I've read a lot of books on Buddhism of various flavors - Zen, Tibetan, etc. Most Zen books I've read are either very abstract, or very straightforward but lacking in detail for how to practice day-to-day. Cheri Huber has written the ultimate book that is pretty much buzzword-free and extremely simple to put to the test.
/Suffering Is Optional/ is not really a Buddhist book, or a Zen book. It happens to have been written by a Zen teacher, and there are a few Buddhist-y words (mostly "karma") that are used to highlight points for which Western culture tends to lack solid terminology. But for the most part, this is simply a book about freeing yourself from the ways you (often unknowingly) punish yourself. Suffering is indeed optional, and Cheri Huber shows how to see that.
This is a very fast, very simple read, but do not be fooled. /Suffering Is Optional/ does not set out some pie-in-the-sky path to happiness that involves no effort on your part. Quite the opposite, as the author herself is quick to point out:
"I remind people with annoying regularity that if this practice were easy it would be more popular. Consider that, please. Look around and see what has thousands or even millions of 'adherents.' What do those things have in common? I would suggest that they all share the quality of people being exactly as they are while having something hopeful to believe. Very popular. Compare that with a practice that encourages people moment by moment to go up against, see through, and embrace the worst stuff in life. Not popular."
Not popular, maybe, but I feel it is very beneficial.
There's a lot of hands-on exercises to try in this book... Not of the SIT PERFECTLY STRAIGHT IN YOUR CHAIR MAKING THE SUCH-AND-SUCH MUDRA WITH YOUR HANDS sort. No, miss Huber invites you to be AWARE of the things that go on in your life, and inside you. What things lead to joy, and what things lead to suffering? She doesn't preach or politicize any of it - all she asks and guides you to do is to be aware. Through awareness and genuine commitment, much can be revealed about our interactions with this world and how often we get in the way of our own happiness.
If you're ever stressed, or angry, or frustrated, I highly recommend this book. It's conversational, caring, and does not require you to run out and purchase a saffron robe and begging bowl. I've yet to discover a more wise or more powerful way for discovering "the path to freedom and joy."