The best Nietzsche books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Nietzsche and why they recommend each book.

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Beyond Good And Evil

By Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,

Book cover of Beyond Good And Evil

This text is one of the most pivotal pieces written by Friedrich Nietzsche. This text was my main influence at the beginning of my searches for truth in human existence. I find it very easy to find a common ground in Nietzsche’s work, with him providing a very simple, straightforward analysis of the world around him, which heavily relates to the contemporary era. In this work, Nietzsche criticizes the past work of various philosophers, which allows the readers to gain insights into just how different yet similar different subject-matter-experts in the field of philosophy can be.


Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, it has been of the utmost importance to find meaning in life, both for myself and for everyone else sharing this planet. I have spent much of my time over the course of the past few years pushing for a continued level of discourse in the field of philosophy. I have studied at and attended various educational institutions including Eastern Florida State College, The Florida Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and The University of Cambridge – the studies at such range between philosophy, psychology, behavior analysis, and engineering. I hope that my work will be of some assistance in pushing humanity towards positive progress.


I wrote...

Manipulating Nature: An Existential Essay Regarding Humanity's Impact on the World Around Us

By Zachary Austin Behlok,

Book cover of Manipulating Nature: An Existential Essay Regarding Humanity's Impact on the World Around Us

What is my book about?

This text looks at humanity’s effect(s) on nature and the wildlife within it in a phenomenological and existential approach this is being written in the hopes of bringing about a newfound sense of realization of the issues regarding our environment(s) (living and non-living) which surround us on a daily basis. In our own search for meaning and ease in life, we have removed the meaning of an existing being, the being in this case meaning nature, and our own selves as beings need the existence of nature in order to form our meaning. We are negating ourselves as a result of negating the essence of the existing natures which we were originally given. We can fix this, granted we put in the effort. 

Nietzsche

By R. J. Hollingdale,

Book cover of Nietzsche: The Man and his Philosophy

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…


Who am I?

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?


I wrote...

An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

By Anthony K. Jensen,

Book cover of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

What is my book about?

Nietzsche’s writings were often dialogical, in the sense that phrasings or even whole passages were written as a sort of spiritual conversation with other authors. In the case of his famous On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life (1874), Nietzsche stood on a sort of precipice between the influences of his youth and the mature ideas for which he would later become famous. There is thus an unmistakable tension in this text that further reveals itself in notes and drafts about the nature and enterprise of history. In my book I try to offer a meticulous yet readable analysis of this philosophical classic in its varied contexts, and with an eye towards Nietzsche's enduring philosophical contributions.

Friedrich Nietzsche

By Volker Gerhardt,

Book cover of Friedrich Nietzsche

When I was a struggling young graduate student, I was fortunate enough to have Volker Gerhardt host me as a Fulbright Scholar at the Humboldt Universität in Berlin. A former vice-president of the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Gerhardt is one of those remarkably industrious luminaries, who, with even a word of encouragement, can launch an entire area of inquiry. Working within what one might call a Kantian-Humanistic orientation, he has written widely on the most varied aspects of intellectual culture. This introductory book on Nietzsche, which is now in its fourth edition, is masterly in balancing the needs of new readers with the sort of nuances from which seasoned scholars continue to draw. Gerhardt’s Nietzsche is somewhat the cultural pragmatist, concerned above all with living an authentic life in the context of a continually-forming Europe. 


Who am I?

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?


I wrote...

An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

By Anthony K. Jensen,

Book cover of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

What is my book about?

Nietzsche’s writings were often dialogical, in the sense that phrasings or even whole passages were written as a sort of spiritual conversation with other authors. In the case of his famous On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life (1874), Nietzsche stood on a sort of precipice between the influences of his youth and the mature ideas for which he would later become famous. There is thus an unmistakable tension in this text that further reveals itself in notes and drafts about the nature and enterprise of history. In my book I try to offer a meticulous yet readable analysis of this philosophical classic in its varied contexts, and with an eye towards Nietzsche's enduring philosophical contributions.

Reinterpreting Modern Culture

By Paul van Tongeren,

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

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…


Who am I?

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?


I wrote...

An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

By Anthony K. Jensen,

Book cover of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

What is my book about?

Nietzsche’s writings were often dialogical, in the sense that phrasings or even whole passages were written as a sort of spiritual conversation with other authors. In the case of his famous On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life (1874), Nietzsche stood on a sort of precipice between the influences of his youth and the mature ideas for which he would later become famous. There is thus an unmistakable tension in this text that further reveals itself in notes and drafts about the nature and enterprise of history. In my book I try to offer a meticulous yet readable analysis of this philosophical classic in its varied contexts, and with an eye towards Nietzsche's enduring philosophical contributions.

Nietzsche und der deutsche Geist, 4 vols.

By Richard Frank Krummel,

Book cover of Nietzsche und der deutsche Geist, 4 vols.

