Hiking with Nietzsche

Becoming Who You Are

John Kaag

Published: 7 March 2019
Hardback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 272 pages
ISBN: 9781783784943


Hiking with Nietzsche is a tale of two philosophical journeys - one made by John Kaag as an introspective teenager, the other seventeen years later in radically different circumstances: now a husband and father with his wife and small child in tow. Kaag travels to the Swiss peaks above Sils Maria, where Nietzsche routinely summered, and where he wrote his mysterious landmark work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Both trips are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche's philosophy, yet they bring Kaag to radically different interpretations and revelations about the human condition.

Hiking with Nietzsche is an entertaining, intimate exploration not only of Nietzsche's ideals but of how his philosophy relates to us in the twenty-first century. It is about defeating complacency, balancing sanity and madness and coming to grips with the unobtainable. It speaks to our different stages of life. As Kaag hikes, alone or with his family, but always with Nietzsche, he finds that even slipping can be instructive. It is in the process of climbing and the inevitable missteps, that one has the chance, in Nietzsche's words, to 'become who you are.'

About the author

Image of John Kaag

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. More about the author


‘[Kaag] writes extremely well... clearly and with scholarly precision, but also personally and stylishly... An excellent introduction to Nietzsche's big ideas [and] Kaag brings a remarkable set of skills to the project... Remarkable



‘[With] deft storytelling and prose of such momentum and transparencys... I'll read whatever [Kaag] writes’

A gripping and deeply involving weave of memoir and philosophy. In Alpine hiking, John Kaag finds the perfect analogue for Nietzsche's writings, bringing out all the risks, failures and sublimities to be discovered in each. He reminds us vividly that philosophy isn't no indulgence in hermetic abstraction, but a matter of life and death’ Josh Cohen, author

Lively... a deeply personal account of a lifelong engagement with the philosopher's works’

‘A fantastically well-written and engaging primer on Nietzsche's life and work ... FascinatingRoger Cox

‘A searing, very personal journey through John Kaag's own Nietzschean abyss’ Sue Prideaux, author

‘A thoughtful mix of biography and memoir’

‘An utterly extraordinary book about the paths we tread. It holds you very close and meticulously unravels your soul’ Derren Brown

‘Kaag has a pleasingly wry, compact style, and is particularly interesting on thinkers that Nietzsche influenced heavily’ Steven Poole

‘Kaag is a lively storyteller who brings Nietzsche's life into continual contact with his own... [He] challenges his readers to be what they might become’ Steven B Smith

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