From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Saint Augustine, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Augustine. 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 Augustine 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 Saint Augustine in no particular order.
Augustine: A Very Short Introduction – Henry Chadwick
Category: Short Introduction | Length: 144 pages | Published: 2001
Publisher’s description: Augustine was arguably the greatest early Christian philosopher. His teachings had a profound effect on Medieval scholarship, Renaissance humanism, and the religious controversies of both the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. Here, Henry Chadwick places Augustine in his philosophical and religious context and traces the history of his influence on Western thought, both within and beyond the Christian tradition. A handy account to one of the greatest religious thinkers, this Very Short Introduction is both a useful guide for the one who seeks to know Augustine and a fine companion for the one who wishes to know him better.
Augustine of Hippo: A Biography – Peter Brown
Category: Biography | Length: 568 pages | Published: 2013
Publisher’s description: This classic biography was first published forty-five years ago and has since established itself as the standard account of Saint Augustine’s life and teaching.
The remarkable discovery of a considerable number of letters and sermons by Augustine cast fresh light on the first and last decades of his experience as a bishop. These circumstantial texts have led Peter Brown to reconsider some of his judgments on Augustine, both as the author of the Confessions and as the elderly bishop preaching and writing in the last years of Roman rule in north Africa. Brown’s reflections on the significance of these exciting new documents are contained in two chapters of a substantial Epilogue to his biography (the text of which is unaltered). He also reviews the changes in scholarship about Augustine since the 1960s. A personal as well as a scholarly fascination infuse the book-length epilogue and notes that Brown has added to his acclaimed portrait of the bishop of Hippo.
The Cambridge Companion to Augustine – David Vincent Meconi & Eleonore Stump
Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 404 pages | Published: 2014 (2e)
Publisher’s description: It has been over a decade since the first edition of The Cambridge Companion to Augustine was published. In that time, reflection on Augustine’s life and labors has continued to bear much fruit: significant new studies into major aspects of his thinking have appeared, as well as studies of his life and times and new translations of his work. This new edition of the Companion, which replaces the earlier volume, has eleven new chapters, revised versions of others, and a comprehensive updated bibliography. It will furnish students and scholars of Augustine with a rich resource on a philosopher whose work continues to inspire discussion and debate.
Confessions – Saint Augustine
Category: Classic | Length: 311 pages | Originally Written: ∼400 AD
Publisher’s description: In his own day the dominant personality of the Western Church, Augustine of Hippo today stands as perhaps the greatest thinker of Christian antiquity, and his Confessions is one of the great works of Western literature. In this intensely personal narrative, Augustine relates his rare ascent from a humble Algerian farm to the edge of the corridors of power at the imperial court in Milan, his struggle against the domination of his sexual nature, his renunciation of secular ambition and marriage, and the recovery of the faith his mother Monica had taught him during his childhood.
City of God – Saint Augustine
Category: Classic | Length: 1184 pages | Published: ∼426 AD
Publisher’s description: St Augustine, bishop of Hippo, was one of the central figures in the history of Christianity, and City of God is one of his greatest theological works. Written as an eloquent defence of the faith at a time when the Roman Empire was on the brink of collapse, it examines the ancient pagan religions of Rome, the arguments of the Greek philosophers and the revelations of the Bible. Pointing the way forward to a citizenship that transcends the best political experiences of the world and offers citizenship that will last for eternity, City of God is one of the most influential documents in the development of Christianity.
On Christian Doctrine – Saint Augustine
Category: Classic | Length: 194 pages | Published: ∼426 AD
Publisher’s description: Since the dawn of the fifth century, theology students, religious scholars, and Christian readers have turned to this volume for instruction. Written by one of the foremost leaders in the development of Christian thought, it offers practical as well as theoretical guidance on how to read the Bible and explain the meaning of scripture. Augustine intended his treatise for the priests in his North African diocese of Hippo, but ultimately, the saint’s counsel laid the groundwork for modern hermeneutics and semiotics.
The first of On Christian Doctrine‘s four parts begins with an overview of the subjects treated in holy scripture. Subsequent parts discuss signs and their recognition, the distinctions between literal and figurative expressions, and the scriptures’ stylistic combination of eloquence and wisdom. Above all, Augustine’s text concerns itself with the ways in which individuals can live in harmony with Jesus’ teachings. Christians and non-Christians alike value this work for its role in historical theology, its influence on the development of Biblical interpretation, and its insights into the mind of a great Christian philosopher and ecclesiastic.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Augustine’s Confessions – RELI 1421 | Harvard University
- Augustine and His Influence – Iliff School of Theology
- Augustine and Augustinianism – RS 150 | Westmont College
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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.