The most recommended philosophy books

Who picked these books? Meet our 1,423 experts.

1,423 authors created a book list connected to philosophy, and here are their favorite philosophy books.
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Book cover of Theaetetus

Steven R. Perkins Author Of Latin for Dummies

From my list on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books to grab and hold my attention. That’s what I like about music, too, which is why I co-host a heavy metal podcast when I’m not teaching Latin or writing books and articles. Having taught Latin and Classics for over thirty years from middle school through undergrad, I know what people enjoy about the Greco-Roman world and what they often missed out on in school. I love reading this stuff, too, whether prepping for class, doing research for my next publication, or while listening to head-banging greats of the ‘70s and ‘80s, so dig in and get ready to rock with the Romans and groove with the Greeks!

Steven's book list on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school

Steven R. Perkins Why did Steven love this book?

When people think of the great rock bands, they think of the hits, the songs that raced to #1. True fans know that there are some great, even better songs, on the flip sides of the albums, the so-called deep cuts. The same is true with writers like Plato. Few are familiar with his Theaetetus, but it is my favorite. It explores how we know what we know and proves the error of a slogan that is as popular today as it was in his time, “Man is the measure of all things.” Plato shows how logically silly that is, and in a fairly humorous way…if you like philosophical wit, that is.

By Plato,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

— A Classic — Includes Active Table of Contents — Includes Religious Illustrations

SOME dialogues of Plato are of so various a character that their relation to the other dialogues cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. The Theaetetus, like the Parmenides, has points of similarity both with his earlier and his later writings. The perfection of style, the humour, the dramatic interest, the complexity of structure, the fertility of illustration, the shifting of the points of view, are characteristic of his best period of authorship. The vain search, the negative conclusion, the figure of the midwives, the constant…

Book cover of The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain

Sean Prentiss Author Of Crosscut: Poems

From my list on trail building and traildogs.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1997, I was hired by the Northwest Youth Corps as a trail crew leader. That season, and across five more seasons, I built trails across the Pacific Northwest and Desert Southwest, including in many national parks. Since then, I have been in love with backpacking trails (including hiking the Long Trail and Colorado Trail), building trails, and writing about trails (Crosscut: Poems). I now live in Vermont with my wife and daughter. We have a trail we built that weaves through our woods.

Sean's book list on trail building and traildogs

Sean Prentiss Why did Sean love this book?

While I could list many great books on backpacking and hiking trails, there are few books devoted to trail building. I’ll leave behind trail building and focus on a poet, Cold Mountain, who, like those of us who were trail builders, lived in the woods. Cold Mountain, an ancient Chinese poet, wrote his poems on rocks and bark and scattered them across his Tiantai Mountains. These poems are beautiful meditations on landscapes, wildness, Taoism/Buddhism, and politics.

By Red Pine (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This authoritative, bilingual edition represents the first time the entirety of Cold Mountain's poetry has been translated into English.

These translations were originally published by Copper Canyon Press nearly twenty years ago. Now, significantly revised and expanded, the collection also includes a new preface by the translator, Red Pine, whose accompanying notes are at once scholarly, accessible, and entertaining. Also included for the first time are poems by two of Cold Mountain's colleagues.

Legendary for his clarity, directness, and lack of pretension, the eight-century hermit-poet Cold Mountain (Han Shan) is a major figure in the history of Chinese literature and…

Book cover of More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor

Paul Frank Spencer Author Of Marvelous Light

From my list on revealing God’s reality through metaphor.

Why am I passionate about this?

My very intelligent, very (self-described) un-literary father taught me all about the complexities and beauty of God. My librarian mother gave me the literature that would introduce me to the most profound descriptions of those complex beauties. As the author of Marvelous Light, numerous metaphor-dependent blog posts, and future allegorical novels, I hope to introduce each of my readers to the divine realities on which I depend daily.

Paul's book list on revealing God’s reality through metaphor

Paul Frank Spencer Why did Paul love this book?

Lakoff famously contends that metaphor is the crux of all human understanding. This classic academic, literary, philosophical, and sociological text suggests that at the root of what it means to be human is an absolute need to describe all experience and knowledge through comparison. Read More Than Cool Reason to begin gaining an appreciation for the theory of how metaphor makes us who we are and establishes our place in the universe.

By George Lakoff, Mark Turner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The authors restore metaphor to our lives by showing us that it's never gone away. We've merely been taught to talk as if it had: as though weather maps were more 'real' than the breath of autumn; as though, for that matter, Reason was really 'cool.' What we're saying whenever we say is a theme this book illumines for anyone attentive." - Hugh Kenner, Johns Hopkins University

"In this bold and powerful book, Lakoff and Turner continue their use of metaphor to show how our minds get hold of the world. They have achieved nothing less than a postmodern Understanding…

Book cover of The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love

Merle R. Saferstein Author Of Living and Leaving My Legacy, Vol. 1

From my list on legacy and legacy projects.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my 26 years as a Holocaust educator, I worked closely with hundreds of Holocaust survivors helping them to pass along their legacy of remembrance to thousands of students and teachers. When I retired, I developed and began teaching a course entitled Living and Leaving Your Legacy®. Since 2012, I have taught 64 classes and have spoken to audiences locally, nationally, and internationally. My goal is to help people understand that how we live our lives becomes our legacy. I have worked with individuals at the end of their lives helping them to do sacred legacy work and have trained hospice staffs and volunteers to do the same.

Merle's book list on legacy and legacy projects

Merle R. Saferstein Why did Merle love this book?

While the art of letter writing has become a thing of the past, in The Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love Rabbi Elana Zaiman shows the reader how sharing insights and beliefs can have a profound effect on one’s family. She tells personal stories as well as those from others in the hopes of inspiring readers to transmit their life lessons and who they are in a forever  letter—something that can be passed down through generations of loved ones. Rabbi Zaiman suggests that the readers share their values in a letter so that it becomes a gift for both the writer and the receiver. After reading this book, I wrote a forever letter to my children and have encouraged my students to do the same for their loved ones.

By Elana Zaiman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Connect with your family and friends in a meaningful way through the forever letter, a message to impart your values, articulate your feelings, and deepen relationships. Elana Zaiman transforms the little known Jewish tradition of writing an ethical will into an important tool for anyone to use. This simple and engaging book shows you not only the origins of this tradition, but also gives specific, practical guidance and encouragement on writing your own letter. You ll discover the author s personal stories; examples from her forever letter workshops; and related wisdom from literature, philosophy, and psychology. This book will lead…

Book cover of The Greek Concept of Nature

J. Baird Callicott Author Of Greek Natural Philosophy: The Presocratics and Their Importance for Environmental Philosophy

From my list on how and why science began.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied Greek philosophy in college and graduate school and wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on Plato. In response to the environmental crisis, first widely recognized in the 1960s, I turned my philosophical attention to that contemporary challenge, which, with the advent of climate change, has by now proved to be humanity’s greatest. I taught the world’s first course in environmental ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1971 and, with a handful of other philosophers, helped build a literature in this new field over the course of the next decade—a literature that has subsequently grown exponentially. With Greek Natural Philosophy, I rekindled the romance with my first love. 

J.'s book list on how and why science began

J. Baird Callicott Why did J. love this book?

According to the Bible the world was created by God. In Greek mythology, the world was born of Gaia (Earth) sired by Ouranos (Sky).

The Greek natural philosophers retained this assumption but demythologized it. Their word “phusis“ translates into English as “nature” (which is of Latin origin, itself originally meaning “birth”). The words “physics,” “physical,” “physician,” etc. are derivatives. As Nadaff explains, the primal meaning of “phusis“ is “growth” and the principal project of early Greek science was to explain the birth and growth of the cosmos.

Because humans and human society are worldly things, they are parts of nature and the order of nature is reflected in the human social order. But actually the human social order was projected onto nature. Thus, for example, do we speak of the “laws” of nature.

By Gerard Naddaf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explores the origin and evolution of the Greek concept of nature up until the time of Plato.

Book cover of Incerto: Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes, Antifragile, Skin in the Game

Silvi Simberg Author Of Eysin

From my list on to reduce anxiety about uncertainty.

Why am I passionate about this?

All of these books come with elements of uncertainty and risk – it takes heroism (or stupidity) to tackle them head-on. Fantasy and Science Fiction are nice settings for it – authors can and have conjured up situations that we possibly couldn’t tackle in the real world – but their solutions are often very much what we would go with in the real world. Besides, anxiety creates problems. The more we have anxious, unprepared people – the more problems we get – which is why it should be important to learn everything one can about uncertainty, heroics (and not the pathological kind), and risk.

Silvi's book list on to reduce anxiety about uncertainty

Silvi Simberg Why did Silvi love this book?

Incerto, that is Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, Antifragile and Skin in the Game (+ Bed of Procrustes, which is a collection of very smart aphorisms) are not exactly fiction, but maestro added fiction into it anyway. Nero, Fat Tony, Jevgenia demonstrate on unrelated occasions how the ideas and properties (found in the "real world" discussed in the book would unfold. The overall theme of the book, however, discusses risk - risk-taking. And believe it or not, risk exists in all domains of life, hence, using this book to meditate on it deeply made me appreciate... It made me appreciate life, and all things in life  more than I used to. It might sound like a lot, and it is... If there is just one non-fiction book you will read, make it Taleb's Incerto.

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The landmark five-book series—all together in one ebook bundle

The Incerto is an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision making when we don’t understand the world, expressed in the form of a personal essay with autobiographical sections, stories, parables, and philosophical, historical, and scientific discussions, in non-overlapping volumes that can be accessed in any order. The main thread is that while there is inordinate uncertainty about what is going on, there is great certainty as to what one should do about it.

This ebook bundle includes:

Book cover of Totally Random: Why Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics (A Serious Comic on Entanglement)

Michael G. Raymer Author Of Quantum Physics: What Everyone Needs to Know

From my list on quantum physics and quantum technology for beginners.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of physics, passionate about researching physics and inspiring non-scientists to enjoy learning about physics. My research addresses how to use quantum physics to accelerate the development of quantum information science including quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum measurement. My current projects are in developing quantum satellite communications, increasing the precision of telescopes, and constructing a quantum version of the Internet—the Quantum Internet. These topics revolve around quantum optics—the study of how light interacts with matter. I originated the idea of a National Quantum Initiative and lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass it into law, resulting in large investments in the new, exciting field of quantum technology.

Michael's book list on quantum physics and quantum technology for beginners

Michael G. Raymer Why did Michael love this book?

The subtitle of this book is A Serious Comic on Entanglement. Normally I am not fond of comic-style presentations of physics (although I do love comics, as my Conan the Barbarian collection can attest). But I am happy to make an exception for this excellent book, written by a daughter-father team, the father being one of the leading philosophers of physics and the daughter being an artist and web designer. All the deep physics is there, presented in a fun, reader-friendly style. The acknowledgments section credits six ‘reviewers,’ ages 12 to 15, for reviewing and helping edit the book – now that’s inter-generational! 

By Tanya Bub, Jeffrey Bub,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An eccentric comic about the central mystery of quantum mechanics

Totally Random is a comic for the serious reader who wants to really understand the central mystery of quantum mechanics--entanglement: what it is, what it means, and what you can do with it.

Measure two entangled particles separately, and the outcomes are totally random. But compare the outcomes, and the particles seem as if they are instantaneously influencing each other at a distance-even if they are light-years apart. This, in a nutshell, is entanglement, and if it seems weird, then this book is for you. Totally Random is a graphic…

Book cover of How to Stop a Conspiracy: An Ancient Guide to Saving a Republic

Emily Katz Anhalt Author Of Embattled: How Ancient Greek Myths Empower Us to Resist Tyranny

From my list on why Ancient Greece and Rome matter today.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first visited ancient Greece as an undergraduate. Homer and Plato seemed to speak directly to me, addressing my deepest questions. How do you live a good life? What should you admire? What should you avoid? Frustrated by English translations (each offers a different interpretation), I learned to read ancient Greek and then Latin. In college and then graduate school, I came to know Homer, Plato, Aeschylus, Cicero, Ovid, and many others in their own words. The ancient Greeks and Romans faced the same existential struggles and anxieties as we do. By precept, example, and counter-example, they remind me of humanity’s best tools: discernment, deliberation, empathy, generosity.

Emily's book list on why Ancient Greece and Rome matter today

Emily Katz Anhalt Why did Emily love this book?

Osgood details the ancient version of a phenomenon we may recognize: a cold-blooded grift by a charismatic, lawless, leader transmuted into terrorism while posing as patriotism.

Detailing the violent conspiracy of L. Sergius Catilina (63 BCE), Osgood’s elegant translation of Sallust’s The War Against Catiline (c. 43 BCE) emphasizes the danger that political violence and intimidation pose to communal welfare and stability. The Romans never found the recipe for combining individual freedom with equality and political harmony. (Rome’s 450-year-old Republic ultimately devolved into civil war and autocracy.)

Sallust’s tale and Rome’s experience caution us against preserving inequities even as we seek to preserve the rule of law.

By Sallust, Josiah Osgood (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Stop a Conspiracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An energetic new translation of an ancient Roman masterpiece about a failed coup led by a corrupt and charismatic politician

In 63 BC, frustrated by his failure to be elected leader of the Roman Republic, the aristocrat Catiline tried to topple its elected government. Backed by corrupt elites and poor, alienated Romans, he fled Rome while his associates plotted to burn the city and murder its leading politicians. The attempted coup culminated with the unmasking of the conspirators in the Senate, a stormy debate that led to their execution, and the defeat of Catiline and his legions in battle. In…

Book cover of Meditations

George J. Siedel Author Of Seven Essentials for Business Success

From my list on leadership that doesn’t have “leadership” in the title.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I headed the Executive Education Center at the University of Michigan I had the opportunity to meet with many great leaders and observe them in action. I also enjoy interacting with faculty colleagues who conduct state-of-the-art research on leadership. Because of this experience, I believe that leaders are made, not born, and that reading biographies, psychological studies, philosophical commentary, histories, and fiction like the books on my list is one of the best ways to gain insight into what you need to become a great leader. 

George's book list on leadership that doesn’t have “leadership” in the title

George J. Siedel Why did George love this book?

Leaders should develop a philosophy of life—a north star that will guide them through difficult times. This timeless classic by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius provides a combination of wisdom and practical advice that serves as a reference both for those in a leadership position and for individuals seeking a deeper understanding of their daily lives. Here is a sample: “The longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.”

By Marcus Aurelius, Maxwell Staniforth (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Penguin Great Ideas edition of Stoic philosophy in wise and practical aphorisms that have inspired Bill Clinton, Ryan Holiday, Anna Kendrick and many more.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161-180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus's insights and advice-on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others-have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen…

Book cover of The Risk of a Lifetime: How, When, and Why Procreation May Be Permissible

Trevor Hedberg Author Of The Environmental Impact of Overpopulation: The Ethics of Procreation

From my list on philosophers about whether it’s okay to have kids.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been researching and teaching about moral issues for more than a decade. How people procreate and how often they procreate has a huge impact on both the children born and others who interact with them. Yet even in academic philosophy – a discipline that often questions the appropriateness of ordinary behavior – the moral scrutiny of having children has been lacking. As I observed the population continue to rise and the circumstances of future people become more precarious, I thought the ethics of procreation needed deeper investigation. I hope my recent work on this topic will help others think more carefully about the moral complexities of having and raising children.

Trevor's book list on philosophers about whether it’s okay to have kids

Trevor Hedberg Why did Trevor love this book?

Rivka Weinberg’s theory of when procreation is permissible and why is one of the most well-defended accounts of reproductive ethics.

The subtitle alludes to the book’s unique approach – the idea that procreation should be an exercise in risk management. All children face the risk of serious harm, so we should only procreate when we are able to do an awful lot to mitigate that risk.

What struck me most about Weinberg’s approach was its theoretical rigor and systematicity. Her account of the ethics of procreation is more thorough and cohesive than other work on the subject I have encountered, and her conclusions, while not being as stark as an antinatalist outlook, are nevertheless provocative.

By Rivka Weinberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Having children is probably as old as the first successful organism. It is often done thoughtlessly. This book is an argument for giving procreating some serious thought, and a theory of how, when, and why procreation may be permissible.
procreative ethics, procreation itself is often done Rivka Weinberg begins with an analysis of the kind of act procreativity is and why we might be justifiably motivated to engage in it. She then proceeds to argue that, by virtue of our ownership and control of the hazardous material that is our gametes, we are parentally responsible for the risks we take…