The Best Philosophy Books of 2021, recommended by Nigel Warburton

Nigel Warburton—the philosopher, broadcaster and creator of the popular Philosophy Bites podcast—selects five of the best public philosophy books published in 2021, including a defence of righteous rage, an examination of the concept of ‘time management,’ and an intellectual biography of the political philosopher and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt.

The Best Nietzsche Books, recommended by Brian Leiter

Relativist, atheist, existentialist, Nazi. All have been said of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, some with more reason than others. In 2011, we asked Nietzsche expert Brian Leiter to explain the appeal of the controversial philosopher and to recommend books by and about him. In September (2020) our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, asked Brian about some of the latest Nietzsche books, notable works that have come out in the decade since we first spoke to him.

The Best Plato Books, recommended by Melissa Lane

Plato came from a politically active family, but renounced politics to become a philosopher. Or did he? Professor Melissa Lane of Princeton University recommends the best books to get a better understanding of the Greek philosopher Plato, including his most famous work, the Republic.

The best books on Spinoza, recommended by Steven Nadler

In 1656 Baruch Spinoza was thrown out by Amsterdam’s Portuguese-Jewish congregation for ‘abominable heresies’ and ‘monstrous deeds’, ensuring he would be forever remembered as a radical thinker. Here Steven Nadler, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of a number of books on Spinoza, talks us through the life and work of the 17th century philosopher whose worldview remains, in many ways, remarkably modern.

The best books on Hannah Arendt, recommended by Samantha Rose Hill

Unimpressed by the response of philosophers to the rise of Nazism in her native Germany, Hannah Arendt rejected the notion of being a philosopher and said she was a political theorist. Samantha Rose Hill, writer and formerly assistant director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, talks us through Hannah Arendt’s life and work—and suggests which books to read if we want to learn more about her and her ideas.

Life-Changing Philosophy Books, recommended by Eric Weiner

Can philosophy change your life? Yes, says bestselling author Eric Weiner, though partly by making it more complicated. Here, he picks five works of life-changing philosophy, from Epictetus to Jacob Needleman, a professor (emeritus) at San Francisco State University.

The best books on World Philosophy, recommended by Bryan Van Norden

The study of philosophy in the Western world is often parochial, and limited to the study of the Anglo-European tradition. It’s time to widen our focus, advises the author and philosopher Bryan Van Norden. Here he selects five foundational texts of philosophical traditions worldwide.

The best books on Logic, recommended by Tom Stoneham

Logic is an excellent form of mind-training because it involves a very particular way of thinking and focus on truth. But how does it work and what are its limitations? Tom Stoneham, a professor of philosophy at the University of York, picks some great books for anyone who wants to learn more about logic.

Key Philosophical Texts in the Western Canon, recommended by Nigel Warburton

Even if you’ve never studied philosophy, it’s nice to be able to read a few books and get a sense of what it’s all about. Here, we asked our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, to talk us through five key works of Western philosophy—many of them in the public domain and available for free as ebooks—and explain why, despite one or two odd conclusions or quirky writing styles, they’ve played such an important role in expanding our understanding of the world.

The Best Books by Albert Camus, recommended by Jamie Lombardi

Albert Camus was born in northern Algeria in extreme poverty, but went on to become one of the best-known French philosophers of the 20th century. In 1957, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for illuminating “the problems of the human conscience in our times.” Here, Camus expert Jamie Lombardi talks us through the books that best capture his work and the moral dilemmas he sought to explore.

The Best Philosophy Books by Women, recommended by Lisa Whiting & Rebecca Buxton

When it comes to the big names in philosophy, very few people think of women and the books that make the canon have, traditionally, almost always been written by European or American men. Here, Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting, editors of The Philosopher Queens, a book that collects together articles about the most important women philosophers, talk through their selection of the best philosophy books written by women.

The best books on The Vienna Circle, recommended by David Edmonds

Members of ‘the Vienna Circle’ had strong views on what can and cannot be meaningfully said. They’ve had an enormous impact on modern philosophy, partly because the arrival of fascist rule in Austria scattered them around the world. Here, philosopher David Edmonds, author of The Murder of Professor Schlick, introduces us to their ideas, their milieu and the poignant background to their lives and thinking.

The Best Eco-Philosophy Books, recommended by Rupert Read

Eco-philosophy concerns itself with the intersection of ecology with philosophy—and particularly our response to industrialisation and manmade climate change. Rupert Read, the philosopher-activist and author of Parents for a Future, selects five of the best books that contemplate eco-philosophy and our place on this Earth.

The best books on Philosophy and Prison, recommended by Andy West

By teaching philosophy in prisons, British philosopher Andy West was not only able to engage with core issues of the human condition, but also to come to terms with members of his own family’s experience of being in prison. Here, he talks us through some books that deal with being locked up, from Auschwitz to Vancouver Island, as well as one by a victim of violent crime.

The best books on Critical Thinking, recommended by Nigel Warburton

Do you know your straw man arguments from your weasel words? Nigel Warburton, Five Books philosophy editor and author of Thinking from A to Z, selects some of the best books on critical thinking—and explains how they will help us make better informed decisions and construct more valid arguments.

The Best Simone de Beauvoir Books, recommended by Kate Kirkpatrick

Simone de Beauvoir is remembered today as the pioneering feminist author of The Second Sex and a close companion of Jean Paul Sartre. But the scope of her intellectual contribution has long been underestimated, argues her latest biographer Kate Kirkpatrick, who offers an introduction to the landscape of Beauvoir’s works, from fiction to philosophy to life writing.

The best books on Italian Political Philosophy, recommended by Guglielmo Verdirame

Italy has a rich tradition of political philosophy, producing a number of thinkers with both practical experience and a cosmopolitan outlook. Here Guglielmo Verdirame, Professor of International Law at King’s College London, talks us through the five most important Italian political philosophers, and the best books to read to understand their work.

The best books on Arthur Schopenhauer, recommended by David Bather Woods

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher who held a deeply pessimistic view of the world. He was also, among other things, a misogynist. And yet, he made important contributions to a number of areas of philosophy and had a deep influence on other philosophers. He wrote in a clear style that gained him a wide readership among non-philosophers as well. David Bather Woods, a Schopenhauer expert at the University of Warwick, talks us through his choice of books on the life and work of this remarkable thinker.

The Best Thomas Hobbes Books, recommended by Arash Abizadeh

Thomas Hobbes’s master work Leviathan, in which he argued for the need to unite under a powerful sovereign as part of a ‘social contract’, has become a cornerstone of Western political philosophy. Here, the philosopher and political scientist Arash Abizadeh selects five of the best books for understanding Hobbes’s arguments in their historical context.

The best books on Deconstruction, recommended by Peter Salmon

For the general reader deconstruction has a bad reputation. It is seen as over-complicating, arcane and wilfully obscure—but as its founding genius Jacques Derrida pointed out, “If things were simple, word would have gotten around.” Here Peter Salmon, author of an excellent new biography of Derrida, chooses five books to get you started on the text and everything inside it.

The Best Books on the Philosophy of Travel, recommended by Emily Thomas

At its best, travel broadens our minds, expands our horizons and allows us to see the world we live in differently. But it has also played an important role in the history of philosophy. Emily Thomas, author of The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad, explores the connections between her two passions—philosophy and travel—at a moment when most of us are unable to leave our houses: perhaps the perfect moment to reflect on travel’s significance for human beings.

Best Books on the Neuroscience of Consciousness, recommended by Anil Seth

Nearly every human has a sense of self, a feeling that we are located in a body that’s looking out at the world and experiencing it over the course of a lifetime. Some people even think of it as a soul or other nonphysical reality that is yet somehow connected to the blood and bones that make up our bodies. How things seem, however, is quite often an unreliable guide to how things are, says neuroscientist Anil Seth. Here he recommends five key books that led him to his own understanding of consciousness, and explores why it is that what is likely an illusion can be so utterly convincing.

Summer Reading 2020: Philosophy Books, recommended by Nigel Warburton

From reflections on travel and searching for a personal philosophy to live by, to books on important aspects of democracy and contagious diseases, here’s British philosopher Nigel Warburton’s 2020 summer reading list. All the books you need to keep you thinking over the summer, whatever it may hold and wherever you may be.

The Best Philosophy Books of 2019, recommended by Nigel Warburton

We live in a golden age for philosophy books that are accessible to a wide audience. In the pages of even quite short books, we can find new ways of reflecting on who we are and how we should conduct ourselves in the world, as well as learn more about the brilliant thinkers who trod these paths before us. Our philosophy editor Nigel Warburton talks us through some of the best philosophy books that came out in 2019.

The Best Illustrated Philosophy Books, recommended by Helen De Cruz

Philosophy is a very verbal discipline with much effort made to express meaning through the very precise use of language. You might think that pictures wouldn’t get much of a look in, but you’d be wrong, as philosopher Helen de Cruz explains. She chooses five books where the philosophical meaning of the subjects under investigation are given greater depth and clarity with the use of illustrations, from ancient Chinese philosophy through to the philosopher queens of the 21st century.

The best books on The Epicureans, recommended by James Warren

For most of us, an Epicurean means someone devoted to pleasure and enjoying themselves. But the real Epicureans had a very different philosophy of how to live. Cambridge University professor James Warren talks us through the philosophy of Epicurus and explains how it’s still relevant today—particularly when it comes to facing death.

The best books on Aphorisms, recommended by Andrew Hui

The unexamined life is not worth living; nature loves to hide; you can’t step in the same river twice. No doubt we’ve all grown up hearing aphorisms, but perhaps we take their importance for granted. Andrew Hui, the author of the first full book on the theory of the aphorism, guides us through the history of the short philosophical saying from Heraclitus to Nietzsche and beyond.

The best books on The History of Philosophy, recommended by Justin E. H. Smith

Today, we think of scientists and philosophers as distinct, but it wasn’t always this way. Back when the Royal Society was founded in the 1660s, figures like Newton, Descartes and Boyle all thought of themselves as ‘natural philosophers’. Justin E. H. Smith, professor of philosophy at the Université de Paris, introduces us to what he sees as the real history of philosophy.

The Best Augustine Books, recommended by Catherine Conybeare

Christianity has been profoundly influenced by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), but the fifth-century North African bishop has impacted almost every area of western thought: philosophy, theology, political theory, linguistics, and rhetoric. His Confessions is one of the most recommended titles on Five Books, but is it really the first autobiography? Professor Catherine Conybeare introduces us to the life, thought, and personality of this controversial yet brilliant figure. She picks the best books to learn more about St. Augustine and explores how he has been unfairly maligned.

The best books on Consciousness, recommended by Susan Blackmore

The ‘hard problem’ of consciousness – of how the physical matter of the brain produces the psychological phenomenon of consciousness – has dogged psychologists and neuroscientists for decades. But what if we’ve been posing the question incorrectly all this time? The psychologist Susan Blackmore discusses five key texts that tackle this quicksilver concept.

The best books on Philosophical Wonder, recommended by Eric Schwitzgebel

We think of philosophy as a discipline that interrogates complex dilemmas—the nature of will, right and wrong, human freedom—with logic, reasoned thought and argument. But what do the moments in philosophy that make us stop and look outside ourselves have to teach us? According to Eric Schwitzgebel, philosopher at the University of California Riverside, they can open up worlds of fresh possibility. Here he recommends five books of philosophical wonder.

The Best Philosophy Books of 2018, recommended by Nigel Warburton

What can Nietzsche and Aristotle teach us about how to live? Should everyone read Being and Nothingness? From a philosophical approach to misogyny to an interrogation of whether it’s morally acceptable to have a Facebook account, philosopher Nigel Warburton introduces us to the best philosophy books of 2018.

The best books on Political Philosophy, recommended by Jonathan Wolff

British philosopher Jonathan Wolff chooses five books by thinkers who have shaped the field of political philosophy. He explores the experiences that influenced each writer, saying ‘it’s very rare for philosophers to say very much about their history and what brought them to the views they have’.

The best books on Stoicism, recommended by Massimo Pigliucci

The Stoics offer us valuable strategies of thinking about and dealing with hardships that remain relevant for modern society, Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and practising Stoic, told us in 2016. We were interviewing him about the best books to read to get a better idea of what Stoicism is all about and why some people find the ancient philosophy, famously practised by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, comforting today. This week our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, caught up with Massimo and asked him about new Stoicism books that have come out since they first spoke–and why the philosophy remains so popular in 2020.

The best books on Existentialism, recommended by Sarah Bakewell

Existentialist philosophy isn’t about bringing despair and angst into our lives, it’s about discovering our inner freedom, explains Sarah Bakewell, the author of At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails. She recommends books to learn more about existentialism.

Peter Singer on Nineteenth-Century Philosophy

The nineteenth century saw not only a widespread interest in philosophical ideas but also philosophy’s development as a more rigorous discipline. Australian philosopher Peter Singer introduces us to the highlights of a century of philosophy books.

The best books on Wittgenstein, recommended by Peter Hacker

A pioneering figure in analytic philosophy, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) is a clear example of philosophical genius. A profoundly intense, tortured, and solitary man, he produced two masterpieces of philosophy with fundamentally opposed views of language — both of which have been wildly influential. Peter Hacker introduces us to perhaps the most important philosopher since Kant, and explains why Wittgenstein would be horrified by Noam Chomsky.

The Best Philosophy of Science Books, recommended by Stathis Psillos

Science is often held to give us the best insight into the nature of reality, with a prestige unmatched in other disciplines. But what is the scientific method and how does it operate? Does it give us objective knowledge or does it just ‘work’? And if an electron is an “unobservable entity”, why should we believe that they exist? Professor Stathis Psillos gives a detailed look at the philosophy of science

The best books on Aristotle, recommended by Edith Hall

Aristotle, says Edith Hall, is “quite simply the most important intellectual who ever lived.” Here the author and classicist selects five key Aristotle books to further your understanding of the great philosopher’s life and work.

The Best Voltaire Books, recommended by Nicholas Cronk

The eighteenth-century philosopher wielded his powers of ridicule and witticism against religious fanatics—but always championed free speech and religious toleration. He was also a historian, scientist, poet, playwright, and political activist. Nicholas Cronk, General Editor of the Complete Works of Voltaire gives a detailed look at the polymathic philosophe.

The best books on Philosophy of Mind, recommended by Keith Frankish

The experimental investigation of the mind is now the province of psychology and neuroscience – but many conceptual and metaphysical questions remain. Philosophy of mind deals with these fundamental questions, says Keith Frankish, as he selects five of the best books in the field.

The Best Immanuel Kant Books, recommended by Adrian Moore

Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg, lived in Königsberg, and never travelled very far from Königsberg—but his mind ranged across vast territories, says Oxford philosophy professor, Adrian Moore. He selects five key texts for coming to grips with the work of “the greatest philosopher of all time.”