100 books like How to Live

By Sarah Bakewell,

Here are 100 books that How to Live fans have personally recommended if you like How to Live. 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 A Little History of Philosophy

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; “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.

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…


Book cover of In the Land of the Cyclops

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; “Art is the supreme task, the truly metaphysical activity in this life.” The relationship between life and art has always been a tough issue. Even more so today, in our unsettling age of post-truth and celebrity culture. Knausgaard writes not to provide answers, but to teach us to ask the proper questions of the time we live in.

By Karl Ove Knausgaard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Land of the Cyclops as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliantly wide-ranging essay collection from the author of My Struggle, spanning literature, philosophy, art and how our daily and creative lives intertwine.

In the Land of the Cyclops is Karl Ove Knausgaard's first collection of essays to be published in English, and these brilliant and wide-ranging pieces meditate on themes familiar from his groundbreaking fiction.

Here, Knausgaard discusses Madame Bovary, the Northern Lights, Ingmar Bergman, and the work of an array of writers and visual artists, including Knut Hamsun, Michel Houellebecq, Anselm Kiefer and Cindy Sherman.

These essays beautifully capture Knausgaard's ability to mediate between the deeply personal and…


Book cover of Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World

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 “God is dead, but in thousands of years there still may be caves where his shadow will be shown.” Tom Holland traces the effect of the long shadow on our lives.

By Tom Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A "marvelous" (Economist) account of how the Christian Revolution forged the Western imagination. Crucifixion, the Romans believed, was the worst fate imaginable, a punishment reserved for slaves. How astonishing it was, then, that people should have come to believe that one particular victim of crucifixion-an obscure provincial by the name of Jesus-was to be worshipped as a god. Dominion explores the implications of this shocking conviction as they have reverberated throughout history. Today, the West remains utterly saturated by Christian assumptions. As Tom Holland demonstrates, our morals and ethics are not universal but are instead the fruits of a very…


Book cover of Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

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; “To greatness belongs dreadfulness, let no-one be deceived about that”, while he watched the rise of German nationalism with horror. This is a book about the Frankfurt School of Philosophers who got together in the 1920s to try to find answers to the rise of fascism in Europe. Brave voices, their words tell us a lot about how we arrived at where we are today.

By Stuart Jeffries,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This brilliant group biography asks who were the Frankfurt School and why they matter today In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominent members of what became the Frankfurt School were the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Not only would they change the way we think, but also the subjects we deem worthy of intellectual investigation. Their lives, like their ideas, profoundly, sometimes tragically, reflected and shaped the shattering events of…


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 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 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 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 Heaven

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?

Thanks to its love/hate relationship with Western individualism, Japanese literature boasts the most sophisticated examples of the Nietzschean novel. This book's simple story about school bullying is really a philosophical meditation on friendship, courage, and meaning. 

The bully shares the contradictions of the stereotypical “overman,” declaring his right to immorality and feigning indifference while seeking others’ approval. His victim, in turn, mirrors “slave morality,” nursing bitterness rather than finding his own path. 

However, this predictable setup is upended by Kojima, a schoolgirl who takes defiant pride in her outcast status. Exploding the simplistic dichotomies of pop-Nietzsche, Kojima combines the inner strength of the “ascetic,” the compassion of the “slave,” and the courageous self-affirmation of the “noble” in a nuanced, critical Nietzscheanism that’s truer to Nietzsche in spirit than perhaps any other novel.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE

“A raw, painful, and tender portrait of adolescent misery… This book is very likely to make you cry.”—Lily Meyer, NPR

With profound tenderness and sensitivity, Japanese literary superstar Mieko Kawakami turns her unique gaze onto the causes and effects of violence. Raw but revelatory, this novel stands as a dazzling confirmation of Kawakami’s standing as one of her country’s most insightful and compelling novelists.

In Heaven, a shy high-school student is subjected to bullying from his classmates and the only person capable of understanding his ordeal is a young classmate who suffers similar…


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.


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