The best Thomas Hobbes books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Thomas Hobbes and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Brief Lives - Volume I

By John Aubrey,

Book cover of Brief Lives - Volume I

John Aubrey’s gossipy Lives allow us to glimpse the unofficial side of his famous contemporaries and near-contemporaries, among them Thomas Hobbes (whom he knew), Shakespeare (who died ten years before he was born), Sir Walter Raleigh, and many others. You can dip in and out, and if you haven’t read them, this is a treat in store.

Brief Lives - Volume I

By John Aubrey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brief Lives - Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Brief Lives - Volume I" from John Aubrey. English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer (1626 – 1697).


Who am I?

I love writing group biographies (I‘ve written four and my next book, Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art, will be another). I enjoy the intellectual scope they offer, the way they let you explore a world. I’m less interested in the details of individual lives than in the opportunity biography offers to explore social history, and group biography is particularly suited to that. They’re not easy to do, it’s no good putting down just one damn life after another, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the shape that will let me fit everyone’s personalities and ideas into a coherent story. 


I wrote...

Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945

By Ruth Brandon,

Book cover of Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945

What is my book about?

Surrealism brings certain visual images to mind: Magritte’s rain of bowler-hatted men, Salvador Dali’s waxed mustaches, and soft watches. But Surrealism began among poets whose aim was to create a political and artistic revolution combining the visions of Freud, Marx, and Sade, in which a horror like World War 1 could never recur.

The movement’s leader was André Breton, and the story of Surrealism is really about what was going on inside Breton’s head at any given time. A man of the utmost gravity – indeed, almost totally without humour – his movement was full of jokes. Irresistibly charming, he was also rigid, bullying, humourless and unforgiving. Passionate about freedom, both personal and artistic, he was totalitarian in his impulses, a dictator in the age of dictators. What was the secret of his charisma? And can these two impulses – to freedom and to total control – possibly be reconciled? 

Book cover of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

While not technically a graphic novel, Calvin and Hobbes consistently deliver the cleverest, funniest, most biting, and most profound adventures to be found anywhere. The adventures of Spaceman Spiff and Tracer Bullet are unforgettable. But even just Calvin’s flights of imagination, walking in the woods or playing in the yard, or even trapped in a classroom, remind us that our imaginations may be the most thrilling and exotic place there is, and adventure is only a daydream away. These stories can be enjoyed by children for the thrills and laughs alone, or by adults for their layers of trenchant commentary. Like most cartoonists I know, Calvin and Hobbes shaped my worldview, made me want to be a cartoonist, and is still my favorite strip.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

By Bill Watterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Calvin and Hobbesis unquestionably one of the most popular comic strips of all time. The imaginative world of a boy and his real-only-to-him tiger was first syndicated in 1985 and appeared in more than 2,400 newspapers when Bill Watterson retired on January 1, 1996. The entire body of Calvin and Hobbescartoons was originally published in hardcover as a truly noteworthy tribute to this singular cartoon in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. Available for the first time in paperback, these four full-colour volumes in a sturdy slipcase include all the Calvin and Hobbescartoons that ever appeared in syndication. This is the…


Who am I?

In my opinion, a good adventure story does two things at once: it compels you to turn pages, while, paradoxically, also enticing you to get off the couch and go out into the beautiful, magical world, pregnant with unlimited possibilities, right outside your door, just waiting for you to notice it. I’ve hitchhiked, I’ve been lost in the jungle, I’ve sailed, I’ve run whitewater rivers, and I’ve written and drawn New Yorker cartoons and picture books. I hope these books are as hard for you to put down as they were for me, and when you do put ‘em down, it’s only to throw on your rucksack and head out in search of adventure!


I wrote...

Red Scare: A Graphic Novel

By Liam Francis Walsh,

Book cover of Red Scare: A Graphic Novel

What is my book about?

Peggy is scared: She's struggling to recover from polio and needs crutches to walk, and she and her neighbors are worried about the rumors of Communist spies doing bad things. On top of all that, Peggy has a hard time at school and gets taunted by her classmates. When she finds a mysterious artifact that gives her the ability to fly, she thinks it's the solution to all her problems. But if Peggy wants to keep it, she'll have to overcome bullies, outsmart FBI agents, and escape from some very strange spies!

