The most recommended philosopher books

Who picked these books? Meet our 41 experts.

41 authors created a book list connected to philosophers, and here are their favorite philosopher books.
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Book cover of A Little History of Philosophy

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

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

Who am I?

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

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

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…

Hypatia of Alexandria

By Maria Dzielska, F. Lyra (translator),

Book cover of Hypatia of Alexandria

Guy D. Middleton Author Of Women in the Ancient Mediterranean World: From the Palaeolithic to the Byzantines

From the list on real women in the ancient Mediterranean.

Who am I?

I wrote Women in the Ancient Mediterranean World: From the Palaeolithic to the Byzantines when my partner and I found out that we were having a daughter. I finished it just as daughter number two appeared! I wanted to write something they could connect with easily as young women to share my lifelong passion for Mediterranean history. I grew up inspired by my local landscape of castles and ruins, trips to Greece, Michael Wood documentaries, and lots of books. I studied ancient history and archaeology at Newcastle University and later got my PhD from Durham University. I’ve written on various aspects of the ancient world in journals, magazines, websites, and my previous books.

Guy's book list on real women in the ancient Mediterranean

Why did Guy love this book?

Hypatia was a pagan philosopher in Alexandria around AD 400.

As Maria Dzielska shows, she occupies a special place in western culture – her life, and more particularly her death in AD 415 at the hands of a Christian mob, became a metaphor for a clash of civilizations. In these terms, it signifies the death of the old Hellenic world of ideas and learning and the rise of a new Christian world based on faith.

Dzielska’s pithy book explores Hypatia the myth, as created in literature such as Charles Kingsley’s 1853 novel Hypatia or the New Foes with an Old Face, and presents and interprets the historical evidence for the real Hypatia. It’s a great read about a fascinating life. (Also watch the excellent 2009 film Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenábar!)

By Maria Dzielska, F. Lyra (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hypatia of Alexandria as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hypatia-brilliant mathematician, eloquent Neoplatonist, and a woman renowned for her beauty-was brutally murdered by a mob of Christians in Alexandria in 415. She has been a legend ever since. In this engrossing book, Maria Dzielska searches behind the legend to bring us the real story of Hypatia's life and death, and new insight into her colorful world.

Historians and poets, Victorian novelists and contemporary feminists have seen Hypatia as a symbol-of the waning of classical culture and freedom of inquiry, of the rise of fanatical Christianity, or of sexual freedom. Dzielska shows us why versions of Hypatia's legend have served…

Cultural Amnesia

By Clive James,

Book cover of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From the list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Why did Andy love this book?

Clive James will probably be remembered in this country for his moving poem Red Maple, and for a decade’s worth of wry commentary talking about the Japanese Gameshow, ‘Endurance’ on TV, but his essays and literary criticism were every bit as significant (and often just as funny). Cultural Amnesia is a peculiar collection of short essays on important literary, cultural, and historical figures of the past, which James compiled over the course of his life. Many of the subjects will be familiar to everyone: Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, Adolf Hitler, but many will not (but should be): Egon Friedell was an extraordinary man of letters who encapsulated Vienna at its most sparkling, but who killed himself when the Nazis arrived; Ricarda Huch was a brilliant historian of Germany who went into voluntary exile at around the same time. As these examples suggest, the struggle between cultural and totalitarianism is…

By Clive James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This international bestseller is an encyclopedic A-Z masterpiece-the perfect introduction to the very core of Western humanism. Clive James rescues, or occasionally destroys, the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.

The Art of Living

By Alexander Nehamas,

Book cover of The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault

Paul Allen Miller Author Of Horace

From the list on the art of living.

Who am I?

While I am Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina and the author of ten books, I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. My parents were from rural Missouri. I never met a professor, a writer, or an artist growing up. I never seriously considered going to college. But I loved to read. When I went to college and discovered you could major in literature and ancient languages, my life changed. I am now at work on a book entitled Truth and Enjoyment in Cicero: Rhetoric and Philosophy Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which reflects on what Cicero can teach us about living in a post-truth age.

Paul's book list on the art of living

Why did Paul love this book?

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. It changed the way I think about Socrates, Plato, Foucault, and Nietzsche. It gave me a deep appreciation of the philosophical and ethical importance of irony as a way of being in the world. It convinced me to spend all my free time for several months reading Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, and it made me see the relationship between ancient philosophy and modern life in a fundamentally new way. It is simply one of the most beautifully written and suggestive books of modern philosophy published in English in the last fifty years.

By Alexander Nehamas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For much of its history, philosophy was not merely a theoretical discipline but a way of life, an 'art of living'. This practical aspect of philosophy has been much less dominant in modernity than it was in ancient Greece and Rome, when philosophers of all stripes kept returning to Socrates as a model for living. The idea of philosophy as an art of living has survived in the works of such major modern authors as Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Each of these writers has used philosophical discussion as a means of establishing what a person is and how a worthwhile…


By Steven Lukes (editor), Nadia Urbinati (editor),

Book cover of Condorcet: Political Writings

Per Molander Author Of The Anatomy Of Inequality: Its Social and Economic Origins - and Solutions

From the list on (in)equality and why it is a problem.

Who am I?

I was trained in physics and applied mathematics, but my mother—a teacher of literature and history—secured a place for the humanities in my intellectual luggage, and I finally ended up in the social sciences. One of my first encounters with economics was John Nash’s theory of bargaining, illustrating how a wealthy person will gain more from a negotiation than a pauper, thus reinforcing inequality and leading to instability. Decades later, I returned to this problem and found that relatively little had still been done to analyze it. I believe that a combination of mathematical tools and illustrations from history, literature, and philosophy is an appropriate way of approaching the complex of inequality. 

Per's book list on (in)equality and why it is a problem

Why did Per love this book?

Discover Condorcet!

Most people, when asked to name a philosopher who wrote about inequality, would think of Rousseau. Condorcet was the last of the Encyclopédistes, young enough to experience the revolution in 1789—sadly, also one of its victims.

Unlike his philosopher colleagues, he participated actively in public policymaking, first in the Ministry of Finance, later as an elected member of the Legislative Assembly after the revolution. He chaired an organization working for the abolition of slavery. He argued for equal rights for women before Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft had published their more well-known pamphlets. He co-authored the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and also wrote a proposal for new constitution for France.

Most importantly, he realized the fundamental role of education as a means to reduce inequality and liberate mankind, and he even developed curricula for the various stages of a general…

By Steven Lukes (editor), Nadia Urbinati (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A premium flagship range from Letts Educational, the brand leader in home study. The Premier series is specifically designed to be the most accessible and fresh series on the home study market and to work closely alongside the primary curriculum. The series strengthens numeracy, literacy and ICT skills from playschool right through to secondary school. Each book covers thirty topics to provide thorough revision and a solid learning foundation, and comes with twenty flashcards to give additional visual stimulus for key concepts.

My Years with Ayn Rand

By Nathaniel Branden,

Book cover of My Years with Ayn Rand

Raven West Author Of Red Wine for Breakfast

From the list on strong women who succeed in a male-dominated world.

Who am I?

In my freshman year at the University of Missouri-Columbia I started out as a journalism major. I joined Sigma Kappa where I met my “sister” Anne who worked at KBIA. I worked with her the rest of that year. Back home in Ellenville, NY, I convinced the station manager to hire me. I was the very first female radio announcer and engineer to work at the station. When my best friend was killed in a tragic accident, I needed to heal my loss by using the only method I knew would help; writing. Combining my experiences and passion for radio I wrote Red Wine for Breakfast to honor her memory.

Raven's book list on strong women who succeed in a male-dominated world

Why did Raven love this book?

Nathaniel Branden’s account of his relationship with Rand is honest and deeply emotional. For a psychologist who writes mainly on the theme of self-esteem, this book is a bit of a departure from his usual works, but for any fan of Rand and her volatile relationship with a man nearly half her age, it is well worth the read.

By Nathaniel Branden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Years with Ayn Rand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Previous Praise for Nathaniel Branden"Relentlessly revealing...the myth of Ayn Rand gives way to a full-sized portrait in contrasting colors, appealing and appalling, potent and takes a special kind of nerve to write such a book." - Norman Cousins, author of Head First and The Healing HeartAyn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is one of the most influential books of the twentieth century-its popular impact ranked second only to the Bible in a major poll. Millions know Rand as one of this century's great thinkers, writers, and philosophers, yet much about the private Ayn Rand remains shrouded in mystery.Who was Ayn Rand?My…

Book cover of Apology For The Woman Writing

Joanne Limburg Author Of A Want of Kindness

From the list on bringing you closest to historical figures.

