Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are (Hardcover)
One of Lit Hub's 15 Books You Should Read in September and one of Outside's Best Books of Fall
A revelatory Alpine journey in the spirit of the great Romantic thinker Friedrich Nietzsche
Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are is a tale of two philosophical journeys—one made by John Kaag as an introspective young man of nineteen, the other seventeen years later, in radically different circumstances: he is now a husband and father, and his wife and small child are in tow. Kaag sets off for the Swiss peaks above Sils Maria where Nietzsche wrote his landmark work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Both of Kaag’s journeys are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche’s philosophy, yet they deliver him to radically different interpretations and, more crucially, revelations about the human condition.
Just as Kaag’s acclaimed debut, American Philosophy: A Love Story, seamlessly wove together his philosophical discoveries with his search for meaning, Hiking with Nietzsche is a fascinating exploration not only of Nietzsche’s ideals but of how his experience of living relates to us as individuals in the twenty-first century. Bold, intimate, and rich with insight, Hiking with Nietzsche is about defeating complacency, balancing sanity and madness, and coming to grips with the unobtainable. As Kaag hikes, alone or with his family, but always with Nietzsche, he recognizes that even slipping can be instructive. It is in the process of climbing, and through the inevitable missteps, that one has the chance, in Nietzsche’s words, to “become who you are."
About the Author
John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story, which was an NPR Best Book of 2016 and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He lives outside Boston with his wife and daughter.
"Not just an approachable introduction to Nietzsche’s thought. Kaag’s book is also . . . a confirmation that philosophy thrives when it provides an antidote to the wholesome doldrums of sanity . . . Kaag may have outgrown his youthful dramatics, but he continues to let philosophy upend him. It once took him all the way to the edge of an Alpine precipice, to the brink of starvation. It went on to undo one marriage and inspire another. And it continues to heal us, not by making us feel better, but by making us well." --Becca Rothfeld, The Atlantic
"As in American Philosophy, Kaag deftly intertwines sympathetic biography, accessible philosophical analysis, and self-critical autobiography . . . Kaag extracts plenty of relevant ideas from Nietzsche and his followers in this stimulating book about combating despair and complacency with searching reflection." --Heller McAlpin, npr.org
"But while the book serves as an entry point to Nietzsche’s writing, its real success is as an embodiment of one of his core ideas — and one that you needn’t have read his works to appreciate: the imperative of becoming who you are . . . Call it philosophy. Call it memoir. This is a book with verve. Read it at the risk of being drawn in to your own becoming." --Scott F. Parker, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[Hiking with Nietzsche] artfully blends Nietzsche’s biography, an accessible yet subtle introduction to his big ideas, and Kaag’s own reminiscences . . . funny and moving." --Paul W. Gleason, Newsday
"Kaag has the perfect resume for this type of introspective blend of memoir and biography . . . He pairs breathtaking descriptions of the Sils region with Nietzsche’s fascinating personal history, providing a unique, engaging narrative . . . With Hiking with Nietzsche, Kaag can now add his own name to the list of thoughtful wanderers." --Becky Libourel Diamond, BookPage
"Meditative . . . thought provoking . . . Kaag has crafted a stirring account of a personal encounter with a great mind." --Publishers Weekly
"Kaag succeeds . . . through his courage to approach Nietzsche, and philosophy in general, from a personal—and not just intellectual—perspective . . . A meditative work full of self-understanding that will resonate with anyone who has ever been drawn toward the void." --Kirkus
"Fusing intense emotion with unflinching analysis, Kaag invites readers to make philosophy a life-elevating adventure." --Booklist
"A wonderful introduction to Nietzsche set against the unique backdrop of the landscape and cities he experienced. The tone and writing style make it accessible to general readers, while the content will reward those familiar with Nietzsche as well." --Library Journal
“A searing, very personal journey through John Kaag’s own Nietzschean abyss.” —Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite: A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche
“John Kaag is the perfect guide for this bold trek, a journey from solitude and yearning to mature acceptance and, well, love. An elegant reckoning with the tough questions, a challenging lesson in philosophy, a deep pleasure to read.” —James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword and The Cloister
“I never truly appreciated Friedrich Nietzsche. I might even have been a little afraid of him. But Hiking with Nietzsche changed that. John Kaag's luminous new book provides the reader with a deep understanding of and empathy for the philosopher's thought, along with capacious and original insights into companionship, marriage, fatherhood, solitude, decadence, self-deception, self-actualization, despair, and, finally, joy.” —Eileen Pollack, author of The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys' Club