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

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

Written by Robert M. Pirsig

Narrated by Michael Kramer


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

Written by Robert M. Pirsig

Narrated by Michael Kramer

ratings:
3.5/5 (117 ratings)
Length:
15 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Mar 1, 2003
ISBN:
9781593972981
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

BookSnapshot

Also available as...

BookSnapshot

Description

This lyrical, evocative, thought-provoking journal of a man's quest for truth — and for himself — has touched and changed an entire generation.

At its heart, the story is all too simple: a man and his son take a lengthy motorcycle trip through America. But this is not a simple trip at all, for around every corner, through mountain and desert, wind and rain, and searing heat and biting cold, their pilgrimage leads them to new vistas of self-discovery and renewal.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an elemental work that had helped to shape and define the past twenty-five years of American culture. This special audio edition presents this adventure in an exciting new way — for the millions who have already taken this journey and want to travel these roads again, and for the many more who will discover for the first time the wonders and challenges of a journey that will change the way they think and feel about their lives.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Publisher:
Released:
Mar 1, 2003
ISBN:
9781593972981
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

BookSnapshot

About the author

Robert M. Pirsig (1928–2017) is the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which has sold more than five-million copies since its publication in 1974, and Lila, a finalist for the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He graduated from the University of Minnesota (B.A., 1950; M.A., 1958) and also attended Benares Hindu University in India, where he studied Eastern philosophy, and the University of Chicago, where he pursued a PhD in philosophy. Pirsig’s motorcycle resides in the Smithsonian Institution.


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Reviews

What people think about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

3.7
117 ratings / 121 Reviews
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Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (1/5)
    I tried to like this book. I gave up in 20 pages first time around, and trudged along to 100 second time, before deciding to not force myself to waste any more time. It's not a bad book, and readability is not terrible either, just that it doesn't seem to go anywhere. The book is mainly ruminations and reflections of the author's mind on the role of technology, society, and human interaction, and human pursuits and so on. Author has a favourite philosopher whose life story and teachings are dwelt on for a long time, at least among 100 pages I read, but I didn't know this philosopher and author didn't bother to explain him well, and assumes familiarity with his work and builds his thoughts on top of that. And overall reflections are good but not something you would not ever have heard before i.e. happiness comes from within, how to live in the moment, and what not. I'd suggest you give it try and you may as well like it, just this didn't work for me.
  • (2/5)
    There were some insightful moments but the further it got into the book the more tortured it felt. Perhaps one had to read it when it was first published; reading it now after so much hype is a bit of a let-down.
  • (4/5)
    A lot of people give this book bad reviews, but I choose to think that's because they read it at the wrong time. If this book had been required reading, I more than likely would have hated it, also. If I read it even a year ago, I wouldn't have enjoyed it because I'd be too busy thinking I already knew everything there was to know. Instead, I read it at the exact right time in my life - and for those who didn't enjoy it, it might be worth trying again at a later time.

    There's a narrative of a father and son going on a motorcycle trip, but hidden beneath that is the story of the father trying to remember his past, which includes a stint as a professor and a PhD candidate, and ends in his going insane, back in the times where electroshock therapy was the answer. If the title seems daunting to you, don't be scared - part of the author's note reads: "..It should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles either."
  • (1/5)
    It's been awhile since I tried to read this, but didn't finish it. Boring!
  • (1/5)
    DNF

