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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (1974)

by Robert M. Pirsig

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
17,188258237 (3.81)246
A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, this book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions on how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, this classic is a touching and transcendent book of life.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 50
    Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford (prehensel)
  2. 00
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (SCPeterson)
    SCPeterson: A man and his son travel very different paths toward self-discovery, confronting ultimate truth and the source of all meaning along the way
  3. 00
    A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz (jeff.s.thomson)
  4. 00
    My Mercedes is Not for Sale: From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou...An Auto-Misadventure Across the Sahara by Jeroen van Bergeijk (gonzobrarian)
    gonzobrarian: an inquiry into travel, adventure, and meaning
  5. 01
    Stranger in a Strange Land (Uncut Edition) by Robert A. Heinlein (emf1123)
    emf1123: If you're in your late teens, reading both of these books back to back (stranger in a strange land, zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance) is a good quality mindfuck. I doubt that either have the same influence as one ages, though.
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» See also 246 mentions

English (234)  Italian (7)  Dutch (6)  French (4)  Finnish (4)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (258)
Showing 1-5 of 234 (next | show all)
Justly famous book. Various musings embedded in a motorcycle journey through the back blocks of the USA. ( )
  lcl999 | May 20, 2022 |
A life changing cult classic that is a must read for every young adult. Or seeker on the road of wisdom.

I first read this when I was 19, and on the road exploring America. My perceptions of the way the world was supposed to work were heavily challenged.

As I have reread it as an adult, I found the same stirring of my fixed ideology. This is definitely a book to keep around like a wise old friend. ( )
  Windyone1 | May 10, 2022 |
Not about motorcycle maintenance. ( )
  Melthemadrilenian | Apr 25, 2022 |
Depressing. As he says, philosophical writing tends to go on one ear and out the other when a piece is missing. Most of this did that for me. I’m glad I made it through. The tone reminded me a lot of Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, which made me feel very similarly depressed, but somehow more savagely and tiredly so with Hesse. Maybe at this point I’m used to the emotional desolation and weariness of these grave epic introspective stories with lots of seeming social importance. Maybe motorcycling is inherently more upbeat then hanging out in the rain and in stairways and backalley theatres.

I just realized while typing this that both stories have deep-running wolf metaphors with the main characters’ alter-egos being wolves. Maybe wolves are my anti-spirit animal.

Anyways I only sort of see what the fuss is about. I’ve never been on a motorcycle. After reading this I only sort of want one. I’d probably be more of a romanticist about them though than a classicist. ( )
  ehershey | Mar 24, 2022 |
Didn't get it in college, loved it when I gave it a second try shortly before our son was born.

Ready to read it again as our kids are growing into their values and I realize they're looking to me for guidance.

It's a cliche to even tout this book, I know - it either changed your life or was the bane of your existence when you were assigned to read it. I fell somewhere in between the first time, and the second time, well, it didn't change my life, but I 'got it', and was a better person for having taken the ride. At least I hope I am. ( )
  TommyHousworth | Feb 5, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 234 (next | show all)
One is tempted to call the book a psychomelodrama, for Pirsig's intentions are as extravagant as his themes. The attempt to triumph over madness, suicide, death in the self, of his son, for our world, by means of the patient exploration of ideas and emotions is certainly an extravagant ambition. That he succeeds in finding a plausible catharsis through such an enterprise seems to me sufficient reward for the author's perseverance, and ample testimony to his honesty and courage.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Edward Abbey (pay site) (Mar 30, 1975)
 
Whatever it's true philosophical worth, it is intellectual entertainment of the highest order.
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert M. Pirsigprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bacon, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hermstein, RudolfÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
And what is good, Phaedrus,

And what is not good -

Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?
Dedication
for my family
Aan mijn familie
First words
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.
Quotations
You want to know how to paint a perfect painting? It's easy. Make yourself perfect and then just paint naturally.
Live in the future, then build what's missing.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Canonical LCC
A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, this book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions on how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, this classic is a touching and transcendent book of life.--From publisher description.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
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 topics, an interview with the author, and letters and documents detailing how this extraordinary book came to be. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. The narrator's relationship with his son leads to a powerful self-reckoning; the craft of motorcycle maintenance leads to an austerely beautiful process for reconciling science, religion, and humanism. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.

In his now classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig brings us a literary chautauqua, a novel that is meant to both entertain and edify. It scores high on both counts. Phaedrus, our narrator, takes a present-tense cross-country motorcycle trip with his son during which the maintenance of the motorcycle becomes an illustration of how we can unify the cold, rational realm of technology with the warm, imaginative realm of artistry. As in Zen, the trick is to become one with the activity, to engage in it fully, to see and appreciate all details--be it hiking in the woods, penning an essay, or tightening the chain on a motorcycle. In his autobiographical first novel, Pirsig wrestles both with the ghost of his past and with the most important philosophical questions of the 20th century--why has technology alienated us from our world? what are the limits of rational analysis? if we can't define the good, how can we live it? Unfortunately, while exploring the defects of our philosophical heritage from Socrates and the Sophists to Hume and Kant, Pirsig inexplicably stops at the middle of the 19th century. With the exception of Poincaré, he ignores the more recent philosophers who have tackled his most urgent questions, thinkers such as Peirce, Nietzsche (to whom Phaedrus bears a passing resemblance), Heidegger, Whitehead, Dewey, Sartre, Wittgenstein, and Kuhn. In the end, the narrator's claims to originality turn out to be overstated, his reasoning questionable, and his understanding of the history of Western thought sketchy. His solution to a synthesis of the rational and creative by elevating Quality to a metaphysical level simply repeats the mistakes of the premodern philosophers. But in contrast to most other philosophers, Pirsig writes a compelling story. And he is a true innovator in his attempt to popularize a reconciliation of Eastern mindfulness and nonrationalism with Western subject/object dualism. The magic of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance turns out to lie not in the answers it gives, but in the questions it raises and the way it raises them. Like a cross between The Razor's Edge and Sophie's World, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance takes us into "the high country of the mind" and opens our eyes to vistas of possibility. --Brian Bruya
Haiku summary
Biker -- deep thinker:

finally finds acceptance

for his peace of mind.

(legallypuzzled)

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