10 books like A History of Western Philosophy

By Bertrand Russell,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like A History of Western Philosophy. Shepherd is a community of 8,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Gödel, Escher, Bach

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Mark Burgess Author Of Smart Spacetime: How information challenges our ideas about space, time, and process

From the list on mind bending scientific discovery and courageous rethinking.

Who am I?

I am a scientist and technologist, trained in theoretical quantum physics, who became an Emeritus Professor of Network Technology from Oslo’s metropolitan university. I’ve strenuously tried to communicate the wonder of science to students and industry throughout my career. I’ve been privileged to know some of the great movers and shakers of science in my lifetime and it always gives me great pleasure to open someone’s mind to new ideas. These books have been an integral part of my own intellectual journey. I hope these recommendations will inspire the youngest and the oldest readers alike.

Mark's book list on mind bending scientific discovery and courageous rethinking

Discover why each book is one of Mark's favorite books.

Why did Mark love this book?

This book is a legendary piece of writing, utterly unique in the history of literature.

As a child, I read this and was fascinated by the raw intellectual power of Hofstadter’s ideas, alongside the spirit of playfulness the book encourages. Back then, I did not understand the book well, but as many friends have told me—you will read the book many times in your life and be amazed by its rich multidisciplinary ideas.

No matter how deeply you understand the book on first reading, this book will be an inspiration for life.

Gödel, Escher, Bach

By Douglas R. Hofstadter,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Gödel, Escher, Bach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas Hofstadter's book is concerned directly with the nature of maps" or links between formal systems. However, according to Hofstadter, the formal system that underlies all mental activity transcends the system that supports it. If life can grow out of the formal chemical substrate of the cell, if consciousness can emerge out of a formal system of firing neurons, then so too will computers attain human intelligence. Goedel, Escher, Bach is a wonderful exploration of fascinating ideas at the heart of cognitive science: meaning, reduction, recursion, and much more.


Cosmos

By Carl Sagan,

Book cover of Cosmos

Rebecca Hefner Author Of A Paradox of Fates

From the list on for fellow science dorks.

Who am I?

I volunteered at my local library in small-town North Carolina from a very young age. One day I picked up Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, cementing my love of science. Sagan’s explanation that we’re all just a speck on the pale blue dot called Earth spoke to me and made me curious to know more. I begged my parents to let me go to Space Camp in Alabama and I went to North Carolina Governor’s School for Physics. I didn’t pursue a scientific career but I always retained my love of science. When I finally became an author in my 40s, I knew I would someday write a sci-fi time travel romance—eventually, A Paradox of Fates was born.

Rebecca's book list on for fellow science dorks

Discover why each book is one of Rebecca's favorite books.

Why did Rebecca love this book?

I read Cosmos when I was young and it inspired the love of science I still carry today. I found Sagan’s musings about the pale blue dot mesmerizing, and the science was thrilling. I ended up going to Space Camp when I was 14 and Governor’s School for Physics when I was 16 to further my scientific knowledge. When I wrote A Paradox of Fates, I used some of the science I learned in Governor’s School to explain time travel, which has always been a fascinating subject to me.

Cosmos

By Carl Sagan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Cosmos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* Spacecraft missions to nearby planets
* The Library of ancient Alexandria
* The human brain
* Egyptian hieroglyphics
* The origin of life
* The death of the sun
* The evolution of galaxies
* The origins of matter, suns and worlds

The story of fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution transforming matter and life into consciousness, of how science and civilisation grew up together, and of the forces and individuals who helped shape modern science. A story told with Carl Sagan's remarkable ability to make scientific ideas both comprehensible and exciting.


Einstein's Dreams

By Alan Lightman,

Book cover of Einstein's Dreams

Mario Livio Author Of Galileo: And the Science Deniers

From the list on science, mathematics, and philosophy.

Who am I?

