The best books by and about the great philosophers, as recommended by some of the leading philosophers working today. Browse our reading lists to find out what books to read about Confucius, Socrates, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and other great philosophers of the past.
Our interview and book recommendation archive is constantly growing, so do write to us if you’d like to make suggestions of great philosophers we haven’t covered yet.
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.
Adam Smith tends to be seen as the founder of capitalism and modern economics, but he was, first and foremost, a moral philosopher. Dennis Rasmussen, author of The Infidel and the Professor—a book about Smith’s friendship with David Hume—selects the best books by and about Adam Smith.
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.”
Few people have had their ideas reinvented as many times as the German intellectual and political activist, Karl Marx. Professor of political theory, Terrell Carver, takes us through the most influential books, in English, about Marx, Marxism and his friend, publicist and financial backer, Friedrich Engels.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius
by Leo Damrosch
Reading Rousseau in the Nuclear Age
by Grace Roosevelt
Rousseau: An Introduction to His Psychological, Social and Political Theory
by N J H Dent
Rousseau, the Age of Enlightenment, and Their Legacies
by Robert Wokler
Rousseau’s Critique of Inequality
by Frederick Neuhouser
The 18th century composer, writer and philosopher spent his latter years “alone upon the earth, having no brother, or neighbour, or friend, or society but myself”. But he only had himself to blame, says philosophy professor and Rousseau scholar Chris Bertram. Here, he chooses the best five books on this complex man’s life and work.
The classical Greek philosopher is credited with laying the foundation of Western philosophy – without ever having written a word. Here, the eminent scholar M M McCabe enters into dialogue with Five Books to recommend the best texts through which we might understand Socrates, and engage with the eternal question: How best to live?
Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography
by Rüdiger Safranski, translator Shelley Frisch
Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy
by Maudemarie Clark
by John Richardson
Beyond Good and Evil
by Friedrich Nietzsche & translated by Walter Kaufmann
On the Genealogy of Morality
by Friedrich Nietzsche