Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

by Robert Pirsig (1974)


*Re-read in honor of Pirsig’s passing. R.I.P.*

This book influenced me greatly in my early 20s, and reading it again I can see even more strains of influence among the theorizing that unites Eastern and Western philosophies. I still believe a lot of things I read about for the first time from Mr. Pirsig – namely that all religions are essentially saying the same thing, just in marginally different ways. The philosophy holds up remarkably well to a more mature reader, even if the argumentation isn’t quite as thorough and impressive as I remembered.

There are quibbles that I didn’t notice as a less experienced reader: stilted dialogue, subtle misogyny, uncritical chauvinism regarding technology, civilization and warfare, and oversimplification of certain aspects of his argument. The 2nd half of the book gets a little bogged down in theory, until the last quarter kicks it into high gear with a fascinating interpretation of the Greek masters. The narrative ending is powerful as well, with an earned emotional impact concerning the father-son relationship at the core of the book.

All in all a highly enlightening and compelling book, and unique as well, which I strongly recommend to anyone interested in philosophy or religion.   If you like this, you should also read the sequel Lila, where Pirsig greatly (and persuasively) expands upon his Metaphysics of Quality.  I might like it better than ZatAoMM.

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