Mario Livio is an astrophysicist and author of seven popular science books, including the bestsellers The Golden Ratio and Brilliant Blunders. He worked for 24 years (till 2015) with the Hubble Space Telescope, and published more than 500 scientific papers. He lectures regularly to the general public, and has appeared on television programs ranging from 60 Minutes to NOVA to The Daily Show.

Mario's book list on science, mathematics, and philosophy

Discover why each book is one of Mario's favorite books.

Why did Mario love this book?

An enthralling, fictional description of a young scientist (Einstein) and his dreams/thoughts about space, time, relativity, and the nature of reality. The book fictionalizes Einstein’s dreams in 1905, his “Annus Mirabilis” (“Miracle Year”), in which he wrote four fundamental papers, including one on his theory of Special Relativity. While this is a work of fiction, the physics concepts are beautifully explained.

Einstein's Dreams

By Alan Lightman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Einstein's Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is ten minutes past six by the invisible clock on the wall. The young patents clerk sprawls in his chair, dreaming about time. He is Albert Einstein, and in his dreams he imagines new worlds, in which time can be circular, or flow backwards, or slow down at higher altitudes.


Men of Mathematics

By E.T. Bell,

Book cover of Men of Mathematics

Basil Mahon Author Of The Forgotten Genius of Oliver Heaviside: A Maverick of Electrical Science

From the list on science to enjoy and to get you thinking.

Who am I?

I have always had a fascination with science. It came not from school or college, where lessons were sometimes dull, but from books about the discoveries and the people who made them. After careers as a soldier and as a government statistician I felt impelled to spread the word by writing, or at least try. After 40 rejections, my first book – about James Clerk Maxwell – was published and, to my joy, found many readers. My aim in writing is simply to share enjoyment with readers in an equal partnership. And I hope always to leave the reader feeling that he or she really knows the people I am writing about.

Basil's book list on science to enjoy and to get you thinking

Discover why each book is one of Basil's favorite books.

Why did Basil love this book?

First published in 1937, this lovely book is a true classic. In two volumes Bell brings to life 30 or so mathematicians, from Archimedes to Cantor. When first reading the book many years ago I had remembered some of the names from school and college, but only as labels to theorems or equations, and I felt taken into a delightful new realm of knowledge – I could now think of Fermat, Lagrange, Gauss, and Riemann as people. And I began to want to know more about the scientists whose names I had heard in school and college. Bell’s book had sparked a lifelong interest.

Men of Mathematics

By E.T. Bell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Men of Mathematics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Synopsis coming soon.......


A Man in Full

By Tom Wolfe,

Book cover of A Man in Full

Michael E. Long Author Of The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

From the list on finding your place in the world.

Who am I?

I’m interested in everything – which is a problem, because there’s not time for everything. So how do you find the best of the world and your own place in it? Understanding your motivations is a good place to start, hence The Molecule of More. The rest comes from exploring as much as you can, and that begins with understanding the scope of what’s out there: ideas, attitudes, and cultures. The greatest joy in my life comes from the jaw-dropping realization that the world is so full of potential and wonder. These books are a guide to some of the best of it, and some of the breadth of it.

Michael's book list on finding your place in the world

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

Read this – or anything by Wolfe, the writer who has had the most influence on me. Why? Because Tom Wolfe was what I aspire to be, a joyful explainer. He dropped himself into worlds he knew nothing about and let their most engaged players just talk. He came back with deep-inside tours of lives we would otherwise never know. In The Molecule of More, my co-author Dan Lieberman (one of the great psychiatric minds in America, I say) gave me a thrilling tour of neuroscience, leveraging my own interests as a playwright and a trained physicist so we could combine our knowledges into something that first passed the test of fascinating us as old friends. Wolfe does all that by himself, and magnificently in this tour of 1990s America.