Who am I?

I’m an academic and non-fiction writer as well as a novelist. My favourite part of writing is the research phase, when you catch the scent of something fascinating, and hitherto unknown, and never know where it might lead you. As you’ve probably guessed from my recommendations, I have a soft spot for the quiet, unflashy, overlooked figures. Recently I’ve returned to the subject of overlooked women, although in non-fiction, in my book Letters to my Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism. For my next novel, I’m learning all about the bluestocking women of eighteenth-century Britain, and their attempt to create an ideal community. Perfect characters aren’t interesting to me – flawed ones are so much better.

Joanne's book list on bringing you closest to historical figures

Why did Joanne love this book?

This is a book about being a celebrity’s biggest fan. In 16th Century France, eighteen-year-old Marie de Gournay reads the essays of the philosopher Montaigne, and is so overwhelmed that she faints. When she finally meets her idol, she stabs herself with a hairpin to prove her devotion. For two blissful months, she lives as his adopted daughter. When he dies four years later, de Gournay devotes herself to editing the writings he left behind, persisting even though she is despised both by the intellectuals of the time and by her own family. I know how it feels to be that intense, socially awkward, bookish girl and I found Marie’s story extremely moving.

By Jenny Diski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marie de Gournay was eighteen when she read, and was overwhelmed by, the essays of the French philosopher Montaigne. She had to be revived with hellebore. When she finally met Montaigne, she stabbed herself with a hairpin until the blood ran in order to show her devotion. He made her his adopted daughter for the two months they knew each other. He died four years later, after which, though scorned by intellectuals, she became his editor. Jenny Diski engages with this passionate and confused relationship between 'father and daughter', old writer/young acolyte, possible lovers, using both their voices. Much of…

Isaiah Berlin

By Michael Ignatieff,

Book cover of Isaiah Berlin: A Life

Henry Hardy Author Of In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

From the list on Isaiah Berlin.

Who am I?

I had the supreme good fortune to know Berlin (1909–97) for nearly twenty-five years, and to work with him as his principal editor for most of that time; I continued this work after his death and it still occupies me now. He was one of the great human beings of the twentieth century, an essayist and letter-writer of genius, and a bewitching bridge between academia and the general civilised life of the mind. His ideas are fertile and illuminating to this day, and the immediately recognisable voice of his prose is the best possible intellectual company.

Henry's book list on Isaiah Berlin

Why did Henry love this book?

Ignatieff’s intensely readable authorised biography of Berlin is based on a decade of recorded conversations with his subject about all aspects of his life, as well as on a study of the massive archive of letters and other papers that Berlin left at his death. As a result it has many of the characteristics of the autobiography that Berlin never wrote, but one filtered through Ignatieff’s shrewd critical intelligence, deployed in the service of the liberal humanist outlook that he shares with his subject.

By Michael Ignatieff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Isaiah Berlin refused to write an autobiography, but he agreed to talk about himself - and so for ten years, he allowed Michael Ignatieff to interview him. Isaiah Berlin (1909-97) was one of the greatest and most humane of modern philosophers; historian of the Russian intellgentisia biographer of Marx, pioneering scholar of the Romantic movement and defender of the liberal idea of freedom. His own life was caught up in the most powerful currents of the century. The son of a Riga timber merchant, he witnessed the Russian Revolution, was plunged into suburban school life and the ferment of 1930s…

Becoming Beauvoir

By Kate Kirkpatrick,

Book cover of Becoming Beauvoir: A Life

Sandrine Bergès Author Of Liberty in Their Names: The Women Philosophers of the French Revolution

From the list on by or about women philosophers you should know.

Who am I?

At school I fell in love philosophy. But at university, as I grew older, I started to feel out of place: all the authors we read were men. I loved Plato, but there was something missing. It didn’t occur to me until I was in my thirties to look for women in the history of philosophy! I read Wollstonecraft first, then Olympe de Gouges, and the other women I wrote about in my book, and now I’m looking at women philosophers from the tenth to the nineteenth century. There is a wealth of work by women philosophers out there. Reading their works has made philosophy come alive for me, all over again. 

