100 books like Heaven

By Mieko Kawakami, Sam Bett (translator), David Boyd (translator)

Here are 100 books that Heaven fans have personally recommended if you like Heaven. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

Nietzsche’s greatest admirers often distort his views. Mishima is no exception. Considering his nationalism, militarism, and ritualistic suicide, it’s little surprise he endorses the popular misconception of Nietzsche as a champion of egoism and power. 

In this fascinating, disturbing story, adolescent boys create a club devoted to an amoral, pseudo-Nietzschean ideal. When they encounter a mysterious sailor, they worship him as a living embodiment of their values until he defies the image they’ve created. 

Mishima misinterprets Nietzsche but in a critically illuminating way. The boys’ ultimate reaction to their disappointing demi-god proves their hypocrisy, revealing that they idolize precisely the qualities they lack. So Mishima inadvertently debunks the stereotypical image of the “overman,” a cartoonishly impossible superhero, a fantasy who attracts only his polar opposites: the insecure, resentful, conformist, and childish.

By Yukio Mishima, John Nathan (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A band of savage 13-year-old boys reject the adult world as illusory, hypocritical, and sentimental, and train themselves in a brutal callousness they call 'objectivity'. When the mother of one of them begins an affair with a ship's officer, he and his friends idealise the man at first; but it is not long before they conclude that he is in fact soft and romantic. They regard this disallusionment as an act of betrayal on his part - and the retribution is deliberate and horrifying.


Book cover of The Gate

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

This book is a quiet, understated masterpiece about quiet, understated lives and a critical counterpoint to Soseki’s earlier I Am a Cat. That novel was a cruelly comic parody of Nietzscheanism, its arrogant feline narrator portraying his owner, a small-town schoolteacher, as embodying everything wrong with miserable, mediocre, insignificant humanity. 

This book is more ambiguous and sympathetic, portraying a similarly humble, childless couple. Initially, we feel contempt for their uneventful, indecisive, dispassionate lives. But their troubled past reveals, beneath their failings, a deep undercurrent of authentic courage and love.

They may even achieve something like Nietzsche’s “love of fate,” hinted in the title’s reference to the gate between past and future, where Zarathustra wills the “eternal recurrence” of every detail of his existence, whether joyful or painful, exciting or dreary, beautiful or ugly.  

By Natsume Soseki, William F. Sibley (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An NYRB Classics Original

A humble clerk and his loving wife scrape out a quiet existence on the margins of Tokyo. Resigned, following years of exile and misfortune, to the bitter consequences of having married without their families’ consent, and unable to have children of their own, Sōsuke and Oyone find the delicate equilibrium of their household upset by a new obligation to meet the educational expenses of Sōsuke’s brash younger brother. While an unlikely new friendship appears to offer a way out of this bind, it also soon threatens to dredge up a past that could once again force…


Book cover of The Man Without Talent

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

Like Kōbō Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes, this graphic novel fuses Camus’s Sisyphus with Nietzsche’s “eternal recurrence” as a test of character: would you live your life over again for eternity?

Sukezo fails the test miserably. He’s a talented cartoonist, but it doesn’t pay the bills, so he shuffles through half-hearted money-making schemes (including an aptly Sisyphean rock-selling venture), succeeding only at making himself, his wife, and his young child miserable and increasingly hateful towards themselves and each other. 

Sukezo becomes the bad Nietzsche of popular misconception. If only success and esteem count, better to be nothing at all: a pseudo-Buddhism of disappointed, not transcended, ego. He could be beautifully and happily useless, like Zhuangzi’s tree that’s never cut down. But mistaking power for talent, he cuts himself down instead.

By Yoshiharu Tsuge, Ryan Holmberg (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Without Talent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Japanese manga legend's autobiographical graphic novel about a struggling artist and the first full-length work by the great Yoshiharu Tsuge available in the English language.

