Zen: Daily Readings. Although there are a growing number of introductions to meditation available, this handy paperback stands out with its succinct survey of Zen. Smith presents an overview of basic Buddhist major texts, a history of Zen, answers to frequently asked questions, a listing of American Zen centers and resources, and a glossary of terms. She even provides a user-friendly guide to what a person will find on a first visit to a zendo, a hall where zazen is formally practiced.

I especially appreciated Smith's imaginative description of the relationship between a teacher and a student: "[It] is well expressed in a koan about a mother bird pecking from the outside of an egg and a baby bird pecking from the inside. Each is pecking away, trying to get rid of the eggshell. This image aptly reflects how a teacher and a student each work in their own way on the barriers to wisdom."

The author believes that Zen offers people an opportunity to become better acquainted with themselves. It also gives us a realistic sense of the best and the worst that is in us. Or as Zen scholar Albert Law has observed: "The good news is that we are Buddha; the bad news is that all beings are Buddha. The sickness of being human is the sickness of wanting to be unique."