Calvin and Hobbes

By Bill Watterson,

Book cover of Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995

Who doesn’t like Calvin and Hobbes, a fun comic strip about a silly first grader and his sidekick best buddy tiger? Calvin and Hobbes is heartwarming, mischievous, and speaks to every kid with their imagination and sense of adventure. Plus, the reason why I put it on this list: it’s easy to read. The engaging, four-panel comic strips are a digestible size for someone struggling with word comprehension. Not only is Calvin a lovable and relatable character with his little adventures being dynamic, action-packed, and hilarious, it’s proven to engage any reluctant reader. I can attest as Calvin and Hobbes was one of the very few books I voluntarily read as a kid – and I loved it. 

Calvin and Hobbes

By Bill Watterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrating an exhibit of ten years of Sunday comics featuring the beloved boy and his tiger, Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995 is sure to bring back memories.

New York Times best-seller!

Everyone misses Calvin and Hobbes.

It reinvented the newspaper comic strip at a time when many had all but buried the funnies as a vehicle for fresh, creative work. Then Bill Watterson came along and reminded a new generation of what older readers and comic strip aficionados knew: A well-written and beautifully drawn strip is an intricate, powerful form of communication. And with Calvin and Hobbes, we had…


Who am I?

Growing up, there was nothing I hated more than reading. Struggling with dyslexia and learning disabilities made books miserable and the distractions of screens didn’t help. However, everything changed when I discovered graphic novels and comics! That led to a newfound love of stories and books (especially graphic novels) which took me on a journey of not being able to read at age ten, to publishing my first novel at age fifteen. Since then, I’ve written and illustrated children’s books and young adult novels, but Mup is my first graphic novel. This has inspired me to create more graphic novels designed specifically for those who are just like me – reluctant readers.


I wrote...

Mup

By Raea Gragg,

Book cover of Mup

What is my book about?

Adventure awaits and Mup is ready for it. But with one bad wish, a creeping disaster unfolds and Mup finds herself trapped in the future, face-to-face with the one person she never wanted to become: her teenage self. With the world's plants dying all around them, the girls must overcome their differences and work together to uncover the secret to the planet's survival—which may have something to do with a forgotten mystery of the earth's prehistoric past.

Illustrated with captivating artwork and fast-paced comic-book-style action, this story tackles global environmental disasters while zeroing in on the greatest challenge of all: staying true to yourself.

Book cover of Inspector Hobbes and the Blood

In the depths of the Cotswolds, Andy Caplet is a small-town journalist with a disastrous career (and life). Until, that is, the mysterious Inspector Hobbes offers him a spare room and the chance to follow along on some investigations. The only problem being, none of the cases are exactly the usual sort of crime, and Inspector Hobbes is not a usual inspector. Or a usual human. These stories are just fun, goofy escapism, caught somewhere between cosy mystery and urban fantasy, and they’re pure entertainment. Andy can be a bit annoying, but Inspector Hobbes is delightful.

Inspector Hobbes and the Blood

By Wilkie Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inspector Hobbes and the Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A reporter with nothing to lose. An inspector with something to hide. The Cotswolds’ newest odd couple is on the case…

Of all the journalists at his small-town paper, Andy Caplet is far and away the worst. At least he has a job. But when his latest expose on the strange and scandalous Inspector Hobbes backfires, Andy is left broke and homeless. The inspector’s offer of a spare room for a few days (or months) seems like the only option…

Andy agrees to accompany the inspector to investigate a sudden surge in crime and soon finds himself immersed in a…


Who am I?

Although I’m from New Zealand, Europe has been home for a lot of my adult life, and that has included a lot of time in North Yorkshire. It always seems to me that there’s potential for magic around every corner, in the deep sinkholes and high fells of the Dales, or the cobbled charm of the York Shambles and the loom of the Abbey over Whitby harbour. So I do feel that the fact so many stories are set in London is a waste of so many delightfully different settings, and I make a point of hunting out as many alternatives as I can. I hope you enjoy this selection!


I wrote...

Gobbelino London & a Scourge of Pleasantries

By Kim M. Watt,

Book cover of Gobbelino London & a Scourge of Pleasantries

What is my book about?