Sandrine's book list on by or about women philosophers you should know

Why did Sandrine love this book?

I’ve read a lot of biographies of Simone de Beauvoir.

But this is the one that best brought out her importance as a philosopher, the many ways in which her thought differed from Sartre’s and the ways in which this has been obscured by a posterity that just wants to see her as his sidekick.

One thing that this book did for me that others on Beauvoir didn’t was to reconcile me with the unpleasant aspects of her life and relationships – she was human, she was flawed, but so were her male peers! 

By Kate Kirkpatrick,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Becoming Beauvoir as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"One is not born a woman, but becomes one", Simone de Beauvoir A symbol of liberated womanhood, Simone de Beauvoir's unconventional relationships inspired and scandalised her generation. A philosopher, writer, and feminist icon, she won prestigious literary prizes and transformed the way we think about gender with The Second Sex. But despite her successes, she wondered if she had sold herself short. Her liaison with Jean-Paul Sartre has been billed as one of the most legendary love affairs of the twentieth century. But for Beauvoir it came at a cost: for decades she was dismissed as an unoriginal thinker who…

At the Existentialist Cafe

By Sarah Bakewell,

Book cover of At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others

Guy McPherson Author Of Killing the Natives: A Retrospective Analysis

From Guy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Professor Teacher Adventurer Traveler Researcher

Guy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Guy love this book?

At the Existentialist Café introduced me to Sarah Bakewell. The text represents an overview of the philosophical work conducted by Jean-Paul Sartre and his polyamorous partner, Simone de Beauvoir, along with many other philosophers.

The writings of Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and many others are critically evaluated by Bakewell in this capacious romp through the world of modern philosophy. If you seek an overview of philosophical writing with implications for your own life, this is the book for you.

By Sarah Bakewell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked At the Existentialist Cafe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of the Ten Best Books of 2016 by the New York Times, a spirited account of a major intellectual movement of the twentieth century and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it, by the best-selling author of How to Live and Humanly Possible Sarah Bakewell.

Paris, 1933: three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are the young Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and longtime friend Raymond Aron, a fellow philosopher who raves to them about a new conceptual framework from Berlin called Phenomenology. "You see," he says, "if you…

Book cover of The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud

Dennis Hayes Author Of The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education

From the list on recognising the therapeutic turn in education.

Who am I?

Writing articles for the education press I became aware of how children and young people were presented as vulnerable, as potential victims. Sometimes they also saw themselves in this way as weak, unable to cope, and lacking in the ability to take control of their lives. This seemed to me to be damaging and needed challenging. But writing about the therapeutic turn was not enough. What had to be challenged was the fear of freedom and speech and debate that were essential to beginning to take control of your life. In response I set up Academics For Academic Freedom, the leading campaign group for free speech, no ifs, no buts. 

Dennis' book list on recognising the therapeutic turn in education

Why did Dennis love this book?

Rieff wrote this book in 1966. It is prescient in seeing the coming of what we now call ‘therapy culture’. It must be read to understand the profundity of the changes that we face over fifty years since it first appeared. He describes the collapse of traditional values and beliefs but sees nothing positive that could take their place. He warns of a fundamental shift in the entire continuity of our culture that is probably irreparable: ‘That a sense of well-being has become the end, rather that a by-product of striving after some superior communal end, announces a fundamental change of focus in the entire cast of our culture…’.  Rieff also warns that those who seek therapy cannot move on. They seek more therapeutic recognition of their diminished state. To understand our culture today you must start here.

By Philip Rieff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since its publication in 1966, The Triumph of the Therapeutic has been hailed as a work of genuine brilliance, one of those books whose insights uncannily anticipate cultural developments and whose richness of argumentation reorients entire fields of inquiry. This special fortieth-anniversary edition of Philip Rieff's masterpiece, the first volume in ISI Books' new Background series, includes an introduction by Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn and essays on the text by historians Eugene McCarraher and Wilfred McClay and philosopher Stephen Gardner.

Book cover of Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely

Benjamin Hoffmann Author Of The Paradoxes of Posterity

From the list on why people write books.

Who am I?