A Man in Full

By Tom Wolfe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Man in Full as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dissection of greed-obsessed America a decade after The Bonfire of the Vanities and on the cusp of the millennium, from the master chronicler of American culture Tom Wolfe

Charlie Croker, once a fabled college football star, is now a late-middle-aged Atlanta real estate entrepreneur-turned conglomerate king. His expansionist ambitions and outsize ego have at last hit up against reality. Charlie has a 28,000 acre quail shooting plantation, a young and demanding second wife and a half-empty downtown tower with a staggering load of debt. Wolfe shows us contemporary America with all the verve, wit, and insight that have made…


Book cover of The World According to Garp

John Young Author Of Getting Huge

From the list on mixing humor with serious topics.

Who am I?

My life carries absurd contradictions. A country kid and athlete, I fell in love with theater and literature. I hated school but became a teacher. An outdoorsman and environmentalist, I became a successful advertising executive and an entrepreneur. My novel Getting Huge has similar surprises: a 6’11” minister who hated basketball. He resented Concord, MA as a boy, but he returns to toil in his father’s church for 12 years. He’s never planted a thing, but discovers a passion for giant pumpkins and starts to be an entrepreneur who dreams way too big. I hope readers see how John Crackstone is (like many of us) humanized by comic contradictions.

John's book list on mixing humor with serious topics

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

What I love about The World According to Garp is how it blends the humorous and serious.

Its quirky, engaging characters and how they react to the pressures of life made me laugh out loud. But I also admire the humanity of it with its serious messages about love and relationships.

As someone who also wanted to be a writer, I identified with the protagonist’s struggles and dreams.

I also identified as a man who loves and is surrounded by strong women and how they can often surprise you and help you see the world in new ways. 

The World According to Garp

By John Irving,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The World According to Garp as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A masterpiece from one of the great contemporary American writers.

'A wonderful novel, full of energy and art, at once funny and heartbreaking...terrific' WASHINGTON POST

Anniversary edition with a new afterword from the author.

A worldwide bestseller since its publication, Irving's classic is filled with stories inside stories about the life and times of T. S. Garp, struggling writer and illegitimate son of Jenny Fields - an unlikely feminist heroine ahead of her time.

Beautifully written, THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP is a powerfully compelling and compassionate coming-of-age novel that established John Irving as one of the most imaginative writers…


Book cover of The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History

Michael E. Long Author Of The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

From the list on finding your place in the world.

Who am I?

I’m interested in everything – which is a problem, because there’s not time for everything. So how do you find the best of the world and your own place in it? Understanding your motivations is a good place to start, hence The Molecule of More. The rest comes from exploring as much as you can, and that begins with understanding the scope of what’s out there: ideas, attitudes, and cultures. The greatest joy in my life comes from the jaw-dropping realization that the world is so full of potential and wonder. These books are a guide to some of the best of it, and some of the breadth of it.

Michael's book list on finding your place in the world

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

If you’re reading my book recommendations, it’s almost certainly because you read the book Dan Lieberman and I wrote about dopamine. In that case, you’ll want to read the book that inspired us to write our book, Fred Previc’s seminal explanation of the technical aspects of dopamine and psychology. If you were hoping for a deeper diver on certain points, Previc’s text is the only way to go – and we remain grateful to him for his groundbreaking work.

The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History

By Fred H. Previc,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What does it mean to be human? There are many theories of the evolution of human behavior which seek to explain how our brains evolved to support our unique abilities and personalities. Most of these have focused on the role of brain size or specific genetic adaptations of the brain. In contrast, in this text, Fred Previc presents a provocative theory that high levels of dopamine, the most widely studied neurotransmitter, account for all major aspects of modern human behavior. He further emphasizes the role of epigenetic rather than genetic factors in the rise of dopamine. Previc contrasts the great…


Thy Neighbor's Wife

By Gay Talese,

Book cover of Thy Neighbor's Wife

Michael E. Long Author Of The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

From the list on finding your place in the world.

Who am I?

I’m interested in everything – which is a problem, because there’s not time for everything. So how do you find the best of the world and your own place in it? Understanding your motivations is a good place to start, hence The Molecule of More. The rest comes from exploring as much as you can, and that begins with understanding the scope of what’s out there: ideas, attitudes, and cultures. The greatest joy in my life comes from the jaw-dropping realization that the world is so full of potential and wonder. These books are a guide to some of the best of it, and some of the breadth of it.

