Over his short but storied life, Bruce Lee became a pop culture icon renowned for his martial arts prowess and portrayal of Chinese nationalism. Five decades after his death, he’s celebrated not only for popularizing the “kung fu craze” of the 1970s but for bridging the gap between Eastern and Western cultures, changing the way Asians were represented in American cinema.

Lee was also the founder of Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist), a hybrid martial arts practice that drew from a range of different combat disciplines and influences. Combining elements of ancient kung fu, fencing, boxing, street fighting and philosophy, it’s often credited as paving the way for modern mixed martial arts (MMA).

While he never excelled at formal education, Lee was a voracious bibliophile who dedicated his life to personal development and continuous self-learning. Once bedbound with a back injury for the better part of a year, he devoured the works of Buddha, Alan Watts, Lao Tzu and Jiddu Krishnamurti – an Indian mystic who would profoundly influence Lee’s philosophy on life.

By his death at 32, he’d amassed a personal library of over 2,500 titles. Primarily centered around Eastern and Western philosophy, fighting methods, and classics of American self-help, find a selection of Bruce Lee’s extensive reading list below.

Bruce Lee’s Reading List


Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas (also rec’d by Martin Luther King Jr.)

An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume

Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers

The Works of Bertrand Russell

The Works of Plato

Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (also rec’d by Jim Morrison & Ray Dalio)

Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza

Maxims and Reflections by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe


The Works of Jiddu Krishnamurti

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (also rec’d by Jack Dorsey & Viggo Mortensen)

The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (also rec’d by Henry Rollins & Joe Rogan)

The Works of Alan Watts

The Analects of Confucius

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (also rec’d by Nipsey Hussle)

Bushido: The Soul of the Samurai by Inazo Nitobe

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (also rec’d by Hugh Jackman & Leonard Cohen)

Buddhism by Christmas Humphreys 

The Chinese Classics by James Legge

Living Zen by Robert Linssen


On Fencing by Aldo Nadi

Aikido: The Art of Self-Defense by Koichi Tohei

Advanced Karate by Mas Oyama

Gymnastics for the Beginner by Barry Johnson

Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey

Book of Boxing and Bodybuilding by Rocky Marciano

How to Box by Joe Louis

U.S. Military Boxing Manual

Efficiency of Human Movement by Marion Ruth Broer

Physiology of Exercise by Laurence Morehouse

Wing Chun by James Lee

Acupuncture: The Ancient Chinese Art of Healing by Felix Mann

Esquire’s The Art of Keeping Fit

Combat Training of the Individual Soldier by the US Army

Modern Bodybuilding by Oscar Heidenstam


The Amazing Results of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (also rec’d by Nipsey Hussle)

Dynamic Thinking by Melvin Powers

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

The Success System That Never Fails by Clement Stone

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger


The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (also rec’d by Ben Affleck & Bill Nye)

Playboy’s Party Jokes & More Playboy’s Party Jokes

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

The Story of Civilization by Will & Ariel Durant

The Viking Book of Aphorisms

The Works of Shakespeare

(via The Art of Manliness)

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