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Major Scriptures, Religious Texts and Influential Books

The lists on this page were not compiled by, but have been collected here from various sources. has no position on the subjective value of any of these books. These books are all highly significant from a sociological and historical perspective.

A repository of sacred texts, presented unmodified and without commentary, is

For links to the sacred texts listed on this page (and others), we recommend the Religious and Sacred Texts site maintained by David Wiley. The site is non-sectarian, with an academic approach, and has quality links to religious texts (many with enhanced search and link features) in the following categories:

  • Bhagavad Gita
  • Bahai Texts
  • Bible
  • Buddhist Texts
  • Christian Fathers
  • Confucian Texts
  • Corpus Hermeticum
  • Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Divrei Torah
  • Enuma Elish
  • Ethiopian Texts
  • The Egyptian Book of the Dead
  • Gnostic Texts
  • Hindu Texts
  • Islamic Texts
  • Jain Texts
  • 1st and 2nd Books of Jeu
  • Mormon Texts (Church of Jesus Christ)
  • Nag Hammadi Texts
  • Old Testament Apocrypha
  • Old Testament Pseudepigrapha
  • Pistis Sophia
  • New Testament Apocryphal Acts
  • New Testament Apocryphal Apocalypse
  • New Testament Apocryphal Gospels
  • Taoist Texts
  • Sepher Yetzirah
  • Shinto Texts
  • Sikh Texts
  • Tibetan Book of the Dead
  • Urantia Book
  • Zen Texts
  • Zoroastrian Texts

For a very comprehensive yet concise academic survey of the world's religious scriptures (but not the full texts), see the article "The World's Religions and Their Scriptures", part of the World Scripture compilation (Dr. Andrew Wilson, Editor, International Religious Foundation, 1991). The table below lists the cannonical works of scripture listed by Wilson. More complete descriptions may be found in his article.

Scripture(s) Group
Old Testament (Tanakh)Judaism; Christianity (different compilations for Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants)
New TestamentChristianity
Sunnah (from hadith)Islam: Sunni
Nahjul BalaghaIslam: Shiite
Bhagavad Gita (in the Mahabharata)Hinduism
various Puranas (Vishnu Purana, Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Linga Purana, Garuda Purana, Matsya Purana, etc.)Hinduism: newer movements, Vaishnavite, Shaivite
Tantras (including Kularnava Tantra)Hinduism
sutras, and their commentariesHinduism
VachanasLingayats (Virashaiva)
Adi GranthSikhism
Purvas (12 angas including Acarangasutra and Sutrakritanga, 34 angabahya including Uttaradhyayana Sutra and Kalpa Sutra. Also: Upasakdasanga Sutra, Dashavaikalika Sutra, and Nandi Sutra)Jainism: Shvetambara
Purvas (small number; reject most Shvetambara Purvas)Jainism: Digambara
large number of scholastic expositions (anuyoga): Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; Anupreksa; Samadhishataka of Pujyapada; Tattvarthasutra of UmasvatiJainism: Digambara
TattvarthasutraJainism (minor differences between Digambara and Shvetambara versions)
Other separate books of Jain Canon: Sanmatitarka, Gomattasara, Jayadhavala, Adipurana, Dvatrimshika, Aptamimamsa, Mulacara, Ratnakarandasravakacara, SagaradharmamritaJainism
Pali TripitakaBuddhism
Jataka stories (semi-cannonical)Buddhism: Theravada
Visuddimagga or Path of Purification (semi-cannonical)Buddhism: Theravada
Questions of King Milinda (semi-cannonical)Buddhism: Theravada
Chinese TripitakaBuddhism: Mahayana
Tibetan TripitakaBuddhism: Mahayana
Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-Pundarika)Buddhism: Mahayana
Sukhavativyuha SutrasBuddhism: Mahayana: Pure Land
Meditation on Buddha Amitayus (Amitayur Dhyana Sutra)Buddhism: Mahayana: Pure Land
Garland Sutra (Avatamsaka Sutra)Buddhism: Mahayana: Kegon/Hua-yen
Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines (Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra)Buddhism: Mahayana
Sutra of Hui Neng (Platform Sutra)Buddhism: Mahayana: Zen
Lankavatara SutraBuddhism: Mahayana: Zen
Mahaparinirvana Sutra; Surangama Sutra Buddha; Golden Light Sutra (Suvarnaprabhasottama)Buddhism: Mahayana
writings of Nagarjuna, Shantideva, Aryadeva, Vasubandhu, Dharmakirti, Gyalwa Longchenpa, Sakya Pandita, Milarepa, and Lama TsongkhapaBuddhism: Tibetan
Mulamadhyamaka Karika and Precious GarlandBuddhism: Tibetan
Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Bodhisattvacharyavatara)Buddhism: Tibetan
Hevajra Tantra; Kalacakra Tantra; Guhyasamaja TantraBuddhism: Tibetan
Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol)Buddhism: Tibetan
Five Classics: Book of Songs; Book of History; Spring and Autumn Annals; Book of Ritual; I Ching (Book of Changes)Confucianism (I-Ching is also cannonical for Taoism)
Four Books: Analects; the Great Learning; the Doctrine of the Mean; the MenciusConfucianism
Tao Te ChingTaoism
Treatise on Response and Retribution (T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien)Taoism: popular religious Taoism
Tract of the Quiet Way (Yin Chih Wen)Taoism: popular religious Taoism
Nihon ShokiShinto
JohreiSekai Kyusei Kyo
Nectarean Shower of Holy DoctrinesSeicho-no-Ie
Song of the AngelSeicho-no-Ie
Holy Sutra for Spiritual HealingSeicho-no-Ie
Divine Teachings of KyososamaShinreikyo
Chun Boo Kyungancient Korean
Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llahBahai Faith
Book of Certitude (Kitab-i-Iqan)Bahai Faith
Hidden Words of Baha'u'llahBahai Faith
Epistle to the Son of the WolfBahai Faith
Book of MormonChristianity: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Doctrine and CovenantsChristianity: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Pearl of Great PriceChristianity: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Science and Health with Key to the ScripturesChristianity: Christian Science

