These books are intended to give the student or new practitioner a foundation in Zen philosophy and history. You do not have to read every one, and don't think that by reading you will fully understand Zen. To use Paul Reps analogy, the written word is the flesh and bones of Zen, but you will have to discover the spirit of Zen for yourself. Most of these books are still in print and can be found at local bookstores or at on-line retailers.
Introductory Books on Buddhism
Herrigel, Eugen. Zen and the Art of Archery. The story of a German philosopher who travels to Japan to learn Archery and through its practice begins to understand Zen.
Kapleau, Philip. Three Pillars of Zen. Philip Kapleau's memories of life in a Japanese Zen Monestary and his interpretation of Zen theory. Kapleau went on to found his own Zen center in Rochester, New York.
Reps, Paul. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. A collection of Zen stories and folk tales from Japan and a translation of the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate), a collection of Zen koans.
Rudloe, Anne. Butterflies on a Sea Wind: Beginning Zen.This book combines advice on starting a meditation practice with anecdotes of how she integrates Zen into her everyday life.
Seung Sahn. Dropping Ashes on the Buddha. A collection of dharma talks, stories and modern day koans by Zen Master Seung Sahn, the founder of the Kwan Um School of Zen.
Suzuki, Shunryu. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. A collection of talks by the late Japanese Roshi of the San Francisco Zen Center. It has basic meditation instruction and is a good introduction to Zen philosophy.
History and Philosophy of Buddhism
Dumoulin, Heinrich. Zen Buddhism: A History. A chronicle of Zen in China, Korea, and Japan.
Fields, Rick. How the Swans Came to the Lake. The history of Buddhism in America, from the Transcendentalists to the establishment of Zen centers and groups during the latter half of the twentieth century.
Watts, Alan. The Way of Zen. A good overview of Zen and its roots in Taoism and Hinduism.
Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. A discussion of the various philosophies of Mahayana Buddhism.