I grew up in Bordeaux, a city that became prominent during the eighteenth century. My hometown inspired my love of eighteenth-century French studies, which led me to the Sorbonne, then to Yale University where I earned a PhD. Today, I am an Associate Professor at The Ohio State University. I am the author of eight novels and monographs published in France and the US, including American Pandemonium, Posthumous America, and Sentinel Island. My work explores numerous genres to question a number of recurring themes: exile and the representation of otherness; nostalgia and the experience of bereavement; the social impact of new technologies; America’s history and its troubled present.

Benjamin's book list on why people write books

Why did Benjamin love this book?

In this lively, elegant biography, Andrew Curran retraces the intellectual itinerary of a major eighteenth-century philosopher, Denis Diderot. Very few people ever lived and wrote with as much confidence in the power of posterity to recognize their greatness and the importance of their intellectual contribution after their death. Diderot, indeed, had to hide a significant proportion of his writings because they were just too controversial and ahead of their time. He believed that nothing was more inspirational than to work for the admiration of those who have yet to be born. Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely is a marvelous introduction to the Enlightenment through the portrait of one of its major thinkers, and a great way to understand why people write books for those they will never meet.

By Andrew S. Curran,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best Book of the Year – Kirkus Reviews

A spirited biography of the prophetic and sympathetic philosopher who helped build the foundations of the modern world.

Denis Diderot is often associated with the decades-long battle to bring the world’s first comprehensive Encyclopédie into existence. But his most daring writing took place in the shadows. Thrown into prison for his atheism in 1749, Diderot decided to reserve his best books for posterity–for us, in fact. In the astonishing cache of unpublished writings left behind after his death, Diderot challenged virtually all of his century's accepted truths, from the sanctity of monarchy,…


By Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou,

Book cover of Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Kirsten Menger-Anderson Author Of Doctor Olaf Van Schuler's Brain

From the list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna.

Who am I?

I first learned about life in 1930s Vienna from my grandfather’s memoir: Reminiscences of the Vienna Circle and the Mathematical Colloquium. I was fascinated by the time and place and began to read more about the era, which ultimately served as a setting for my novel, The Expert of Subtle Revisions (coming August 2024 from Henry Holt & Co). 

Kirsten's book list on love, loss, and logic in 1930s Vienna

Why did Kirsten love this book?

In the mood for a graphic novel starring Bertrand Russell and a supporting cast of famous thinkers like Whitehead, Frege, Gödel, and Wittgenstein? Logicomix is for you!

Flip to Chapter Six, “Incompleteness,” for a peek of Vienna in the 1930s. The logic and philosophy illustrated throughout provide a great context for the work of Vienna’s famous philosophical circle led by Moritz Schlick, whose 1936 murder provides a chilling contrast to the intellectual pursuits of that time.

By Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos Papadimitriou,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This brilliantly illustrated tale of reason, insanity, love and truth recounts the story of Bertrand Russell's life. Raised by his paternal grandparents, young Russell was never told the whereabouts of his parents. Driven by a desire for knowledge of his own history, he attempted to force the world to yield to his yearnings: for truth, clarity and resolve. As he grew older, and increasingly sophisticated as a philosopher and mathematician, Russell strove to create an objective language with which to describe the world - one free of the biases and slippages of the written word. At the same time, he…

Wittgenstein's Nephew

By Thomas Bernhard,

Book cover of Wittgenstein's Nephew

Daniel Ben-Horin Author Of Substantial Justice

From the list on funny international classics you (may) have not heard of.

Who am I?

Humor is based on surprise and the ‘foreign’ is often surprising. As I traveled all over the world for work, I searched out local authors and found myself laughing. It started with At Swim Two Birds and has never stopped.

Daniel's book list on funny international classics you (may) have not heard of

Why did Daniel love this book?

This short 1962 Austrian novel is a scream, literally and figuratively.

The Austrians don’t really know what to do with Bernhardt, who hated the country so trenchantly and yet is its finest twentieth-century writer. If you enjoy spending time in the S. Beckett’s zip code, you’ll love this book.

By Thomas Bernhard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


'If you haven't read Bernhard, you will not know of the most radical advance in fiction since Joyce ... My advice: dive in.' Lucy Ellmann

'I absolutely love Bernhard: he is one of the darkest and funniest writers ... A must read for everybody.' Karl Ove Knausgaard

It is 1967. Two men lie bedridden in separate wings of a Viennese hospital. The narrator, Thomas Bernhard, is stricken with a lung ailment; his friend Paul,…

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

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

From the list on starting out in philosophy.

