Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  105,529 ratings  ·  4,548 reviews
One of the most important & influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerfully moving & penetrating examination of how we live, a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation, an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across...more
Paperback, 540 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by HarperTorch (first published 1974)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Catch-22 by Joseph HellerThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienUlysses by James JoyceMoby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman MelvilleHoly Bible by Anonymous
The Most Begun "Read but Unfinished" (Initiated) book ever
24th out of 1,410 books — 9,165 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingTwilight by Stephenie MeyerTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Best Books Ever
310th out of 32,808 books — 125,671 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Maybe it's unfair to give a poor rating to a book I read in high school. However, I like to think that I was wise beyond my years and knew a phony, self-congratulatory, pretentious buffoon when I saw one. On the other hand, I did wear baggy overalls with Birkenstocks every day back then and wondered why I didn’t have a boyfriend, so clearly I didn’t know everything.

But as I read through the reviews here, I am confronted by a rush of unpleasant memories about this particular reading experience. T...more
Petra X
When I was quite young my brain said to me, after a particularly long and stoned session listening to Pink Floyd and discussing philosophy, 'oh give me a break'. So I said to my brain, 'there's no need to be so rude,' and my brain said, 'no seriously, I can't handle this anymore, really, let me take a break'. So it did and I've been operating on brain-stem alone ever since. I don't know it's made that much difference.

I wonder if the author's brain was thinking like mine was?

Certainly when I was...more
After years of people saying, "Oh, you're a philosophy major? Have you heard of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? You should read it!" I finally broke down and bought a copy. I am usually wary of books that seem to hold promises of sweetness and light and spiritual awakening, in this age of The Purpose-Driven Life and Silver Ravenwolf.

My thoughts on the book, even months after reading it, are still mixed. Artistically, I do think it's a polished and respectable piece of literature. It's...more
Aug 20, 2007 Richard rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those tolerant of shallow philosophy (e.g. Matrix fans)
There are three threads weaving through this book (none of which, as is pointed out, has much to do with either eastern philosophy or with motorcycle maintenance.)

The first is a straightforward narration by a man riding across the country with his young son and two friends (a married couple). This evocative travelogue is by far the most enjoyable aspect of the novel.

The second element is a sort of mystery as that man struggles with his memory; it's gradually revealed that he's on the road both t...more
Riku Sayuj
Plato's Phaedrus said, "And what is written well and what is written badly...need we ask Lysias or any other poet or orator who ever wrote or will write either a political or other work, in meter or out of meter, poet or prose writer, to teach us this?"

Modern Phaedrus said, “And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good—
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”

I keep re-reading passages from Zen and the Art and Tao of Pooh and Siddhartha and try to make sense in the context of everyday l...more
I have read a lot of scathing reviews of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on goodreads, and I only know one person (my Dad) other than myself who has actually finished it. I know 5 people who couldn't finish it, calling it 'pretentious,' 'a load of rubbish' or just 'too hard.' Now, I enjoyed this book and rather than explain why directly, I think I would like to explain it through taking apart all of those negative reviews which I feel weren't thought through particularly well.

First off...more
Mason Wiebe
Mar 21, 2008 Mason Wiebe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
I must start by saying that this is one of my favorite books ever. Although it is deep and complicated and takes a lot of focus to read, I feel that there are a lot of great messages here in the author’s search for Quality. This was my second time reading this book, and I liked it more this time.
Interlaced with stories from an across-the-west motorcycle trip with his son and some friends, Pirsig tells the story of his past in an almost former life before being admitted to a mental institution a...more
This book is extremely good and also important. It's a treatise on metaphysics as well as a compelling story which the author says is autobiographical. It's exactly right about the scientific method, and the way we go about discovering truth as a society and as individuals. The analogy of working on motorcycles is a good one. In my life it's been programming computers and figuring out how to get industrial machinery to work, but the same process works for all of the above.

The thing I find most...more
I feel like Robert M. Pirsig has wronged me personally.
Charlotte Sanders
Aug 10, 2008 Charlotte Sanders rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who likes to torture himself.
OK, maybe I'm being a little too harsh. I actually enjoyed the idea of the cross-country motorcycle ride, the details about motorcycle mechanics, and especially the portrayal of the narrator's relationship with his son. The son was the best part of the whole book. Unfortunately, there wasn't much space for sonny, because dad was too busy advertising the author's brilliant philisophical insights. Even more unfortunately, the insights weren't brilliant, and consumed hundreds of tedious pages. It o...more
Jun 27, 2007 Trevor rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochistic philosophers
Shelves: abandoned
I started reading this book because i'd heard from a number of people, including comedian Tim Allen, that it was good. In fact i read an entire Tim Allen book ("I'm Not Really Here") which was kind of about his experience reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence. Tim Allen, although not exactly a respectable philosopher (maybe not even just respectable), had some of Robert Pirsig's philosophy without all his inane bullshit. At least Tim Allen's book was funny.

