12 Must-Read Ethics Books for Becoming a Better Person

Ethics is an important and controversial topic. The difference between good and bad is often unclear, so we need advice on how to deal with the daily ethical issues we face.

Whether you’re looking to become a better person or need to read up on ethics for school, these ethics books offer invaluable guidance to help you achieve your goal.

Best Ethics Books for Our Present Era

1. The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris

first book cover for ethics books list

In this ethics book, Sam Harris creates a link between morality and the rest of human knowledge.

Harris argues that morality should be studied scientifically, that science can tell us how we ought to be and act.

He pushes against the role of religion in defining human values and offers a new way of tackling the most important questions of our world. 

What’s in it for you:

  • A groundbreaking ethics book about the future of science and the real foundation of human cooperation

2. Justice by Michael J. Sandel

In this ethics book, Michael Sandel offers a rare approach to thinking through the complex issues and controversies we face in society.

Sandel discusses political issues, such as same-sex marriage, abortion, affirmative action, national service, and the moral limits of markets.

The engaging, clear discourse shows how a better understanding of philosophy can help us make sense of morality, politics, and our own convictions.

What’s in it for you:

  • A brilliant, inspiring account of the role of justice in our society and the moral challenges we face daily
  • An essential guide that explores the hard questions of our time

3. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt draws on his 25 years of moral psychology research to show that moral judgments arise from gut feelings, not from reason.

Haidt explores the miracle of human cooperation and the curse of our eternal conflicts and divisions.

He examines morality’s origins and shows us how moral intuitions differ across cultures.

Encouraging us to trade in anger for understanding, Haidt concludes that to thrive, we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians.

What’s in it for you:

  • An ethics book that challenges conventional thinking about morality, religion, and politics
  • A book that will help you see things from other people’s perspective

4. How to Be Perfect by Michael Schur

Most of us think of ourselves as good, but the difference between good and bad is often vague.

With enlightening wit and deep insight, this ethics book explains morality and ethics concepts, such as utilitarianism, ubuntu, and existentialism, so you can sound cool at parties and become a better person.

Offering insightful, humorous wisdom, Michael Schur starts with easy ethical questions and works his way up to the most complex issues. 

What’s in it for you:

  • A hilarious, inspiring guide to living an ethical life

5. Ethics in the Real World by Peter Singer

In this ethics book, Peter Singer dissects important current events in a series of brief essays.

Singer applies his controversial thinking to issues like extreme poverty, climate change, animals, euthanasia, abortion, human genetic selection, the sale of kidneys, sports doping, high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness.

He asks tough questions and explores some of the deepest philosophical dilemmas. 

What’s in it for you:

  • A book that will challenge your beliefs about several real-world ethical issues

Best Ethics Books: The Classics

6. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle Aristotle

One of Aristotle’s most acclaimed works, Nicomachean Ethics offers ideas central to ethics, such as happiness as the goal of all human effort and action, and habits as the core of moral virtue.

Aristotle examines the nature of happiness and practical reasoning, the value and purpose of pleasure, the different types of friendship, and the relationship between individual virtue, society, and the state.

What’s in it for you:

  • A classic that will deeply change your thoughts on ethical matters

One of the most influential ethics books ever written, Kant’s Groundwork aims to identify and confirm the supreme principle of morality.

Kant recognizes the autonomy and self-governance of the individual and argues that individuals are ends in themselves and are not to be used as merely means by anyone.

As such, he offers laws of freedom.

What’s in it for you:

  • A classic that explores the individual freedom

8. Beyond Good & Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

Written in the nineteenth century, Beyond Good & Evil rejects the Western notions of truth and God, good and evil.

It represents Nietzsche’s attempt to summarize his philosophy and celebrates the individual’s will and power over their world.

What’s in it for you:

  • A classic that gives a comprehensive idea of Nietzsche’s thoughts and style

9. Practical Ethics by Peter Singer

This ethics book addresses moral questions that concern our daily lives.

Asking questions like, Is it ethical to buy luxuries when others don’t have enough to eat?, the book offers a practical guide to controversial and challenging social questions. 

What’s in it for you:

  • An introduction to practical, real-world ethics

10. After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

In this ethics book, Alasdair MacIntyre explores the conceptual and historical roots of virtue, diagnoses why it’s absent in personal and public life, and offers a provisional solution for its recovery.

MacIntyre makes a focused argument against the price of modernity and its effect on our morality.

What’s in it for you:

  • A classic that offers a significant yet potentially controversial critique of modern moral philosophy

11. The Ethics by Benedictus de Spinoza

In The Ethics, Benedictus de Spinoza shows how the mind and body are united.

Spinoza accepts the existence of God but argues that God is an impartial being that neither loves nor hates us.

He asserts that the power of the mind is defined by its understanding, and its greatest virtue is to understand God.

What’s in it for you:

  • A practical philosophy for daily living

12. On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche

On the Genealogy of Morals narrates the history of ethics and its interpretation.

Friedrich Nietzsche questions moral certainties by showing that science and religion have no claim to absolute truth.

What’s in it for you:

  • Three essays examining morality and its origins
  • The most comprehensive and clear expression of Nietzsche’s psychological philosophy

Further Reading: Ethics & Philosophy series 

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