Philosophy Books for Non-Philosophers: Your Recommendations


The father of a student who is about to embark on his PhD in philosophy needs some assistance. But he’s probably not the only one.

The student describes the problem: “My loving father seems to have come to the realization that he’ll be stuck listening to me yammer on about philosophy for the long haul.”

Rather than ask for earplugs, or for Advil, or for his son to reconsider, “today he asked me if I could recommend some introductory philosophy texts that would both give him the lay of the land and be enjoyable to read.” What a dad!

Let’s help him out. Readers, what books about philosophy would you recommend to the smart, curious but uninitiated reader?

In thinking about this, it would be useful to give extra weight to the reading experience. There are different ways to hook and keep a reader’s attention. Whether it’s a brief and broad introductory text such as Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean?or a narrower and more in-depth look at one area of philosophy such as Lisa Tessman’s When Doing the Right Thing is Impossible, or an examination of something that’s fascinating even apart from the philosophical questions it raises, such as Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, recommended titles should make for an engaging read.

David Kracov, “Book of Life”

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