Admittedly, i enjoyed the...more
Jason Koivu
The author went insane and nearly took me with him! After years of putting this one off, I finally recently read it and was floored by how it was almost nothing like what I expected: motorcycle talk and philosophy. I did not expect the contemplations of a depressing, crazy person. But that's no reason to hate on a book, and I don't hate Zen..., I'm just not in love with it. I was close to giving it only 3 stars mainly for its inability to move. I mean, for a roadtrip book it certainly seems to l...more
May 21, 2007 Zora rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hippies
Shelves: gawdawful
I learned from this book that you can sell a billion copies of a book that no one should ever waste three minutes reading. This is just another neo-philosophy book disguised as a novel. I'm almost convinced that the only reason people buy this book is so that their pseudo-intellectual (read: pompous scumbag) friends will accept them into the hippie circle. Although I know about twenty people who claim to have read this book, I have yet to meet a single person who actually knows what it's about....more
This book is one of those books that I want to rate way higher than 3, but I don't think I'd quite give it a 4. I always have this problem with Netflix too! By reading the random reviews posted about this book, many of them are extremely negative, focusing on the "arrogance" of the narrator or his "absurd" search for quality.

I think if you go into this 400 page novel with the expectation that it will be a light read about a motorcycle trip out West with a couple philosophical insights, you'll p...more
Nov 29, 2008 Rebecca rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: angry vets and burn-outs
Okay, I confess I haven't finished it yet. But I'm finding it so irksome I don't know if I'll be able to get all the way through it. Here's what I wrote on my bookmark 50 pages in:
"the author's logic is self-contained, entirely self-referential and so his argument is self-sustaining! He can set up armies of logical strawmen and have them elaborately duke it out in massive rhetorical battles taking place entirely without any grounding in reality.
He has the manic ADDH intelligence of the kind tha...more
Guillermo Azuarte
Fuck! I hate this. I give up. I can't anymore. The last page I actually read was 217, so I didn't officially "finish" this book, but it will go into my finished pile. I need all the help I can get. My goal was 50 books this year, and Im 8 books behind. I will count this book as read no matter what you say.

You know when you start a roadtrip and everything is awesome and a breath of fresh air in the beginning, but then you're at each other's throats towards the middle? That's what this book was....more
Well, this book is not for everyone, and I have certainly heard people say that they found it overblown, pretentious, pointless, etc. but I loved it and found that what I read and my life experiences as I read it formed a didactic and interesting dialectic with the content of the book.

The book itself interstices Pirsig's account of a motorcycle road trip with his son and some friends with the story of his personal and professional struggles developing his philosophy of "the metaphysics of qualit...more
Jun 07, 2010 Natasha rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Natasha by: my dad, about 30 years ago
Shelves: education, philosophy
I just re-read this book and HAD to annotate it because it sent my head swimming. I'd studied quite a lot of philosophy since I read it a year and a half ago and so the philosophies didn't go over my head this time.

Robert Pirsig’s genius in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is to insert classical forms of thought into the backdrop of a cross-country motorcycle trip. He piques our interest by waxing philosophical in an effort to get to the root of the ghost story haunting him. He succeeds...more
According to family lore, my brother gave this book to my father when he - my brother - was in college. When my father read it, it apparently made a very deep impression on him, 'cuz he turned around and bought 4 copies and gave one to each of his children.

I refused to read it for years because...well...because my father gave it to me. Sometime after college though, I picked it up and read it for the first time and, for the next 5 years, I read it once a year every June. Clearly, it made a very...more
Jul 14, 2008 Carolyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Meghan Anderson
Recommended to Carolyn by: Jim Parker
I decided to finish the book I've been reading all summer: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. I've had a lot of complaints about this book, as I read it. It was a rather grueling endeavor, certainly not most people's idea of summer reading. Having just finished the book, however, I can say that it was well worth the experience. This book turns on its head our idea of what it means to be sane. The book can be described as generally a thesis on substance, form, and spir...more
Benjamin Haag
Dec 18, 2013 Benjamin Haag rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: have-read
I confess that, when I first found this book on the shelf of a small and now-defunct used bookstore, my motivation was it's being one of those books that "everyone," or at least numerous people, read and recommended with that certain degree of enthusiasm and gravitas that spoke deeply to my peer-pressure-obeying 21-year-old self. I also confess that it took about three passes through it to connect it to my life in any meaningful way, due not to the author but to said life and its dearth of exper...more
Dec 03, 2007 Erich rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Philosophers
Shelves: classics
Readers of Thoreau, Emerson, and Dillard will be entranced with this book. In the best traditions of transcendentalism, Zen is about the journey, and the answers that we find when asking the difficult questions, about fairness, and quality.

