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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  155,339 Ratings  ·  6,630 Reviews
Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. This 25th Anniversary Quill Edition features a new introduction by the author; important typographical changes; and a Reader's Guide that includes discussion top ...more
ebook, 560 pages
Published April 21st 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1974)
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Jeanne Mixon Everything about the book made me think he was the on the autism spectrum. He sounded to me like he had Aspergers. He is definitely obsessive…moreEverything about the book made me think he was the on the autism spectrum. He sounded to me like he had Aspergers. He is definitely obsessive compulsive (machining his own motorcycle parts? Really?) More than a little paranoid (everybody looks at him funny. Motorcycle repairmen are not to be trusted. College administrators are out to get him. It seemed like everybody was out to get him). I see this as the "unusual behavior." People on the spectrum behave oddly but don't realize it.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Christy
Feb 23, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Clinton
Jun 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like Robert M. Pirsig has wronged me personally.
Petra Eggs
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
Katherine
May 23, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
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
Richard
Jul 31, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mason Wiebe
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Finocchiaro
Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: "I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning."

I have read Zen probably four or five times. The clinical precision of the author is apparent in all the detail here ("left grip", "eight-thirty"). The self-reference of the author looking at his own watch will become a leitmotif as the entire book is about the author looking deep into his own soul (so deep in fact th
...more
Charlotte
Sep 13, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Tatiana
Aug 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Natasha
Sep 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

First, I must say if you find the narrator off-putting, rest assured that the protagonist is NOT the narrator. The narrator is the nemesis who has eclipsed the protagonist; the story reveals their struggle. The introduction of my edition hints at this, but apparently some people haven
...more
Guillermo
Jul 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Zora
May 21, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Koivu
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rebecca
May 30, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Trevor
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Daniel Bastian
Dec 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I'm convinced this is one of those books that somehow made it onto the high school syllabus and just sort of stuck around, with no one ever examining its right to be there. This then created the unwarranted impression that Pirsig's text is a 'classic' or something approaching significance. I say this with only slight reservation, but I don't think there is any kind of genius, misunderstood or otherwise, to be found in this bloviated acid trip. Pirsig warns in the author's note not to expect an a ...more
Aaron
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kevin
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jill
Apr 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Pretentious douchebags
I hated this book. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated it. I'm sad no stars is not actually a rating. This is my least favorite book ever. And I've done a lot of reading.

The problem is that it is written by some guy who apparently thinks he is God's gift to philosophy. And if you don't agree with him, well, you're clearly an idiot. This is not a constructive discussion about ideas, this is a presentation of why Pirsig is right, which, because this is a discussion on philosophy, is debatable. (Exc
...more
Wendy
May 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: damngoodread
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
Rebbie
I get that some people are put on a path for different reasons, and I'm very happy for all of the people who have found enlightenment or comfort with this book or any other. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

And that's the only reason I'm giving this 2 stars; it's strictly for all the good it has done for so many people.

I tried, ok? But I just can't with this hullabaloo about how gravity doesn't exist. Don't feed me garbage and tell me it's steak. I simply cannot suspend logic to buy into
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recent
Sometimes it seems as though a book finds you. And, sometimes you ignore that book and then it finds you again ... and again .... and, eventually, you give in. I feel as though this book found me dozens of times, and I regret that I finally gave in. It may not have had all the answers in the universe and I didn’t expect it to. I did enjoy the ride (their actual trip enough was enjoyable and wasn't described enough) and even fell for some of the far-out explanations, but not enough of them. I wis ...more
Darwin8u
May 17, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

description

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 Go
...more
Knjigoholičarka
Jul 26, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: odustajem, 2017
Dosta mazohizma za ovu godinu. Mislim, čitala sam i ranije knjige koje mi se ne dopadaju, ali ovo je prva koju sam bacila u smeće.

I ne sablažnjavajte mi se, naći će je neko u kontejneru sutra ujutro. Nadam se da će je odneti na reciklažu. Biće od koristi.
Andre
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
Jan-Maat
Reading is much like astrology I feel with some books. It is not just a conjunction of reader and book, but the planets need to be in the right aspect, the moon in its appropriate quarter. This I observe from how when people read a certain book at a certain time they are wowed by it and hugely excited, otherwise one reads a book with a kind of damp realisation that it would have made more impact on you if it had been thrown at you. So my memories of reading this are along the lines of 'author wh ...more
Erich
Dec 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul
Aug 22, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
i kept on reading this book hoping ever more desperately as i got deeper in for some real insight and revelation. Why had so many people recommended it? Why did people say it changed their life?

Over 400 pages all the book clumsily manages to ask is: "Are my priorities straight in this consciousness-addled, consumerist culture?"

The protagonist's answer: "i don't know. i'm going crazy."

Pop philosophy meets a second-rate, "On the Road" ripoff.

Francisco
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not exactly sure what to make of the impulse that makes an old man want to re-read a book read for the first time in adolescence. Maybe it's not so much the experience of the book that seeks to be recaptured but the experience of being young and reading a book with the same excitement of discovery, of sensing you've come across someone saying what you feel, but couldn't express, as well. I am happy to say that there are still many things I don't understand about this book now as then. The fa ...more
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  • Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
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Robert Maynard Pirsig was 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.

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“The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” 736 likes
“When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.” 713 likes
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