If the previous text was a trusty aid for readers, then Krummel’s monumental assemblage of ‘Nietzscheana’ is a treasure chest, the single most comprehensive resource for understanding what Nietzsche meant to Germany. Much more than a bibliography, it is a ‘Wirkungsgeschichte’ or ‘history of influence’ of seemingly everything and everybody touched by the person or thought of Nietzsche from 1867-1945. Krummel, who was an American Germanist, offers the reader excerpts of more than five thousand articles, letters, published speeches, and even diary entries on the subject of Nietzsche. In fact, the massive cultural-historical library that Krummel amassed while compiling these volumes became the foundational collection of the Nietzsche-Dokumentationszentrum in Naumburg. 


Who am I?

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?


I wrote...

An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

By Anthony K. Jensen,

Book cover of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

What is my book about?

Nietzsche’s writings were often dialogical, in the sense that phrasings or even whole passages were written as a sort of spiritual conversation with other authors. In the case of his famous On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life (1874), Nietzsche stood on a sort of precipice between the influences of his youth and the mature ideas for which he would later become famous. There is thus an unmistakable tension in this text that further reveals itself in notes and drafts about the nature and enterprise of history. In my book I try to offer a meticulous yet readable analysis of this philosophical classic in its varied contexts, and with an eye towards Nietzsche's enduring philosophical contributions.

Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks

By Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Marianne Cowan (translator),

Book cover of Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks

This early study of the young Nietzsche is probably the most personal choice as it returns me to an earlier self who first encountered Nietzsche as an undergraduate in the 1960s. In one sense this was my first introduction to what later became known as `Continental Philosophy’. But more than this, it demonstrated that there were fundamental issues and problems that were simply evaded and occluded by the standard histories of philosophy and European culture. The passion to return to the ancient world as a way of understanding the modern world has remain with me to the present. Nietzsche’s reflections on tragedy and `the tragic age’ struck me as a vital source of radical questions and pointed toward problems that remain with me to the present day: the Indo-European language roots of the first thinkers, the seminal role of Homer and Homeric poetry within the problematics of thought, the rejection…


Who am I?

I'm currently an Honorary Fellow in Social Theory at the University of York, U.K. For more than five decades I've been working to promote more reflexive perspectives in philosophy, sociology, social theory, and sociological research. I've written and edited many books in the field of social theory with particular emphasis on questions of culture and on work in the field of visual culture. Recently these have included Interpreting Visual Culture (with Ian Heywood), The Handbook of Visual Culture, and an edited multi-volume textbook of international scholars to be published by Bloomsbury, The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Visual Culture. My own position can be found in my Dictionary of Visual Discourse: A Dialectical Lexicon of Terms.


I wrote...

Logological Investigations, Volume 1: Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

By Barry Sandywell,

Book cover of Logological Investigations, Volume 1: Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

What is my book about?

Logological Investigations is an ambitious, 3-volume project to rethink the nature of social and philosophical inquiry in the light of the radically reflexive nature of human action, temporality, and discursive self-formation. It makes a principled distinction between reflection and reflexivity and argues that future critical thought must develop more dialogical and communicative approaches to the tasks of radical inquiry. Volume 1, Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason explores the historical and theoretical contexts of reflexive inquiry. Volume 2, The Beginnings of European Theorizing: Reflexivity in the Archaic Age and Volume 3, Presocratic Reflexivity: The Construction of Philosophical Discourse c. 600-450 BC trace the first beginnings and development of critical reflection to Archaic Greece and, more specifically, to the construction of early philosophical discourse over the period c. 600 to 450 BCE.

The Birth of Tragedy

By Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, William A. Haussmann (translator),

Book cover of The Birth of Tragedy

Nietzsche was the master diagnostician of the challenge of living in a secular world, once God was dead. The Birth of Tragedy develops a powerful theory of culture, its necessity for human wellbeing, and how it works.

The basic assumption is that human life is lived on the surface, driven by a substratum of demonic instincts, nightmare fears, and a barbaric will to lust and sadism. Culture’s task is to transform these unconscious drives into harmonious and beautiful images that capture the mind and give an orderly direction to how humans conduct their lives.

But for culture to have that commanding power it needs to be founded on a fixed and primordial sacred site. Without that, the modern problems rise: nihilism, rancour, and depression.


Who am I?

My abiding interest is in how people find meaning in their lives in a post-church, secular world, and what happens when they fail. I have concluded that life needs to be seen as an arc leading to significant end; it needs to be experienced as a coherent story. The vital role of culture here is in providing archetypal stories, usually from a long time ago, but ones constantly retold and brought up to date, which provides background shapes to identify with, armatures as it were. I've explored these challenges in a series of books: Ego and Soul, The Western Dreaming, The Existential Jesus, and soon to appear, The Saviour Syndrome.


I wrote...

The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited

By John Carroll,

Book cover of The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited

What is my book about?

Humanism built Western civilization as we know it today. Its achievements include the liberation of the individual, democracy, universal rights, and widespread prosperity and comfort. Its ambassadors are heroes of modern culture—Erasmus, Holbein, Shakespeare, Velazquez, Descartes, Kant, and Freud. Those who sought to contain humanism’s pride within a frame of higher truth—Luther, Calvin, Poussin, Kierkegaard—could barely interrupt its torrential progress. 

