7 Great Books To Get You Going With Philosophy

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The world of philosophy is a fascinating and wondrous place. Whether you are new to the art or have been studying it for years, there is always something profound to learn. If you’re interested in knowing more about philosophy or if you are just looking for your next book to read, then you’re in the right place. Here is a list of 7 great books to get you going with philosophy.

Image of the Philosophy Book in the post 7 Books To Get You Going With Philosophy
A great primer to give you a general understanding of the great thinkers

1. The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK

If you want to learn more about philosophy, but are afraid that you’ll have a hard time understanding some of the concepts, then I think that this philosophy book by DK is a perfect book to begin with.

This book proves that philosophy doesn’t have to be difficult to understand. DK makes reading this book a pleasure, by breaking down different ideas into bite-sized chapters. The book is jam-packed full of illustrations which definitely help in making the trickier ideas much easier to understand.

The Philosophy Book is a gold-mine for experienced philosophers and novices alike. I like that fact that the ideas presented in the book are arranged chronologically because you can clearly the evolution of thought from the Pre-Socratics up until today.

It seems that every time I dip into this book, I manage to learn something new. Seasoned philosophers will no doubt feel the same. If you’ve read this, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Image of the book The Consolation Of Philosophy in the post 7 Books To Get You Going With Philosophy
One of the books that motivated me to do a BA Philosophy degree

2. The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

With all of the great philosophers out there, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s also no always easy to see how philosophy is relevant to our everyday lives. Alain de Botton is here to help. In The Consolations of Philosophy, he provides us with a very accessible and informative window into the minds of 6 very influential philosophers. 

This philosophic gem does a great job of tackling some of life’s most common issues. You will get new insights and ideas on how to approach problems such as poverty, heartbreak, unpopularity, and others.

What I like about the book is how de Botton finds the perfect balance between informing and entertaining. He discusses useful insights, but doesn’t beat you over the head with them. Before you know it, you’re lulled into a philosophic state where you too start to question your surroundings and what you thought was true, but perhaps now aren’t too sure anymore. 

Read our full post, The Consolations Of Philosophy Applies To Our Reality.

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I read this in Thailand 15 years ago and I'm still mulling it over

3. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Sophie’s World, unlike a lot of other philosophy books, is a novel. Here, you get to follow a 14-year-old Norwegian girl named Sophie, as she becomes a student of an old philosopher named Alberto Knox. Alberto teaches Sophie about some big philosophic ideas like Existentialism, Romanticism, and Darwinism.

Sophie becomes obsessed with the teachings of Alberto and starts asking questions like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where does the world come from?’ Before long, Sophie’s world becomes much larger than the small Norwegian village she grew up in.

Sophie then starts receiving mail addressed to a different girl. Together with Alberto, she starts to probe deeper into the world of philosophy all the while trying to unravel the mystery of who the other girl is. Before long, she discovers an almost unimaginable truth.

i recently bought this book for my girlfriend in an attempt to convince her how useful and profound philosophy can be. Hopefully she’ll agree. 

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An easy intro to lull you into a philosophic state

4. Philosophy, A Very Short Introduction by Edward Craig

Do you constantly find yourself asking questions like ‘How ought we to live?’ or ‘What really exists?’ then Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction is the perfect book for you.

This book helps you to further understand how philosophy plays such a big role in our lives. To a certain extent, we all have an inner philosopher, choosing for us which values to live by and helping us to see the world from our own unique perspective.

You may not think it, but our thoughts and beliefs are usually a mix of several philosophies. Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, takes you on a crash-course of numerous ideas that mold the way people think and act.

The world of philosophy is extremely dense, but I honestly think that this book is able to perfectly condense a ton of useful knowledge in a little over a hundred pages.

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to learn more about ethics, wisdom, and one’s own self, then this book is definitely for you.

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Some great philosophy jokes here

5. Plato and a Platypus Walk Into A Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

Who says that philosophy has to be taken seriously all the time? Plato and a Platypus Walk Into A Bar is a book that teaches you philosophy through jokes and funny stories.

This is an excellent read if you’re looking for an alternative approach to learning philosophy. I really enjoyed reading this book and I found that jokes make remembering certain ideas and concepts much easier.

This is the kind of book you wish was a set-work book in school. Not for a moment do you feel bored reading this and you’re getting a fresh take on philosophical ideas pretty much on every page. It is so enjoyable, in fact, that you don’t ever realize you’re learning as you go. Plato and a Platypus Walk Into A Bar is a perfect book for those who want to see philosophy in a different light and for those who enjoy the lighter side of things.

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This is the basis of The Matrix movie

6. The Allegory of the Cave by Plato

The Allegory of the Cave is one of the most iconic and important dialogues in the world of philosophy. The dialogue is between Socrates and Plato’s brother, Glaucon.

Socrates talks about prisoners chained in a dark cave with a fire behind them that is illuminating shadows of things on the wall in front of them. They think these shadows are actually real because that is all they know. To Socrates, learning philosophy is like a prisoner freeing himself of his chains and leaving the cave, only to experience the world as it actually is outside in the light of the sun.

This is a profound metaphor and when you truly ponder it, you are forced to consider the duality of our own existence, the world we think we live in and the real one. The Matrix movie is heavily based on Plato’s Allegory and it wouldn’t have achieved such blockbuster success if it wasn’t unpacking a version of truth in a general sense. 

I would encourage everyone to read this so that they too can begin to question our so-called  reality. Even it this is unsettling at first, in the long run it will be far superior and more meaningful than being stuck in a dimly lit cave watching shadows on a wall.

