16 Best Nietzsche Books: Transform Your Thinking in 2024

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Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher known for coining phrases like “God is dead” and exploring the concept of the “Übermensch.” He wrote narratives that talk about truth, how we live, and what we value in life.

His ideas on morality, culture, and human nature challenge us to question everything we often take for granted—offering a new way to see the world around us, encouraging us to think, and sometimes change our minds.

How often do you question the ‘normal’ way of things? Are you ready to see which Nietzsche books made our list and why they might change the way you think?

Best Nietzsche Books

• Best Overall: Thus Spoke Zarathustra

• Best for Existential Themes: Beyond Good and Evil

• Best Collections of Aphorisms: Human, All Too Human

1. Thus Spoke Zarathustra

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05/02/2024 01:18 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Classics, Non-fiction, German Literature, Religion, Psychology

In “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” Nietzsche introduces us to Zarathustra, a wise man who descends from the mountain after a decade of solitude. His mission? To share his profound insights on existence and human nature with the world.

Throughout the book, Zarathustra delivers speeches on a variety of philosophical concepts, including the Übermensch (Overman), the will to power, and the eternal recurrence—challenging traditional beliefs and encouraging to be self-overcoming.

Nietzsche’s work offers a radical rethinking of ethical and philosophical norms and poses challenging questions about freedom, power, and human potential, making it essential for anyone interested in philosophy or the development of modern thought.

You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?

What you might love:

  • This book explores life’s existential questions, offering insights that challenge traditional thinking.
  • Nietzsche questions the moral and religious values of his era, encouraging readers to challenge societal norms and think for themselves.
  • Zarathustra’s journey highlights the importance of personal freedom and individuality, inspiring readers to create their own paths.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The book prompts readers to deeply reflect and question their own beliefs, which some may find uncomfortable.
  • Nietzsche’s writing is rich with metaphors and symbols, making it challenging to understand the direct meaning of the text.
  • The text includes many references to German culture and classical antiquity, which can make parts of the book unclear to some readers.

2. Beyond Good and Evil

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05/02/2024 01:18 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Classics, Non-fiction, German Literature, Religion, Psychology

In “Beyond Good and Evil,” Friedrich Nietzsche challenges the foundations of traditional morality. Emphasizing his critique, he introduces the concept right from the start, questioning the very essence of good and evil.

It questions the foundations of Western philosophy and Christianity, advocating for a “will to power” that transcends good and evil. Structured into nine parts, each explores different aspects of human existence, including religion, politics, society, and gender.

Nietzsche’s approach to deconstructing morality and truth without relying on a systematic philosophy offers a radical departure from conventional philosophical discourse, emphasizing psychological depth and cultural critique.

Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.

What you might love:

  • It offers a great introduction to Nietzsche’s key concepts, such as the “will to power” and “master-slave morality.”
  • This work is one of Nietzsche’s more accessible books, making it a good starting point for those new to his philosophy.
  • The themes and ideas in this book are still relevant to today’s discussions on morality and human behavior, making the book relevant to modern readers.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Fully grasping Nietzsche’s critiques often requires knowledge of his time’s historical and philosophical context.
  • “Beyond Good and Evil” lacks a typical narrative or plot, which may confuse readers expecting a straightforward story.
  • Nietzsche’s use of sophisticated and occasionally archaic language can make the text difficult for those not versed in philosophical terminology.

3. The Will to Power

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05/02/2024 01:18 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Classics, Non-fiction, German Literature, Religion, Psychology

“The Will to Power” is a collection of Nietzsche’s notes posthumously compiled and published as a book. This work is an insightful part of Nietzsche’s legacy, interpreting his ideas on power, nihilism, and the reinterpretation of existing values.

It discusses the concept of the ‘will to power,’ where Nietzsche suggests that the main driving force in humans is not survival or reproduction but a fundamental will to exert and enhance one’s power and influence.

Unlike most philosophical texts, “The Will to Power” is raw and unpolished, presenting Nietzsche’s thinking in its most unfiltered form, which highlights the depth and complexity of his philosophy.

The higher man is distinguished from the lower by his fearlessness and his readiness to challenge misfortune.

What you might love:

  • The text’s complexity encourages deep reflection and critical analysis, providing a rigorous intellectual exercise for readers.
  • Nietzsche discusses a broad array of topics like truth, morality, religion, and art, providing insights that span various fields of study.
  • The unfinished state of the book invites readers to delve into Nietzsche’s thought process and imagine how his ideas might have evolved.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The book’s snippets and aphorisms often lack context, leaving readers to connect and explain the ideas on their own.
  • It demands intense intellectual engagement and critical thinking, which can be taxing for those seeking a more casual read.
  • As a compilation of Nietzsche’s notes and unpublished writings, it lacks structure, confusing readers who expect a traditional narrative.

4. The Antichrist

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05/02/2024 01:18 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Classics, Non-fiction, German Literature, Religion, Psychology

“The Antichrist” centers on Nietzsche’s criticism of institutional religion, particularly Christianity. This provocative book expresses Nietzsche’s bold perspectives as he calls for a reevaluation of moral values that have shaped the Western world.

Nietzsche dissects religious doctrines he deems antithetical to life and vitality. He challenges the reader with arguments against the complacency of accepted beliefs, portraying them as barriers to human potential and progress.

This book is a daring confrontation of traditional beliefs and their significant influence on the philosophy of religion and existential thought. Nietzsche’s insights challenge readers to question and redefine their understanding of morality and faith.

The majority of men prefer delusion to truth. It soothes. It is easy to grasp.

What you might love:

  • His arguments prompt readers to question accepted truths and think independently about morality and religion.
  • Nietzsche explores alternative views on morality beyond conventional good and evil, encouraging readers to rethink their ethical values.
  • Nietzsche’s questions about the role of religion in society and its impact on culture and morality offer valuable perspectives on today’s debates.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Nietzsche’s intense and sometimes harsh tone may not be comfortable for all readers.
  • The book explores deep philosophical themes that can be challenging without some background in philosophy.
  • Fully understanding Nietzsche’s critiques may require knowledge of 19th-century European religious and philosophical contexts.

5. The Portable Nietzsche (with Walter Kaufman)

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Genres: Philosophy, Classics, Non-fiction, German Literature, Religion, Psychology

“The Portable Nietzsche” is an edited compilation of Nietzsche’s most influential works, including entire texts such as “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” “The Antichrist,” “Twilight of the Idols,” and selections from other writings.

This collection showcases Nietzsche’s diverse philosophical explorations, from his thoughts on the Übermensch and the will to power to his critiques of morality, religion, and modern culture.

Editor Walter Kaufmann provides translations that emphasize Nietzsche’s literary quality and philosophical depth, making complex ideas more accessible to a modern audience and serving as an excellent introduction to Nietzsche’s philosophy.

The better the state is established, the fainter is humanity. To make the individual uncomfortable, that is my task.

What you might love:

  • As indicated by its title, the book is designed for easy portability, making it convenient to take and read anywhere.
  • The collection spans various topics, including morality, philosophy, art, and culture, highlighting Nietzsche’s diverse thinking.
  • It includes full texts like “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” and key excerpts from other major works, offering a comprehensive view of Nietzsche’s thought.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The book lacks a consistent narrative or storyline as an anthology, which might disorient readers who prefer a continuous plot.
  • The collection features texts from various periods of Nietzsche’s life, each with different styles and themes, which can confuse readers.
  • Nietzsche frequently references classical philosophy, literature, and contemporary German culture, which might be unfamiliar to many readers and hinder their understanding.

6. On the Genealogy of Morals

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Psychology, German Literature, History

Structured as a series of essays, it centers on the origins and meanings of our moral concepts. Nietzsche initiates his exploration by examining the contrasts between ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ creating a deeper philosophical inquiry.

Throughout the essays, Nietzsche investigates how values have been historically created and transformed. He challenges the reader to think why certain qualities are accepted as ‘moral’ while others are deemed ‘immoral.’

This book is important for understanding Nietzsche’s broader philosophical project of evaluating all values. It informs and challenges one’s thinking, making it an unmissable read for those looking to deepen their understanding of philosophy and psychology.

We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, and with good reason. We have never looked at ourselves.

What you might love:

  • Nietzsche’s challenging ideas encourage readers to enhance their analytical and critical thinking skills.
  • It extends beyond philosophy to critique culture and society, addressing modern issues of power and inequality.
  • The book introduces key concepts like “slave morality” and “master morality,” which have significantly influenced philosophy and psychology.

What might not be for everyone:

  • His critiques of traditional values are controversial and provocative, which might unsettle some readers.
  • Nietzsche’s complex ideas and style might lead to misinterpretation without careful study and consideration.
  • Nietzsche’s dense and academic language can make the text challenging to understand, requiring slow and careful reading.

7. The Gay Science

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Poetry, Psychology, Religion

“The Gay Science,” also known as “The Joyful Wisdom,” presents Friedrich Nietzsche’s insights into themes of art, life, and truth, claiming that creating one’s values and embracing the aesthetic aspects of existence can lead to a more fulfilling life.

The book is known for its accessible approach to serious philosophical subjects, including the famous declaration of “God is dead.” The work is divided into five books, each discussing the implications of living without predefined rules or systems.

This book covers Nietzsche’s philosophy, including his critique of science and religion, his proposal of the Übermensch, and his affirmation of life’s potential, making it an important read for anyone interested in the combination of philosophy and literature.

Either one does not dream, or one does so interestingly. One should learn to spend one’s waking life in the same way: not at all, or interestingly

What you might love:

  • The book promotes individualism and personal expression, encouraging readers to develop their own virtues and values.
  • Nietzsche explores how suffering and happiness can coexist, providing a nuanced perspective on managing life’s challenges.
  • Not only is it significant for its philosophy, but it’s also praised for its poetic language and literary quality, making it a pleasure to read.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Exploring nihilistic themes could be unsettling or pessimistic for those who find these viewpoints difficult or bleak.
  • Themes like “eternal recurrence” and the nature of truth are abstract and may be hard to fully understand or connect with daily life.
  • The text includes many references to Western philosophy and history that may be obscure without prior knowledge, making some parts less accessible.

8. Basic Writings of Nietzsche

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, History, Modern, Western

“Basic Writings of Nietzsche” gathers the notable texts of Friedrich Nietzsche, offering an overview of his radical philosophical ideas about culture, morality, and the human condition.

Each work featured in this collection challenges societal norms, questions traditional values, and promotes a philosophy of self-overcoming and individual excellence. The anthology is designed to show Nietzsche’s influence on modern philosophy.

This compilation is known for its scope and the quality of its translations, preserving Nietzsche’s style while making complex philosophical ideas more accessible and impactful for everyone.

The body of knowledge keeps increasing at incredible speed, but the literature of nonknowledge grows even faster.

What you might love:

  • This collection simplifies complex philosophical ideas, making them more accessible to general readers.
  • Nietzsche’s works encourage readers to reflect on their beliefs and values, fostering personal growth and self-understanding.
  • Readers can directly explore foundational concepts like the Übermensch, the will to power, and eternal recurrence from Nietzsche’s own writings.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Despite editing for clarity, some passages still use complex language that can be hard to understand.
  • The discussions often focus on abstract theories without concrete examples, making them hard to follow.
  • His strong critique of traditional values may not appeal to everyone, particularly those who deeply value these traditions.

9. The Birth of Tragedy

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05/02/2024 01:18 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Art, History, 19th Century

“The Birth of Tragedy” is Friedrich Nietzsche’s first major work, which introduces his influential ideas on aesthetics, culture, and the profound impact of ancient Greek art and tragedy.

Nietzsche discusses Greek tragedy’s origins and introduces the Apollonian and Dionysian fundamental concepts and duality. These ideas serve as lenses through which Nietzsche views the role of art in reflecting and shaping human existence.

“The Birth of Tragedy” provides a unique perspective on art’s role in society and the individual’s life, making it an important piece for understanding Nietzsche’s philosophical contributions to the evolution of aesthetic theory.

Man is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art.

What you might love:

  • The book critiques modern Western values, presenting a new perspective on what society considers important.
  • It deeply explores the nature of art, arguing that true art comes from the blend of Apollonian and Dionysian forces.
  • Reading “The Birth of Tragedy” deepens your understanding of the foundational elements of Western culture and philosophy.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Exploring deep philosophical themes such as the nature of art and human suffering can be hard to grasp.
  • Nietzsche’s critique of modern values and science may clash with current views, possibly alienating some readers.
  • The Apollonian and Dionysian concepts are abstract and may be difficult to understand without knowledge of classical studies or philosophy.

10. Human, All Too Human

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Psychology, Essays, 19th Century

“Human, All Too Human” is a series of aphorisms and reflections where Nietzsche takes a look into the motivations behind human behavior and the truths of human society.

Breaking away from his usual philosophical style, this book adopts a clear style to examine the illusions of human self-understanding and criticizes the herd mentality, irrational thinking, and the principles of organized religion.

Instead, he proposes a philosophy grounded in rational thought and personal integrity. The work is structured in sections, each addressing different themes—from the origins of human emotions and thoughts to the social constructs that shape them.

Nietzsche’s insights encourage a more thoughtful, skeptical approach to societal norms and personal beliefs, making it a great foundational read for modern thinkers.

He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute.

What you might love:

  • Nietzsche’s critiques provide valuable insights into the social dynamics of his time, remaining relevant today.
  • The book challenges traditional beliefs and prompts readers to question accepted truths, enhancing critical thinking skills.
  • The ideas in this book have shaped fields like psychology, literature, and political thought, demonstrating its wide-reaching impact.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The book requires significant intellectual effort to understand and appreciate, which could be taxing for casual readers.
  • The many references to contemporary and historical figures and philosophies may require additional research for full understanding.
  • Nietzsche critically examines human nature and societal norms, which may seem cynical or overly critical and not resonate with all readers.

11. Ecce Homo

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05/02/2024 01:28 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Autobiography, Psychology

“Ecce Homo” serves as Friedrich Nietzsche’s autobiographical reflection, where he reviews his life and works with insight. He examines the origins and significance of his major philosophical ideas, detailing the personal experiences that shaped his thoughts.

He boldly declares the influences and outcomes of his philosophies, showing people how he came to be—stirring both admiration and controversy among readers.

“Ecce Homo” stands out for its self-reflective quality and Nietzsche’s brutal honesty about his own achievements and psychological state, offering a window into the mind of a renowned philosophical thinker.

I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous… I am no man, I am dynamite.

What you might love:

  • Unlike typical autobiographies, Nietzsche’s self-portrayal is boldly candid, making for a compelling read.
  • It features provocative claims and Nietzsche’s often humorous reassessment of his life and works, providing entertainment and insight.
  • The book explains Nietzsche’s motivations behind his key works and ideas, giving readers a clearer understanding of his philosophy.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The text requires a high level of intellectual engagement and critical thinking, which could be taxing for those seeking a lighter read.
  • Discussing abstract concepts without concrete examples can be hard to grasp and may deter readers from seeking straightforward explanations.
  • Nietzsche’s tone can sometimes be cynical and dismissive of other thinkers and cultural norms, which might not appeal to all readers.

12. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Psychology, Essays, 19th Century

Through a series of observations, Nietzsche looks into the origins and functions of common moral beliefs. He challenges these norms by showing how they often arise from inherent human biases rather than universal truths.

He critiques the Christian moral framework and its impact on human behavior, advocating for a reevaluation of values that have been accepted without question.

This book invites readers to break free from traditional moral constraints and rediscover the liberating power of independent thought. This book is for those interested in the radical rethinking of morality and ethics.

Only when he has attained a final knowledge of all things will man have come to know himself. For things are only the boundaries of man.

What you might love:

  • The book takes a look into philosophical questions about morality, offering a rich intellectual experience.
  • It challenges traditional views of morality, encouraging personal growth and self-reflection among its readers.
  • The book challenges the status quo with provocative ideas, appealing to readers who like questioning societal norms.

What might not be for everyone:

  • At times, Nietzsche’s cynical tone may not appeal to readers with a more optimistic view of human nature and society.
  • Although insightful, his use of aphorisms may leave readers wanting more detailed explanations and further development of ideas.
  • Nietzsche often discusses theories without concrete examples, making it difficult for some readers to understand the practical implications of his ideas.

13. The Untimely Meditations

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, German Literature, History, Essays, Classics

“The Untimely Meditations” is a collection of essays that question the relevance and impact of historical education, culture, and the influence of key figures like Schopenhauer and Wagner.

Across the essays, Nietzsche explores the concept of ‘untimeliness’—the idea of being out of sync with one’s era yet possessing insights that transcend time. He critiques the then-modern Germany’s cultural and intellectual atmosphere, pushing for a rebirth of creativity and critical thinking.

This collection is noted for its examination of cultural and historical norms and Nietzsche’s advocacy for a philosophy that actively engages with life rather than detaching from it.

One has to take a somewhat bold and dangerous line with this existence: especially as, whatever happens, we are bound to lose it.

What you might love:

  • Nietzsche’s critiques encourage personal growth and the development of an independent perspective.
  • The essays prompt readers to question conventional wisdom and the status quo, fostering deeper thinking.
  • The book stimulates intellectual curiosity and debate, which is ideal for those who enjoy engaging with challenging ideas.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Nietzsche challenges widely accepted beliefs and norms, which may be uncomfortable or unsettling for some readers.
  • It includes many references to historical figures and events that may require extra background knowledge to understand fully.
  • The book’s focus on deep philosophical and cultural critique may appeal more to specialized readers than to a general audience.

14. Twilight of the Idols

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Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, Classics, Autobiography, Psychology

“Twilight of the Idols” critiques key figures and concepts of traditional philosophy and Western morality. Nietzsche debunk the “idols” of society—misconceptions and false idols that he believes dominate cultural and philosophical thought.

He discusses the errors of Socrates and Plato, the misguided principles of Christianity, and the problems of modernity, including democracy and nationalism. Each section of his book challenges readers to question the value systems they take for granted.

“Twilight of the Idols” is an invitation to the readers to question and overthrow outdated beliefs that linger in modern culture. Nietzsche’s brisk, accessible style makes this critique of traditional values enlightening and entertaining, unlike traditional texts.

Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage to face what he already knows.

What you might love:

  • The book encourages readers to examine and reassess their values, promoting personal growth and self-awareness.
  • It provides sharp, incisive critiques of Western philosophy, challenging established norms and thinkers from Socrates to Kant.
  • “Twilight of the Idols” is more concise than some of Nietzsche’s longer works, making it more accessible and a great introduction to his philosophy.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Nietzsche’s ideas are complex and open to multiple interpretations, posing a challenge for readers who prefer straightforward, clear arguments.
  • The book requires intense intellectual engagement and critical thinking, which may make it a challenging read that doesn’t suit everyone’s preferences.
  • The book lacks a traditional narrative structure and consists of a series of essays and reflections, which could be disorienting for readers expecting a conventional plot.

15. The Case of Wagner

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Genres: Philosophy, Music, Non-fiction, German Literature, Art, Essays

“The Case of Wagner” is Nietzsche’s examination of Richard Wagner, his music, and its cultural implications, providing a sharp critique of the composer whom Nietzsche once admired but later renounced.

Nietzsche examines how Wagner’s compositions represent what he sees as negative cultural trends toward excess and over-dramatization. He critiques these aspects as signs of cultural decay, contrasting them with his own ideals of simplicity and vitality.

Through this critique of Wagner, Nietzsche addresses larger themes about the role of art in society and its ability to influence and reflect cultural values—making it a significant read for those interested in the impact of art on society.

What you might love:

  • Its combination of music criticism, philosophical inquiry, and cultural commentary appeals to a broad audience of different disciplines.
  • The book gives a clear view of Nietzsche’s critical take on art and its cultural role, particularly through his analysis of Wagner’s music.
  • It uniquely combines biography with philosophical discussion, revealing insights into Nietzsche’s personal and philosophical split with Wagner.

What might not be for everyone:

  • The book explores complex themes in art, culture, and philosophy that may require background knowledge for full appreciation.
  • Nietzsche’s ideas are layered and open to interpretation, posing challenges for readers who prefer straightforward analyses.
  • Since this is a philosophical text without characters or character development, it might be less appealing to those who enjoy complex character dynamics.

16. Aphorisms of Love and Hate

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05/02/2024 01:28 am GMT

Genres: Philosophy, Non-fiction, German Literature, Essays, Classics, Short Stories

“Aphorisms of Love and Hate” examines how love and hate influence our perceptions and decisions, arguing that these emotions often stem from our deepest values and inner conflicts.

As he dissects these feelings, he challenges readers to consider how much of our sense of self and our ethics are swayed by them. Nietzsche encourages a reevaluation of the sincerity and origins of our deepest affections and aversions.

Nietzsche’s concise and piercing observations provide philosophical insights and practical wisdom on facing the complexities of love and hate. The book is perfect for introspection, making this a must-read for anyone seeking clarity in their emotions.

One can promise actions, but not feelings, for the latter are involuntary.

What you might love:

  • Nietzsche critiques cultural attitudes towards love and hate, providing insights into how society influences these emotions.
  • Despite their brevity, the aphorisms offer philosophical insights, giving readers much to consider about human relationships and societal norms.
  • The book encourages readers to reflect on their personal experiences and feelings about love and hate—encouraging personal growth.

What might not be for everyone:

  • Nietzsche’s cynical view on love and hate may seem pessimistic and not appeal to more optimistic readers.
  • His philosophical ideas are abstract and challenging, which might overwhelm those who prefer more concrete concepts.
  • His thoughts often challenge societal norms and personal beliefs, which can be unsettling or offensive to some readers.

Final Thoughts

Reading Nietzsche’s work isn’t always easy, and whether you agree with him or not, his writings don’t tell readers what to think but instead encourage us to explore and understand our own thoughts on our own terms.

If some of his ideas made you pause or wonder, then we’re on the right track. After all, Philosophy, especially Nietzsche’s, isn’t about easy answers.

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Erika Maniquiz is a certified teacher and librarian with a Library and Information Science degree. She cherishes the calm moments reading books as much as the dynamic discussions she has in her classroom. Beyond her career, she is a fan of Kdrama and loves Kpop's lively beats.