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Publisher's Summary

This lyrical, evocative, thought-provoking journal of a man's quest for truth - and for himself - has touched and changed an entire generation, and is ready to reach out to a new one. At its heart, the story is all too simple: a man and his son take a motorcycle trip across 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 has helped to shape and define the past 25-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 story that will change the way they think and feel about their lives. Unique to audio, this edition features a new introduction by the author.

©1974 by Robert M. Pirsig (P)1996 by Books on Tape, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Profoundly important...intellectual entertainment of the highest order." (The New York Times) "Brave wanderings, high adventures, extraordinary risks...A horn of plenty." (Los Angeles Times)

What members say

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  • Overall

definitive version, hasn't aged too badly

Given that a 1970s back-to-the-natural ethic seems quite weak today (being too over the top in some ways and way too unevolved in others), and that the metaphysics that tries to be at the center of this book does not really seem to have much traction (there is just not enough details for it to really qualify as modern philosophy), it seems surprising to say that this book has mostly stood the test of time. But it really has. The road-trip/soul-exploration archetype and metaphor still works well. The autobiographical character remains fascinating, as does his understated relationship with other characters (and the world more generally). The 1970s view of the world is naive enough to be amusingly quaint, and yet contains some enduring wisdom (something that reviewers of the book 20 years ago could never have known). The scholarly-intellectual part (the "metaphysics of quality") is thin, but is does provide a really interesting story of what it is like to be an iconoclastic professor (speaking as one :-). Above all else, this story does a better job than modern self-help books in helping the reader reflect on many things that matter.

The strongest argument for downloading this, though, is that the audio version has to be the definitive version. Many books are just fine in audio form; very few are actually better to listen to than to read. This one is one of the latter. It is written as an oral history, in the spirit of the Chautauqua that is the author's own view of the story he is telling. I do not recall noticing this when I read it years ago, but it really cries out to be read out loud. The reader does a very good job of it, bringing alive to this 38-year-old a book that normally resonates better with teenagers or baby-boomers who remember it fondly from when it first came out. To really do yourself a favor, listen to it on a long driving trip or while walking in the woods.

70 of 75 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Vicente
  • Sacramento, CA, United States
  • 11-10-13

Beware of the Intro.

If you are like me and haven't read this book before then I would recommend skipping the intro. I had the misfortune of listening to it and it gave deep meanings of the book which I couldn't help but look for at every point in the book.
Good book though.

34 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Paul
  • Portland, OR
  • 01-08-09

Essential reading for everyone

A life changer. I read this book 35 years ago and it changed my life. I listened to it last week and it was even better. It is a metaphor for our entire culture. This book should be mandatory reading for every high school senior. Forget Catcher in the Rye. this book is about living a life that is worthwhile and satisfying. Somehow knowledge of the history of philosophy has become irrelevant and "useless" in our society, a part of the anti-intellectual movement that seems to have swept through our society like an unchecked virus. One of the great parts of this book is providing the reader with a knowledge of where our present day philosophy comes from. The very point of the novel, "quality" bursts out from every page of the book. In answer to the proverbial question, "if you were on a desert island..", this would be the book.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Timothy
  • OKlahoma City, OK, United States
  • 10-22-03

Adventure Story with a Purpose

Pirsig began the genre of travelogue that presents timely philosophy. I read this book in college on a whim, but was swept away and actually finished the book in just a few days. As Pirsig journeys with his son, he begans to weave a story that draws the reader into his or her own journey of values examination. AS the story delves into the curious mystery of why Pirsig takes this journey, the reader gets hooked to read to the very end. This book truly is a classic. So well written, that after experiencing this book, I never thought of philosophy as a subject as boring again. Philosophy can be boringly presented, but the why's and values of life, when told through a story, makes this read like a novel. Buy it, listen and be enthralled--- I was even though this is my third time through since its first publication. It is nice to be able to listen to this book.

28 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 02-08-04

If you're patient this is an excellent book

I'm not at all surprised that this book has endured. I took me a few skeptical hours to get into it, but I'm glad I stuck with it. If you are analytical and work with creative people, this is a must read. This book will be no good to you, if you are in a hurry. However, if you are able to muster the patience and relax into it, then this book is a wonderfully insightful adventure.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

long winded

not a bad listen but I find the author takes such round about ways of explaining things that by the time he's done with his analogy I've forgotten what point he's trying to make.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Dana
  • Troy, Maine, United States
  • 09-12-09

a great book

This is one of the great books of postwar American literature partly because of its clear, direct and evocative exposition of complicated ideas, and partly because it distills the essences of what was going on socially and philosophically in the 1960s and 70s - beyond and inside the hippie facades. High Quality book. The narrative to me is adequate except - as one other reviewer noticed & others weirdly missed - that the narrator blows out a bubble air at the end of about two-thirds of the sentences, varying in loudness and duration in a range that runs from distracting to irritating. Mixed quality narration.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Book; Superb Narration

A great book! I've just completed my second listen (after having first read it 30 years ago). I get more and more impressed with every time through it. What I love about this book is it makes me think - it is so rich in ideas, things to contemplate.
Also very noteworthy is the narrator - I have a difficult time believing he is not the author himself, so natural is his delivery.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Timothy
  • Lake Worth, FL, United States
  • 12-12-03

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence

Not at all what I expected and highly pleased with that. Pirsig takes me on a journey across the US on his motorcycle with his son discussing philosophy and finding and discussing the Angst of life and in the meantime revealing how mental illness can figure into the thread of existance in someone who understands the nature of Logic, Rhetoric, and Dialectic Arguments. What a tremendous read. Certainly a cultural classic and a must for any student of Aristotle or really anyone wishing to understand the origins of our philosophical being.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Greg
  • Bel Aire, KS, United States
  • 02-26-08

Glad I listened- but still don't understand

I ride motocycles and this book certainly made me long for the open road. Anyone who has read it knows the book is much more than a road trip on a bike. It examines the development of Western thought and the duality of conflict between what people beleive to be "quality" in a (insert noun here). I have to admit that the discussion on Plato, Aristotle and such left me in the dust. Having taken no philosphy in school I have little foundational knowlege to go on. But it spurred my curiosity in "rhetoric" and how present day people share ideas. Going online helped me clear up some of the issues I had in lack of familiarity.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful