Popular and philosophy: these are two words that don’t go together very often. Anybody who has had to take philosophy courses knows that it is a subject that can be weighed down by overanalysis, and–probably more so than any other subject–by academic jargon and writing that is less-than-thrilling to read. There are some titles, however, that make philosophy not just more accessible but downright enjoyable. I love learning about philosophy, for its own merits, but also because philosophy has historically been so intertwined with art, science, mathematics, and religion.
This is a collection of titles that bring philosophy out of the ivory tower and into the living room.
The Consolations of Philosophy – Alain de Botton – Famous for his TED talks, de Botton goes into the lives and teachings of 6 philosophers, from Socrates to Montaigne and beyond. This book breaks these philosophies down to their essentials, gives backgrounds and examples, visual aides, and much more. While insightful, this book is also light and humerous.
Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder– A 14 year old girl begins to receive a correspondence course in philosophy through letters. The history of philosophy is revealed as events surrounding Sophie and the mysterious philosophy teacher Alberto Knox bring their entire reality and existence into question.
A Brief History of Thought – A Philosophical Guide to Living – Luc Ferry – Influential philosophers and theories are introduced and deconstructed. The author boils these philosophies down to the essential that can be directly applied by the individual. The author also examines Christianity in the same method he examines philosophical doctrine, and the resulting analysis and comparison is fascinating. Excellent read.
Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Wayne Dyer – Made popular by his appearances on Oprah and PBS, Wayne Dyer is a widely known self-help guru (confession, I also love the self-help genre). In this work, Dyer goes through the Tao Te Ching (or Dao De Jing) verse by verse, to see what spiritual insight can be gained by the classic work by Lao Tsu. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life is valuable as a window into eastern philosophy, a spiritual work, a self-help guide, and an all-around inspiring read. I highly recommend it.
I’d love to hear about some other popular philosophy titles that are out there! What titles have you all found to be both un-daunting and enlightening?