The Ten Best Books on or by Nietzsche

Lennox Johnson Books

From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Nietzsche, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Nietzsche. 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 Nietzsche 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 Nietzsche in no particular order.

Simply Nietzsche – Peter Kail

Category: Short Introduction Introduction | Length: 132 pages | Published: 2019

Publisher’s description: Born and raised in a small town in Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) began his career in philology (the study of language), and served as a professor at the University of Basel. In 1879, he was forced to leave due to health issues, which afflicted him throughout his life. Supported by his university pension and aided by friends, he spent the next decade as an independent author, writing the books for which he would become famous, including Thus Spake Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and On the Genealogy of Morals. In 1889, at the age of 44, Nietzsche had a mental breakdown from which he never recovered, dying in 1900. Yet in just ten years, he produced a body of work that would mark him as one of the most influential philosophers of all time. …

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Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist – Walter A. Kaufmann

Category: General Introduction | Length: 560 pages | Published: 2013 (revised)Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist Book Cover

Publisher’s description: This classic is the benchmark against which all modern books about Nietzsche are measured. When Walter Kaufmann wrote it in the immediate aftermath of World War II, most scholars outside Germany viewed Nietzsche as part madman, part proto-Nazi, and almost wholly unphilosophical. Kaufmann rehabilitated Nietzsche nearly single-handedly, presenting his works as one of the great achievements of Western philosophy.

Responding to the powerful myths and countermyths that had sprung up around Nietzsche, Kaufmann offered a patient, evenhanded account of his life and works, and of the uses and abuses to which subsequent generations had put his ideas. Without ignoring or downplaying the ugliness of many of Nietzsche’s proclamations, he set them in the context of his work as a whole and of the counterexamples yielded by a responsible reading of his books. More positively, he presented Nietzsche’s ideas about power as one of the great accomplishments of modern philosophy, arguing that his conception of the “will to power” was not a crude apology for ruthless self-assertion but must be linked to Nietzsche’s equally profound ideas about sublimation….

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The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche – Gemes and Richardson

Category: Handbook | Length: 808 pages | Published: 2013

Publisher’s description: The diversity of Nietzsche’s books, and the sheer range of his philosophical interests, have posed daunting challenges to his interpreters. This Oxford Handbook addresses this multiplicity by devoting each of its 32 essays to a focused topic, picked out by the book’s systematic plan. The aim is to treat each topic at the best current level of philosophical scholarship on Nietzsche. The first group of papers treat selected biographical issues: his family relations, his relations to women, and his ill health and eventual insanity. In Part 2 the papers treat Nietzsche in historical context: his relations back to other philosophers—the Greeks, Kant, and Schopenhauer—and to the cultural movement of Romanticism, as well as his own later influence in an unlikely place, on analytic philosophy. The papers in Part 3 treat a variety of Nietzsche’s works, from early to late and in styles ranging from the ‘aphoristic’ The Gay Science and Beyond Good and Evil through the poetic-mythic Thus Spoke Zarathustra to the florid autobiography Ecce Homo. This focus on individual works, their internal unity, and the way issues are handled within them, is an important complement to the final three groups of papers, which divide up Nietzsche’s philosophical thought topically. …

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Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography – Rüdiger Safranski

Category: Biography | Length: 416 pages | Published: 2003 Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography Book Cover

Publisher’s description: A seminal biography, essential reading for anyone studying the philosophy of history’s most enigmatic and fascinating thinker.

No other modern philosopher has proved as influential as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and none is as poorly understood. In the first new biography in decades, Rüdiger Safranski, one of the foremost living Nietzsche scholars, re-creates the anguished life of Nietzsche while simultaneously assessing the philosophical implications of his morality, religion, and art. Struggling to break away from the oppressive burdens of the past, Nietzsche invented a unique philosophy based on compulsive self-consciousness and constant self-revision. As groundbreaking as it will be long-lasting, this biography offers a brilliant, multifaceted portrait of a towering figure.

