Library staff recommendation: The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums
by Jack Kerouac
Greenfield Open Stacks 813 K459d

The Dharma Bums, written in 1958, is one of Kerouac’s greater works, in my opinion. It follows the story of Ray Smith (Kerouac), a gritty young man travelling about with nought but his rucksack, and his friend Japhy Ryder (poet Gary Snyder) as they explore the meaning of zen and life in jazz clubs and on mountainsides. A number of other notable figures appear as well, including Allen Ginsberg (as Alvah Goldbrook) and Neal Cassady (as Cody Pomeroy). To me this book is an ideal companion for those seeking some truth in themselves and in nature. I  believe there is something zen-like that occurs when The Dharma Bums is read in the company of grass, birds, and sun. The rhythm of Kerouac’s prose always reminds me of spring.

Dharma [dahr-muh, duhr-]
noun Hinduism, Buddhism.

  1. essential quality or character, as of the cosmos or one’s own nature.
  2. conformity to religious law, custom, duty, or one’s own quality or character.
  3. virtue.
  4. religion.
  5. law, especially religious law.

Zen [zen]

1. a Japanese school of 12th-century Chinese origin teaching that contemplation of one’s essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the only way of achieving pure enlightenment.


Recommended by Casey Murphy

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