Further Reading

For anyone looking for an exhaustive reading list, let me refer them to this link here, where there are five huge long lists of books relevant to Shinto. It’s quite formidable!

There’s also a very full bibliography of books in English by John Breen and Mark Teeuwen, running to three and a half pages.  Click here to see it.

For those looking for something a little shorter, there’s a selected list below. For reviews of the books and many others, please see Book Reviews in the Categories section of this blog.


Blacker, Carmen, The Catalpa Bow (Allen and Unwin, 1975/ RoutledgeCurzon, 2004) – A study of shamanistic practice in Japan

Breen, John, and Mark Teeuwen, A New History of Shinto (2010) – A stimulating read by leading experts in the field, who present Shinto as a construction with medieval origins which never existed as such in ancient times.

Cali, Joseph and John Dougill  Shinto Shrines (Uni. of Hawaii Press, 2012) – A detailed guide to the country’s leading shrines together with a comprehensive Introduction explaining Shinto terms and development. Altogether 59 shrines are covered, making this a great guide for anyone living in Japan or visiting for spiritual tourism.

de Bary, Wm Theodore ed. et al, Sources of Japanese Tradition Vol. 1 ((Columbia Uni. Press, 1958; rev. 2002) – An anthology of early texts, including those on the formation of Shinto, together with an authoritative commentary.

Hardacre, Helen, Shinto and the State, 1868-1988 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989) – An authoritative overview of post-Meiji developments that led to the formation of State Shinto.  It shows too how the Meiji arrangements remain in place in the postwar period.

Hardacre, Helen, Shinto: A History OUP, 2017 Such a massive piece of scholarship that it has to be applauded even while acknowledging its 700 pages is likely too intimidating for the average reader.

Hartz, Paula R.  Shinto (Facts on Files: 1997) – Simple introduction to the basics of Shinto

Kasulis, Thomas P.  Shinto: The Way Home (Uni. of Hawaii Press, 2004) – Written by a philosopher, this presents a sympathetic and thought-provoking account of the religion for those who want a more general read.

Littleton, C. Scott. Understanding Shinto: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Festivals, Spirits, Sacred (Watkins, 2011) A basic introduction of 112 pages to the key elements of Shinto

Nelson, John A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine (Uni. of Washington, 1996) – A study of Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki by an anthropologist.

Nobutaka, Inoue et al, Shinto: A Short History (Routledge Curzon, 2003) – A collection of academic articles which show Shinto as an East Asian religion, rather than unique to Japan.

Ono, Sokyo, Shinto the Kami Way (Tuttle, 1962) – For many years the sole book on Shinto, written by a teacher at Kokugakuin University.  It presents the traditional, conservative view of the country’s ‘indigenous religion’, open to Japanese by birth but exclusive of foreigners.

Reader, Ian, Simple Guide to Shinto (Global Books, 1998)  – Does what it claims in its title. A lecturer in religion, Reader sees Shinto as essentially Japanese and not universal.

Smyers, Karen The Fox and the Jewel (Uni. of Hawaii, 1999)  – A stimulating read about the Inari cult.

Yamakage, Motohisa The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart (Kodansha, 2012) – A popular but controversial guide by a priest outside the Jinja Honcho mainstream.


Further Reading — 3 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Beginners Book « Shintoism: the path way of the gods.

  2. May I add to your list my book, ‘Shinto: A Celebration of Life’, published by Mantra books, 2010. It is an introduction for the non-expert and its main focus is the way in which Shinto, as an unbroken polytheist tradition, offers a positive alternative to western either/or logic. At the same time, it demonstrates that a nature-based spirituality is compatible with an urban, technologically advanced civilisation – not only ‘compatible’, but an integral part.

    • Thank you for pointing that out, Aidan. I have actually read the book, and it should indeed be on the list. I hope all goes well with you, and I note that the Essentials of Shinto on which you worked has been topping the Shinto sales on amazon… Congratulations!

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