Yoshiharu Tsuge is one of comics' most celebrated and influential artists, but his work has been almost entirely unavailable to English-speaking audiences. The Man Without Talent, his first book ever to be translated into English, is an unforgiving self-portrait of frustration. Swearing off cartooning as a profession, Tsuge takes on a series of unconventional jobs -- used camera salesman, ferryman, and stone collector -- hoping to find success among the hucksters, speculators, and deadbeats…


Book cover of Schoolgirl

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher with a voracious appetite for literature. I inhabit a world of abstract ideas but always return to fiction because it vividly portrays the real-world consequences of our beliefs and reminds us that ideas also move us irrationally: they’re comforting or disturbing, audacious or dull, seductive or repellant. I prefer world literature because it plants us in new times and places, helping us, like philosophy, see beyond our blinders. Deprived of the assumptions that prop up our everyday arrogance, we can clear a mental and emotional path to what we’ve ignored or covered up, as well as rediscover and reaffirm shared values, arrived at from new directions. 

Donovan's book list on Japanese novels that illuminate Nietzsche’s philosophy (or distort it in illuminating ways!)

Donovan Miyasaki Why did Donovan love this book?

The most charming and subtly Nietzschean of Dazai’s usually bleak novels, this book plants readers directly inside the mind of a young girl over the course of a day. Some compare her to Catcher in the Rye’s Holden, a child pretending to be a grown-up. But schoolgirl’s a true contradiction: too childish and too mature, naive and wise, Holden’s little sister mixed with Mrs. Dalloway. 

Holden is a “bad Nietzsche,” overcoming internal strife with protective cynicism, but schoolgirl’s a bundle of possibilities: Nietzsche’s “undersouls” battle to control her identity, veering between “becoming what she is” or expected to be and “decadence.” 

She’s confusing, endearing, and heartbreaking because everything’s still possible. She could as easily become Holden, a dutiful daughter, or a Dazai double-suicide, and any passing experience might decide that fate. 

By Osamu Dazai, Allison Markin Powell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Essentially the start of Dazai's career, Schoolgirl gained notoriety for its ironic and inventive use of language. Now it illuminates the prevalent social structures of a lost time, as well as the struggle of the individual against them–a theme that occupied Dazai's life both personally and professionally. This new translation preserves the playful language of the original and offers the reader a new window into the mind of one of the greatest Japanese authors of the 20th century.


Book cover of A Philosophy of Walking

Erin Leider-Pariser Author Of Get Lost: Seven Principles for Trekking Life with Grace and Other Life Lessons from Kick-Ass Women's Adventure Travel

From my list on inspiring authentic transformation.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a long-time meditator, wellness expert, and founder of a women’s adventure travel business, I am always grateful to discover books that offer insights about enhancing well-being. In my own book, Get Lost: Seven Principles for Trekking Life with Grace and Other Life Lessons from Kick-Ass Women’s Adventure Travel, I share personal stories of transformation that I and my fellow travelers have experienced on trips that include rituals to help us bond and express our authentic selves. Scientific evidence shows that connecting with others and practicing mindfulness are essential for a full, healthy life, and I loved recently sharing this message with students in the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University.  

Erin's book list on inspiring authentic transformation

Erin Leider-Pariser Why did Erin love this book?

I was gifted this book recently and it is the gift that keeps on giving.

I am an avid walker and the way the author interspersed poignant life stories with his own on walking was lovingly poetic. This quote “the walker is king, and the earth is his domain” is the one that defines the entire message of the book. I’ve been on many pilgrimages in life and witnessed many a transformation but none like the ones these philosophers uncover.

It was a joy to read the profound messages in staying present while walking as exercise. Grab a friend and enjoy walking together as you put one foot in front of the other and have meaningful conversation. 

By Frederic Gros, Clifford Harper (illustrator), John Howe (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.
- Nietzsche

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history ... The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.