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Basic Writings of Nietzsche – Friedrich Nietzsche

Category: Anthology | Length: 896 pages | Published: 2000 Basic Writings of Nietzsche Book Cover

Publisher’s description: One hundred years after his death, Friedrich Nietzsche remains the most influential philosopher of the modern era. Basic Writings of Nietzsche gathers the complete texts of five of Nietzsche’s most important works, from his first book to his last: The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals, The Case of Wagner, and Ecce Homo. Edited and translated by the great Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann, this volume also features seventy-five aphorisms, selections from Nietzsche’s correspondence, and variants from drafts for Ecce Homo. It is a definitive guide to the full range of Nietzsche’s thought.

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Beyond Good & Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche

Category: Classic | Length: 288 pages Beyond Good & Evil Book Cover

Publisher’s description: Represents Nietzsche’s attempt to sum up his philosophy. In nine parts the book is designed to give the reader a comprehensive idea of Nietzsche’s thought and style:  they span “The Prejudices of Philsophers,” “The Free Spirit,” religion, morals, scholarship, “Our Virtues,” “Peoples and Fatherlands,” and “What Is Noble,” as well as epigrams and a concluding poem.  Beyond Good and Evil is one of the most remarkable and influential books of the nineteenth century.

This translation by Walter Kaufmann has become the standard one, for accuracy and fidelity to the eccentricities and grace of the style of the original.  The translation is based on the only edition Nietzsche himself published, and all variant reading in later editions.  This volume offers an inclusive index of subjects and persons, as well as a running footnote commentary on the text.

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On the Genealogy of Morality – Friedrich Nietzsche

Category: Classic | Length: 177 pages On the Genealogy of Morality Book Cover

Publisher’s description: This new edition is the product of a collaboration between a Germanist and a philosopher who is also a Nietzsche scholar. The translation strives not only to communicate a sense of Nietzsche’s style but also to convey his meaning accurately―and thus to be an important advance on previous translations of this work. A superb set of notes ensures that Clark and Swensen’s Genealogy will become the new edition of choice for classroom use.

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The Gay Science – Friedrich Nietzsche

Category: Classic | Length: 396 pages The Gay Science Book Cover

Publisher’s description: Nietzsche called The Gay Science “the most personal of all my books.” It was here that he first proclaimed the death of God—to which a large part of the book is devoted—and his doctrine of the eternal recurrence.

Walter Kaufmann’s commentary, with its many quotations from previously untranslated letters, brings to life Nietzsche as a human being and illuminates his philosophy. The book contains some of Nietzsche’s most sustained discussions of art and morality, knowledge and truth, the intellectual conscience and the origin of logic. …

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The Birth of Tragedy – Friedrich Nietzsche

Category: Classic | Length: 160 pages The Birth of Tragedy Book Cover

Publisher’s description: The first book by the author of the classic philosophical text Beyond Good and Evil.

The youthful faults of this work were exposed by the author himself in the brilliant Attempt at a Self-Criticism, which he added to the new edition of 1886. But the book, whatever its excesses, remains one of the most relevant statements on tragedy ever penned. It exploded the conception of Greek culture that was prevalent down through the Victorian era, and it analyzed themes developed in the twentieth century by classicists, existentialists, psychoanalysts, and others.

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Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche

Category: Classic | Length: 329 pages Thus Spoke Zarathustra Book Cover

Publisher’s description: Nietzsche was one of the most revolutionary and subversive thinkers in Western philosophy, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra remains his most famous and influential work. It describes how the ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra descends from his solitude in the mountains to tell the world that God is dead and that the Superman, the human embodiment of divinity, is his successor. With blazing intensity and poetic brilliance, Nietzsche argues that the meaning of existence is not to be found in religiouspieties or meek submission, but in an all-powerful life force: passionate, chaotic & free.

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