On Becoming Who You Are
A tale of two philosophical journeys - a fascinating exploration not only of Nietzsche’s ideals but of how his experience of living relates to us as individuals in the twenty-first century.
A 2018 NPR Best Book of the Year
An Outside Magazine Book to Read
Tatler Top 10 Book of the Year
Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Are is a tale of two philosophical journeys―one made by John Kaag as an introspective young man of nineteen, the other seventeen years later, in radically different circumstances: he is now a husband and father, and his wife and small child are in tow. Kaag sets off for the Swiss peaks above Sils Maria where Nietzsche wrote his landmark work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Both of Kaag’s journeys are made in search of the wisdom at the core of Nietzsche’s philosophy, yet they deliver him to radically different interpretations and, more crucially, revelations about the human condition.
Just as Kaag’s acclaimed debut, American Philosophy: A Love Story, seamlessly wove together his philosophical discoveries with his search for meaning, Hiking with Nietzsche is a fascinating exploration not only of Nietzsche’s ideals but of how his experience of living relates to us as individuals in the twenty-first century. Bold, intimate, and rich with insight, Hiking with Nietzsche is about defeating complacency, balancing sanity and madness, and coming to grips with the unobtainable. As Kaag hikes, alone or with his family, but always with Nietzsche, he recognizes that even slipping can be instructive. It is in the process of climbing, and through the inevitable missteps, that one has the chance, in Nietzsche’s words, to “become who you are."
"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."
- Stephen B. Smith
"Not just an approachable introduction to Nietzsche’s thought. Kaag’s book is also . . . a confirmation that philosophy thrives when it provides an antidote to the wholesome doldrums of sanity . . . Kaag may have outgrown his youthful dramatics, but he continues to let philosophy upend him."
- Becca Rothfeld, the Atlantic
"As in American Philosophy, Kaag deftly intertwines sympathetic biography, accessible philosophical analysis, and self-critical autobiography . . . Kaag extracts plenty of relevant ideas from Nietzsche and his followers in this stimulating book about combating despair and complacency with searching reflection."
- Heller McAlpin, NPR.org
"Mr. Kaag deftly weaves his philosophical concerns with the small and large crises of daily life . . . his honesty is bracing."
--Geoff Wisner, The Wall Street Journal
"[An] engagingly unacademic meditation . . . The question, ultimately, is whether Nietzsche’s philosophy, so attuned to lurking monstrous urges, can be of use in daily life. Kaag’s answer is both elliptical and profound, manifesting a deep understanding of his subject matter."
"Kaag has carved out a genre all his own, a genre with the promise to narrow some of the gaps between the esoteric and the familiar, the academic and the non-academic, the philosopher and the self-help guru. For those with Kaag’s unusual mixture of philosophical sophistication and narrative skill, it is a genre well worth emulating.”
- John F. Muller, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Kaag has a pleasingly wry, compact style, and is particularly interesting on thinkers that that Nietzsche influenced heavily."
--Steven Poole, The Guardian (Book of the day)
"Hiking with Nietzsche serves as a straightforward and even practical introduction to the German philosopher’s writings, and makes a convincing case for why they continue to matter... Contrary to the how-to-live-your-life genre, and in keeping with Nietzsche’s explosive and discomforting ideas, Kaag manages to ask all the right questions without irritably reaching for any palliative answers or solutions."
-- Morten Høi Jensen, Los Angeles Review of Books
"This isn’t a misery memoir or anything like that. This is a serious discussion of how philosophy relates to life, told through part of the author’s own life. It takes a very skillful writer to weave those things together in a way that is readable and interesting without seeming indulgent."
--Nigel Warburton, Five Books
(Best Philosophy Books of 2018)
Mentalist, Illusionist, and Author