Below is a link to a two-page PDF that gives book recommendations and sources for building a near complete library of the teachings of the Buddha found in the suttas. It is intended to be a resource for people beginning to explore the suttas as well as people who are tasked with creating an actual sutta library for an organization. It is also very useful for Buddhist families where the parents want their children to grow up in a home that has all of the Blessed One’s teaching.
The following is the main text of the PDF above:
Use this list to build a basic collection of the discourses of Gotama Buddha that is readable, accurate, and nearly complete. The following is a good foundation for a sutta library; other translations may be obtained later as interest grows. For other reliable translations, visit the Canonical Collections for Practice page. Paperback editions are listed when available. See the second page for useful anthologies and book sources. Those books marked with a * can be given priority for people just starting to read the suttas.
These are books of suttas grouped in the ancient categories. Unless otherwise indicated, they are complete translations.
- The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, by Maurice Walsh (Wisdom Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0861711031)
- * The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli, edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0861710720)
- The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṁyutta Nikāya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0861713318)
- The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Complete Translation of the Anguttara Nikaya, by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN-13: 978-1614290407)
- * The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom, by Acharya Buddharakkhita (BPS, BP203S)
- The Dhammapada: Teachings of the Buddha, by Gil Fronsdal. (Shambala, Paperback and Audio-CD Set: ISBN 978-1590306413; Hardcover: ISBN 978-1590306062) Available from any book seller.
- The Udāna and the Itivuttaka: Two Classics from the Pali Canon, by John D. Ireland (BPS, BP214S)
- The Rhinoceros Horn and Other Early Buddhist Poems (Sutta Nipāta), by K. R. Norman, with alternative trans. by I. B. Horner and Ven. Walapola Rahula (PTS, Paperback ISBN 0 86013 154 8)
- Minor Anthologies Vol. IV: Vimānavatthu (Stories of the Mansions) and Petavatthu (Stories of the Departed). This is a single volume containing both books (PTS, ISBN 0 86013 073 8)
- Poems of Early Buddhist Monks (Theragāthā), by K. R. Norman (PTS, Paperback ISBN 0 86013 339 7)
- • Poems of Early Buddhist Nuns (Therīgāthā), two translations by Mrs. C.A.F. Rhys Davids and K. R. Norman (PTS, Paperback ISBN 0 86013 289 7)
- Jataka Tales of the Buddha: An Anthology (three volume set) by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki (BPS, BP 622S / BP 623S / BP 624S) This is a collection of the commentarial stories without the canonical verses.
- * Handful of Leaves Volumes 1–5, by Ajahn Ṭhanissaro. An anthology from most of the canon. (Sati Center for Buddhist Studies, free)
These are book that contain selections of suttas based on a particular topic. Anthologies are an excellent way to begin reading suttas.
- * In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon, Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0861714919)
- * Merit, Into the Stream, A Mediator’s Tools, Beyond Coping, A Burden Off the Mind, Mindful of the Body, Recognizing the Dhamma,all translated by Ajahn Ṭhanissaro (Metta Forest Monastery, free) Metta Forest Monastery also distributes Ajahn’s The Dhammapada.
- The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon, by Nyanamoli Thera (BPS, BP 101S)
- Buddha, My Refuge: Contemplation of the Buddha, by Bhikkhu Khantipalo (BPS, BP 409S)
- Every sutta library must have a good English dictionary readily available for looking up unfamiliar words. It should be a collegiate or advance learner’s dictionary as most of the words you will look up are not found in smaller dictionaries.
- Concise Pali-English Dictionary, by A.P. Buddhadata Mahathera. Provides simple definitions for thousands of Pali words. Available from Pariyatti.org. (Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN-13: 978-81-208-0605-4, Paperback)