In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frederic Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B-the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble-and reveals what they say…


Book cover of Nietzsche: The Man and his Philosophy

Anthony K. Jensen Author Of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

From my list on interpreting Friedrich Nietzsche.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t especially like Nietzsche, and rarely agree with him. As a professor of philosophy, I find that he is less original than is popularly assumed and less clear than he should be—not out of some mysterious profundity—so much as a recalcitrance or maybe inability to make plain what he thinks. Even so, I find it quite impossible to break away from Nietzsche. For my part, and I suspect for many readers who came upon him during their formative years, Nietzsche’s thought is so close to me that I’m always wrestling with it. Maybe that’s not a ‘result of’ but a ‘condition for’ reading it?

Anthony's book list on interpreting Friedrich Nietzsche

Anthony K. Jensen Why did Anthony love this book?

Nietzsche studies are a cottage industry unto themselves. There are thousands of monographs, anthologies, and papers, which are conveniently searchable at the Weimarer Nietzsche-Bibliographie. My “five best books” are not necessarily the interpretations I personally consider by some measure the ‘best’, in the sense of being the most ‘correct’. They are instead the ones I find most helpful for a reader to interpret Nietzsche in a responsible, well-informed way for themselves. 

R. J. Hollingdale is a great starting point for a novice. He was that rare combination of translator, biographer, and philosopher—and as such, his work is approachable for any intellectually curious reader. It was first published in 1965, at a time when one really did have to argue for Nietzsche’s place as a canonical philosopher rather than just a brilliant writer, bombastic iconoclast, or politically-dangerous driver of the pre-war German Zeitgeist. Even if somewhat dated, his book…

By R. J. Hollingdale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic biography of Nietzsche, first published in the 1960s, was enthusiastically reviewed at the time. The biography is now reissued with its text updated in the light of recent research. Hollingdale's biography remains the single best account of the life and works for the student or non-specialist. The biography chronicles Nietzsche's intellectual evolution and discusses his friendship and breach with Wagner, his attitude towards Schopenhauer, and his indebtedness to Darwin and the Greeks. It follows the years of his maturity and his mental collapse in 1889. The final part of the book considers the development of the Nietzsche legend…


Book cover of How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Sue Prideaux Why did Sue love this book?

Nietzsche said; “Only those with very large lungs have the right to write long sentences.” Montaigne was of the same opinion. He pre-dated Nietzsche in couching his philosophy simply and clearly in short, sharp aphorisms. Like Nietzsche’s aphorisms, they are often very funny.

By Sarah Bakewell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Live as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love? How to live?

This question obsessed Renaissance nobleman Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), who wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. Into these essays he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, events in the appalling civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, readers still come to…


Book cover of Reinterpreting Modern Culture: An Introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche's Philosophy

Anthony K. Jensen Author Of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

From my list on interpreting Friedrich Nietzsche.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t especially like Nietzsche, and rarely agree with him. As a professor of philosophy, I find that he is less original than is popularly assumed and less clear than he should be—not out of some mysterious profundity—so much as a recalcitrance or maybe inability to make plain what he thinks. Even so, I find it quite impossible to break away from Nietzsche. For my part, and I suspect for many readers who came upon him during their formative years, Nietzsche’s thought is so close to me that I’m always wrestling with it. Maybe that’s not a ‘result of’ but a ‘condition for’ reading it?

Anthony's book list on interpreting Friedrich Nietzsche

Anthony K. Jensen Why did Anthony love this book?

Named “Denker des Vaderlands” in 2021 by the Stichting Maand van de Filosofie in the Netherlands, Paul van Tongeren’s introductory text is among the few that not only advances theses of Nietzsche, but also explicitly outlines a hermeneutics for approaching a range of texts in their idiosyncratic rhetorical style. For me, the second chapter was a sort of watershed moment where I came to realize how many layers there are to Nietzsche’s writing—and how slow and ruminative a reader should be in interpreting his ideas. When one follows van Tongeren’s techniques, a whole kaleidoscope of new meanings emerge in central ideas like ‘Will to Power’ or his critiques of religion and morality, respectively. The Nietzsche that van Tongeren portrays is not the truth-seeking philosopher so much as the physician of culture, someone not after demonstration and proof so much as the diagnosis and therapy for a Europe fractured by the…