    *Update: Pirsig is still an asshat.*
  • (4/5)
    I had high hopes for this book. And parts of it were quite interesting and thought-provoking. But half way through it just lost me...
  • (2/5)
    I read it in college. I hated the philosophy parts, but the motorcycle travel parts were my thing for sure. Maybe it would be better on a read when I'm a bit older now, but I doubt I'll go back to it.
  • (5/5)
    Finished my third reading tonight, the last book I'll complete in 2018. Still excellent. My sense of overall doom is heightened with this reread by parenthood. Man, wow. Some books will have you checking on your boys in the middle of the night - looking at you, Cormac McCarthy...This edition has a terrific afterward by Pirsig that I read for the first time.
  • (5/5)
    this book meant a lot to me when I read it in the 1970s. It meant a lot again in 2018. Reading it the second time I realized his description of how one approaches a technical problem shaped my life. The same can be said for his analysis of the concept of "quality" post shock treatment mental patient / college professor takes a motorcycle trip with his son; discussion of technology, maintenance, quality
  • (2/5)
    There are people that love this book, and those that hate it. As you may have guessed from my rating, I fall into the latter camp.By the way, feel free to like it. If it speaks to you, great. If you discovered something profound about the universe through reading it, right on.For me, I found the mixture too rich, like an engine at high altitudes. There's the frame story, the flashbacks, the philosophical Chautauquas. They follow each other in succession, clumsily falling over each other and failing to gel into a narrative. The characters other than the narrator are nothing but straw men, existing to serve a purpose in the philosophical arguments but with no reality of their own, no truth to support them.There is a fine line between noise and music, sometimes. Perhaps if I had agreed with the content of the philosophy I could have found the groove, but as it stands, it's just a cacophony of nonsense. I rank it right up with Ayn Rand, in the annals of stiff and awkward philosophy made to wear a novel's clothes.
  • (5/5)
    This is indeed a remarkable book. It is all about the distinction between classical (facts) and romantic (feelings) approaches and continuity. A sentence or two on page 165 of the Bodley Head edition (1974) made me stop and think. 'Peace of mind isn't at all superficial, really...It's the whole thing...The ultimate test's always your own serenity. If you don't have this when you start and maintain it while you're working you're likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself'. This is the answer to everything. If you are trying to put together some flat pack furniture you need to have peace of mind at the outset. Some people focus in on the technology - they put everything together perfectly; other people are not interested in the nuts and bolts they, just want the function - put some books on those shelves. For peace of mind, continuity is needed underpinning it all - form, function, beauty like the motorbike, the journey, the sensation of travelling across a beautiful landscape. Experience tells me that If i start out on something rattled rather than serene, then I know it won't work out.
  • (4/5)
    I think most of the reviews take this book way too seriously. And most of them serve to prove the author's arguments, anyway. But I read this like A Wizard of Earthsea set on motorcycles instead of boats. And I didn't think (without knowing as much about Taoism as I feel I should) that Pirsig could make it more clear that he was putting Taoism in layman's terms with his theory of Quality if he, I don't know, put "Zen" in the title, or, say, picked up the Tao Te Ching and quoted it word-for-word substituting "Quality" for the word "Tao." Rather than the development of his own pretentious philosophy, he's showing us his progression to understanding the Tao through Western philosophy, rather than Eastern, and repeatedly points out where he got it wrong.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent.