Who am I?

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

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

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.

Aristotle Detective

By Margaret Doody,

Book cover of Aristotle Detective

Fred Van Lente Author Of Never Sleep

From the list on historical mysteries/thrillers set before World War II.

Who am I?

I love historical fiction because it’s the next best thing to the invention of time travel. Books can immerse you in a time and a place in a way that comics and movies can only gesture at. For books like Never Sleep I even make sure to cook the foods my characters are eating, to make sure the era is evoked for the readers in all five sense. I love fantasy and science fiction as the next person, but the idea of transporting people to times and places that actually happened, to the best of my skill as a dramatist and researcher, is a challenge I find irresistible as an author. 

Fred's book list on historical mysteries/thrillers set before World War II

Why did Fred love this book?

Strap on your toga, Watsonus, the game is afoot…or something like that.

Who needs Consulting Detective when you’ve got the literal inventor of logic on the case? The ancient Greek philosopher gets drawn into a messy case of murder defending the family of a former student.

I read this just after coming back from Athens—I wish I had it while I was there to compare the mentions in the text to real-life sites! 

By Margaret Doody,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Athens, 332BC - an unhappy city under the rule of the Macedonian 'barbarian' Alexander the Great. In the midst of this unrest, Boutades, an eminent citizen, is found brutally murdered. Suspicion falls heavily on young Philemon, and, by Athenian law, his cousin Stephanos is elected to defend his name in court. In desperation, Stephanos seeks assistance from Aristotle, his former mentor - and Aristotle turns Detective. The young, inexperienced boy and the great philosopher form a classically uneven partnership. Their efforts culminate in the gripping trial scene when Stephanos uses all the powers of rhetoric and oratory instilled in him…

Book cover of The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

Marc Wittmann Author Of Altered States of Consciousness: Experiences Out of Time and Self

From the list on the frontier areas of time in psychology and physics.

Who am I?

I am a research fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany. I studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) and Munich (Germany) and have a Ph.D. in Medical Psychology from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Between 2004 and 2009 I was Research Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego. My research in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience is focused on the perception of time in ordinary and altered states of consciousness. The investigation concerning the riddle of subjective time as based on the embodied self leads me to answers of what matters most, the nature of our existence as self-conscious beings.

Marc's book list on the frontier areas of time in psychology and physics

Why did Marc love this book?

The debate on the nature of time between Henri Bergson, one of the most important philosophers at that time, and Albert Einstein, happened on April 6, 1922. Although many people believe that Einstein gained the upper hand in this showdown, comparable perhaps only with the ‘rumble in the jungle’ between Foreman and Ali in 1974, matters are more complicated. Jimena Canales has written a thriller about this clash of cultures fighting about time. She opens up a cosmos of philosophy and physics embedded in culture and shows how one hour of talk in 1922 still has relevance 100 years later for what it means to be human.

By Jimena Canales,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Physicist & the Philosopher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On April 6, 1922, in Paris, Albert Einstein and Henri Bergson publicly debated the nature of time. Einstein considered Bergson's theory of time to be a soft, psychological notion, irreconcilable with the quantitative realities of physics. Bergson, who gained fame as a philosopher by arguing that time should not be understood exclusively through the lens of science, criticized Einstein's theory of time for being a metaphysics grafted on to science, one that ignored the intuitive aspects of time. The Physicist and the Philosopher tells the remarkable story of how this explosive debate transformed our understanding of time and drove a…

The Epictetus Club

By Jeff Traylor,

Book cover of The Epictetus Club

Kevin Vost Author Of The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living

From the list on modern books on Stoicism to help translate the ancient to now.

Who am I?

Kevin Vost earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at Adler University with internship and dissertation work at the Southern Illinois University’s Alzheimer Center. He first came to know and love the Stoics in the 1980s through his studies in cognitive psychotherapy. He has taught psychology and gerontology at the University of Illinois at Springfield and Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of twenty books on psychology, philosophy, physical fitness, and theology, with three more books in press, including Memorize the Stoics! The Ancient Art of Memory Meets the Timeless Art of Living.

Kevin's book list on modern books on Stoicism to help translate the ancient to now

Why did Kevin love this book?

