The Ten Best Books on or by Aristotle

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This page contains a list of the ten best books on Aristotle. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books on Aristotle” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview, a third person may be looking for classic works by Aristotle. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on Aristotle. Here are the best books on or by Aristotle in no particular order:

Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Barnes

Category: Short Textbook | Length: 176 pages | Published: 2001

Publisher’s description: The influence of Aristotle, the prince of philosophers, on the intellectual history of the West is second to none. In this book, Jonathan Barnes examines Aristotle’s scientific researches, his discoveries in logic and his metaphysical theories, his work in psychology and in ethics and politics, and his ideas about art and poetry, placing his teachings in their historical context.

Aristotle: The Desire to Understand by Jonathan Lear

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 342 pages | Published: 1988

Publisher’s description: This is a philosophical introduction to Aristotle, and Professor Lear starts where Aristotle himself started. He introduces us to the essence of Aristotle’s philosophy and guides us through all the central Aristotelian texts–selected from the Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics, Politics and the biological and logical works. The book is written in a direct, lucid style that engages the reader with the themes in an active and participatory manner. It will prove a stimulating introduction for all students of Greek philosophy and for a wide range of others interested in Aristotle as a giant figure in Western intellectual history.

A New Aristotle Reader edited by J. L. Ackrill

Category: Collected Works | Length: 600 pages | Published: 1988

Publisher’s description: In a single volume that will be of service to philosophy students of all levels and to their teachers, this reader provides modern, accurate translations of the texts necessary for a careful study of most aspects of Aristotle’s philosophy. In selecting the texts Professor J. L. Ackrill has drawn on his broad experience of teaching graduate classes, and his choice reflects issues of current philosophical interest as well as the perennial themes. Only recent translations which achieve a high level of accuracy have been chosen; the aim is to place the Greekless reader, as nearly as possible, in the position of a reader of Greek. As an aid to study, Professor Ackrill supplies a valuable guide to the key topics covered. The guide gives references to the works or passages contained in the reader, and indication of their interrelations, and current bibliography.

The Complete Works of Aristotle edited by Jonathan Barnes

Category: Collected Works | Length: 1256 pages | Published: 1984

Publisher’s description: The Oxford Translation of Aristotle was originally published in 12 volumes between 1912 and 1954. It is universally recognized as the standard English version of Aristotle. This revised edition contains the substance of the original Translation, slightly emended in light of recent scholarship; three of the original versions have been replaced by new translations; and a new and enlarged selection of Fragments has been added. The aim of the translation remains the same: to make the surviving works of Aristotle readily accessible to English speaking readers.

The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle edited by Jonathan Barnes

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 434 pages | Published: 1995

Publisher’s description: Aristotle is one of the greatest thinkers in the Western tradition, but also one of the most difficult. The contributors to this volume do not attempt to disguise the nature of that difficulty, but at the same time they offer a clear exposition of the central philosophical concerns in his work. Approaches and methods vary and the volume editor has not imposed any single interpretation, but has rather allowed differences of interpretation to stand.

Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

Category: Original Work | Length: 240 pages | Published: ∼350 BC

Publisher’s description: Focus Philosophical Library’s edition of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is a lucid and useful translation of one of Aristotle’s major works for the student of undergraduate philosophy, as well as for the general reader interested in the major works of western civilization. This edition includes notes and a glossary, intending to provide the reader with some sense of the terms and the concepts as they were understood by Aristotle’s immediate audience.

Politics by Aristotle

Category: Original Work | Length: 289 pages | Published: ∼ 350 BC

Publisher’s description: No other English-language translation comes close to the standard of accuracy and readability set here by Reeve. This volume provides the reader with more of the resources needed to understand Aristotle’s argument than any other edition. An introductory essay by Reeve situates Politics in Aristotle’s overall thought and offers an engaging critical introduction to its central argument. A detailed glossary, footnotes, bibliography, and indexes provide historical background, analytical assistance with particular passages, and a guide both to Aristotle’s philosophy and to scholarship on it.

Rhetoric and Poetics by Aristotle

Category: Original Work | Length: 324 pages | Published: ∼ 350 BC

Publisher’s description:

Translated by Rhys Roberts and Ingram Bywater, Introduction by Edward P.J. Corbett

 

Physics by Aristotle

Category: Original Work | Length: 278 pages | Published: ∼ 350 BC

Publisher’s description: Aristotle’s Physics is the only complete and coherent  book we have from the ancient world in which a thinker of the first rank seeks to say something about nature as a whole. For centuries, Aristotle’s inquiry into the causes and conditions of motion and rest dominated science and philosophy. To understand the intellectual assumptions of a powerful world view—and the roots of the Scientific Revolution—reading Aristotle is critical. Yet existing translations of Aristotle’s Physics have made it difficult to understand either Aristotle’s originality or the lasting value of his work.

In this volume in the Masterworks of Discovery series, Joe Sachs provides a new plain-spoken English translation of all of Aristotle’s classic treatise and accompanies it with a long interpretive introduction, a running explication of the text, and a helpful glossary. He succeeds brilliantly in fulfilling the aim of this innovative series: to give the general reader the tools to read and understand a masterwork of scientific discovery.

Metaphysics by Aristotle

Category: Original Work | Length: 688 pages | Published: ∼ 350 BC

Publisher’s description: This new translation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics in its entirety is a model of accuracy and consistency, presented with a wealth of annotation and commentary.

Sequentially numbered endnotes provide the information most needed at each juncture, while a detailed Index of Terms guides the reader to places where focused discussion of key notions occurs.

An illuminating general Introduction describes the book that lies ahead, explaining what it is about, what it is trying to do, how it goes about doing it, and what sort of audience it presupposes.


This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:

  • browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
  • searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
  • browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • searching for recommendations on philosophy forums

The following sources were used to build this list:

University Course Syllabi:

Bibliographies:

Other Recommendations:

If you’d like to learn more about Aristotle, check out:

And if you’d like to get more philosophy in your life, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or enter your email below to get a quote/passage from a classic work of philosophy delivered to your inbox each day. They include key passages from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and many more. Each passage is paired with a link to a beginner friendly article, video, or podcast, so you can easily learn more about that day’s idea. The goal is to make it easier for everyone to get a little bit more philosophy into their life.

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