By Paul van Tongeren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reinterpreting Modern Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) presents himself several times as a physician of culture. He considers it his task to make a diagnosis of the culture of his age, to point to the latent or patent diseases, but also to the possibilities to overcome them. His diagnosis, prognosis, and prescriptions implied an overcoming of traditional interpretation of what is going on in the main domains of culture: knowledge, morality, religion, and art. This book presents Nietzsche's thoughts on knowledge and reality, on morality and politics, and on religion. Preceding these main dialogues is an introduction on the art of reading Nietzsche's texts…


Book cover of Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life

Will Kitchen Author Of Film, Negation and Freedom: Capitalism and Romantic Critique

From my list on philosophy books about knowledge, culture, and freedom.

Why am I passionate about this?

My background is in academic film analysis, although this has opened doors to many subjects: literature, music, philosophy, political economy… My students are always encouraged to think beyond their "home" discipline when they come to university. I believe that if you study a subject deep enough, it will lead to all the others. So far, my research has led me from classical music through Hollywood biopics and Romanic philosophy to some of the most fundamental questions about the construction and social organisation of creative labour in the modern world. I find that the most enjoyable books explain the world to us whilst reflecting upon what that act of explanation means. 

Will's book list on philosophy books about knowledge, culture, and freedom

Will Kitchen Why did Will love this book?

As a writer, Adorno learned much from music–both what it says and what it fails to say. Each page is packed with enough ideas to inspire a dozen discussions.

For me, philosophy makes the most sense in this "continental" (as opposed to "analytic") style. The fragmentary, anti-systemic approach developed from the Early German Romantics, extending through Friedrich Nietzsche down to the poststructuralists.

Although falling short of the grandeur of his magnum opus, Negative Dialectics, Adorno’s most accessible book maintains a keen critical edge alongside an appealing balance between clarity and richness––reason and imagination. 

By Theodor Adorno, Edmund FN Jephcott (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Minima Moralia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written between 1944 and 1947, Minima Moralia is a collection of rich, lucid aphorisms and essays about life in modern capitalist society. Adorno casts his penetrating eye across society in mid-century America and finds a life deformed by capitalism. This is Adorno's theoretical and literary masterpiece and a classic of twentieth-century thought.


Book cover of Love Voltaire Us Apart: A Philosopher's Guide to Relationships

Ginny Hogan Author Of I'm More Dateable Than a Plate of Refried Beans: And Other Romantic Observations

From my list on humor to make you laugh out loud.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a humor writer and stand-up comedian. I spend much of my time trying to get my comedy into the shortest form possible so it can “go viral,” but I’d rather work on projects that have space to breathe, like books. I don’t think enough people appreciate how funny books can be. Often, humor seems like the purview of more visual mediums. However, while books are quieter than TV shows and live performances, they have just as much capacity for humor. When a book truly makes me laugh out loud, I want to tell everyone. And the following five books do.

Ginny's book list on humor to make you laugh out loud

Ginny Hogan Why did Ginny love this book?

I’m a big philosophy fan, but I also appreciate anything that can poke fun at the great philosophers. I’m also generally a bit of a romantic disaster, and this book manages to weave together philosophical insight, wit, and dating advice (good or not) to create a thoroughly entertaining read. Most importantly, you’ll feel very smart reading it.

By Julia Edelman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love Voltaire Us Apart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What would Kant's sexts look like? How would Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir break up? What would Confucius think of Tinder?

Love Voltaire Us Apart is a hilarious spoof relationship guide with a philosophical edge, made up of philosophers' love letters, advice columns and breakup letters.

From Confucius learning the Golden Rules of dating to Simone de Beauvoir considering bangs after breaking up with Jean-Paul Sartre, comedy writer Julia Edelman views the love lives of prominent philosophers through a clever and contemporary lens. She points out that Margaret Fuller is the "Carrie" of transcendentalism, and Nietzsche will always find…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Nietzsche, philosophy, and Japan?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Nietzsche, philosophy, and Japan.

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