We spent 23 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Philosophy is one of those subjects that you always meant to learn more about, but never got around to actually doing any of the reading. With the textbooks on our list, you can quickly get up to speed on some of the most important theories in human history, as the authors explain everything in detail without making the material boring and impenetrable. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.

10. Fundamentals of Philosophy

Fundamentals of Philosophy is arranged by some of the most difficult and pressing issues of all time, creating a narrative format that allows learners to process the information more easily. That’s good, because the book won’t hold your hand at any point.

  • Readings are organized as a debate
  • Highlights recent developments
  • Not ideal for beginners

Brand Pearson
Model pending
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

9. Elements of Moral Philosophy

If you’re looking for a deep dive into one of the principal branches of the discipline, then consider picking up Elements of Moral Philosophy. Students will learn about utilitarianism, social contract theory, and even some of the currently-prevailing feminist ideas.

  • Provides multiple points of view
  • Offers real-life examples
  • Occasionally uses circular reasoning

Brand imusti
Model pending
Weight 7.2 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. Philosophy Made Simple

If you’re looking to teach yourself or homeschool your children, Philosophy Made Simple will help you make the information more relatable. It’s also excellent for anyone who’s struggling with more tedious books in a college-level class.

  • Covers pros and cons of each branch
  • Critical sections in bold type
  • Oversimplifies some of the topics

Brand Popkin, Richard H.
Model pending
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

7. The Right Thing to Do

Possibly the most important question in philosophy is how to live a virtuous and upstanding life. To that end, The Right Thing to Do tries to break down how various theorists have approached this problem, allowing you to decide for yourself how to deal with moral dilemmas.

  • Covers both theory and application
  • Provides ample room for thought
  • Skims over some important ideas

Brand The Right Thing to Do
Model pending
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. The Basics

For readers just wanting to dip their toe into the subject, The Basics serves as an effective primer. It’s designed around some of the most basic — but persistent — questions that continue to haunt mankind, with brief overviews of the arguments on either side.

  • Avoids confusing jargon
  • Quick and easy read
  • Written from an atheist perspective

Brand Routledge
Model pending
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. The History of Western Philosophy

It’s one of the older texts that’s still widely used, but that’s because The History of Western Philosophy is an enduring classic. Penned by the illustrious Bertrand Russell, it covers everything from the rise of the Greeks to the problems that dog us today.

  • Breezes through lots of information
  • Whimsical and engaging style
  • Author’s biases creep in at times

Brand Simon Schuster Touchsto
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Questions That Matter

Philosophy can be a dry subject, but Questions That Matter does a good job of striking a balance between serving up a readable style without sacrificing its scholarly content, making it a smart choice for anyone who’s walked away from the material before.

  • Extremely useful dictionary
  • Helpful running summaries
  • Even-handed treatment of theology

Brand Questions That Matter
Model pending
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

3. A Historical Survey with Essential Readings

A Historical Survey with Essential Readings offers an equal mix of Eastern and Western teachings, giving students a comprehensive overview of the topics covered. That sets it apart from many competitors, which put a disproportionate focus on Western thinkers.

  • Readings arranged chronologically
  • Chapters are extremely in-depth
  • Includes many primary sources

Brand A Historical Survey wit
Model pending
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. An Introduction to the Art of Wondering

An Introduction to the Art of Wondering lays the groundwork that students will need to excel in future, higher-level classes, while also serving as a useful survey of the material in its own right. It’s a good choice for anyone wanting a gentle introduction to the subject.

  • Filled with cartoons and quotations
  • Includes biographies of thinkers
  • Connects several disciplines smartly

Brand Cengage Learning
Model pending
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. The Great Conversation

The Great Conversation treats the history of philosophy as a discussion between our deepest thinkers, making the texts much more engaging. It goes to great lengths to demonstrate how philosophers think about and respond to the most important questions of all time.

  • Author has wry sense of humor
  • Sets ideas in historical context
  • Includes helpful exercises

Brand The Great Conversation
Model pending
Weight 3 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0