The Best Philosophy Books

Explore our curated reading lists of the best and most important philosophy books, organized by subject and philosopher.

Philosophy is a vast subject that cannot be practically broken down into a single reading list. As such, we’ve organized philosophy’s best books both by subject — from core branches like metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, to particular movements like existentialism and Stoicism — as well as by individual philosopher, from Plato to Friedrich Nietzsche.

If you’re not sure where to start, try our reading list on the best introductions to philosophy, which is ideal for beginners and those seeking a broad overview. Otherwise, take your pick from the lists below.

Will you chart the history of Western philosophy? Will you learn about the philosophy of language? Will you discover why Aristotle exerts such influence to this day? Will you investigate the mystery of free will? The choice is (not) yours!

Philosophy Break

Philosophical Subjects

introduction to philosophy reading list
READING LIST

An Introduction to Philosophy

The Best 5 Books to Read

history of western philosophy reading list
READING LIST

The History of Western Philosophy

The Best 5 Books to Read

metaphysics reading list
READING LIST

Metaphysics

The Best 10 Books to Read

epistemology reading list
READING LIST

Epistemology

The Best 9 Books to Read

ethics and morality reading list
READING LIST

Ethics and Morality

The Best 9 Books to Read

consciousness reading list
READING LIST

Consciousness

The Best 5 Books to Read

free will reading list
READING LIST

Free Will

The Best 7 Books to Read

political philosophy reading list
READING LIST

Political Philosophy

The Best 14 Books to Read

philosophy of language reading list
READING LIST

Philosophy of Language

The Best 7 Books to Read

Existentialism reading list
READING LIST

Existentialism

The Best 8 Books to Read

stoicism reading list
READING LIST

Stoicism

The Best 5 Books to Read

Individual Philosophers

plato reading list
READING LIST

Plato

The Best 6 Books to Read

aristotle reading list
READING LIST

Aristotle

The Best 8 Books to Read

Friedrich Nietzsche reading list
READING LIST

Friedrich Nietzsche

The Best 7 Books to Read

Philosophy’s Best Books

The reading lists above are assembled from hundreds of hours of research, and we’re reviewing and adding new ones all the time. If there’s a particular subject or philosopher you’d like covered, let us know on Instagram here, on Twitter here, or via email here, and we’ll add it to our production queue.

In the meantime, out of all the philosophical reading lists presented above, we’ve selected three of our overall favorite philosophy books to get you started, any of which are sure to whet your appetite and set you on the right path to learning more. Happy philosophizing!

Three of our overall favorite philosophy books to get you started:

1. What Does It All Mean? By Thomas Nagel

Thomas Nagel is the brilliant contemporary philosopher behind Mortal Questions and The View From Nowhere. Written in 1987, Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? is a lucid and accessible introduction to philosophy, setting forth the central problems of philosophical inquiry for beginners. A slim book at just over 100 pages, Nagel covers free will, right and wrong, death, language, the meaning of life and other core topics in clear, illuminating language that anyone interested in philosophy would strongly benefit from reading.

What Does It All Mean?, by Thomas Nagel

2. Life’s Big Questions, by Philosophy Break

Life’s Big Questions distills philosophy’s best answers to some of life’s most troubling questions, taking you on a whirlwind journey of reflection, understanding, and discovery. Why does anything exist? Is the world around us ‘real’? What makes us conscious? Do we have free will? How should we approach life? Packed full of wisdom from the greatest philosophical minds of the last few millennia, reading materials are delivered direct to your inbox over five days, accessible forever from any device. Of course, we’re a little biased, as we produced this one — but if you’re seeking to understand the fundamentals of philosophy, and obtain a solid grounding for exactly where you can go to learn more, Life’s Big Questions gets rave reviews, and might be just what you’re looking for!

Introduction to Philosophy: Life’s Big Questions

3. The Last Days of Socrates, by Plato

Where better to start than with a tome still routinely adored and studied by undergraduate philosophy students to this day? Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates includes four superb dialogues — Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo — that cover the trial and death of Socrates in 399 BC. Serving as an ideal introduction to Plato’s style and the dialogue form generally, the works in this collection are among Plato’s earliest and record Socrates debating the nature of piety, justice, death, and the immortality of the soul in brilliant, highly-charged prose. Hugely entertaining and wise — a collection to defy anyone who thinks philosophy is boring or stuffy — The Last Days of Socrates belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Plato, Socrates, or philosophy generally.

The Last Days of Socrates, by Plato
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