From a statistical perspective, the most widely used scriptures in the United States are the Bible (Old and New Testament), Qur'an, the three books which Latter-day Saints use along with the Bible (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) and the Talmud. The Tao Te Ching and the I-Ching are also frequently purchased in the United States, but are rarely used in a formal religious setting.

Lists below are less comprehensive than the Wilson listing, reflecting the most well known or popular "major scriptures":

Major Religious / Scriptural Books

Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) is considered a classic of science fiction. In the Boucher survey of inspirational books (see below), Stranger ranked 8th, and was the only science fiction novel among the top 20. The story takes place about 35 years after the founding of the first human colony on the moon. No exact year is given, but presumably the book is set in a period between 2050 and 2100.

The plot revolves around the arrival on Earth of Michael Valentine Smith, the son of two astronauts to Mars who perished when the first manned trip to Mars lost contact with Earth soon after it arrived. Twenty-five years later the second manned expedition to Mars encounters Smith and the indigenous Martian race which raised him in their society.

In Stranger, Heinlein (an atheist) presents his views on a variety of topics, especially religion, sex, language, culture and politics. In one passage (pg. 290), a character is described surrounded by the major religious books of the world:

  • Talmud
  • Kama-Sutra
  • Bible
  • Book of the Dead
  • Book of Mormon
  • Koran
  • Golden Bough
  • The Way (i.e. the Tao-te-ching)
  • Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
  • other, unnamed books from minor religions

Primary Religious and Sacred Texts
(U. of Penn.)

The following list is from the "Religious Texts and Resources" web page of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (27 October 1999). This list is taken from a list of links and resources titled "Primary Religious and Sacred Texts".
  • Bible
  • Torah (Judaism)
  • Talmud (Judaism)
  • Chuang Tzu (Chinese)
  • Analects of Confucius (Chinese)
  • Mencius (Chinese)
  • Tao Te Ching (Chinese)
  • I Ching (Chinese)
  • Avesta (Zoroastrian)
  • Book of Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
  • Doctrine and Covenants (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
  • Pearl of Great Price (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
  • Qur'an (Islam)
  • Hadith (Islam)

Holy Books of the World
(Brain Bank)

The Brain Bank is a prominent Internet reference site, covering a wide variety of topics: business law, communications, computers and technology, government, geography, human resources, international affairs, finance, real estate, manufacturing, marketing, etc.

The following list is from the Brain Bank's Holy Books of the World reference page, which provides brief descriptions of each (27 October 1999):

  • The Analects (Confucius)
  • Bhagavad Gita
  • Five Classics (attributed to Confucius: Spring and Autumn Annals; I Ching; the Book of Rites; the Book of History ; and the Book of Songs)
  • Koran (al-Qur'an)
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Talmud
  • Tao-te-ching
  • Upanishads
  • Vedas

Spiritual Texts

Source: Books listed under the heading "Spiritual Texts" on the Erowid's Vaults of Spirituality and Religion web page (27 October 1999).
  • The Bible
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls
  • The Quran (Koran)
  • The Tao Te Ching
  • Bhagavad-Gita
  • Book of Mormon
  • Talmud
  • The Urantia Book

