I have a confession to make — I love reading philosophy books. From Socrates to Sartre, there are few philosophers I haven’t gotten my hands on. However, Nietzsche is my all-time favorite of the bunch. While taste is subjective, there are some Friedrich Nietzsche books that everybody should read.
It’s essential to know the context of Nietzsche’s life and personality. Aside from a few basic pieces of information, most people don’t know that much about him. That has led to misconceptions surrounding his beliefs and books. Before diving into his books, let’s take a look at who Friedrich Nietzsche was and how he influenced modern society.
Who Was Friedrich Nietzsche?
Friedrich Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher famous for his controversial ideas. He first started as a classical philologist, studying old manuscripts and books. Reading Arthur Schopenhauer’s works is what made Nietzsche dive into philosophy. Still, his philologist’s past is what was influencing his most popular works.
Nihilism, religion, and morality are just some of the things that Nietzsche wrote about. As a result, his books were not so popular during his lifetime. Yet, what’s even worse is what happened after Nietzsche’s sister got her hands on his works.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche used her brother’s unfinished work to convey her anti-Semite ideas. She mostly took books that were not ready and added her own touches to them. One such book is The Will to Power, considered by many the breeding grounds for what became the Nazi agenda. Because of his sister’s interference, Nietzsche became synonymous with Nazism and anti-Semitism.
Luckily, Walter Kaufmann cleared Nietzsche’s name a few years later. He used a series of letters and earlier works to prove his innocence. Nowadays, people consider Nietzsche one of the greatest philosophers of all time.
Must-Read Friedrich Nietzsche Books
Most people consider Friedrich Nietzsche’s books as classics, thanks to their modern ideas and concepts. While there is still an ongoing debate about his point of view, his books are simply amazing. Without further ado, here is my list of Friedrich Nietzsche books that everyone should read.
1. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, by Walter Kaufmann
While it’s not a book that Nietzsche wrote, it feels like an autobiography. You can find everything about and surrounding Nietzsche in this book. Walter Kaufmann is famous for translating most of Nietzsche’s writings. As such, who would be better than him to interpret and explain what lies beyond Nietzsche and his books?
Reading Walter Kaufmann’s work is essential to understanding all of Nietzsche’s themes, styles, and metaphors. In my opinion, this book is best read at the same time as other Nietzschean works. That way, you will have a better insight into what went through his mind. Overall, it’s a must-read for anyone looking to figure out the genius beyond the man.
2. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche himself described Thus Spoke Zarathustra as his deepest philosophical work. After reading it, I am sure he was not exaggerating. In this book, he expands most of his concepts, including Übermensch and the death of God.
The way Nietzsche imitates and twists the New Testament’s style is brilliant. This book is about a prophet, Zarathustra, that tells the world of the death of God. He proposes that humans should become God’s successors and embrace freedom and passion. However, that would mean giving up on piety and everything that tied them to God in the first place.
I can’t recommend Thus Spoke Zarathustra enough, as it’s one of my favorite Friedrich Nietzsche books. While it’s not an easy one, you should push yourself and read it. You won’t become an Übermensch but you will surely have a better grasp on philosophy as a whole.
3. Beyond Good and Evil, by Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche uses Beyond Good and Evil as a summary of all his thoughts and concepts. It more or less takes the concepts introduced in his previous work, Thus spoke Zarathustra, and expands on them.
In this piece of art, Nietzsche strongly criticizes past philosophers for their lack of critical sense. He argues that the premise of a good man being the opposite of an evil one is incorrect. What starts as a critique of sorts, quickly evolves into a deconstruction of morality and what it means to think beyond good and evil.
While, at first, you might consider the concept similar to Thus Spoke Zarathustra, this book is much easier for newcomers. It is not only comprehensive but also filled with the typical sharpness and flair that Nietzsche is loved for. It’s a great start if you are looking to join the amazing world of Nietzsche and his world-shattering concepts.
4. On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche
Keeping up with the thematic of morality, this book expands on everything that means morality to Nietzsche. Like his previous work, On the Genealogy of Morality has a critical look at Western morality as a whole.
Nietzsche concludes that morality is nothing more than a way to capture a man’s freedom. He develops the idea that religion and ethics are enslaving humans resulting in a slave morality system. As a way to fix that issue, Nietzsche proposes the idea of Übermensch — a superhuman that is no longer bound by morality.
There is no denying that On the Genealogy of Morality is a masterpiece. It is also one of the most popular Friedrich Nietzsche books out there. I strongly suggest you read it once you are done with Beyond Good and Evil. It will make it easier to understand the recurring concepts.
5. The Antichrist, by Friedrich Nietzsche
While shocking and direct, this title is actually another result of Nietzsche’s sarcastic tone. The Antichrist is a journey through religion and what it means to be a Christian.
Few people know that Nietzsche comes from a religious family, his father being a pastor. However, that doesn’t stop him from disagreeing with the modern Christian ideas. In his opinion, it is those ideas that destroyed the ancient world. It’s interesting that throughout this book, he doesn’t seem to blame Christ, but only his representatives.
If you are in love with Nietzsche’s sarcasm and overall style, you are in for an amazing journey through religious history. The Antichrist is more than what you might think when reading its name. Discovering how it all ties morality and other Nietzschean concepts together is what makes this a no-brainer.
6. Ecce Homo, by Friedrich Nietzsche
Last but not least, I strongly recommend Ecce Homo, Nietzsche’s reflective and self-analysis book. One of his last books before the infamous fall into madness, this book is truly unique. It’s amazing to see how such an illustrious philosopher critiques his own life and his works of art.
Within this book, Nietzsche tries to depict and explain why he is truly a great philosopher. He does that by describing how his suffering is a result of questioning everything around him. Nietzsche doesn’t look for pity or kindness. He proudly depicts himself as one of the greatest contributors to philosophy.
I can’t argue with Nietzsche when it comes to his role in the development of modern philosophy. What I can do, however, is recommend this book to whoever wants an insight into Nietzsche’s thoughts. But keep in mind that this book reads best after you have truly digested most of his previous works.
Conclusion: Amor Fati – Love Your Fate
All in all, it’s been a pleasure going through and describing most of my favorite Friedrich Nietzsche books. Understanding Nietzsche’s thoughts and concepts is a unique feeling that no other philosopher can give me. I recommend checking his other works too — you never know what you will find. Opening a Nietzsche book is like opening a present that never stops surprising. So why not give yourself the gift of knowledge?