From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Plato, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Plato. 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 pick up one of the classics.
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 Plato in no particular order.
Plato: A Very Short Introduction – Julia Annas
Category: Short Introduction | Length: 120 pages | Published: 2003
Publisher’s description: This lively and accessible book focuses on the philosophy and argument of Plato’s writings, drawing the reader into Plato’s way of doing philosophy and the general themes of his thinking. It discusses Plato’s style of writing: his use of the dialogue form, his use of what we today call fiction, and his philosophical transformation of myths. It also looks at his discussions of love and philosophy, his attitude towards women, and towards homosexual love. It explores Plato’s claim that virtue is sufficient for happiness and touches on his arguments for the immorality of the soul and his ideas about the nature of the universe.
Plato: A Guide for the Perplexed – Gerald A. Press
Category: General Introduction | Length: 248 pages | Published: 2011
Publisher’s description: It is widely agreed that Plato laid the foundations for the whole history of western thought and, well over 2000 years later, his work is still studied by every student of philosophy. Yet his thought and writings continue to evoke perplexity in readers; and perplexity (aporia) is itself a characteristic of many of his writings, a recurrent motif of his thought, and apparently an important stage one must pass through along the path to wisdom that Plato presents. Plato: A Guide for the Perplexed is a clear and thorough account of Plato’s philosophy, his major works and ideas, providing an ideal guide to the important and complex thought of this key philosopher. The book offers a detailed review of all the major dialogues and explores the particular perplexities of the dialogue form. Geared towards the specific requirements of students who need to reach a sound understanding of Plato’s thought, the book also provides a cogent and reliable survey of the whole history of Platonic interpretation and his far-reaching influence. This is the ideal companion to the study of this most influential and challenging of philosophers.
The Cambridge Companion to Plato – Richard Kraut
Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 578 pages | Published: 1992
Publisher’s description: Plato stands as the fount of our philosophical tradition, being the first Western thinker to produce a body of writing that touches upon a wide range of topics still discussed by philosophers today. In a sense he invented philosophy as a distinct subject, for although many of these topics were discussed by his intellectual predecessors and contemporaries, he was the first to bring them together by giving them a unitary treatment. This volume contains fourteen new essays discussing Plato’s views about knowledge, reality, mathematics, politics, ethics, love, poetry, and religion. There are also analyses of the intellectual and social background of his thought, the development of his philosophy throughout his career, the range of alternative approaches to his work, and the stylometry of his writing.
Five Dialogues – Plato
Category: Anthology | Length: 168 pages | Published: ∼380 BC
The second edition of Five Dialogues presents G. M. A. Grube’s distinguished translations, as revised by John Cooper for Plato, Complete Works. A number of new or expanded footnotes are also included along with an updated bibliography.
The Republic – Plato
Category: Classic | Length: 300 pages | Published: ∼360 BC
Publisher’s description: The revised edition of Grube’s classic translation follows and furthers Grube’s noted success in combining fidelity to Plato’s text with natural readability, while reflecting the fruits of new scholarship and insights into Plato’s thought since publication of the first edition in 1974. A new introduction, index, and bibliography by Professor Reeve are included in this new rendering.
Symposium – Plato
Category: Classic | Length: 109 pages | Published: ∼360 BC
Publisher’s description: A model of the kind of text one needs for lecture courses: the translation is extremely readable and made even more accessible by intelligent printing decisions (on dividing the text, spacing for clarification, etc.); the notes are kept to a minimum but appear when they are really needed for comprehension and are truly informative. And the introduction admirably presents both basic information and a sense of current scholarly opinion. –S. G. Nugent, Princeton University
Complete Works – Plato
Category: Anthology | Length: 1838 pages | Published: ∼360 BC
Publisher’s description: Outstanding translations by leading contemporary scholars–many commissioned especially for this volume–are presented here in the first single edition to include the entire surviving corpus of works attributed to Plato in antiquity. In his introductory essay, John Cooper explains the presentation of these works, discusses questions concerning the chronology of their composition, comments on the dialogue form in which Plato wrote, and offers guidance on approaching the reading and study of Plato’s works.
Also included are concise introductions by Cooper and Hutchinson to each translation, meticulous annotation designed to serve both scholar and general reader, and a comprehensive index. This handsome volume offers fine paper and a high-quality Smyth-sewn cloth binding in a sturdy, elegant edition.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Plato – Brandeis University
- Plato – Columbia University
- Greek Philosophy: Plato – King’s College London
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Plato
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Plato
- Reading Plato: What Dialogues to Read? (A Suggestion and Request for Discussion)
- Buying first books on Socrates and Plato. Advice?
- Where to start with Plato
- How to self study Plato?
- The best books on Plato recommended by Melissa Lane
If you want to learn more about Plato, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Books on Ancient Greek Philosophy
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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.