Scope: Most of these works can be classified in what seems to be a growing genre of popular philosophical biography, much of it produced by serious scholars. Several such books take off from a relationship (often antagonistic) between two thinkers, or a specific incident or problem, or a particular thinker, perhaps with respect to a particular question. The boundary between popular and specialized works is not fixed. I have included scholarly works that are accessible and vital to an understanding of a given philosophers historical significance.
Nadler, Steven. The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Nadler, Steven; Nadler, Ben. Heretics!: the Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017. (Graphic novel format.)
Stewart, Matthew. The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World. New York: Norton, 2006.
Aczel, Amir D. Descartes' Secret Notebook: A True Tale of Mathematics, Mysticism, and the Quest to Understand the Universe. New York: Broadway Books, 2005.
Clarke, Desmond M. Descartes: A Biography. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Nadler, Steven. The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.
Shorto, Russell. Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason. New York: Doubleday, 2008.
Web site for this book: Descartes' Bones by Russell Shorto.
Damasio, Antonio. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003.
Goldstein, Rebecca. Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. New York: Nextbook / Schocken, 2006. Sample text.
Gullan-Whur, Margaret. Within Reason: A Life of Spinoza. New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.
Nadler, Steven. A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.
Nadler, Steven. Spinoza: A Life. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Nadler, Steven. Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Schwartz, Daniel B. The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.
Smith, Steven B. Spinoza, Liberalism, and the Question of Jewish Identity. New Haven : Yale University Press, 1997.
Smith, Steven B. Spinozas Book of Life: Freedom and Redemption in the Ethics. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003.
Leventhal, Robert. The Paradoxes of Spinozas Ethics and the Ethics of Reading [Review of Smith, Steven B., Spinozas Book of Life: Freedom and Redemption in the Ethics]. H-German, H-Net Reviews. February, 2005.
Yovel, Yirmiyahu. Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Marrano of Reason [Volume 1]. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989
Yovel, Yirmiyahu. Spinoza and Other Heretics: The Adventures of Immanence [Volume 2]. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989. 1992 ed.
Stetter, Jack. "Spinoza and Popular Philosophy," in A Companion to Spinoza, edited by Yitzhak Melamed (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2021), pp. 568-577.
See Nadler and Stewart, above.
Edmonds, David; Eidinow, John. Rousseau’s Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment. New York: Ecco, 2006. Contents.
Zaretsky, Robert; Scott, John T. The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
Edmonds, David; Eidinow, John. Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers. New York: Ecco, 2001.
Munz, Peter. Beyond Wittgenstein’s Poker: New Light on Popper and Wittgenstein. Aldershot, Hampshire, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.
Goldstein, Rebecca. Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.
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