Best philosophy books to read in 2022: Explore politics, science, religion and more

Although it may seem like a daunting topic, the best philosophy books aren’t just for academics. Philosophy is an extremely broad field, dealing with issues of politics, science, ethics, and metaphysics, to name a few disciplines.

As such, there is a huge library of philosophy books to choose from, from beginner’s introductions to dense, almost impenetrable treatises; from ancient classics to contemporary thought pieces; and even philosophical novels.

So where is the best place to start? Below, we’ve put together a buying guide to help you better understand where your interests lie and what you want from the philosophy, by providing an overview of the topics available. Then here’s our own roundup of some of the best philosophy books you can read.

If you’re ready to dive deep into your chosen subject, expand your mind to think beyond the surface, then read on to find the best philosophy books to read in 2022.

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How to choose the best philosophy book for you

What types of philosophy books are there?

As we mentioned, there are a multitude of different subjects when it comes to philosophy. Ultimately, it would take too long to list every one of them, but here are some of the big meaty topics:

Chances are you already know something about the kind of philosophical field that interests you. But if you’re an absolute beginner or just feeling lost, it might be a good idea to start with a broad introductory guide, which will outline some of the main schools of thought and provide a better idea of ​​what you want to explore. further away.

On that point, if you’re not a big reader or are worried about tackling philosophy books for the first time, books like these are an accessible introduction that won’t overwhelm you or lead you away from philosophy from the start. . Indeed, it might not be the best idea to jump straight to the heart of the matter with a title like Kant’s Critique of pure reasonby Sartre Being and Nothingness or of Hegel The phenomenology of mind. If you prefer novels, there’s also plenty of fiction that tackles philosophical issues such as freedom and morality, guided by engaging stories and characters.

Although we by no means claim to be an exhaustive list, our summary below aims to provide a well-rounded selection of books for a wide range of audiences.

The best philosophy books to buy

1. A Little History of Philosophy (Nigel Warburton): The Best Introduction to Western Philosophy

Price: £9 | Buy now on Amazon

The widely read popular philosopher Nigel Warburton presents this broad overview of some of the major ideas and thinkers in Western philosophy. A short history of philosophy introduces the reader to figures such as Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, as well as Darwin, Marx and Freud, exploring their lives and beliefs in an accessible and engaging way.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive history, and you will find gaps if you look closely. For example, no attempt is made to discuss Eastern philosophy in great depth compared to Hegel or Bentham (if you are looking for a less Western-centric account, see Baggini’s how the world thinks below). But as an easy-to-digest introduction to the world of philosophy, A little history is a fantastic place to start.

Also consider:

Key Features – Editor: Yale University Press; Date: September 11, 2012; Length: 288 pages; Size: Paperback, Hardcover, Audiobook, Kindle

Image from A Little History of Philosophy (Little Stories)

A little history of philosophy (Little stories)

2. The Republic (Plato): The best book of ancient philosophy

Price: £7 | Buy now on Amazon

Alongside Socrates and Aristotle, Plato is one of the three greats of ancient Greek philosophy. His most famous and influential text, The Republicis his vision of the ideal political state, although he also touches on questions of ethics, metaphysics, aesthetics and even war.

Plato’s style of writing makes The Republic reasonably simple to read and follow: many of his works are written in the form of dialogues. The central figure in these is Socrates, who serves as the voice of Plato’s own philosophical arguments. Desmond Lee’s translation is clear and precise, and Melissa Lane’s introduction is helpful in providing context and background to the text.

Also consider:

Key Features – Editor: Penguin; Date: May 31, 2007; Length: 462pages; Size: Paperback, Kindle

3. How The World Thinks (Julian Baggini): An exploration of thought across the world

Price: £7 | Buy now on Amazon

Julian Baggini has traveled the world, interviewed experts, and examined how the world thinks outside the tradition of Western philosophy. The result is his Sunday time Bestseller, How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophyin which he explores the Eastern philosophies of India, China and Japan as well as some lesser-known traditions, notably those of the indigenous peoples of Australia.

If you’re ear to ear with Kant, Hume and Descartes, then this might be the book for you.

Also consider:

Key Features – Editor: Granta; Date: October 3, 2019; Length: 432 pages; Size: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Image from How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

4. The Outsider (Albert Camus): Best Philosophical Fiction

Price: £7 | Buy now on Amazon

If the idea of ​​fiction seems more palatable and appealing than structured formal arguments and dense essays, then there is plenty of literature dealing with philosophical themes (although the components that must be present to classify a work as a “philosophical novel ” are not). always clear).

the stranger (originally published in French under the title The Stranger) is one of the most famous works of Albert Camus, a French philosopher who, alongside Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, spearheaded the existentialist movement of the 20th century in France: a philosophy that emphasizes individual freedom. The short story tells the story of a man detached from the norms of society, believing that life is inherently absurd. The story is beautifully written and is an engaging entry into Camus’ larger philosophy of absurdism.

Also consider:

Key Features – Editor: Penguin; Date: October 31, 2013; Length: 128 pages; Size: Paperback, Kindle

5. The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life (AC Grayling): An Accessible Collection of Essays for Beginners

Price: £7 | Buy now on Amazon

Kind of like Nigel Warburton’s A short history of philosophyAC Grayling’s The meaning of things is an accessible introduction to philosophy, though perhaps less focused on the story itself. It examines broad and abstract topics such as courage and fear, love and hate, faith, art and capitalism.

The book is written as a series of very short essays, which makes it very easy to read, whether you go through it from start to finish in short bursts or choose the sections that interest you the most. If you like it, it’s also worth checking out Grayling’s follow-up books The Reason of Things and The Mystery of Things.

Also consider:

Key Features – Editor: Penguin; Date: March 1, 2001; Length: 272; Size: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook