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Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,454 ratings  ·  203 reviews

"A stimulating book about combating despair and complacency with searching reflection." --Heller McAlpin,

Named a Best Book of 2018 by NPR. One of Lit Hub's 15 Books You Should Read in September and one of Outside's Best Books of Fall

A revelatory Alpine journey in the spirit of the great Romantic thinker Friedrich Nietzsche

Hiking with Nietzsche: Becoming Who You Ar

Kindle Edition, 274 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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John It would help because the author does make the occasional reference to Nietzsche's writings without directly stating that he has done so--so if you're…moreIt would help because the author does make the occasional reference to Nietzsche's writings without directly stating that he has done so--so if you're familiar with his work, you won't miss these moments. (less)

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While reading this book I had the very uncomfortable feeling that I was being taken for a ride by the author. In his American Philosophy (which I haven’t read) Mr. Kaag seemed to have hit upon a winning formula that meshed autobiography with the lives and ideas of Transcendentalist philosophers. Perhaps his agent thought this home run was worth repeating. And so they zoomed in on Nietzsche, a thinker about whom Kaag had been writing a thesis as a student and on which he had been teaching to unde ...more
Yesterday I was in the mood to read about philosophy and think DEEP THOUGHTS about our existence, so I downloaded this book and finished it in one day. I had read and liked John Kaag's previous book, "American Philosophy: A Love Story," so I already had a sense of his narrative style.

Kaag, who is a philosophy professor in Massachusetts, does a nice job of explaining the basics of the great philosophers to a layperson. Which is to say that you don't need to be a philosophy major to enjoy his boo
M. Sarki
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A really wonderful book. Very much enjoyed reading it. Here are some notes lifted from the text:

…At nineteen, on the summit of Corvatsch, I had no idea how dull the world could sometimes be. How easy it would be to remain in the valleys, to be satisfied with mediocrity. Or how difficult it would be to stay alert to life…

… The project of the Übermensch—is not to arrive at any fixed destination or to find some permanent room with a view.

…Nietzsche insists, “
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Set for yourself goals, high and noble goals, and perish in pursuit of them! I know of no better life purpose than to perish in pursuing the great and the impossible: animae magnae prodigus.’
—Friedrich Nietzsche, Notebook, 1873
‘I came to rest on a well-worn slab of granite and appreciated how far I’d come....
...Nietzsche was, for most of his life, in search of the highest, routinely bent on mastering the physical and philosophical landscape. “Behold,” he gestures, “I teach you the Übermensch.”
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm drawn to philosophy but have been burnt by this weakness in the past. After all, when philosophers get talking (or writing), before you know it you feel like they're saying the same thing in different ways with different words. Or perhaps they're not using clear English (or fill in the native language here). Or maybe they're thinking in circles or whatever.

The word it all comes down to: Huh?

So it was refreshing to read a "memoir-ish" exploration of a philosopher, in this case Nietzsche, by
Scriptor Ignotus
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This was a surprisingly pleasant read. It is essentially a long personal essay on how the author, John Kaag, grappled with Nietzsche’s thought and applied it to his own life during two separate trips to the trails and villages of the Swiss Alps where Nietzsche did most of his walking, writing, and ruminating.

On the first trip, Kaag was an angst-filled nineteen-year-old: the embodiment of the prototypical teenaged devotee of Nietzsche’s independent and iconoclastic Übermensch ideal. The second t
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hiking with Nietzsche : On Becoming Who You Are (2018) by John Kaag is an interesting mix of travelogue, Nietzsche's philosophy and Kaag's reflections on his own life. Kaag is a professor of philosophy who writes popular books who is also married to a professor of philosophy who writes popular books. 

In Hiking with Nietzsche Kaag writes about his trip with his young daughter and wife to the Swiss Alps where Nietzsche had written some of his most important work. Kaag had also made the same trip a
Biographical sketches of both the author and his obsession Nietzsche. Astute analysis of many of Nietzsche's works, and the information gained by learning more about one of the more misunderstood and misrepresented philosophers in history made this a worthy read. I would recommend this to those interested in philosophy, the outdoors, and mental instability.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this arc available through netgalley.
L. H. S.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Hiking with Nietzsche" should have been a 30-page personal essay reflecting on the author's evolving understanding of Nietzsche. Instead, Kaag has turned a little family vacation to Nietzsche's mountain haunts into a bloated and rambling 200-page book shot-through with quotes from Nietzsche and other writers and thinkers. (Like Nietzsche's own works, this book doesn't bother much with footnotes.)

Despite the title, there is relatively little "hiking," by which I mean both little study of the ac
Ryan Boissonneault
Hiking with Nietzsche is, on the one hand, a creative way to present the ideas of Nietzsche to those less familiar with them, from an author that in many ways shares a similar pessimistic disposition. John Kaag seems especially well-suited to tell the story, and by telling it in the context of Nietzsche’s original environment and travels, he makes Nietzsche’s core ideas of eternal recurrence, the Overman, and master-slave morality more memorable and understandable.

On the other hand, Kaag is exc
Rebecca Alcazaze
A new experience. I don’t think I’ve ever yearned for a narrator to fall and injure themselves during one of the hikes they’re recounting before.

Kaag’s text is a ‘tale of two philosophical journeys’. He discusses Nietzsche’s philosophies and shifting cosmologies while also chronicling his own physical and existential travails in the Swiss Alps.

He does a grand job of clarifying (in his own terms) the foundations and key aspects of Nietzschean thought, but for the first half I was haunted by the f
Phillip Lecheminant
Hiking with Nietzsche was a fascinating look into both Nietzsche's and John Kaag's life. John describes two different personal journeys to the alps where Nietzsche wrote Zarathustra. The first was when John was an angsty teenager and the second was in his mid-thirties with his wife and young daughter. He interweaves biographical information and the basics of Nietzche's philosophy throughout the book as he examines Nietzsche philosophy through the lens of his personal experience.

I knew nothing a
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Heavy-handed. Kaag is a great teacher and explains Nietzsche well, but he’s not a great storyteller. I found it difficult to care about his individual search for meaning, mainly because he disjointedly jumped from one angst to another. There also wasn’t much hiking. This should have been called “A family vacation with an angsty Neitzsche-obsessed professor“
Amanda ✨
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A new all-time favorite 😍
David Rubenstein
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I was quite moved by Hiking with Nietzsche, the selection of my book club. I have a sense we read a bit of Nietzsche in a college philosophy class, but my memory was limited to the idea that special people, the Overmen, were not obligated to follow society’s rules. I heard vague accusations that this was the philosophical underpinning and justification of the Nazi regime.

After the first couple of chapters, I believe I would have set this down if not for the obligation to the book club. The autho
Mar 21, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I did not like this book. The author seems to be so preoccupied by the lives of self absorbed and neurotic philosophers that he misses much of the opportunity to live his own life with freshness, intimacy and appreciation. By seeing his experiences as they relate to Nietzsche’s experiences he becomes lost in endless analysis, conjecture, and unhappiness. He is living in his head most of the time and carrying a lot of baggage from the past lives and experiences of others. I feel sorry for his wif ...more
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been interested in learning a bit of philosophy since I neglected to take any classes on it in college. It is one of those subjects that felt fairly inaccessible to me without an instructor as a guide. This book gave me a starting point without being as dry as an intro class. I love memoirs, especially those involving travel so this seemed tailor made for me. I can’t comment on the quality of the author’s analysis of Nietsche’s works, but I can say it has opened my eyes to a new area of stu ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hiking with Friedrich Nietzsche means hiking in the Alps , a region that Nietzsche loved and where he spent as much time as he could. Kaag, an American philosopher, follows Nietzsche’s footsteps though the mountains and provides a running commentary on both Nietzsche’s short life (1844-1900) and ideas. found in his works, arranged chronologically. While pursuing Nietzsche, Kaag talks to some extent about his own life. Kaag’s book is interesting and a good introduction to Nietzsche.

Nietzsche as
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, philosophy
I'm not sure why this book appealed to me when I came across it in a review of newly released books. I've never heard of the author and Lord knows Nietzsche has never appealed to me. I had dealings with him twice in college. Once in an introduction to philosophy course, where you are presented with that worst of all things "a little knowledge...", it's corollary being "...a dangerous thing." So basically, all I knew about Nietzsche was he had a theory of the Übermensch or superman, he was famous ...more
James Murphy
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Kaag begins by telling the story of himself as a 19-year old undergraduate fortuitously given a trip to Switzerland in order to research Friedrich Nietzsche's years living in the Alps near Sils Maria and how it impacted his ideas and writing. Eighteen years later, now a philosophy professor, he returns with his wife Carol and small daughter Becca. He's still learning what Nietzsche has to tell him.

The return is a key concept of Nietzsche's work, and Kaag uses it to great effect as he tells
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. Years ago, I read a lot of Nietzsche. It was back in the 199Os, well past my teenage years. Many people say that teenagers read Nietzsche, including John Kaag, the author of this book. Looking back at myself as a teenager, I know I could not have done it. Looking at teenagers in general, I think there are very few who can. Yes, I've heard about Leopold and Loeb, and I don't think they got it, but their lawyer did.

So, like I was saying, in the 90s I read
nearly all his
James (JD) Dittes
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, manhood
Philosophy is meant to be experienced, not debated. Eaten, not tasted.

That's the idea in John Kaag's writing, and he follows up his experience of falling in love (in his first book, American Philosophy: A Love Story) with a reflection on 'how to be a man'--in marriage, in fatherhood, approaching middle age.

In the book, Kaag revisits a sojourn he made as a 19-year-old college student, when he journeyed to the Swiss hamlet of Sils Maria to walk in the footsteps of Friedrich Nietzsche and live at "
Danny Martin
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice overview, the author decides to hike the same Swiss mountains Nietzsche did in an effort to "feel" what he may have felt during some of his most productive years. It's a nice introduction to Nietzsche's work (which can be a chore to get through and understand) and may make you want to pursue further reading either about him, or reading his work itself. The author quotes passages from Thus Spoke Zarathustra a lot, as well as Ecco Homo, and other works, and brings you into Nietzsche's world ...more
I stressed a lot about how many stars to give this one: really 3.5 is rather generous but I rounded it up to 4 because...every author deserves that benefit, I believe. And in the end, I was glad I'd read this semi-biographical, semi-memoir, semi-philosophy summary.

The author is a philosopher and a devotee of Nietzsche. He discovered Nietzsche, as I suspect most of us do, in his late teens. He seems to have been a rather unhappy teenager who went on to struggle with an eating disorder that he sti
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The title of the book says it all. It is mostly about hiking in the Alps, and about Kaag. So if you were looking to understand Nietzsche's philosophy, this is not your book.

Kaag notes his and Nietzsche's similarities: both their fathers were suicides; both took fasting and asceticism to extremes; both had difficulty in social relationships; both had control needs; both preferred solitary lives. At least, when Kaag was nineteen, he felt those similarities keenly.

The glaring difference between
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Philosophy Professor Dr. Kaag makes a journey of self-discovery through walking in the path of his most influential deceased mentor, Friedrich Nietzsche. Returning to Switzerland to re-trace the paths of his early adult intellectual idol he learns how age and experience has changed his perception Nietzsche's work. Middle age, is often scorned by the young and idealistic. Seen as those who have 'settled' or 'given up'. The author comes face to face with this as he acknowledges his own settled lif ...more
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
An existentialist philosopher meets marriage and parenthood - as he treks on a well trodden path that ze famous philosopher once used for isolation. As he moves along, and sleeps by the late philosopher’s fortress of solitude he reminisces on his studies he has made on existentialism.

This book is part memoir, part intellectual biography, part musing on philosophy.

The primary underlying theme is a memoir inter-spliced with intellectual reflection in the light of the great man with the distinguish
David Snower
Jul 26, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book captured everything pretentious and juvenile about Nietzsche without giving any hint of what is brilliant about his thought. I usually have a problem of sympathizing with the author of what I read too much (I love Kerouac for example, despite his intense flaws)— but throughout this book the narrator is incredibly condescending, especially in his depictions of his wife. I’ve read a fair bit of Nietzsche, enough to understand that the true genius and implications of his thought surge far ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a very personal story. I think it is mostly of interest to Kaag himself, and perhaps his family. Kaag's reminiscences were not very interesting to me. Reading about Kaag's hikes with his wife and kid is about as exciting as that sounds. Those stories are filled out with room-by-room descriptions of the hotels Kaag stayed in. I didn't learn much about Nietzsche, or philosophy, except that in my opinion Kaag should read him more critically.
Paul Ataua
The author, a philosophy professor who was fascinated by Nietzsche at University, undertook two trips into the Swiss alps hiking through the places where Nietzsche lived and produced most of his work. Not really a book about hiking, nor a meaningful intro to Nietzsche’s work, but a gentle, easy read that has its moments.
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John Kaag is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and author of American Philosophy: A Love Story. It is a story of lost library, a lost American intellectual tradition and a lost person--and their simultaneous recovery.

Kaag is a dispirited young philosopher at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in the hinterlands

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“Walking is among the most life-affirming of human activities. It is the way we organize space and orient ourselves to the world at large. It is the living proof that repetition—placing one foot in front of the other—can in fact allow a person to make meaningful progress.” 5 likes
“Set for yourself goals, high and noble goals, and perish in pursuit of them!” 3 likes
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