I wanted to include a book of fiction that brings Stoic thought to life in our modern world, and this was a tough decision for me. I’d like to draw attention to a wonderful little 150-page gem that is not nearly as widely known. Traylor’s fascinating little novel is actually “fictionalized,” its characters being crafted from actual people. And who are these people? Neither philosophers nor psychologists captivated by Stoic thought, nor average Joes or Janes out on the street, but the inmates of maximum security prisons Traylor met while working as a counselor. Epictetus is the Stoic who teaches most about personal, internal, moral freedom, and self-control, having once been a slave himself. This book shows how well the ex-slave’s lessons can resonate with and morally transform anyone today who strives for such freedom, even if imprisoned behind steel bars. Please do find an hour or two to read…

By Jeff Traylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Take a fascinating look inside the old Ohio Penitentiary as you follow a group of inmates who meet weekly under the tutelage of a lifer named Zeno in a group called the Epictetus Club. The inmates study the teachings of this Greek philosopher, and with the help of his ancient wisdom they meet the daily challenges of their lives. Learning to think outside the limits of their own literal walls as they struggle to redeem themselves, the club members show us how to think beyond our own self-imposed limitations and comfort zones.

The Art of Being Right

By Arthur Schopenhauer,

Book cover of The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument

Roy van den Brink-Budgen Author Of Advanced Critical Thinking Skills

From the list on learning how to think critically.

Who am I?

I have been working in critical thinking since 1987. This work has taken me to many countries in the world, working with both teachers and students, business people and other decision-makers, and it continues to excite me greatly. I always stress that critical thinking shouldn’t be seen as just a set of technical skills, but that it should make a real difference to people. For example, I’ve used it in working with juvenile offenders who had committed violent crimes and was impressed by how it got them to look at their lives in a much more positive way. These books provide a range of ways into and around the subject.

Roy's book list on learning how to think critically

Why did Roy love this book?

Though people might argue that this isn’t technically a book on critical thinking, they need to look at the detail of the contents to see that it very much fits.

Though the celebrated philosopher Schopenhauer stressed that we should dedicate our lives "to truth", he recognised that out in the world there are "places of narrow-mindedness and incapacity that are so closely allied to obstinacy, vanity and dishonesty".

The strategies given in the book fit very well with many of the flaws identified in critical thinking such as over-generalising, begging the question, appealing to authority, and using false syllogisms. In this way, the critical thinker can spot the strategies and so turn the tables on the argumentative opponent, thus making them not (always) right.

By Arthur Schopenhauer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Controversial Dialectic is the art of disputing, and of disputing in such a way as to hold one’s own, whether one is in the right or the wrong — per fas et nefas. A man may be objectively in the right, and nevertheless in the eyes of bystanders, and sometimes in his own, he may come off worst. For example, I may advance a proof of some assertion, and my adversary may refute the proof, and thus appear to have refuted the assertion, for which there may, nevertheless, be other proofs. In this case, of course, my adversary and I…


By Jalal Al-Din Rumi,

Book cover of Rumi: The Path of Love

Wendy-O Matik Author Of Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships

From the list on to ignite the revolution and smash patriarchy.

Who am I?

As a rebellious woman who is passionate about words and the revolutionary force of books, I know the power of stories. Stories are the seeds that give life to your purpose. Stories give you a reason to fight the good fight, care about something bigger than yourself, and want to be a part of social justice and positive change. The daily grind can kick you down, but a good story can remind you that there's still time to rise up, speak truth to power, help others less fortunate, and commit to what you value most. The books that I’m recommending are meant to be your personal guide to what really matters most in life to you.

Wendy-O's book list on to ignite the revolution and smash patriarchy

Why did Wendy-O love this book?

There can be no revolution without love. The 13th-century Persian poet, Sufi philosopher, and Muslim scholar Rumi is the best guide to put you on the road to an open heart and to keep you in constant connection with our shared humanity. He is the ultimate lover because his words lift off the page and teach you how to be vulnerable and courageous with your heart.

By Jalal Al-Din Rumi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seven centuries after his death, the romantic poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi is presented here with 50 cards with a quotation from a Rumi poem on one side and a colour work of Middle Eastern Sufi or Islamic are on the other. The accompanying book has further illustrated selections and a life of Rumi.