100 books like The Story of Philosophy

By Bryan Magee,

Here are 100 books that The Story of Philosophy fans have personally recommended if you like The Story of Philosophy. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Myth of Sisyphus

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

From my 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

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

This was the first book from the very first philosophy class I took in college (at Bucknell University in 1981), and it had me from its very first sentence: “There is only one truly important philosophical question, and that is suicide.” You know, the big stuff: Is life worth living? What gives it meaning? How ought we to engage the world and others, especially in the face of the apparently meaningless universe in which we’ve been thrown. Existentialist Camus served in the French resistance against the Nazis in World War II and would win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. In these pages, the remarkable man and the remarkable life he lived shows. 

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Myth of Sisyphus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER • An internationally acclaimed author delivers one of the most influential works of the twentieth century, showing a way out of despair and reaffirming the value of existence.

Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide—the question of living or not living in a universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Albert Camus brilliantly presents a crucial exposition of existentialist thought.


Book cover of Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Die-Hard Romantic

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

From my 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

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

This book really captures what it’s like to do philosophy in an informed but informal way. Philosophy as Socrates practiced it, and as it often is at its best, is a dialogue among several interlocutors. Different people share their different views on a topic, compare them, scrutinize and criticize them, and hopefully improve them. Phillips started a movement of Socratic cafés where people got together to do just that. The topics recorded here analyze love in its various forms (erotic, familial, friendly, hospitable, spiritual, and philosophical). Love is, in fact, basic to philosophy, which, as the word philosophia implies, is the love of wisdom. Read this in conjunction with Plato’s dialogues about Socrates’ trial and death: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo.

By Christopher Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Christopher Phillips goes to the heart of philosophy and Socratic discourse to discover what we're all looking for: the kind of love that makes life worthwhile. That is, love not defined only as eros, or erotic love, but in all its classical varieties. Love of neighbor, love of country, love of God, love of life, and love of wisdom-each is clarified and invigorated in Phillips's Socratic dialogues with people from all walks of life and from all over the world.


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 my 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

Peter S. Fosl 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.

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 How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

James Hannam Author Of The Globe: How the Earth Became Round

From my list on how non-western cultures think about the world.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who loves to tell unexpected stories about the interactions between science, religion, and philosophy. As a Christian with a physics degree, I knew the relationship between science and religion was much more interesting than an eternal conflict. So I went back to university, gained a PhD that involved reading lots of Latin and wrote God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science. Since then, I’ve been exploring how traditional ways of seeing the universe differ from modern science, and how we got from one to the other.

James' book list on how non-western cultures think about the world

James Hannam Why did James love this book?

This book makes philosophy exciting again.

Julian Baggini has travelled the world to meet thinkers to find out how different philosophical traditions understand ethics, metaphysics, and reason. He sympathetically explains ideas that can seem unusual or surprising but he isn’t afraid to be critical in his observations.

I loved the way he uncovers the unique aspects of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Islamic, and American thought, comparing the ways they deal with questions about God, science, how to be good and how to be content.

Above all, he shows that philosophy is impoverished if it is restricted to ‘western’ thought. 

By Julian Baggini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER*

'There to fill the Sapiens-size hole in your life' Observer

In this groundbreaking global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought.

One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures in different parts of the world. What we call 'philosophy' in the West is not even half the story.

Julian Baggini sets out to…


Book cover of A History of Western Philosophy

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 my 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

Michael E. Long Why did Michael love this book?

Whatever those deep questions are that you have, somebody’s already thought about them, and this masterwork of a book will show you that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re thinking and feeling the same way women and men did a couple thousand years ago – and some very wise individuals have thought through what you’re thinking through. This book will change your life and your mind. You have to be patient, but it’s worth it. Read three pages (no more) a day, every day. Plan on sticking with this for more than a year, then do so. Use a highlighter for a bookmark. It changed me. It’ll change you, too.

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in 1946, History of Western Philosophy went on to become the best-selling philosophy book of the twentieth century. A dazzlingly ambitious project, it remains unchallenged to this day as the ultimate introduction to Western philosophy. Providing a sophisticated overview of the ideas that have perplexed people from time immemorial, it is 'long on wit, intelligence and curmudgeonly scepticism', as the New York Times noted, and it is this, coupled with the sheer brilliance of its scholarship, that has made Russell's History of Western Philosophy one of the most important philosophical works of all time.


Book cover of The Complete Works of Plato, Volume I

James Fallon Author Of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain

From my list on philosophies.

Who am I?

Philosophy is defined as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” Put another way, it is not so much the study of things and phenomena, but the derivative question below the veneer of what things are. I am interested in everything, how everything works, but also why it, and all of nature, including the mind and eyelashes, exist in the first place. I can remember back to childhood always thinking like this. This involves grasping for knowledge of both the details and global contexts of everything, whether it’s biology, chemistry, religion, neuroscience, horticulture, violence, goodness, hockey, or even what Plato was trying to say.

James' book list on philosophies

James Fallon Why did James love this book?

After 2,400 years, Plato finally won the battle against Socrates, Aristotle, Avicenna, Rousseau, Locke, Freud, French and Neo-Liberalism, and most parents of two-year-olds. According to 21st-century neuroscientists, as Plato provided in the Allegory of the Cave, the prescient idea is that we are not born as blank slates, but rather have the basic knowledge of beauty, good and evil baked into our prenatal brain (genetically preformed circuits!)

By Plato,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Works of Plato, Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Collected here in two volumes are the complete works of Plato, in the classic translation by Benjamin Jowett. One of the most influential thinkers of Ancient Greece or any other era, Plato formed the basis of Western philosophy. Mostly written in the form of dialogues with his teacher Socrates as the protagonist, his works address themes as varied as metaphysics, psychology, pedagogy, politics, and ethics. Despite the weighty subject matter, Plato's writing remains accessible to the general reader, and infused with wit and humor. Why is Plato worth reading today? His dialogues are vitally concerned with how we should live.…


Book cover of Phaedo

Gordon Barnes Author Of How Do You Know? A Dialogue

From my list on philosophy written as engaging dialogues.

Who am I?

I am Associate Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Brockport. I have been teaching and writing philosophy for over 20 years. I have published articles in professional journals on a wide range of subjects, from epistemology to philosophy of religion and political philosophy. I think that philosophy, at its best, is a good conversation, in which people give reasons for their views, and listen to others give reasons for theirs. That’s the best way for human beings to think about philosophical questions. That’s why I love philosophical dialogues—they do philosophy in a way that embodies what philosophy is, at its very best.

Gordon's book list on philosophy written as engaging dialogues

Gordon Barnes Why did Gordon love this book?

The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said that all of Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato. That might be an exaggeration, but not by much. One of the greatest features of Plato’s philosophy is that he wrote almost entirely in the form of dialogues. His writings modeled the idea that philosophy is an ongoing conversation between different points of view. They also modeled the idea that philosophy is an exchange of reasons, in pursuit of the truth. Plato wrote many great dialogues, every one of them worth reading, but the Phaedo is my favorite. In this dialogue, Plato comes out of the closet as, well, a Platonist, and whether you agree or disagree, it’s a wild ride.  

By Plato, G.M.A. Grube (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A first rate translation at a reasonable price. --Michael Rohr, Rutgers University


Book cover of The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance

Jonathan Haber Author Of Critical Thinking

From my list on becoming a better critical thinker.

Who am I?

I’m a Boston-based educational researcher and consultant specializing in critical-thinking education and technology-enabled learning.  My 2013 Degree of Freedom One-Year-BA project on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which involved taking 32 online college classes in just twelve months, was featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications.  That work led to my first book for MIT Press, and an Inaugural fellowship at HarvardX, the organization at Harvard responsible for MOOC development.  I am also the author of two books on critical thinking and work with educators on how to improve critical-thinking education for students at all grade levels.

Jonathan's book list on becoming a better critical thinker

Jonathan Haber Why did Jonathan love this book?

While critical thinking is not synonymous with philosophy, philosophical principles like logic and epistemology play a huge role in thinking systematically and productively. If you’re interested in how these new and revolutionary ways of thinking were born, I highly recommend this 2003 tour of the history of early Western philosophy, from Ancient Greece through the Medieval Age, by former Executive Editor of the Economist Anthony Gottlieb. If that book leaves you hungry for more, Gottlieb’s second title the series, The Dream of Enlightenment, continues the story of Western philosophy through the start of the modern era.  

By Anthony Gottlieb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Already a classic, this landmark study of early Western thought now appears in a new edition with expanded coverage of the Middle Ages. This landmark study of Western thought takes a fresh look at the writings of the great thinkers of classic philosophy and questions many pieces of conventional wisdom. The book invites comparison with Bertrand Russell's monumental History of Western Philosophy, "but Gottlieb's book is less idiosyncratic and based on more recent scholarship" (Colin McGinn, Los Angeles Times). A New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Best Book, and a Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2001.


Book cover of Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy

Mahmoud Elsayed Author Of The Bitter Truth of Reality: The route to skepticism and the case against objective reality

From my list on to understand humanity and the universe.

Who am I?

Mahmoud Elsayed has always been interested in finding rational answers to the big existential questions. This could clearly be noticed in his writings and philosophy. He has also worked in various and somehow diverse fields of engineering and science which allowed him to smoothly, flexibly, and knowledgeably jump from a field of expertise to another in order to make his philosophical arguments comprehensive. 

Mahmoud's book list on to understand humanity and the universe

Mahmoud Elsayed Why did Mahmoud love this book?

In this masterpiece, Jostein Gaarder presents the whole history of philosophy in the form of a novel. This is by far the most interesting historical presentation of philosophy I have ever come across. The genius of Jostein Gaarder could be clearly seen in the narrative as he does not just explain the ideologies of the philosophers across the decades, but also picks some ideas, visualize them, and smoothly integrate them into the story. 

By Jostein Gaarder, Paulette Møller (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sophie's World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The international bestseller about life, the universe and everything.

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

An addictive blend of mystery, philosophy and fantasy, Sophie's World is an international phenomenon which has been translated into 60 languages and sold more than 40 million copies.


Book cover of Memory, History, Forgetting

Guy Beiner Author Of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

From my list on forgetting.

Who am I?

Guy Beiner specializes in the history of social remembering in the late modern era. An interest in Irish folklore and oral traditions as historical sources led him to explore folk memory, which in turn aroused an interest in forgetting. He examines the many ways in which communities recall their past, as well as how they struggle with the urge to supress troublesome memories of discomfiting episodes.

Guy's book list on forgetting

Guy Beiner Why did Guy love this book?

A landmark philosophical tome, which argues for the ‘imbrication of forgetting in memory’. The disentangling of the complex relationships between history, memory and forgetting raises ethical questions about abuses of memory and interrogates the connection between forgetting and forgiving.

By Paul Ricoeur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A landmark work, "Memory, History, Forgetting" examines the reciprocal relationship between remembering and forgetting, revealing how this symbiosis influences both the perception of historical experience and the production of historical narrative. A momentous achievement in Ricoeur's career, this book provides the crucial link between his "Time and Narrative" and "Oneself as Another", and his recent reflections on ethics and the problems of responsibility and representation.


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