Prophecies Listed in Earth Re-Born

Source: Chapter 11 in The New Earth: The Ascension of Planet Earth: Book II: The Earth Re-Born [5th Edition - 1999]
  • Bible (Old Testament and New Testament)
  • Buddhist tradition
  • Nostradamus
  • Book of Mormon
  • "Life Readings" (Edgar Cayce)

Top 20 Most Inspirational Books Ever Written

Source of book list: "The Most Inspirational Books Ever Written" web page (URL:; viewed 27 October 1999), based on reader survey. Compiled by Stephane Boucher, France. Readers answered the question: "Which books had the most positive impact on your life?" The Bible's rank of zero signifies that it was mentioned overwhelmingly by respondents.

Rank Book Author Author's Religious Background,
Affiliation or Perspective
0The BiblevariousJudaism; Christianity
1Conversations with God:
An Uncommon Dialogue
Neale Donald WalschFounder of ReCreation, which sponsors CWG study groups
Walsch also recommends Unity Church and Science of Mind
2A Course in Miracles Christian; New Age; there are organized ACIM study groups
3Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant MessiahRichard Bachson of a Christian minister
4Autobiography of a YogiParamahansa YoganandaHinduism
5Atlas ShruggedAyn Randatheist; Aristotalean; Nietzschean
6The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
Stephen R. CoveyChurch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
7As a Man ThinkethJames Allen
8Stranger in a Strange LandRobert A. Heinleinatheist
9Zen and the Art of Motorcycle MaintenanceRobert PirsigZen Buddhism
10The Celestine ProphecyJames RedfieldNew Age
11IshmaelDaniel Quinnfounder of the Ishmael Community and
Beyond Civilization reading groups
12The ProphetKahlil GibranIslam
13SiddharthaHermann HesseChristianity; Buddhism?
14A Return to LoveMarianne WilliamsonNew Age
15How to Stop Worrying and Start LivingDale Carnegiefounder of Dale Carnegie and Associates
16Jonathan Livingston SeagullRichard Bachson of a Christian minister
17The Road Less TraveledM. Scott PeckBuddhism
Peck wrote The Road Less Traveled as a Zen Buddhist,
and later converted to liberal Christianity in 1983
18The Greatest Thing in the WorldHenry DrummondChristianity; natural science
19Think and Grow Rich
    Available since 2004: Think and Grow Rich!:
    The Original Version, Restored and Revised
Napoleon HillJudeo-Christian (non-denominational)
Napoleon Hill Foundation
20Mere ChristianityC.S. LewisChristianity (Anglican)

Top 10 Best Non-Fiction Books

Source: The Modern Library Board's list of "100 Best Non-Fiction Books" (presented by Random House; URL:; viewed 27 October 1999).

  1. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams
  2. The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James
  3. Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington
  4. A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf
  5. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  6. Selected Essays, 1917-1932, T. S. Eliot
  7. The Double Helix, James D. Watson
  8. Speak, Memory : An Autobiography Revisited, Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
  9. The American Language, H. L. Mencken
  10. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes

Also interesting:
- The Modern Library Board's list of 100 Best Novels (presented by Random House)
- The Modern Library Board's list of 100 Best Non-Fiction Books

Many of of the Modern Library Board's Top 100 novels are among the authors listed on the Religious Affiliation of Famous Science Fiction/Fantasy Authors web page.

5 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century

Source: Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "The Fifty BEST Books of the Century" (URL:; viewed 20 January 2000).

1. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
Pessimism and nostalgia at the bright dawn of the twentieth century must have seemed bizarre to contemporaries. After a century of war, mass murder, and fanaticism, we know that Adamss insight was keen indeed.

2. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1947)
Preferable to Lewiss other remarkable books simply because of the title, which reveals the true intent of liberalism.

3. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952)
The haunting, lyrical testament to truth and humanity in a century of lies (and worse). Chambers achieves immortality recounting his spiritual journey from the dark side (Soviet Communism) to thein his eyesdoomed West. One of the great autobiographies of the millennium.

4. T.S. Eliot, Selected Essays, 1917-1932 (1932, 1950)
Here, one of the centurys foremost literary innovators insists that innovation is only possible through an intense engagement of tradition. Every line of Eliots prose bristles with intelligence and extreme deliberation.

5. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (1934-1961)
Made the possibility of a divine role in history respectable among serious historians. Though ignored by academic careerists, Toynbee is still read by those whose intellectual horizons extend beyond present fashions.

5 Worst Nonfiction Books of the Century

Source: Intercollegiate Studies Institute's "The Fifty WORST Books of the Century" (URL:; viewed 20 January 2000).

1. Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)
So amusing did the natives find the white woman's prurient questions that they told her the wildest tales-and she believed them! Mead misled a generation into believing that the fantasies of sexual progressives were an historical reality on an island far, far away.

2. Beatrice & Sidney Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization? (1935)
An idea whose time has come...and gone, thank God.

3. Alfred Kinsey, et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)
So mesmerized were Americans by the authority of Science, with a capital S, that it took forty years for anyone to wonder how data is gathered on the sexual responses of children as young as five. A pervert's attempt to demonstrate that perversion is "statistically" normal.

4. Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (1964)
Dumbed-down Heidegger and a seeming praise of kinkiness became the Bible of the sixties and early postmodernism.

5. John Dewey, Democracy and Education (1916)
Dewey convinced a generation of intellectuals that education isn't about anything; it's just a method, a process for producing democrats and scientists who would lead us into a future that "works." Democracy and Science (both pure means) were thereby transformed into the moral ends of our century, and America's well-meaning but corrupting educationist establishment was born.

Editors: Mark C. Henrie, Winfield J.C. Myers, Jeffrey O. Nelson. Consultants: Brian Domitrovic, Harvard University; Victor Davis Hanson, California State University, Fresno; E. Christian Kopff, University of Colorado; Peter Augustine Lawler, Berry College; Leonard Liggio, Atlas Educational Foundation; Mark M. Malvasi, Randolph-Macon College; Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., Harvard University; Wilfred McClay, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; Mark Molesky, Harvard University; George H. Nash, author; George Panichas, Modern Age; John Willson, Hillsdale College.

Top 10 Bestselling Books of All Time

RankBookApproximate sales
1Bible 6,000,000,000
2Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung 800,000,000
3Book of Mormon 100,000,000+
4American Spelling Book, Noah Webster 100,000,000
5The Guiness Book of Records * 80,000,000
6The McGuffey Readers 60,000,000
7A Message to Garcia, Elbert Hubbard 40 - 50,000,000
8World Almanac * over 40,000,000
9The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, Benjamin Spock over 39,200,000
10Valley for the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann 30,000,000
11In His Steps: "What Would Jesus Do?", Charles Monroe Sheldon 28,500,000

* Aggregate sales of annual publication.

Source: Russell Ash. The Top 10 of Everything 1999 New York: DK Publishing (1998), pg. 123; "Rolly & Wells: Reaching a Milestone" by Paul Rolly and JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 March 2000.

"One Book" List at rec.arts.books

In 1994 Paul Philips submitted a message to the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.books that read in part:
My proposal is this: I would like for each of you to decide on a single book that you would most like for the world to read for inclusion in the list. The book that, for you, was the most influential, or thought-provoking, or enjoyable, or moving, or philosophically powerful, or deep in some sense you cannot properly define, or any other criteria you wish to set.

I will include your name and email address, along with any commentary care to include on why you chose this book above all others.

This was is in no way a popularity contest, but books which happened to receive three or more submissions are listed below (as of As of Jun 29 1998, at which time the list had 777 different books suggested by 1014 people):

  • Atlas Shrugged (15)
  • The Bible (13)
  • Lord of the Rings (11)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (11)
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany (10)
  • The Book of Mormon (7)
  • Les Miserables (6)
  • The Brothers Karamazov (6)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (6)
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (6)
  • Catch-22 (5)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (5)
  • On the Road (5)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land (5)
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (5)
  • Gravity's Rainbow (4)
  • Steppenwolf (4)
  • The Little Prince (4)
  • The Mists of Avalon (4)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth (4)
  • The Stand (4)
  • Watership Down (4)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (3)
  • Anthem (3)
  • Brave New World (3)
  • Breakfast of Champions (3)
  • Cat's Cradle (3)
  • East of Eden (3)
  • Ender's Game (3)
  • Lonesome Dove (3)
  • Love in the Time of Cholera (3)
  • Magister Ludi (3)
  • Siddhartha (3)
  • The Book of the New Sun (3)
  • The Celestine Prophecy (3)
  • The Dispossessed (3)
  • The Eight (3)
  • The Fountainhead (3)
  • The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon (3)
  • The Power of One (3)
  • The Prophet (3)
  • The Urantia Book (3)
  • This Present Darkness (3)
  • Winter's Tale (3)
[Source: One Book List (URL:; viewed 27 October 1999); One Book List Stats (URL:; viewed 27 October 1999).]


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Thanks to Ross Cornwell of The Mindpower Institute for his suggestions regarding Think and Grow Rich.

Web page created 27 October 1999. Last modified 19 April 2007.
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