You, as the reader, are taken along on a journey. Pirsig writes with his hands and head, and analyzes a concept in much the same way he would diagnose a problem with his motorcycle. You begin with knowledge, and you form it into a tool with which to attack a...more

There are parts of this book, and parts of this type of book I really enjoy. But at the exact same time, this whole genre of book (see: Ken Wilber and his oeuvre, especially A Brief History of Everything) really grinds and irritates.* Don't get me wrong, I love Greek philosophy and Zen Buddhism as much as the next guy (or gal) on Goodreads. No serious. ON my FB page, I think I put my religion down as: γνῶσις-Mðrmon; 禪-Mormon. I'm all about the search for Truth. I want to pick and prune it where...more
Hard to know where to begin. This is the type of book I know I'll reread every few years, alongside Dune and Fear and Loathing (strange company). I've kept it in my bag just to go back over highlighted sections and make sure it remains useful.

Pirsig essentially tries to break down the ways people make value judgments and how they reason. At the center of this is how we view and react to aspects of technology. He splits it up into classic (function) and romantic (form) all while narrating a cross...more
Actually, I am listening to a free MP3 version of this book which was available through The Guardian newspaper web site until Feb. 5th.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is on my short list of the most influential books I've ever read. This is my third read and I am listening to an audio version this time. My wife picked it for the book club and since it's been twenty years since I read it, I am looking forward to it. An audio read is an interesting choice since Pirsig patte...more
Somehow this book, which I found really compelling ten years ago, seemed dead and uninspired on rereading it now. I found the philosophy tiresome and pointless, and honestly had a hard time forcing myself to slog my way through it. I think it had to do with the fact that the essential conflict of the book -- that between classic and romantic ways of thought (or science and art, rationality and emotion, function and form) -- is a non-issue to me, these days. Phaedrus drove himself insane seeking...more
Feb 18, 2009 Andre rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Winnie Fong
Recommended to Andre by: Karissa
You know, just to give you some perspective, I was somewhere in the middle of Act III when I recognized a horrible habit of mine. I like to find out how many pages are in the current chapter that I'm reading. It seemed like, possibly multiple times in a single page, I'd double check how many pages I had left until I finished it... or how many pages left until the next act.

Pirsig said:

To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one fo
I have read this book at least 8 times over the years. An excellent metaphysical discussion blended with a father-son road trip. Inspired me to look into early Greek philosophy and explore my beliefs about rationality and the scientific method.
Kim Marshall
I have read this book completely, cover-to-cover, on two occasions. In addition, I have read portions of it countless times. It is for me almost a bible of my own beliefs and philosophies. In Zen, Pirsig divides human thought into classic and romantic forms. This dichotomy is roughly equivalent to what we might also call logical and emotional. He states (p 73-74):

"A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic understanding sees it primarily in terms of...more
Jim Coughenour
Today I was reading Orhan Pamuk's "By the Book" interview in the NYT and was delighted by his recommendation for Obama.
To him or to any American president, I would like to recommend a book that I sometimes give as a gift to friends, hoping they read it and ask me, “Why this book, Orhan?” “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values” is a great American book based on the vastness of America and the individual search for values and meaning in life. This highly romantic book i
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Let's Read Togeth...: Ep. 10 - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with Ben Conrad 1 1 3 hours, 18 min ago  
Chatauqua/Disambiguation 2 34 Jul 26, 2014 03:54AM  
Shockfront: Check in! 8 9 Jun 23, 2014 08:26AM  
Shockfront: Semantic satiation. 4 10 Jun 21, 2014 01:29PM  
Shockfront: June 2014 4 9 May 25, 2014 08:39AM  
Robert M. Pirsig 33 400 Nov 03, 2013 12:13PM  
  • Essential Manners for Men: What to Do, When to Do It, and Why
  • The Young Man's Guide
  • Seek: Reports from the Edges of America and Beyond
  • Strenuous Life
  • American Boys Handy Book
  • The Frontier in American History
  • The Train
  • The Crisis
  • Boy Scout Handbook
  • The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry
  • The Way of Zen
  • Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
  • Zen in the Art of Archery
  • A Separate Reality
  • Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
  • Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality
  • The Portable Nietzsche
  • Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (Perennial Classics)
Robert Maynard Pirsig (born September 6, 1928, Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American writer and philosopher, mainly known as the author of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (1974), which has sold millions of copies around the world.

(author photo: Attribution: Copyright (c) Ian Glendinning 2005 http://www.psybertron.org)
More about Robert M. Pirsig...
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals Lila's Child: An Inquiry Into Quality Το Ζεν και η τέχνη της συντήρησης της μοτοσικλέτας Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Summary & Study Guide Coffee with Plato

Share This Book

“The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” 534 likes
“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.” 383 likes
More quotes…