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Best books by Soren Kierkegaard

Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in People on February 24, 2023

    Soren Kierkegaard is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of the 19th century. His works have inspired generations, and his lasting legacy has earned him recognition throughout many facets of philosophy.

    This article looks at some of his best books, essential titles for anyone interested in the philosopher’s work.

    Kierkegaard and his philosophy

    Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish theologian and philosopher. He was born on May 5, 1813, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard and Anne Sørensdatter Lund Kierkegaard.

    Kierkegaard attended the University of Copenhagen and, for two years, studied theology under Bishop J. P. Mynster, an old friend of his father. Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism because his work focused heavily on what it means to exist as a human being. His writings emphasize religious themes such as Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and Lutherans’ religious practice in Denmark.

    Growing up, his father was a stringent Lutheran and expected all his children to become clergymen. His mother died when he was 12, and shortly after, his father remarried. Kierkegaard inherited not just his father’s melancholy and sense of guilt but also his passion for intellectual inquiry and existential questioning.

    Kierkegaard received an excellent education in theology, Latin, German, Greek, and philosophy. Kierkegaard’s life was heavily impacted by his teachers, including Poul Martin Møller, F.C. Sibbern, and H.L. Martensen. He spent most of his life in Denmark but made a few visits to Berlin and Sweden.

    During his time at the University, Kierkegaard became greatly invested in exploring the archetypal figures of Don Juan and the Wandering Jew and the character of Faust from German literature. He used these figures to look for models and themes that he could apply to his life.

    Kierkegaard’s philosophical outlook is often characterized as primarily influenced by Hegelianism while being highly critical. His writing style is dialectical, with bouts of irony, humor, and indirect communication throughout his works.

    He sought to challenge current societal norms while offering alternative solutions to the problems he saw around him.

    One example of this is how he criticized Christendom and the Lutheran State Church, claiming Christianity had been reduced to literary tradition rather than actual devotion or faith in Jesus Christ.

    He wrote many books under various pseudonyms, such as Johannes de Silentio or Anti-Climacus, and his works covered many topics. For example, Point of View for My Work as an Author discusses religion, while Either/Or concerns ethics.

    Like Socrates before him, Kierkegaard used these pseudonymous works to differentiate between varying aspects of human existence encountered through the experiences of life.

    Kierkegaard sought to understand human existence within a Christian context by developing a three-stage approach: aesthetic, ethical, and religious. At each step, he aimed to present an individual’s struggle between self-interests that leads them away from God versus their need for faithfulness that brings them closer to God.

    This struggle is often called “Kierkegaard’s Dialectic” or “dialectical leap.” His approach diverges from the methods proposed by philosophers like Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, Joseph Schelling, Friedrich Hegel, and Plato.

    Kierkegaard’s writings have been highly influential within philosophical circles and religious communities, including Protestants and Danish Lutherans. His works address issues related to the Christian faith, particularly the interpretation of scripture and the role ethics plays in religious practices.

    He has been called “the philosopher of modern Christendom” because, much like Martin Luther, he sought to reform Christian practices by challenging widely accepted doctrine. This concept is known as “Kierkegaardian.”

    But that doesn’t mean Kierkegaard had an easy time. He was publicly ridiculed by the satirical newspaper The Corsair and its editor, Meïr Aron Goldschmidt. The newspaper’s mocking of Kierkegaard’s work, beliefs, and appearance caused him great distress.

    Even worse, Kierkegaard ended up being rejected by Bishop Mynster later in his life. This triggered a personal crisis, resulting in a broken engagement with long-time fiancée Regine Olsen.

    Kierkegaard’s work has been discussed intensively in academic circles, with modern writers like Clare Carlisle publishing some of his works long after his death.

    Best books by Kierkegaard

    Either/Or: A Fragment of Life

    Edited by Victor Eremita, Kierkegaard’s first book is a classic philosophical work exploring human existence’s nuances, focusing on objectivity and subjectivity.

    Fear and Trembling

    Fear and Trembling is an exploration into the religious aspects of life, combining elements of philosophy, psychology, and theology, with the highlight being the story of Abraham and his son Isaac.

    Stages on Life’s Way

    Stages on Life’s Way analyzes how various stages in life can affect one’s relationship to religion, ethics, and social life.

    Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments

    The book argues in favor of taking a leap of faith as a way of attaining essential truths that can’t be proved by science.

    The Sickness Unto Death

    This book focuses on despair in human beings and how it relates to faith in God. It’s widely considered a work of edification, encouraging readers to find freedom in moments of despair through understanding and self-reflection.

    Works Of Love

    Works Of Love examines love from a personal and spiritual perspective, emphasizing its importance as an aspect of Christian faith and practice.

    The Concept Of Anxiety

    Using the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis, Kierkegaard discusses anxiety’s place within existentialism, including reflections on the nature of original sin and guilt in Western Christianity. The original English translation was titled The Concept of Dread.

    Philosophical Fragments

    This book explores religious truths through a series of questions related to Christianity’s place within philosophy and theology.

    The Point Of View For My Work As An Author

    This retrospective work examines Kierkegaard’s views on literature and writing while reflecting on his works’ purpose in society.

    On the Dedication To “That Single Individual”

    This book presents Kierkegaard’s thoughts on how one person can make a difference by living in accordance with their beliefs.

    Training in Christianity

    Training in Christianity, published under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus, espouses what it takes to be a true believer.

    On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates

    This is a master’s thesis written by Soren Kierkegaard in 1841. It examines irony through the lens of Socrates, as seen through Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato.

    The Seducer’s Diary

    The Seducer’s Diary is an intricately crafted, meticulously detailed exploration of psychological manipulation and seduction.


    Published under the pseudonymous author Constantin Constantius, this book investigates whether repetition is possible.

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    Does Kierkegaard believe in God?

    Kierkegaard could not deny nor fully accept God’s existence.

    Who is Kierkegaard’s favorite philosopher?

    Søren Kierkegaard’s favorite philosopher was Plato. He admired the ancient Greek thinker’s works on philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology.

    What is the difference between a Christian and an Existentialist?

    While Christians focus on following moral codes and laws to live by, Existentialists emphasize understanding their own purpose in life and making conscious choices.

    What is Kierkegaard’s view of sin?

    Kierkegaard’s view of sin is that it is a form of intensified weakness or defiance that ultimately results in separation from God.

    Cliff Weitzman
    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.