The best Thomas Hobbes books 📚

Browse the best books on Thomas Hobbes as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Brief Lives - Volume I

Brief Lives - Volume I

By John Aubrey

Why this book?

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.
From the list:

The best group biographies

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Book cover of The Death of Woman Wang

The Death of Woman Wang

By Jonathan D. Spence

Why this book?

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…

From the list:

The best books on the 17th Century

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Book cover of The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness

By Epicurus

Why this book?

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.

From the list:

The best books on Epicureanism and its teachings

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Book cover of Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre

Eight Bookes of the Peloponnesian Warre

By Thomas Hobbes, David Grene

Why this book?

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…

From the list:

The best books to understand Thucydides

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

Potentia: Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

By Sandra Leonie Field

Why this book?

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…

From the list:

The best mostly recent books on Spinoza

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Book cover of The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

By Bill Watterson

Why this book?

Because Bill Watterson is a master. Creative kids, so often misunderstood, as Calvin is by his parents, (often understandably) there are no bad guys in this comic strip, aside from the imagined creations running amuck in Calvin’s wonderfully weird brain. The drawings are superb, a great mix of flat graphics and Disney dimensionality, and the writing a great insight into lone kids’ behavior. Watterson created a timeless masterpiece that influenced many comics that followed. 

From the list:

The best children’s books that tickled my toes

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