From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Hannah Arendt, this page features books on Arendt to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Arendt. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Arendt for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Hannah Arendt in no particular order.
Arendt: A Guide for the Perplexed – Karin A. Fry
Publisher description: Hannah Arendt is considered to be one of the most influential political thinkers of the twentieth century. The enormous breadth of her work places particular demands on the student coming to her thought for the first time.
In Arendt: A Guide for the Perplexed, Karin Fry explores the systematic nature of Arendt’s political thought that arose in response to the political controversies of her time and describes how she sought to envision a coherent framework for thinking about politics in a new way. Thematically structured and covering all of Arendt’s key writings and ideas, this book is designed specifically to meet the needs of students coming to her work for the first time.
Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World – Elisabeth Young-Bruehl
Publisher description: This highly acclaimed, prize-winning biography of one of the foremost political philosophers of the twentieth century is here reissued in a trade paperback edition for a new generation of readers. In a new preface the author offers an account of writings by and about Arendt that have appeared since the book’s 1982 publication, providing a reassessment of her subject’s life and achievement.
The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt – Dana Villa
Publisher description: Hannah Arendt was one of the foremost political thinkers of the twentieth century, and her particular interests have made her one of the most frequently cited thinkers of our time. This volume examines the primary themes of her multi-faceted work, from her theory of totalitarianism and her controversial idea of the “banality of evil” to her classic studies of political action and her final reflections on judgment and the life of the mind. Each essay examines the political, philosophical, and historical concerns that shaped Arendt’s thought.
The Portable Hannah Arendt – Hannah Arendt
Publisher description: A collection of writings by a groundbreaking political thinker, including excerpts from The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem
She was a Jew born in Germany in the early twentieth century, and she studied with the greatest German minds of her day—Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers among them. After the rise of the Nazis, she emigrated to America where she proceeded to write some of the most searching, hard-hitting reflections on the agonizing issues of the time: totalitarianism in both Nazi and Stalinist garb; Zionism and the legacy of the Holocaust; federally mandated school desegregation and civil rights in the United States; and the nature of evil….
The Origins of Totalitarianism – Hannah Arendt
Publisher description: Hannah Arendt’s definitive work on totalitarianism and an essential component of any study of twentieth-century political history
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.
The Human Condition – Hannah Arendt
Publisher description: A work of striking originality bursting with unexpected insights, The Human Condition is in many respects more relevant now than when it first appeared in 1958. In her study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then—diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are less equipped to control the consequences of our actions—continue to confront us today. This new edition, published to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of its original publication, contains an improved and expanded index and a new introduction by noted Arendt scholar Margaret Canovan which incisively analyzes the book’s argument and examines its present relevance. A classic in political and social theory, The Human Condition is a work that has proved both timeless and perpetually timely.
Eichmann in Jerusalem : A Report on the Banality of Evil – Hannah Arendt
Publisher description: The controversial journalistic analysis of the mentality that fostered the Holocaust, from the author of The Origins of Totalitarianism
Sparking a flurry of heated debate, Hannah Arendt’s authoritative and stunning report on the trial of German Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann first appeared as a series of articles in The New Yorker in 1963. This revised edition includes material that came to light after the trial, as well as Arendt’s postscript directly addressing the controversy that arose over her account. A major journalistic triumph by an intellectual of singular influence, Eichmann in Jerusalem is as shocking as it is informative—an unflinching look at one of the most unsettling (and unsettled) issues of the twentieth century.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Hannah Arendt – PHIL 6150 | York University
- Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss: Philosophy and Politics – New School for Social Research
- Hannah Arendt Seminar – Bard College
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Arendt
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Arendt
If you want to learn more about Arendt, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
The Daily Idea aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best philosophy resources from across the internet.
- Find the best philosophy books on a wide variety of topics with this collection of over 120 philosophy reading lists.
- Find free online philosophy articles, podcasts, and videos with this organised collection of 400+ free philosophy resources.
A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.