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The Best 17 Books by Friedrich Nietzsche [PDF]

Today we present to you a selection of the best books by Friedrich Nietzsche in PDF format. But first, a little history about this great German philosopher.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born on October 15, 1844 in Röcken bei Lützen, a small town in Prussia (part of present-day Germany). His father, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was a Lutheran preacher; he died when Nietzsche was 4 years old. Nietzsche and his younger sister, Elisabeth, were raised by their mother, Franziska.

Nietzsche attended a private school in Naumburg and then received a classical education at the prestigious Schulpforta School. After graduating in 1864, he attended the University of Bonn for two semesters. He transferred to Leipzig University, where he studied philology, a combination of literature, linguistics and history.

He was strongly influenced by the writings of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. While in Leipzig, he befriended the composer Richard Wagner, whose music he greatly admired.

In 1869, Nietzsche took up the position of professor of classical philology at the University of Basel (Switzerland). During his professorship he published his first books, The Birth of Tragedy (1872) and «Human, All Too Human» (1878).

He also began to distance himself from classical scholarship, as well as from the teachings of Schopenhauer, and to become more interested in the values underlying modern civilization. By this time, his friendship with Wagner had deteriorated. Suffering from a nervous disorder, he resigned his post in Basel in 1879.

For much of the next decade, Nietzsche lived in seclusion, moving from Switzerland to France and Italy when he was not at his mother’s home in Naumburg. However, it was also a very productive period for him as a thinker and writer.

One of his most significant works, «Thus Spoke Zarathustra», was published in four volumes between 1883 and 1885. He also wrote «Beyond Good and Evil», published in 1886, «On the Genealogy of Morality» (1887) and «Twilight of the Idols» (1889).

In these works of the 1880s, Nietzsche developed the central points of his philosophy. One was his famous assertion that «God is dead», a rejection of Christianity as a significant force in contemporary life.

Others were his support for self-perfection through the creative impulse and the «will to power», and his concept of the «superman», an individual who strives to exist beyond the conventional categories of good and evil, master and slave.

Nietzsche suffered a nervous breakdown in 1889 while living in Turin, Italy. The last decade of his life was spent in a state of mental incapacity. The reason for his insanity remains unknown, although historians have attributed it to causes as varied as syphilis, an inherited brain disease, a tumor, and excessive use of sedative drugs.

After a stay in an insane asylum, Nietzsche was cared for by his mother in Naumburg and by his sister in Weimar, Germany. He died in Weimar on August 25, 1900.

1) Homer and Classical Philology

Homer and Classical Philology author Friedrich Nietzsche

Homer and Classical Philology could be considered as the “first work” of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, which precedes his book The Birth of Tragedy. It is the inaugural speech that Nietzsche delivered on May 28, 1869 at the University of Basel.

It is a tradition in this house of studies that newly installed professors give a speech to make themselves known professionally and also the aspects and approaches of their work.

This essay is considered an important work that analyzes the language and use of mythology in two of Homer’s most representative works, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and their relationship with classical philology. It also refers to how the works attributed to the ancient Greek poet may not have been written by him.

We invite you to read what could be considered the true early work of this influential philosopher and cultural critic.

2) The Birth of Tragedy

The Birth of Tragedy author Friedrich Nietzsche

The Birth of Tragedy is a book written between 1871 and 1872.

It is the first work of the German philosopher. In this book, controversial at the time, he not only systematically exposes the content of his study of the Greeks, but also begins to shape his philosophy, already influenced by the thoughts of Arthur Schopenhauer and the music of Richard Wagner.

This text, which is a hybrid of philosophy and philology, which is why the author called it a «centaur», deals with the birth of the Attic tragedy, the aesthetic motives that inspired it and the causes of its disappearance.

3) Thoughts Out of Season part I

Thoughts Out of Season part I author Friedrich Nietzsche

Thoughts out of Season is a classic work by Nietzsche that can also be found under the name of Untimely Meditations or also as Unfashionable Observations. This publication is a compendium of 4 works and was started in the year 1873 and finished in 1876.

Friedrich Nietzsche is known for having been a man dedicated to the study of philosophy, morals, culture, religion, etc., and who usually resorted to resources such as aphorism, irony and metaphor to expound his ideas, this work being an example of this.

Perhaps for some readers unaccustomed to the narrative of this classical philologist, Thoughts out of Season may seem a somewhat complex reading, but for those who are already familiar with other works of the writer such as Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Genealogy of Morals or Twilight of the Idols, they will be able to read and understand this volume without major problems.

4) Thoughts Out of Season part II

Thoughts Out of Season part II author Friedrich Nietzsche

This work includes two essays by the cultural critic and classical philologist Friedrich Nietzsche, the first entitled “Use and Abuse of History” and the second “Schopenhauer as Educator,” which form the second and third parts of the series ” Thoughts Out of Season”, also known as “Untimely Meditations” and “Unfashionable Observations”.

These essays were first published in English in 1910 and, like other works by Nietzsche, deal with philosophy, religion and psychology. And they were written at the time when the German philosopher was working as a professor of classical philology at Basel.

In the first essay, Nietzsche condemns those who use the past as a means to justify their present. And in the second he makes clear his position against state-subsidized philosophy and against those professors who trained their students with cathedral-like authority in all their pronouncements.

5) We Philologists

We Philologists author Friedrich Nietzsche

If we take into account that Nietzsche was a professor of classical philology – the study of ancient languages – at the University of Basel between 1869 and 1878, it is not surprising that he addressed this topic in his works.

In We Philologists, written around 1874 and published after his death in 1900, we find Nietzsche’s criticism of the professors of philology in Germany (very influential at the time) because, in his opinion, they were unfit to exercise their profession because they were mentally deficient in entering into the spirit of antiquity.

For him, both the teachers and their students were unfit when compared to the Greek ideal, which he describes as people of mental acuity and clear speech.

6) Human, All Too Human

Human, All Too Human author Friedrich Nietzsche

Human, all too human is a book whose first volume was published in 1878. It was followed by two subsequent sequels, in March and December 1880 respectively: «Assorted Opinions and Maxims» and «The Wanderer and his Shadow».

These two sequels were later collected, in 1886, in a single volume, as the second volume of “Human, all too human”.

This work breaks with Nietzsche’s earlier style. In fact, it is here that for the first time he consciously rehearses the use of aphorisms, brief and penetrating, as an instrument for writing and communicating his profound, incisive and sometimes even contradictory thought.

7) Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions

Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions author Friedrich Nietzsche

Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions is a compilation that includes Nietzsche’s observations and opinions on relevant topics such as licentiousness, danger in admiration, and deception in love, among others.

This 1879 work is considered a second part of his 1878-1880 publication Human, All Too Human. And it is divided as follows: To the Disillusioned in Philosophy, Overnice, and The Wooers of Reality.

8) The Dawn

The Dawn author Friedrich Nietzsche

The Dawn, also translated into English as The Dawn of Day or Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, is a book written by Friedrich Nietzsche in 1881 in the author’s usual polemical, antagonistic and informal style, but without concern for persuading the reader to accept his point of view as their own.

The title may be said to represent the “dawning” of a new Nietzsche, as well as of his philosophy. For it is at this moment that he begins to regain his spiritual freedom, to stand on his own feet, and to open the way to his own vision of philosophy.

In this aphoristic work his critique of Christianity takes a more mature approach. He asserts that the universe does not come from a creator God, but is a product of physics and science.

9) Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Thus Spoke Zarathustra author Friedrich Nietzsche

Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a book written between 1883 and 1885, considered the masterpiece of the German philosopher.

The work contains the main ideas of Nietzsche, expressed in poetic form: it is composed of a series of stories and speeches that put in the spotlight some facts and reflections of a prophet named Zarathustra, a character inspired by Zoroaster, founder of Mazdayasna or Zoroastrianism.

Composed mainly of more or less independent episodes, its stories can be read in any order, except for the fourth part of the work, since they are an accumulation of ideas and independent minor stories that form a single general story.

10) Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil author Friedrich Nietzsche

Beyond Good and Evil is one of the fundamental texts of nineteenth-century philosophy.

Published in 1886 at the author’s own expense, the book did not receive much attention at first. Nietzsche attacked in it what he considered the moral vacuity of the thinkers of his century, the lack of critical sense of the self-styled moralists and their passive acceptance of inherited Judeo-Christian morality.

The work runs through all the fundamental themes of Nietzsche’s philosophical maturity, and in part can be read as a development, in more direct terms, of the ideas that the author had already proposed in a more metaphorical sense in «Thus Spoke Zarathustra».

11) On the Genealogy of Morals

On the Genealogy of Morals author Friedrich Nietzsche

On the Genealogy of Morals is a work by the German philosopher published in 1887. It was an attempt to complement and clarify the point of view of his previous book, “Beyond Good and Evil”.

«On the Genealogy of Morals» criticizes current morality from the study of the origin of the moral principles that have ruled in the West since Socrates.

Nietzsche is contrary to any kind of logical and scientific reason, the Church would say, and therefore makes a fierce criticism of speculative reason and all Western culture in all its manifestations: Religion, morals, philosophy, science, art, etc.

12) The Case of Wagner

The Case of Wagner author Friedrich Nietzsche

The Case of Wagner is a critical essay composed of passages from earlier works, which Nietzsche wrote in 1888 during his last year of lucidity, but which was first published in 1895.

In this criticism he relates the reason for his separation from his friend the German artist Richard Wagner, which creates a contrast between this work and the second part of The Birth of Tragedy where, on the contrary, he praises him.

In this short book, Nietzsche harshly attacks Wagner’s views, expressing his disappointment with the decisions he had made in his life, such as his conversion to Christianity. He also shows himself to be a skilled music critic, reflecting on the nature of art and its relationship to and influence on humanity.

13) Twilight of the Idols or How to Philosophize with a Hammer

Twilight of the Idols or How to Philosophize with a Hammer author Friedrich Nietzsche

Twilight of the Idols or How to Philosophize with a Hammer is a German book written in 1887 and published in 1889.

The book first describes how Apollonian and Dionysian rituals are constantly debated in the lives of human beings. Thus we have a first approach to the behavior and the longed-for explanation of the classics.

However, criticism would not be long in coming, and the idols that had presided over the thinking of many European intellectuals for nineteen centuries were this time strongly questioned by Nietzsche.

14) The Antichrist

The Antichrist author Friedrich Nietzsche

The Antichrist, Curse on Christianity is one of the last works of the German philosopher. Although it was written in 1888, its controversial content caused Franz Overbeck and Heinrich Köselitz to delay its publication, together with «Ecce homo», until 1895.

The book is a critique of Christianity as a whole, and of modern concepts such as egalitarianism and democracy, which the author considers a persistent consequence of Christian ideals.

Nietzsche identifies in Christianity all the social evil, from which the world suffers, and the moral evil, which oppresses man. St. Paul used the masses and the oppressed to seize power, and so did the socialists at the time of Nietzsche’s writing.

15) Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo author Friedrich Nietzsche

Ecce homo is one of the German philosopher’s last books and is considered one of the most acute and desperate autobiographical portraits in modern literature.

Nietzsche, almost on the verge of the crisis that will lead him to be committed to a psychiatric hospital, presents himself as the author of the works that, according to him, would change the history of thought and perhaps the course of History. The author discovers himself as the bearer and emblem of the dichotomous value that distinguishes his philosophy: he describes his life under the happy optic of the Dionysian.

He ends his autobiography with a question: «Christ or Dionysus?» identifying Christianity with the extreme negation of the vital values postulated by him in his conception of the superman or superhuman.

16) The Future for our Educational Institutions

The Future for our Educational Institutions author Friedrich Nietzsche

This book compiles the public lectures delivered by Friedrich Nietzsche between January and March 1872 (first: January 16, second: February 6, third: February 27, fourth: March 5 and fifth: March 23), when he was a professor at the University of Basel.

This collection follows his first published book, The Birth of Tragedy, although it was decided not to publish it immediately, but years later. It marks an important milestone in the development of Nietzsche’s thought.

In these lectures the philosopher expounded some of his most revolutionary statements, such as the need to revalue and reform the educational system in the search for classical values.

17) On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense author Friedrich Nietzsche

On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense is a book that is part of the German’s philosophical work dating from 1873. Nietzsche is considered one of the three «masters of suspicion», according to Paul Ricoeur’s well-known expression, along with Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.

The text offers a very harsh critique of anthropomorphism and the human tendency to hide the singular under the abstract, the universal. Religious traditions and Platonism, which are not mentioned in the text but are mentioned in the rest of Nietzsche’s work, are paradigmatic of this tendency.