Michael's book list on finding your place in the world

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

Every generation believes that they see further and think deeper – and weirder – than every one that came before. From this perspective, we imagine that we can do everything differently that those who preceded us. In this book, one of the creators of the so-called New Journalism shows just how wrong we are. In particular, Talese provides a tour of the history of sexual mores, how cultures reflect those mores, and how tradition turns out to be a more powerful cultural magnet than we expect. We can try to make our own new ways in a lot of areas, but the biological pull we all experience invariably pulls us back to a few tendencies and trends we will likely never shake as a species.

Thy Neighbor's Wife

By Gay Talese,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thy Neighbor's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The provocative classic work newly updated

An intimate personal odyssey across America's changing sexual landscape

When first published, Gay Talese's 1981 groundbreaking work, Thy Neighbor's Wife, shocked a nation with its powerful, eye-opening revelations about the sexual activities and proclivities of the American public in the era before AIDS. A marvel of journalistic courage and craft, the book opened a window into a new world built on a new moral foundation, carrying the reader on a remarkable journey from the Playboy Mansion to the Supreme Court, to the backyards and bedrooms of suburbia—through the development of the porn industry, the…


Book cover of The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers

Peter S. Fosl Author Of The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

From the list on starting out in philosophy.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher who’s taught mostly undergraduates for over thirty years at small liberal arts colleges in the US, and I’ve held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and Williams College. I’ve co-authored three “toolkit” books – The Philosopher’s Toolkit, The Ethics Toolkit, and The Critical Thinking Toolkit. My more scholarly work, however, has focused on skepticism, for example in Hume’s Scepticism. I also like to write about pop culture, especially for collections like my Big Lebowski and Philosophy. Fundamentally, though, I’m just a lover of dialectic and an explorer in the world of ideas. Nothing, for me, is more enjoyable.

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

Discover why each book is one of Peter's favorite books.

Why did Peter love this book?

This is the book that really got me into philosophy. My girlfriend gave it to me when I was a teenager. I opened it up began reading, and I never really stopped. Durant’s book gives what I now understand to be a rather conventional account of the origins and history of Western philosophy, but it does it very well. It enthusiastically and eloquently leads readers into the central conceptual concerns, principles, and problems of the central figures of the Western traditions. It’s intellectually substantial, and it doesn’t require advanced degrees. A joy to read, and in a word, for me, life-changing.

The Story of Philosophy

By Will Durant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Story of Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers, from Plato to Dewey.

Few write for the non-specialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant's insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for anyone who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world.


Book cover of A Little History of Philosophy

Sue Prideaux Author Of I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche

From the list on philosophy and humanity’s search for meaning.

Who am I?

I am fascinated by humanity’s search for meaning. That is what I am exploring as I read philosophy and as I write my biographies of extraordinary individuals. Sue Prideaux has written award-winning books on Edvard Munch and his painting The Scream, the playwright August Strindberg, and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. She acted as consultant to Sotheby’s when they sold The Scream for a record-breaking $120 million.

Sue's book list on philosophy and humanity’s search for meaning

Discover why each book is one of Sue's favorite books.

Why did Sue love this book?

Nietzsche said; “Today’s philosophers enjoy the divine principle of incomprehensibility.” This clearly written book takes the opposite tack. If you’re terrified of philosophy, this is the book for you. A great book to get the kids interested in the subject.

A Little History of Philosophy

By Nigel Warburton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little History of Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For readers of E. H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World, an equally irresistible volume that brings history's greatest philosophers to life

"A primer in human existence: philosophy has rarely seemed so lucid, so important, so worth doing and so easy to enter into. . . . A wonderful introduction for anyone who's ever felt curious about almost anything."-Sarah Bakewell, author of How To Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Philosophy begins with questions about the nature of reality and how we should live. These were the concerns of Socrates, who…


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