  • (4/5)
    A "heavy" book. But it makes you think about how you think, our expectations, how we communicate, and how we relate to each other. Not for everyone.
  • (5/5)
    Instantly qualifies for my brief list of life-changing books. Summed up best by, "we have artists with no scientific knowledge and scientists with no artistic knowledge and both with no spiritual sense of gravity at all, and the result is not just bad, it is ghastly." Drop everything and read this book!
  • (4/5)
    Covers a lot of ground in exploring the metaphysics of quality, mindfulness, and getting to the bottom of several "gumption-traps" that academics set. Where they work at all, I didn't find the ultimate syntheses of classical/romantic, narrator/Phaedrus, eastern/western all that earth-shattering (i've never thought philosophy needed any grand unification theory)...but the exposition in the road-trip/personal history brings the ideas to life.
  • (5/5)
    I read this book after many years, and it remains the classic it was always meant to be. I took my time to read the book, because it is one that works on many planes. While yes, there is the road trip, and yes there is Phaedrus. However, in all the musings about Quality, which are relevant, I also took home the lessons on technology, isolation and the yearning to connect again with the world. This is not to say that none of the other issues are not relevant. It is just that, in our current technology-addled world, this is one thing that stood out for me, in this reading of the book.There is something for all of us in this book. It is brilliant, and masterfully written. Robert Pirsig died when I was on the last pages of the book. May his soul rest in peace. He has left behind a rich legacy.
  • (5/5)
    Life changing. Really!
  • (5/5)
    Probably my all-time favorite book!
  • (5/5)
    This book should be essential reading for all university lecturers. Pirsig says what I feel but couldn't describe. I wish I had read this years ago, but like many things, maybe I would not have grasped the issues if I had read it with less experience. I can't help but find comparisons with Edward de Bono's "Greek Gang of Three". I actually worked on our car as a result of this book, and my return to old-school technologies and move away from many social networks makes more sense. Now to buy a vintage motorcycle!
  • (3/5)
    I have been wanting to read this book for many years and just never got around to it. I remember being told it's a must read back when I was in University by a bunch of colleagues who raved about it. I enjoyed the book for the most part. I admit that much of the philosophy discussion about "Quality" was lost on me. I did however feel very connected to the constant discussion between Classical & Romantic Types of People and how the author's friends where anti-technology. I would recommend this novel to people who like to debate and argue philosophical ideas.
  • (4/5)
    This is one which, I hate to say, lost me towards the end. I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this book, but the text surrounding Persig's apparent mental breakdown and what seemed to be a second personality really threw me for a loop. Maybe I'm not "Zen" enough to understand it, as my professor vaguely implied, or maybe the failure can partially be laid on the author's own shoulders. Either way, tread with caution. I wouldn't tell anyone to avoid this book--I quite enjoyed it--but be prepared to be puzzled.
  • (2/5)
    At its heart, this is a travel book; a trip taken from Minnesota to Northern California over 17 days with his son and two other friends John and Sylvia Sutherland who go their own way in Montana. During the trip, Pirsig considers many philosophical questions including musings on the quality of machines and science philosophy. Pirsig uses this outlook to diagnose running problems on his bike, whereas John has to reply un-professionals to fix his when there are problems.

