10 Best Philosophy Books To Read In 2021

Sonia Akavan
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Are you looking for the most popular and best-selling philosophy books out there? Look no further. Below find a list of best philosophy books that will change your life. Some of these books are old, some are new, but they’re all important.

Until Modern Times, there wasn’t much distinction between science and philosophy. From the philosophers of ancient Greece to the scientists of the Renaissance, they both explored the same questions: what was the world made of, and how did it work?

The rise of modern science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the rise of materialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had a profound impact on the ways that philosophy and science were done. Philosophy became more and more focused on the theory of knowledge and logic, and increasingly divorced from the physical world we inhabit.

This division became especially clear with the great revolutions in natural science that occurred in the nineteenth century — the rise of relativity, quantum mechanics, and other revolutionary theories of atomic and sub-atomic physics.

In this way, philosophy also became more and more focused on language and meaning. Gaining accepted definitions of words has long been a concern of philosophy, but in the twentieth century, a large part of philosophy became devoted to the analysis and clarification of meaning.

NameCategoryProduct
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on WisdomBest OverallThe Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom
Tao Te ChingBudget PickTao Te Ching
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefUpgrade PickMaps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief

1. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom

Our rating: 9 / 10

The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom

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Pros:

  • Simple practical advice
  • Motivating
  • Empowering
  • Great for men and women
  • A fun read
  • Inspirational
  • Simple meditations
  • Gives you practical wisdom

Cons:

  • Generic brand
  • Simple cover
  • A bit long-winded

If you are one that loves quick tips and practical wisdom on how to improve your life, this book offers just that within a 365-day period.

The Daily Stoic is divided into three different sections, the first being The Challenges of Life: Difficult people and emotions, the second being Perseverance: Opportunities and Obstacles for Success, and the third being The Dichotomy of Control: The Difference between Pragmatism and Hope.

The daily meditations can be read in less than 3 minutes and are easy to digest and implement. The book also features some great writing from other famous authors of history which adds a bit of humor to the book.

2. Crime and Punishment: Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation

Our rating: 7 / 10

Crime and Punishment: Pevear & Volokhonsky Translation

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Pros:

  • Considered to be one of the greatest works of fiction by many
  • Beautifully written with interesting philosophical concepts
  • Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translation is considered to be one of the best

Cons:

  • Lots of lengthy paragraphs
  • The original Russian title, Бегущий в лабиринте, has acquired a new meaning since the fall of the Soviet Union, which can lead to confusion

Dostoyevsky wrote this book in response to the moral issues that followed the brutal killing of his brother by his own serfs. While reading it you will become immersed in the mind of Rodion Raskolnikov, a murder-ously disturbed mathematician. Confused about his motives and struggling to determine the difference between good and evil, you follow him through his downward spiral as he chaos that follows the murder. His redemption comes through the help of Sonya, a prostitute who loves him unconditionally, and her love for him leads to his final acceptance of his weakness and guilt.

3. Republic

Our rating: 7 / 10

Republic

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Pros:

  • Thought-provoking content
  • Historical context is helpfully provided
  • Clear, vivid writing

This ancient philosophical text by Plato is considered one of the most significant ever written. In the dialogue, Socrates has a conversation about the meaning of justice, and whether it is better to be just or unjust by a friend's order if it is required to be so, or to be true to oneself and suffer the consequences. The writing is concise and clear as Plato lays out an important and thought-provoking examination of several concepts — such as the role of law, emotion vs. reason, and how we should conduct our lives. I highly recommend giving it a read if you want to think deeply about the questions posed here.

4. The Basic Works of Aristotle

Our rating: 7 / 10

The Basic Works of Aristotle

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Pros:

  • Classic
  • Value-priced

The Basic Works of Aristotle is a modern translation of the complete works of Aristotle. The collection includes his works on metaphysics, mind, and life; his treatises on biology and physics; his political writings and dialogues; his moral and political treatises; and his poetry.

If you are interested in philosophy, you should consider reading these books. They could form the basis of part of your lifelong education. This could be the most influential set of book in the history of civilization.

5. Memories, Dreams

Our rating: 7 / 10

Memories, Dreams

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"Memories, Dreams, Reflections" is a powerful autobiography by Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung's lifelong quest for psychological self-discovery and transformation is made truly evident in this autobiographical text of his.

"Memories, Dreams, Reflections" is made up of six parts. It begins with Jung's childhood and education, describes the author's sudden break with Freud and the founding of the Zurich school of analytical psychology.

Jung also wrote about his association with Sigmund Freud and describes the experiments they undertook together to explore the potential of using psychotherapy as a tool to relieve symptoms of hysteria.

6. Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief

Our rating: 6 / 10

Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief

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Philosophy is all about beliefs and the way your brain creates them. From the ground up, this book explores how we build the meaning of our lives and the impact these meanings have on our psychology, epistemology, and sense of self. Author Jordan Peterson has been called the most influential Canadian psychologist since Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. This is one of his most influential books. Maps of Meaning presents the abstract "deep structure" of mythology, ritual, and religion. Peterson argues that modern day psychology fails to explain the chaotic element of human culture. In his semi-autobiographical fashion, he describes how he creates meaning in his own life, and gives a compelling argument about why humans long for meaning. This book is an intense read, but it's a valuable one for anyone who wants to understand how the human brain works at its most fundamental level.

7. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book

Our rating: 6 / 10

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book

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Considered one of the most important works of philosophy, this novel explores the creative person and their relationship with the cosmos. The story follows the teachings of Zarathustra after his enlightenment. Some of the key concepts explored include the Death of God, superman, eternal recurrence, and the will to power.

Highly influenced by Ancient Greek philosophy and German nihilism, Thus Spoke Zarathustra has been applauded by philosophers all over the world. Many of the artistic genres that vastly define our culture originated from novel. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is one of those books that everyone should read at least once.

8. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Our rating: 6 / 10

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

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Nassim Taleb has authored some very famous books that have garnered media attention. The Black Swan is his most popular book that told the story of financial risk. This book continues that theme and discusses real life situations and how they can be more harmful than financial ones.

It uses real world examples to illustrate asymmetries and how they are not always readily visible to those that have the “skin in the game”. There is usually a lot more going on than first appears that often leads to undesirable results. It is a thought-provoking book that will give you a new perspective on the world around you, even if you don’t fully agree with everything written.

9. Of Grammatology

Our rating: 6 / 10

Of Grammatology

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Pros:

  • Philosophy/Semiotics
  • Engaging prose
  • Mind-bending material
  • Uncanny ability to simultaneously define and critique language
  • One of the most important and influential works of philosophical thought of the 20th century

Cons:

  • Difficult to digest (literally and figuratively)
  • Requires patience and perseverance
  • Can be difficult to find

Of Grammatology by Jacques Derrida may just be one of the most comprehensive, yet difficult to comprehend, works I have ever read. But don’t let that deter you from it. I’m sure that if you do read it, you will agree with me when I say that this book, for me, falls into the same category alongside Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Kant’s Prolegomena. Of Grammatology, for me at least, is a book that radically changes your perspective on just about everything.

10. Tao Te Ching

Our rating: 6 / 10

Tao Te Ching

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A New English Version

The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese book dating back about 2700 years. It talks about the principles of life and living, and has been translated into many languages. This version is translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English. As it is very old, many translations are available with slightly different ideas.

This book talks about how to live a philosophical life. It is an interesting read.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What books should I read in 2021?

There’s no question that the most influential philosopher of this millennium passed away in 2010. However, his brilliant work continues to inspire millions of readers as their ongoing interest in his classic philosophical works like “The Republic” and “The Ethics” continue to fuel the ongoing academic discussion of his theories.

There are numerous blogs, YouTube videos, and online publications where academic philosophers and followers of his work continue to discuss his uniquely distinctive theories. This has sparked a new wave of interest in Plato’s work that has only increased his popularity in recent years.

What book should I start with philosophy?

If you have never looked into philosophy before, then starting with Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy is a good option. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the thought of the major figures of Western philosophy from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle through to Russell himself and the logical positivists of the early 1900s.

Many people get hung up on the question of how to approach philosophy; fortunately, Russell has some helpful advice. The book introduces us to the idea of the “classics” through the puzzles and difficulties they posed and their responses to those puzzles. As we gain a basic familiarity with the classics, Russell notes, we can then begin to develop our own philosophical opinions, based upon these classic works, even as we eventually “discover that there is hardly a problem that is both important and for which some philosopher has not given a well-known answer”.

What are the Top 10 Books everyone should read?

What books should I read to be well read?

The definition of “well read” is subjective but a good working definition might be “someone who has read the most important works and appears cultured as a result.” While someone “well read” might take a decidedly elitist approach to culture, we see culture as being inclusive to everyone and the need to understand it as something we all need.

Conclusion

We are always curious to hear what our readers are reading, because we learn so much from what we read, and we’ve noticed that our reading tastes tend to match up (unplanned, of course). We’ve asked a few of our Ambassadors about some of the books that are moving them this year, and some of the books that they see impacting others in a positive way.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on WisdomBest OverallThe Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom
Tao Te ChingBudget PickTao Te Ching
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of BeliefUpgrade PickMaps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief