These books by Plato are among some of the most famous and important in Western philosophy. Almost everyone has heard of Plato, whether they’re familiar with his works or not.
Some of the most famous Plato books such as Republic and The Symposium are cornerstones of Western philosophy. Their influence is as strong today as when they were first written.
If you’re looking to get started with philosophy, these writings of Plato are ones you’ll need to read. Despite them being over two thousand years old, they’re timeless works that stand the test of time.
It’s not known how much more of Plato’s writings have been lost to history, but we should be thankful we’re able to read his work today regardless.
Keep scrolling if you want to discover the best books by Plato you should read to get a better understanding of a wide variety of topics.
Table of Contents
Books by Plato
Republic is the most famous of Plato’s books and concerns justice, the order of a city-state and what constitutes a just man.
It’s one of the most intriguing books on politics as it is the basis for a lot of Western thought. Its influence has endured ever since it was first written around 375 BC.
Like most of Plato’s works, Republic takes the form of a Socratic dialogue and sees Socrates discussing the meaning of justice and whether an unjust man can ever be happier than a just one.
This is a good place to start if you want to get to grips with Plato’s ideas. The text is easy to follow and the thought-provoking questions it raises will keep you engaged long after you’ve finished.
Along with Republic, The Symposium is one of the most well-known books written by Plato.
This is one of the shorter books on the list and one of the most accessible. It’s a good starting place if you’ve never read anything by Plato before.
The Symposium features Socrates debating a group of notable men who are attending a banquet. Among them is Alcibiades, a general and politician and the playwright Aristophanes.
The discussion focuses on love, the meaning of love and desire. They also discuss Eros, the god of love and whether love goes beyond relations between two people and if it has spiritual connotations or not.
I enjoyed reading The Symposium, not only because of the topics, but because of the way structures this work. It’s a beautiful read.
The Last Days of Socrates
The Last Days of Socrates is one of the most profound of Plato’s books.
It focuses on the trial and condemnation of Socrates, who’s charged with heresy and corrupting the minds of the youths of Athens.
The book consists of four dialogues, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo, that take in the period of Socrates’s trial and death around 399 BC.
The Last Days of Socrates is one of the best books by Plato. It’s an entertaining, sad and fascinating read that’s a must if you’re interested in Socratic philosophy.
Timaeus and Critias
Timaeus and Critias are two of the most interesting of Plato’s books on this list. That’s because the second dialogue, Critias details the story of Atlantis which has become infamous.
The first dialogue, Timaeus is a response to Socrates’ vision of an ideal state that he outlined in Republic. Timaeus then goes on to give his account of the physical and eternal world, speculating on whether there is a creator behind it or not.
While it’s an interesting dialogue, it’s the second one, Critias, that’s the most interesting. The dialogue is an account of the city of Atlantis, a once mighty city ruled by descendants of Poseidon, which ended up sinking into the sea.
The story of Atlantis has inspired numerous responses, stories and searches for the location. It’s unlikely that Atlantis ever existed and the story recounted in Critias should be regarded as allegorical in regards to the hubris of nations.
Both of the dialogues are fascinating but I think the main reason to read this book is because of the second one. Reading the tale of Atlantis from the source in Critias is important if you want to gain a clearer understanding of the story and why it resonates so strongly even today.
Early Socratic Dialogues
Early Socratic Dialogues is a collection of dialogues that were among the very first Plato wrote. They were likely written shortly after the death of Socrates in 399 BC.
The seven dialogues, Ion, Laches, Lysis, Charmides, Hippias Major, Hippias Minor and Euthydemus, are more straightforward than the later ones. This makes them more accessible for those unfamiliar with Plato’s writing.
The topics in each dialogue vary, but they give a picture of what Socrates was like and are an introduction to the Socratic dialogue, which is featured in almost all of these Plato books.
If you haven’t read much or any Plato before Early Socratic Dialogues should be one of the first books you read before you move on to the more complex books on this list.
Phaedrus is one of the most intriguing books by Plato on this list. It deals with the topic of love, with a special focus on homoerotic love, which was common in ancient Greece.
It’s purported the text was composed around the same time as The Symposium and given there’s some overlap between the topics in the dialogues, this makes sense.
Phaedrus is a more complex and refined text than The Symposium and even though it’s a short read it will leave you with a lot to think about once you’re finished.
As well as the focus on love, there are discussions on diverse topics such as the nature of the human soul, which features the famous Chariot allegory and reincarnation. Not bad for a book under 100 pages!
The Laws is one of the most interesting works by Plato on this list and one of the longest.
At over 500 pages, Plato goes into detail about a wide-ranging system of legislation in a fictional utopia he calls Magnesia.
When I say detail, I mean detail. Almost every aspect of life in Magnesia is accounted for. There are codes of conduct for education, sport, religion and even drinking parties!
There’s also about how to rule Magnesia on a daily basis, which is impressively comprehensive for a text that was written over two thousand years ago!
The Laws have been interpreted as totalitarian and the opposite, which is what makes them such an interesting read if they can venture into arcane detail.
A lot of Plato’s dialogues deal with politics and Gorgias is no different.
The book takes the form of a dialogue between Socrates, and sophists, Gorgias, Polus and Callicles. They discuss questions that are still relevant today such as the nature of government and the character of those who seek public office.
While it shouldn’t be a surprise, it is amazing to read a text this old that’s debating questions we’re still having today. It shows how timeless these questions are and how relevant Plato’s work still is.
Gorgias is one of the lesser-known of Plato’s books, but it’s a rewarding read and because of the relevance of the topics, one we should all aspire to check out!
Protagoras and Meno
Protagoras and Meno are two writings of Plato that are among the most accessible and enjoyable.
The two works both focus on the same question: what makes good people good? In the first dialogue, a younger Socrates debates Protagoras who believes he can teach people to be good, which Socrates disputes.
In the second dialogue, an older Socrates discusses more or less the same topic with Meno. They debate what it means to be a good man and whether this can be taught. Socrates eventually comes to the conclusion it can’t, and that it’s a gift from the gods.
If you’re looking for a book by Plato that’s not too dense and hard to follow, Protagoras and Meno is one of the best. It’s a great introduction to Greek philosophy for anyone who’s not read too much of it before.
Theaetetus is set just before the trial of Socrates and sees him discussing the nature of knowledge with the geometrician Theodorus and Theaetetus, a young follower whom the dialogue is named after.
This book reveals the depth of Plato’s thinking and is considered to represent the birth of epistemology.
Written in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Theaetetus, the two try to define what knowledge is, and discuss three definitions that they end up deciding are unsatisfactory.
The two are unable to reconcile their debate, which ends unfinished as Socrates leaves to face the hearing at his trial.
Theaetetus can be a difficult read at times, as the ideas discussed are complex. I’d recommend leaving this one to the end and reading some of Plato’s more accessible works first.
Plato: The Complete Works
If you want all of the above, and a few more of Plato’s works, in one book, you should consider buying this.
The Complete Works of Plato contains all of his works in one handy collection you can turn to at any time.
The only downside is that the book is huge. Well over, 1,000 pages ad will take up a lot of space, whether that’s on your bookshelf or coffee table!
Still, if that doesn’t bother you and you just want everything in one book, this is one I’d get.
Looking For More Books?
Books by George Orwell – While not as philosophical as Plato, Orwell’s books are similar in that they provide illumination on a wide variety of topics.
Kazuo Ishiguro Books – Ishiguro’s novels are not as philosophical as Plato, but they so focus on several themes that are philosophical in nature.
Best Albert Camus Books – Camus’ books are easier to read than Plato’s and deal with absurdist philosophy. They’re worth reading after you’ve read some of Plato’s work.
Best David Graeber Books – He might not rival Plato but Graeber’s work will have you thinking deeply about society and the world.