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This would be my desert island philosophy book

7. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant

The Story of Philosophy is a brilliant book that covers the lives and ideas of several famous Western philosophers such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and John Dewey.

The book takes you back in time, allowing you to understand more about how the minds of these great philosophers worked. It then returns you to the present and shows you these ideas have influenced modern society.

The book is like a whole philosophy course compressed into a couple hundred pages. The Story of Philosophy shares nugget upon nugget of knowledge, easily making it one of the philosophy books everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.

When I moved to Taipei in 2003, I bought a Palm Pilot and got an Audible subscription. The Story of Philosophy was one of the first books in my digital library and I was fascinated by the evolution of thought, that I made notes as I went along.

Every few pages, you are forced to just stop and think about what you’ve just heard. Countless stories of philosophers and ideas await you and Durant doesn’t try and sway you into following any specific school of thought, but rather urges you to choose your own path. I think Socrates would endorse this approach. 

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10 thoughts on “7 Great Books To Get You Going With Philosophy”

  1. Historical fiction is usually my genre for reading, I would be very interested to enter the philosophy genre for my next read. 

    This article is perfect timing for me, I detest being without a book to read and I’m willing to step into something different. I also eat low carb meals, exercise daily from home, and engage in mindfulness training after my daily workouts. “The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained” seems to be an excellent choice to begin. 

    I especially like the chronological order of the evolution of thought from pre Socrates to today. Thank you! I also love the real day applications referred to in “The Consolations of Philosophy” making philosophy relevant and therefore more meaningful. 

    I find “Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar” just down right intriguing. OK, I’m sold! I just went to your Amazon account at the end of your article and PURCHASED all three of these books. I will bookmark this article and return for the other four when I am up to par. Thank you for an awesome, inspiring article. 

    1. You’re a good man, Vincent! Thank you for your interesting insights about the philosophy books, but most of all, thank you for using my links to purchase them! Cheers!

  2. Great compilation on books of Philosophy. You are a philosopher yourself if you have read through all the books. 

    Philosophy is the food for brain. It stimulates ideas and keeps our imagination levels utmost. It is a great way to see things in perspective and understand and appreciate new ideas in life.

    But to be honest, reading books on philosophy requires the best state of mind. Otherwise, the whole exercise might turn out to be boring. But your recommendation ” Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar” is a great book to begin with. Addressing the lighter aspects of life takes the boredom out of the philosophy. Recommended to start with this book for any book reader.

    Thanks for sharing this great list.

    1. Ha! Rohit, I wish I could consider myself a philosopher. Although I did study it, I don’t practice it as a profession. I just really enjoy reading it. 

      Plato and a Platypus walk into a bar is a great place to start. Yes, there is nothing boring about that book. 

  3. I am so glad I found your article, as it reminded me that the book Sophie’s world is still waiting for me to read it. It’s like a sign on the road 🙂 

    I enjoy philosophy to some point. I don’t like to argue and share my opinion too much in case I discover that my partner in a conversation doesn’t understand what I want to say. Why I said, “until some point”? Because I also don’t like to be in a company of a philosopher who is trying to get me into his/her net without letting my bread in my freedom (I had some of that experience). 

    So yes, philosophy is great unless the philosophers are violent in their belies 🙂 

    I wrote this because you said that you bought a book for a friend to try to show her that philosophy can be nice. Well, I agree. She should give that book a try. 

    I love Jean-Paul Sartre and I would love to recommend his books to you. No Exit, Dirty hands..

    Thanks for a great article. 
    Sunny

    1. I agree, Sunny, that folks shouldn’t try to force you to take on their philosophy of life. It should be something you discover for yourself and for me, reading is the best way to do that. I studied a BA Philosophy degree because I wanted to learn about the evolution of thought and then from there, adopt a methodology that made sense for my own life. Turns out Voltaire’s line, ‘cultivate your garden’ at the end of Candide is probably the most useful thing anyone could fold in to their value system.

      I have read Sartre’s No Exit and Nausea, but not Dirty Hands. Will look out for that. 

  4. Thanks for this article But to be honest, reading books on philosophy requires the best state of mind. Otherwise, the whole exercise might turn out to be boring. But your recommendation ” Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar” is a great book to begin with. Addressing the lighter aspects of life takes the boredom out of the philosophy. Recommended to start with this book for any book reader.
    Methodology may be subdivided into: (1) Logic, and (2) Epistemology, which deal respectively with the ways of attaining and with the ways of interpreting knowledge. It is clear that these three main divisions of philosophy are partly, though only partly, independent of one another.
    Thanks for sharing this great list.

    1. Some good insights there, Abel, and I agree with the Plato Platypus read to kick off your philosophy journey. Some good jokes too, I just wish I could remember them.

  5. I find good Philosophy books for a long time.

    This book list is a great help for me.Although,part of the books,I had read,such as:The Allegory of the Cave by Plato.

    I recommend that everyone could read books about Philosophy.It seems that Philosophy is useless for most of people

    because Philosophy can’t make money.

    But I think Philosophy is both helpful for both of these people.It’s a pill for poor people.

    It’s a road for wealthy people which lead people to the right life.

    Hope you could make more articles about Philosophy books

    1. The Allegory of the Cave is a great way to start with philosophy for sure. It is sad how easily people discount philosophy because it doesn’t seem directly related to making money. Although a lot of top CEO’s did study philosophy back in uni at least as a minor course. I think it should be required reading for all of us. 

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