    I will admit that the travelling was my favourite part of the book, the rest of it washed over me like a wave. Couldn’t understand the focus on ‘quality’, though as an engineer I understand the reason for using the right tool for the right job. Not one I will be returning to.
  • (4/5)
    This is one of those books that became very popular in the mid-70s and seemed to be everywhere. I have a friend (we've known each other over 50 years) who told me that since high school she reads it every few years to remind herself of what is important. I started it years ago, but somehow set it aside and never finished it, but one day it caught my eye in a thrift store and the time was right to read it.How do I describe it? It is philosophy, memoir, a road trip with descriptions of the beauty of nature, a disturbing history of one man's descent into madness, a search for the meaning of "quality" and a journey of rediscovery between a father and his son. Is there a plot? well, sorta? The author states in the author's note that it is based on "actual occurrences", but it has a fictional aura to it. Reading Pirsig's Wikipedia page confirms that much of it is based on his experiences, but knowing about his son's fate years after the book was published, makes it seem particularly tragic. I also learned from Wikipedia, that Pirsig wrote a second book, a sort of sequel to "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" which I am curious about, only because I have never heard or seen that book mentioned anywhere.The book is actually more personal and touching than what I expected. It kept me intrigued and invested in his journey.
  • (4/5)
    Robert M. Pirsig’s classic novel is a mix of engaging storytelling and an exploration of how classical Greek philosophy drove the growth of Western civilization; we have mastered the physical world but at the cost of spiritual growth. Those more knowledgeable in philosophy may quibble with his premise, but to me he seems to be one the first modern novelists to advocate taking God out of the temple and recognize that spiritual wholeness was inside us all along.Story: The book intertwines three stories; the first follows a college professor struggling to become whole again after a devastating psychotic breakdown. His story provides structure and context for a lengthy introduction to the growth of Western philosophy and what we have gained and sacrificed as a result. The third story details his attempts to reconnect with his son after his breakdown shattered his family. The blend of engaging story, philosophical introduction, and spiritual journey is why the book has endured as a classic philosophical/new age novel for the last quarter-century (this is my overview).Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. Pirsig’s theme explores Quality and Truth with a capital T. Interestingly, he equates Quality to God only twice in the book (Chapters 21 and xx), and he implies that the reconciliation of Quality and Truth results in Zen but never explicitly states that point. However, in my opinion that’s the driving force behind the work—the need for Western civilization to get back to a state of spiritual wholeness, enlightenment, God, Zen, dharma—the words don’t matter. Perhaps it was necessary in the early 1970s to use the terms of classical philosophy in order to be taken seriously, but the core message of the book is clear: We a lost a part of our soul by embracing Western philosophy. Western civilization has gained mastery over the world, but “lost the ability to be a part of the world and not an enemy of it.”Although Pirsig sidesteps the effect of religion on Western development, I feel this fracturing of our world view was exacerbated by the spread of Christianity. People were encouraged to stop looking inside of themselves for truth and let the Church direct their spiritual growth and define their values and ethics. I’m not certain, but Pirsig may have been one of the first 20th-century American novelists to popularize the notionthat Western thought took a wrong turn more than 2,300 years ago and that exploring Eastern philosophy may help fill a spiritual void for many pe0ple.My take: I’ll admit, the rhetorical sections were a hard slog at times. I felt like I was reading a doctoral candidate’s dissertation without the footnotes. However, I learned a great deal about Western philosophy and how we got to where we are as a society. Greek philosophers, primarily Aristotle, moved away from the idea of wholeness and individual excellence – Quality – toward dividing the way we see the world into mind and matter, which enabled Western cultures to master the realm of matter. However, spiritual growth was sacrificed to technological innovation; we a lost a part of our soul by embracing Western philosophy. Despite the dense philosophical sections, I loved the book 20 years ago, and after rereading it I still love it today. The blend of engaging story, great writing, philosophical exploration, and spiritual journey is why the book has endured as a classic new age novel for the last quarter-century.For more reviews of new age novels, see Fiction For A New Age.
  • (1/5)
    Ik ben kwaad, ik voel me bedrogen. Ik had zoveel van dit cultboek verwacht, maar de lectuur ervan blijkt gewoon tijdverlies. Literair stelt dit boek hoegenaamd niks voor. De beschrijving van de motortocht voegt niks toe aan het verhaal, en dient blijkbaar alleen om de filosofische stukken verteerbaar te maken. Het literaire niveau is belabberd, de finale ontknoping haalt zelf het niveau van een schoolopstel niet. En de geheimdoenerij over de mysterieuze Phaedrus is absoluut belachelijk.Filosofisch gaat dit boek mee in de grote stroom van publicaties, sinds de jaren 60, van hoe fout we hier in het Westen bezig zijn, met onze eenzijdige benadering van de werkelijkheid (de strikte scheiding tussen object-subject, de ratio als enig middel om de realiteit te ontleden, enz.). Pirsig denkt origineel te zijn door dit terug te voeren tot Plato en Aristoteles, en de door hen verketterde sofisten (waar we maar zeer weinig van weten) tot grote helden te maken. Natuurlijk raakt zijn worsteling met de westerse benadering wel grond (al vind ik zijn opdeling tussen klassieke en romantische methode zeer betwistbaar), en is zijn aanbreng van een derde weg een verdienstelijke poging; alleen, de notie "Kwaliteit" die hij daarbij invoert, zorgt alleen maar voor verwarring; Pirsig weigert dit begrip deugdelijk te omschrijven (tenzij als een soort Heilige Geest die zowel object omvat subject, de relatie tussen en hun ontstaansgrond); hij kan het alleen indirect een invulling geven, waarbij hij voortdurend verspringt van "zorgvuldigheid", naar "intensiteit", en "voortreffelijkheid", allemaal heel waardevol, maar erg meerduidig. In recensies zie ik allerlei verwijzingen naar de Oosterse benadering (en de term "Zen" uit de titel van het boek lijkt dat ook te suggeren), maar Pirsig werkt dit niet uit, op 1 korte passage na waarin hij Lao Tse citeert. Kortom, de auteur heeft de klok wel horen luiden, maar weet van geen kanten waar de klepel hangt. Intussen houdt hij ons 500 bladzijden op met een pseudo-spannende zoektocht naar de zogenaamd unieke denkbeelden van de mysterieuze Phaedrus (in feite zijn vroegere, geniale, ik die na een periode van krankzinnigheid en electroshocktherapie in de auteur is gere?ncarneerd). Het beste bewijs dat dit boek de bal mis slaat, is de manier waarop de auteur de ergerlijke omgang met zijn zoon Chris beschrijft, een elfjarige, die de hele tijd bij hem achterop op de motor zit. De houding van de vader (Pirsig) ten aanzien van zijn zoon is er daarbij ??n van betutteling en kleinering, en dus helemaal niet van de "Kwaliteit" waar hij zo erg mee schermt (waar zijn de zorgvuldigheid, zorgzaamheid, aandacht in hun relatie?). Neen, ik slaag er niet in veel goeds te vertellen over dit boek, al constateer ik wel met grote verbazing dat een heleboel mensen er toch erg veel hebben gehad.
  • (5/5)
    This one is now in my top 10 most important books ever.I suppose for one who is a classical thinker this book may seem trite. However, I relate very much to the attitudes towards technology that Pirsig describes as romantic. And contrary to what some reviewers said I did not find his tone condescending or elitist. If I had I probably wouldn't have finished it. Instead I was sucked in and found my perspective slowly being altered. And if I can remember to keep some of these concepts in mind then maybe my machines won't betray me. And then perhaps my life will have been changed by this book.
  • (4/5)
    Really really enjoyed this book. During a motorcycle trip across America the author combines the story of the trip and his past with a philosophical inquiry into the nature of knowledge, technology and the division lines within our system of education.I feel like this is a book any scientist should read. It makes a number of interesting points about our scientific system which should be taken into consideration by anybody doing research. Do we really have the possibility of finding objective data? Is not everything tainted by the theories we hold? Is it possible to even come to unbiased theories, or is any theory just something we impose upon our reality to make sense of it?What is the division between subjectivity and objectivity? Is this division real or imagined, and how can we bridge it? How does this division relate to other division such as the one between art and science and the romantic and analytic worldviews?In what measure is our view of the world and of science determined by the commonly accepted standards that have been handed down to us from the ancient Greek world?What is the concept of quality, really? Do we have an idea of what quality really is, or is it only a post-hoc assessment? Is it related to the idea of 'the good' and ancient eastern philosophy? How do ancient philosophies tie into our current system of thought?Though these issues are often left unmentioned in university courses, I do feel they are important; we are taught that doing objective research is important, but I feel like it's a good thing to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Any scientist should consider what objectivity really is and how our preconceived ideas influence our worldview.Apart from the philosophical themes, the novel also gives a close view of a man with psychological troubles and the effects of the ECT treatment he received. It delves into the ways a person can go completely off track - and how ECT might not solve these problems entirely. It also gives some view of the impact this has on a family.All in all a very rich book, a combination of a novel and a philosophical work, with a rich and intriguing set of characters.
  • (1/5)
    Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance: An inquiry into values
  • (5/5)
    Read this in the Seventies, trying to be cool. After reading Zen..., I decided to just be. Great lessons. However, took me forever to implement. Oh well.