I understand that these questions are in bad taste as they are nothing to do with philosophical matters themselves, but it's extremely hard to answer the following questions even by using Google.

Which books to read of the classical Greece era? For example, I've read the Apology of Socrates, the Republic, some of Aristotle, and Zeno; and of the Roman Era, I've read Marcus Aurelius many times; and of recent centuries, I've read Locke; and more recent still, I've read Bertrand Russel. There doesn't seem to be a full reading list anywhere, and to list all of them would be far too difficult, but if someone could break down the eras (e.g., Ancient Greece, Roman), and list the chiefly important names of those eras, I would appreciate it. I can do the rest once I know where to look. Any extra help would be appreciated, for example, to list some books of the eras, or to tell me which books are the foundation for others (e.g., the cynical works to stoicism).

I took the advice of one of the commenters and decided to state a goal. perhaps making my question somewhat more clear (I'm very aware that it is obscure, and necessarily so as I'm lost myself, much like asking for directions in a town I've never been). My goal is to have a working knowledge of "all" of the philosophies ("all" meaning the major ones, and some lesser ones, but no one can truly know all of the philosophies of the world in a serious way). If not to be pretentious, a good example would be the working knowledge Bertrand Russell seemed to have in his historical book of western philosophy. I was always very impressed with it, and it always striked me as something that I would love to read.

  • Wikipedia? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy#Western_philosophy
    – a_z_s
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 9:09
  • 1
    As you alluded to, this question is very vague and isn't exactly on topic. It's made even more difficult because you haven't expressed what your goal even is, you've just said "what should I read?" What is your goal, what is it that you want to gain from your reading? Do you want to just have exposure to a wide range of philosophers or do you want to have a working knowledge of different branches of philosophy? I'm not sure this question will say open, but for it to have a chance to you need to help us understand what your goals are. "What should I read?" depends heavily on your specific goals
    – Not_Here
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 12:52
  • If I had to assume I would think you are looking for a historical roadmap of western philosophy and for that I would recommend finding a book about the history of philosophy and then using it's table of contents as your references for what to read. You can read me comparing and contrasting three popular history of philosophy books in this answer. Don't read Tarnas though. It's not actually a history of philosophy, it's him doing philosophy about history.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 13:11
  • In regards to your new edit, Russell entered university to study math and philosophy in 1890 and continued to study/teach/practice the field for fifty five years before writing that book in 1945. Having a working knowledge of philosophy on that level is possible, but not something you can get just by reading the right books! Anyway, if that's your goal then start with Russell's book. Read it, then go and read the books by the people he talks about in his book. It will take you a few years and you'll get a good understanding of how philosophy works along the way.
    – Not_Here
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 19:50
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    Alright, thanks a bunch. All of your answers were helpful.
    – JDough
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 20:01

3 Answers 3


As regards to ancient philosophy: Given that we lack most of the full works, try picking up those books who collect all the bits and pieces (or at least contain a list of everything there is). Here are two such books: Hellenistic Philosophy by Gerson and Inwood, and vol. 1 of the Hellenistic Philosophers by A. A. Long.

  • Definitely great suggestions. Both of these have been huge components of every class I've taken in ancient philosophy.
    – Dennis
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 16:07

I would like suggest Mortimer Adler's book, How to Read a Book. It is a classic impressive reference for rigorous analysis of any text.

In fact, Adler worked hard to popularize Philosophy.

I hope you will enjoy this book.


Rather than asking what books to read, because there are so many places to start, one way of approaching it to pick a subject/author and read an author of an antithetical argument.

If you can observe this dualism, read "old school" and "new school" philosophers as well.

If you can observe this, then read both academic and non-academic sources as well.

In shorter terms, pick an author and read the author's opponent.

An example, and a rather good one considering popularity is to read neitzche and kierkegaard in the same time frame so you have holistic view.

Research parmenides wholism and the antithetical atomists (such as lucretius) is also a good start.

Focus on how to read rather than what to read because the truth of it is, it is just best to read all of them.

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