But humanism failed, in succeeding Christianity, to provide answers to the three great meaning questions facing every individual: Where do I come from, what should I do with my life to give it sense, and what happens at death? It left the modern West stranded in melancholy and discontent, facing an ordeal of unbelief.

Nietzsche's Corps/e

By Geoff Waite,

Book cover of Nietzsche's Corps/e: Aesthetics, Politics, Prophecy, or, the Spectacular Technoculture of Everyday Life

Waite’s book is an often brilliant account of how Nietzsche (and Heidegger too) have duped the philosophical and cultural Left. The book is too long, and also often unwieldy and self-indulgent. Yet it contains many gems. Part of what I was trying to do in my book was to make some of Waite’s best insights accessible by writing a much shorter, more punchy book.


Who am I?

I’m a political theorist recently retired from the University of Toronto. Around fall 2014, I became aware that a hyper-energetic, well-educated intelligentsia was trying to move heaven and earth to make fascism intellectually respectable again. I resolved to educate myself about these scary characters. I was truly alarmed, and wrote my book to convey my alarm to fellow citizens who hadn’t yet woken up to the threat. Sure enough, within a couple of years, Richard Spencer rose to media stardom; and one of the first things that Trump did after being elected in November of 2016 was to decide that a crypto-fascist Steve Bannon was worthy of a senior position in the White House. 


I wrote...

Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right

By Ronald Beiner,

Book cover of Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right

What is my book about?

In Dangerous Minds, I trace the deepest philosophical roots of such right-wing ideologues as Richard Spencer, Aleksandr Dugin, and Steve Bannon to the writings of Nietzsche and Heidegger—and specifically to the aspects of their thought that express revulsion for the liberal-democratic view of life. Beiner contends that Nietzsche's hatred and critique of bourgeois, egalitarian societies has engendered new disciples on the populist right who threaten to overturn the modern liberal consensus. Heidegger thoroughly rejected the moral and political values that arose during the Enlightenment and came to power in the wake of the French Revolution. Understanding Heideggerian dissatisfaction with modernity, and how it functions as a philosophical magnet for those most profoundly alienated from the reigning liberal-democratic order, should give us insight into the return of the far right.

Love Voltaire Us Apart

By Julia Edelman,

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

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

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

By Ginny Hogan,

Book cover of I'm More Dateable Than a Plate of Refried Beans: And Other Romantic Observations

What is my book about?

Through hilarious, absurd-yet-relatable short stories, quizzes, over-think pieces, and more, Hogan details every stage of a modern relationship—from meeting on an app to becoming official, to breaking up or getting married, to being single. Find out how to successfully ignore any and all red flags. Take a quiz to see if that anxiety attack you're having means you're in a new relationship or if it's that cold brew you just chugged. Read chilling tales about the unfortunate few who actually did lose their phones (they didn't mean to ghost you, they promise).

Begging to be shared with friends or sat next to your phone full of Tinder notifications, I'm More Dateable than a Plate Of Refried Beans is the ultimate humor book for anyone who is dating or has ever dated.

Nietzsches persönliche Bibliothek

By Giuliano Campioni (editor), Paolo D'Iorio (editor), Maria Christina Fornari (editor), Francesco Fronterotta (editor), Andrea Orsucci (editor)

Book cover of Nietzsches persönliche Bibliothek

Reading Nietzsche without understanding the contexts he was working in and against is a bit like trying to interpret a text thread among friends from only one of their vantages. Without the context of ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘when’ Nietzsche was reading and responding to, interpreters cannot grasp why he used the particular terms, phrasings, or rhetorical devices he did. Campioni, D’Iorio, Fornari, Fronterotta, and Orsucci—each remarkable scholars in their own right—deserve our gratitude for having cataloged Nietzsche’s (mostly) still-preserved personal library as it stands in the Weimar archives. Even better, they chronicled the margin notes, dog-eared pages, and various frustrated cross-outs or excited approbations that Nietzsche scribbled into those books. Nietzsches persönliche Bibliothek has sat next to my keyboard for years, and still offers surprises when I wonder ‘did Nietzsche read Dostoyevsky in German or French translation’ or ‘which biology anthologies influenced his understanding of Darwinism?’


Who am I?

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?


I wrote...

An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

By Anthony K. Jensen,

Book cover of An Interpretation of Nietzsche's on the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life

What is my book about?

Nietzsche’s writings were often dialogical, in the sense that phrasings or even whole passages were written as a sort of spiritual conversation with other authors. In the case of his famous On the Uses and Disadvantage of History for Life (1874), Nietzsche stood on a sort of precipice between the influences of his youth and the mature ideas for which he would later become famous. There is thus an unmistakable tension in this text that further reveals itself in notes and drafts about the nature and enterprise of history. In my book I try to offer a meticulous yet readable analysis of this philosophical classic in its varied contexts, and with an eye towards Nietzsche's enduring philosophical contributions.

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