Five Most Inspiring Philosophy Books




Looking for a life-changing summer read? Here are Daily Philosophy’s recommendations for five of the most inspiring books that everyone should know. 

Have a look at the best from Alexandra David-Neel, Jane Dobisz, Erich Fromm, Douglas Hofstadter and Pico Iyer — a group so diverse that you will find something for every kind of reader in this list. Read below for specific recommendations on which kind of person to gift each of these books and get ready for an unforgettable summer.

See also our list of the Best Introductions to Philosophy. The second part of this article, with another five great book recommendations, is right here!

Here are some of Daily Philosophy’s all-time inspirational philosophy favourites.

I am Dr Andreas Matthias, the editor of Daily Philosophy, and the selection below will be a very personal one. Any list of books is like a fingerprint of the person making the list. Different people like different things and philosophers are even more picky than the general population. A Nietzsche reader will not enjoy Bertrand Russell. A Vienna Circle devotee will not even count Heidegger among the philosophers. No one will like or enjoy all the books below.

Since we are talking about summer reads, this list is more about inspiring and entertaining rather than theoretical knowledge.

The books discussed here can change your life when you are young (or perhaps even when you’re older) and one remembers them throughout one’s life. In later posts, we will also talk about philosophy introductions and histories of philosophy, individual philosophers, novels and short stories with a philosophical theme or twist, and movies and online content that I have always loved. Not everything in these lists is “classic” philosophy. Some works are quite far from academic philosophy, but I’ve always believed that philosophy is best understood as the “love of wisdom” (which is what “philosophy” literally means) and wisdom can take many forms, some of which may, at first, look quite like foolishness.

So let’s dive in!

1. Alexandra David-Neel: Magic and Mystery in Tibet

This is one of those books that are idiosyncratic, to say the least. But it’s also a book that is astonishing in its boldness and beautiful in its evocation of old Tibet, a place that does not exist any more as David-Neel describes it here.

Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969) was a Belgian-French explorer, and, as Wikipedia remarks, she was also a “spiritualist, Buddhist, anarchist, opera singer, and writer.” And note that she was a woman who lived much of her life in the 19th century!

This amazing person was an independent travel writer and went to Tibet at a time when women were not even going unaccompanied to the horse races. Once there, in 1912, she started studying Buddhism in earnest. In 1914, she and a young Indian, whom she later would adopt as a son, went to live in a remote cave hermitage in India. She met the local kings and princes, the Dalai Lama, practised Tibetan Yoga …

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