Find a missing book. That was the job the woman in the Doc Martens gave us. Easy money, right? Only now it seems she’s actually an ancient, powerful sorcerer, and the book is a Book of Power that doesn’t want to be found. It wants to tear reality apart at the seams, and it’ll use anyone it can to do it. So now we’ve got one spectacularly displeased sorcerer, a hungry, still-missing book, a dentist with bad hygiene, and a neighbourhood having some reality issues to deal with. Plus about a day before the book turns our world – and us – inside out.

We’ve totally got this. I hope.

The Death of Woman Wang

By Jonathan D. Spence,

Book cover of The Death of Woman Wang

We know more about “ordinary people” from the 17th century than any previous period. Some wrote their autobiographies; others left life histories written by friends or family; others still appeared in multiple sources that historians can link to reconstitute their existence. Most of the surviving evidence concerns males, but Jonathan Spence’s book about a region in northwest China examines the impact of floods, plagues, famines, banditry, and heavy taxation on women as well as men. One of those women was an unhappy wife – we don’t even know her name – who ran away from her husband with her lover but reluctantly returned when abandoned by the lover. Her husband then murdered her. Woman Wang thus epitomized the verdict of her English contemporary, Thomas Hobbes, that life in the 17th century was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

The Death of Woman Wang

By Jonathan D. Spence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Spence shows himself at once historian, detective, and artist. . . . He makes history howl." (The New Republic)

Award-winning author Jonathan D. Spence paints a vivid picture of an obscure place and time: provincial China in the seventeenth century. Life in the northeastern county of T'an-ch'eng emerges here as an endless cycle of floods, plagues, crop failures, banditry, and heavy taxation. Against this turbulent background a tenacious tax collector, an irascible farmer, and an unhappy wife act out a poignant drama at whose climax the wife, having run away from her husband, returns to him, only to die at…


Who am I?

I teach history at The Ohio State University. This project began when I listened in 1976 to a radio broadcast in which Jack Eddy, a solar physicist, speculated that a notable absence of sunspots in the period 1645-1715 contributed to the “Little Ice Age”: the longest and most severe episode of global cooling recorded in the last 12,000 years. The Little Ice Age coincided with a wave of wars and revolution around the Northern Hemisphere, from the overthrow of the Ming dynasty in China to the beheading of Charles I in England. I spent the next 35 years exploring how the connections between natural and human events created a fatal synergy that produced human mortality on a scale seldom seen before – and never since.


I wrote...

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

By Geoffrey Parker,

Book cover of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

What is my book about?

Global Crisis examines how a fatal synergy between climate change and human inflexibility eradicated one-third of the planet’s human population and unleashed an unparalleled spate of wars, invasions, and revolutions. Personal accounts and scientific data alike show how extreme weather disrupted growing seasons and destroyed harvests, bringing hunger, malnutrition, forced migration, and disease, and then, as material conditions worsened, precipitated economic chaos, political anarchy, and social collapse. 

Although humans played no part in causing this episode of climate change, they still suffered and died from the primary effect: a 2ºC fall in global temperatures. The fact that today we face an increase of 2ºC will not reduce either the extreme weather events associated with changes of this magnitude, or the adverse consequences for humanity. My book has a moral: where climate change is concerned, in the 21st century as in the 17th century it’s better – and cheaper – to prepare than to repair.

Book cover of The Art of Happiness

Epicurus wrote a series of letters summarizing his philosophy and we also have a couple of sets of short aphorisms that report key ideas. All of these are translated in this volume, along with the ancient biography of Epicurus and a substantial introduction. For any one keen to learn more about Epicureanism, the first thing to reader are his letters, especially the Letter to Menoeceus and the Letter to Herodotus.

The Art of Happiness

By Epicurus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The teachings of Epicurus-about life and death, religion and science, physical sensation, happiness, morality, and friendship-attracted legions of adherents throughout the ancient Mediterranean world and deeply influenced later European thought. Though Epicurus faced hostile opposition for centuries after his death, he counts among his many admirers Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Jefferson, Karl Marx, and Isaac Newton. This volume includes all of his extant writings-his letters, doctrines, and Vatican sayings-alongside parallel passages from the greatest exponent of his philosophy, Lucretius, extracts from Diogenes Laertius' Life of Epicurus, a lucid introductory essay about Epicurean philosophy, and a foreword by Daniel Klein, author of…


Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.


I wrote...

The Pocket Epicurean

By John Sellars,

Book cover of The Pocket Epicurean

What is my book about?

A short, smart guide to living the good life through an introduction to the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we've been in search of what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own answer: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word "Epicurean" with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy that Epicurus established was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the vision of an ideal life developed by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquillity or contentment.

Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre

By Thomas Hobbes, David Grene,

Book cover of Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre

There are lots of excellent modern translations of Thucydides (I tend to recommend either the Oxford World Classics edition by Martin Hammond or the CUP one by Jeremy Mynott), and Hobbes’ version, the first proper translation into English, is not the easiest place to start, not least because at times you effectively have to translate it out of seventeenth-century English. It is powerfully and elegantly written, and above all it offers the spectacle of one great thinker on matters of politics and war engaging with another – you can almost feel Hobbes developing his own ideas (some of which later appeared in works of original philosophy like Leviathan) as he works to make sense of Thucydides’ ideas. If you read nothing else, the introduction To the Readers and the sketch of Thucydides’ life and work are short and brilliantly insightful, capturing the particular nature of Thucydides’ text –…

Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre

By Thomas Hobbes, David Grene,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book.


Who am I?

I’m a historian and classicist, teaching at the University of Exeter. I am equally interested in classical Greece and Rome, especially their economy and society, and in the ways that classical ideas and examples have been influential in the modern world.


I wrote...

Thucydides and the Idea of History

By Neville Morley,

Book cover of Thucydides and the Idea of History

What is my book about?

The ancient Greek writer Thucydides is widely acclaimed as a model historian, someone who managed to anticipate the key principles of studying the past objectively two and a half thousand years before the development of modern historiography. But in fact, while almost everyone praises Thucydides, they praise him for different and sometimes contradictory things - and they ignore aspects of his work that don't fit their own model of what history should be. In this book I explore the whole tradition of reading Thucydides since the Renaissance, to show how much more complex and debatable his approach to history actually was - and to reveal how it raises questions about our own assumptions about the true nature of history-writing.

Potentia

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Book cover of Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

It is impossible to read Spinoza and not think often of Thomas Hobbes. Spinoza read Hobbes’s works and was clearly influenced by the English philosopher both in his account of human nature and, especially, in his political thinking. This is, as far as I know, the first book devoted explicitly to the two thinkers together. Field’s focus is on the political, and she does a beautiful job of analyzing and distinguishing different conceptions of ‘power’ (both in the individual and in the group), as well as illuminating similarities and contrasts between these two of the most important early modern thinkers on politics and the state.

Potentia

By Sandra Leonie Field,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We live in an age of growing dissatisfaction with the standard operations of representative democracy. The solution, according to a long radical democratic tradition, is the unmediated power of the people. Mass plebiscites and mass protest movements are celebrated as the quintessential expression of popular power, and this power promises to transcend ordinary institutional politics. But the outcomes of mass political phenomena can be just as disappointing as the
ordinary politics they sought to overcome, breeding skepticism about democratic politics in all its forms.

Potentia argues that the very meaning of popular power needs to be rethought. It offers a…


Who am I?

I have immersed myself in the study of seventeenth-century philosophy for almost forty years. Over that time, I have become particularly devoted to Spinoza. This is because, first, I think he got it all pretty much right; his views on religion, on human nature, and especially on what it is to lead a good life have always struck me as correct and relevant. You can be a Spinozist today, three and a half centuries after his death, and it would make perfect sense. Second, Spinoza is endlessly fascinating. I find that every time I read him⎯and I’ve been reading and re-reading him for a long time now⎯it gets more difficult. Just when you think you know him, there are always new questions that arise and new puzzles to solve.


I wrote...

Book cover of Think Least of Death: Spinoza on How to Live and How to Die

What is my book about?

In 1656, after being excommunicated from Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish community for “abominable heresies” and “monstrous deeds,” the young Bento (Baruch) de Spinoza abandoned his family’s import business to dedicate his life to philosophy. He soon became notorious across Europe for his views on God, free will, the Bible, and miracles, as well as for his critique of organized religion and his uncompromising defense of freedom of thought and expression. Yet the radicalism of Spinoza’s views has long obscured the fact that his primary reason for turning to philosophy was to answer one of our most urgent questions: How can we lead a good life and enjoy happiness in a world without a providential God?

In this book, I discuss Spinoza’s ideas in the context of his life and times and show how his work can provide us today with a guide to living one’s best life.

Leviathan

By Thomas Hobbes,

Book cover of Leviathan

Hobbes’ attention to the meaning of words and his prose make this book well worth reading. If you find the beginning of Part I hard going, leaf through it and slow down as you come to last chapters of that first part of the book. Those and Part II are particularly engaging and make one think about the meaning of liberty, the nature of obedience, and the extent to which we are obliged to obey the state. Hobbes has interesting things to say about mercy and forgiveness, which might not be expected given the way he tends to be a caricatured. Another good book to read for oneself.

Leviathan

By Thomas Hobbes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short'

Written during the chaos of the English Civil War, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan asks how, in a world of violence and horror, can we stop ourselves from descending into anarchy? Hobbes' case for a 'common-wealth' under a powerful sovereign - or 'Leviathan' - to enforce security and the rule of law, shocked his contemporaries, and his book was publicly burnt for sedition the moment it was published. But his penetrating work of political philosophy opened up questions about the nature of statecraft and society that influenced governments across the world.

Edited…


Who am I?

I have had the privilege to teach the history of political theory from Plato to today for decades and to discuss texts such as the five I mentioned with very gifted students. No matter how often I return to such works, I always find something new in them and it is a pleasure to see how students learn to love reading for themselves what can be daunting works, once they overcome the fear of opening the great works and the initial challenge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century prose.


I wrote...

Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

By Sylvana Tomaselli,

Book cover of Wollstonecraft: Philosophy, Passion, and Politics

What is my book about?

Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, first published in 1792, is a work of enduring relevance in women’s rights advocacy. However, as Sylvana Tomaselli shows, a full understanding of Wollstonecraft’s thought is possible only through a more comprehensive appreciation of Wollstonecraft herself, as a philosopher and moralist who deftly tackled major social and political issues and the arguments of such figures as Edmund Burke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Adam Smith. Reading Wollstonecraft through the lens of the politics and culture of her own time, this book restores her to her rightful place as a major eighteenth-century thinker, reminding us why her work still resonates today.

Book cover of Frances and the Monster

A visual and cinematic adventure that sweeps you through a pre-WWII version of Switzerland, this Frankenstein-inspired story is jam-packed with action and humor. The primary characters are all idiosyncratic in a memorable way—Frances, who lost an ear in a car crash; Fritz, the monkey juiced up on intelligence serum; and Hobbes, the android tutor. Even the secondary characters are crafted with heart and colorfully distinct in their own respects. The cliff-hangers and twists pushed the action along and I’m sure this will be a story kids read late into the night wanting to find out what happens next. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Frances and the Monster

By Refe Tuma,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What would you do if you accidentally brought a monster to life and set him loose on your town?

Adventurous and charming, this middle grade twist on Frankenstein features a precocious main character who does just that. Perfect for fans of Serafina and the Black Cloak and the Greenglass House series.

Frances Stenzel was just trying to prove her scientific worth to her parents so they would take her with them to their scientific symposiums for once-instead, she reawakened her great-grandfather's secret and most terrible invention.

Before it can destroy the town, she sets off after it, with her pet…


Who am I?

I love to read a good action-adventure story. I’ve also written a few. And I know that no matter how high the stakes, if there’s no heart in the characters then there’s very little engagement to make it any more memorable than a temporary thrill. I love thrills, but the stories that stick with you after the excitement of the moment is over, those are the true gems. Besides the fun of reading that type of book, maybe you even learn something about yourself or the world and come out a wee bit wiser than when you went in. And isn’t that a fantastic use of our imaginative powers?!


I wrote...

The Eye of Ra

By Ben Gartner,

Book cover of The Eye of Ra

What is my book about?

Exploring a mysterious cave in the mountains behind their house, John and his sister Sarah are shocked to discover they’ve time traveled to ancient Egypt!

Now they must work together to find a way back home from an ancient civilization of golden desert sand and a towering new pyramid, without parents to save them. The adventures abound—cobras, scorpions, a tomb robber, and more! The two kids have to trust each other, make friends who can help, and survive the challenges thrown at them . . . or be stuck in ancient Egypt forever.

Or, view all 13 books about Thomas Hobbes

New book lists related to Thomas Hobbes

All book lists related to Thomas Hobbes

Bookshelves related to Thomas Hobbes