The Saffron Road is as good an introduction to Buddhism as I can imagine, but then I am a complete novice. Everything in this book was new to me. As Toomey traverses the world meeting nuns from different backgrounds, she weaves in and out of the religion’s social, political and ethical history. You get a slight sense of the Dharma that the nuns follow with such devotion, and an even stronger sense of current attitudes and trends in Buddhism. Toomey’s journey verges on emotional and profound at points, but her sojourns feel too brief to elicit inspiration rather than mere interest. I would refer to this as a book intended to propel you to further reading (or hands-on experience). What I must say, though, is that Toomey writes so beautifully and deals with her subjects compassionately. She also doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of Buddhism, which exist just as they do in any organised religion. Overall, a fascinating read that’s made me curious, which is no bad thing.
Do read: if you’re interested in spirituality, global travel and altruism, and are somewhat of a newcomer to Buddhism
Don’t read: if you want a lengthy, in-depth discussion that probes the deeper aspects of Buddhist faith and spirituality.