Introduction to Philosophy
READING LIST

An Introduction to PhilosophyThe Best 5 Books to Read

Philosophy literally means ‘love of wisdom’, but defining it beyond this becomes a little tricky. In a nutshell, philosophy concerns itself with deep, fundamental questions: from how best we should live our lives, to the basic nature of the worlds we live in. But within this nutshell resides a whole universe of feeling, reason, and meaning (for a fuller exploration, see our free, popular 3-part email course on exactly what philosophy is and why it's important today). Considering such mammoth subject matter, it's difficult to know where to start.

But fear not! This reading list contains the best general introductions to philosophy. Each book discusses the enduring questions philosophers have tackled throughout history — questions you have probably wondered about yourself. You know the ones. Why does anything exist? What's the right thing to do? Is the world around us ‘real’?

The aim of philosophy is not necessarily to give you the answers to these questions, but rather to equip you with the right tools to perform your own investigation — and discover the answers for yourself. By introducing the approaches of philosophy's best minds, the books on this list set you on that path.

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 Problems of Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell was a towering figure of the 20th century. Though The History of Western Philosophy is perhaps his better-known work for the general reader, Russell wrote The Problems of Philosophy in 1912 as a short, accessible introduction to the subject. He presents philosophy in engaging and relevant ways that ignite the curiosity of the reader. This book can be enjoyed in an evening, and — spoiler alert — you’ll never look at tables the same way again.

The Problems of Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell

4. Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, by Simon Blackburn

Published in 1999, this wonderfully-written book begins with contemporary philosopher Simon Blackburn's rallying cry for the study of philosophy, before diving into discussion of the key philosophical themes and thinkers throughout history. The most in-depth entry on this list, each chapter of Think acts as a self-contained guide on subjects ranging from skepticism and ethics, to self-identity and God. You can thus take it all in in bitesize chunks, issue by issue, chapter by chapter.

Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy, by Simon Blackburn

5. Philosophy: The Basics, by Nigel Warburton

Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Basics is ideal for a general overview of the main arguments in philosophy. First published in 1992, and now in its fifth edition, Warburton’s book gently eases the reader into the world of philosophy, touching all the big issues like God, science, art, and morality through easy-to-understand and powerful analogies.

Philosophy: The Basics, by Nigel Warburton

Further reading

Are there any other books you think should be on this list? Let us know via email or drop us a message on Twitter or Instagram.

philosophy bookshop
READING LISTS

View All Reading Lists

Essential Philosophy Books by Subject

Philosophy Break

NEW!


BITE-SIZE COURSE

NEW!

BITE-SIZE COURSE

6-Day Introduction to Nietzsche Course

★★★★★ (9 reviews)

Life's Big Questions

15% DISCOUNT – LIMITED OFFER

$39.00 USD  $34.00 USD

Learn everything you need to know about Friedrich Nietzsche in just six days. This introductory course distills Nietzsche’s best and most misunderstood ideas, from God is dead to the Übermensch.

Learn More about Course
Introduction to Nietzsche

Latest Course Reviews:

★★★★★  Great

Great course experience, content was clear and simple to read. Loved the way the course was delivered and the writing was informative, interesting, and easy to understand. My favorite chapter was the final one on the will to power, I thought it brought everything together very nicely. Thanks for creating such an accessible course on Nietzsche!

VERIFIED BUYER

  Julien S. on 22 March 2022

★★★★★  Please make more

It was really good. Honestly, there are things I thought I knew but turns out I had completely misunderstood from the books and the course helped me to figure out what I was missing. The content was very easy to understand and didactic, covering everything I was hoping for, and the difficulty of material was very well balanced. Please make more!

VERIFIED BUYER

  Joaquim N. on 16 March 2022

★★★★★  Excellent

Excellent. Well written and an enjoyable read on my iPhone. I found the content very interesting. It's been over 30 years since I took a course on Nietzsche - great to revisit the material at a later life stage and new perspective. My favorite chapter was the one on perspectivism.

VERIFIED BUYER

  David U. on 11 March 2022

See All Course Reviews

BITE-SIZE COURSE

5-Day Introduction to Philosophy Course

★★★★★ (31 reviews)

Life's Big Questions

15% DISCOUNT – LIMITED OFFER

$34.00 USD  $29.00 USD

Why does anything exist? Do we have free will? How should we approach life? We’ve distilled the great philosophers’ best answers to life’s big questions. Start learning today.

Learn More about Course
Life's Big Questions

Latest Course Reviews:

★★★★★  Fantastic

Fantastic! Loved the delivery of one chapter per day and the content was fascinating. I didn't know much about philosophy going into this, and some things like consciousness I didn't realize had such a philosophical component. Really interesting, and I'd highly recommend the course.

VERIFIED BUYER

  Bernie L. on 11 March 2022

★★★★★  Really good

I had a really good course experience, thanks. Good portion size of information each day, really easy to read, and really informative and interesting - cuts through a lot of waffle. Would recommend for anyone interested in philosophy.

VERIFIED BUYER

  Phoebe T. on 9 February 2022

★★★★★  Truly enjoyed

Excellent course experience! Good pace and length of reads, combined with very well written content. Complexities are shared in a digestible manner. The reading lists are a great addition. I truly enjoyed every chapter. Thanks!

VERIFIED BUYER

  Tomas R. on 27 January 2022

See All Course Reviews

Latest Breaks

Each break takes only a few minutes to read, and is crafted to expand your mind and spark your philosophical curiosity.

Nietzsche Quotes
A Defense of the Unmodified Body Clare Chambers
God is dead Nietzsche
The Good Life Method Meghan Sullivan Paul Blaschko

View All Breaks

START LEARNING

Learn exactly what philosophy is and how it can improve your life

Expand your mind and learn the basics of philosophy with our free, popular, 3-part email course, which delivers our quickfire introductory materials direct to your inbox.

Philosophy Basics

1 email per day for 3 days. Join 50,000+ philosophers. No spam. Unsubscribe any time.

Philosophy Basics