The best philosophical novels for readers who want a story to challenge and enlighten them

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been a writer. Most recently, though, I have completed a PhD in philosophy and I decided to write a book that deals with the issues that I wrestled with over the course of my studies in a way that can be appreciated by a popular audience. This Enchanted Realm is my first book—though I'm the author of a dissertation on Charles S. Peirce and two academic papers on Peirce and Arthur Schopenhauer. Like Franz Kafka before me, I was employed in a job unrelated to creative writing which is where I realized that good poetry is only the right words in the right order—I decided to move from writing technical protocols to writing—technically—stories.


I wrote...

This Enchanted Realm

By V.G. Yefimovich,

Book cover of This Enchanted Realm

What is my book about?

Tony is just your average guy...until he gets embroiled in a mystery that takes him through ancient mythologies and into the heart of a contemporary ethical crisis. Dealing with topics such as technology, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, This Enchanted Realm is sure to wake you from your dogmatic slumber!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Journey to the End of the Night

V.G. Yefimovich Why did I love this book?

Whether you love him or hate him (as he was a tortured and unpleasant soul), Céline innovated the philosophical novel in the modern context and brought the genre to its pinnacle with Journey to the End of the Night. Reflecting on the horrors, absurdity, and stupidity of World War I, returning soldier Ferdinand Bardamu (a stand-in for Céline) finds himself equally miserable in “peacetime” serving as a doctor for the poor in Paris (Céline was trained as a doctor). Céline is occasionally compared to another French writer of philosophical novels: Jean-Paul Sartre. Journey is not heavily allegorical like some of Sartre’s fiction works are (such as No Exit); Céline simply “shouts” at you, and sometimes you’re benefited in hearing the shouting. In Journey’s portrayal of inter-war urban decay, one gets the sense that Céline agrees with Sartre’s “hell is other people” but Céline never says it out loud.

By Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Ralph Manheim (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Journey to the End of the Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celine's masterpiece-colloquial, polemic, hyper realistic-boils over with bitter humor and revulsion at society's idiocy and hypocrisy: Journey to the End of the Night is a literary symphony of cruelty and violence that hurtles through the improbable travels of the petit bourgeois (and largely autobiographical) antihero, Bardamu: from the trenches of WWI, to the African jungle, to New York, to the Ford Factory in Detroit, and finally to life in Paris as a failed doctor. Ralph Manheim's pitch-perfect translation captures Celine's savage energy, and a dynamic afterword by William T. Vollmann presents a fresh, furiously alive take on this astonishing novel.


Book cover of Candide

V.G. Yefimovich Why did I love this book?

No book inspired me to write my own book more than Voltaire’s Candide, a biting critique (and simultaneous exaltation) of civilization in light of the technological and social changes of the Industrial Revolution. Voltaire’s story is (of course) absurd: it follows a young man named Candide as he progressively loses faith in humanity and transforms from a Leibnizian optimist to a proto-Schopenhauerian pessimist (as we age, many of us go through the same transformation). Neither Candide nor my book (if you will momentarily allow for such a vulgar equivocation) is a lightweight in terms of the philosophical content, either—even though both Voltaire and I seemingly intended our works to be silly. Candide is a laugh-riot (Voltaire is one of the greatest writers of all time for a reason). In it, he asks, what can be the meaning of life when life looks like this?

By Voltaire,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Candide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work.

A classic work of eighteenth century literature, Candide is Voltaire's fast-paced novella of struggle and adventure that used satire as a form of social critique. Candide enlists the help of his tutor, Dr. Pangloss, to help him reunite with his estranged lover, Lady Cunegonde. But the journey welcomes many unexpected challenges, and overcoming or outwitting the…


Book cover of A Clockwork Orange

V.G. Yefimovich Why did I love this book?

Before Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking film popularized the story was Anthony Burgess’ novel about the degenerate, London droogs. This disturbing tale—which centers around a band of “ultra-violent” criminals led by Alex—is inspired by Burgess’ own experience when he was attacked by Russian youths. The use of a modified Russian language among the droogs (which itself means “friends” in Russian) in A Clockwork Orange is critical to the novel’s philosophical approach. By employing Russian, Burgess plays “phenomenologist” and forces the reader to trust him by virtue of the reader’s assumed unfamiliarity with the book’s language. Questions of free will only arise in A Clockwork Orange after you are forced to confide in the criminal Alex—you have to. In the hellish world A Clockwork Orange portrays, there’s no way to trust anyone; not even yourself.

By Anthony Burgess,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Clockwork Orange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Anthony Burgess's influential nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, a teen who talks in a fantastically inventive slang that evocatively renders his and his friends' intense reaction against their society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess's introduction, "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."


Book cover of The Famished Road

V.G. Yefimovich Why did I love this book?

The Famished Road is often categorized as a novel of “magical realism” although the author rejects this categorization. Okri’s tale follows Azaro, a spirit child in Okri’s native Nigeria as he watches the post-colonial state transform with the acceleration of global technology. While Okri weaves the spiritual and physical realms into his narrative, the juxtaposition of the spiritual and physical realms for Okri is a cornerstone of traditional African religion (and is therefore not seen as “unrealistic”). More accurately, The Famished Road resembles Fyodr Doestoevsky’s Notes from Underground: a classic philosophical novel. In The Famished Road, Okri argues that there is no salvation on Earth—even for the spiritual realm that resides alongside us. Azaro sees the people of his village being exploited by politicians and foreign actors and there is nothing he—as a transdimensional creature—can do about it. Transforming Doestoevsky’s cynicism into something even more all-encompassing or “ontological,” Okri argues that not even spirits can affect the evil that occasionally pervades humanity.  

By Ben Okri,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Famished Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Man Booker Prize: “Okri shares with García Márquez a vision of the world as one of infinite possibility. . . . A masterpiece” (The Boston Sunday Globe).

Azaro is a spirit child, an abiku, existing, according to the African tradition, between life and death. Born into the human world, he must experience its joys and tragedies. His spirit companions come to him often, hounding him to leave his mortal world and join them in their idyllic one. Azaro foresees a trying life ahead, but he is born smiling. This is his story.
 
When President Bill Clinton first…


Book cover of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

V.G. Yefimovich Why did I love this book?

Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the very first philosophical novel I read and it was one of the first books that interested me in philosophy. This interest has followed me over the course of my life. In Zen, an unidentified protagonist (who is a stand-in for Pirsig) recounts a motorcycle trip he takes with his son. Zen is interspersed with the unidentified protagonist’s discussion of Plato, namely Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, which is also the name given to the unidentified protagonist’s historical alter-ego: a creative writing teacher who goes insane trying to define “quality.” In Zen, Pirsig asks the question, “What is Quality?” (with a capital ‘Q’). Though not sufficiently answered in Zen nor Pirsig’s follow-up, Lola, the author’s exploration of quality through Plato is among one of the most ambitious—if imperfect—philosophical treatises ever written.

By Robert M. Pirsig,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.


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The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

Book cover of The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

John Winn Miller

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Hunt for the Peggy C is best described as Casablanca meets Das Boot. It is about an American smuggler who struggles to rescue a Jewish family on his rusty cargo ship, outraging his mutinous crew of misfits and provoking a hair-raising chase by a brutal Nazi U-boat captain bent on revenge.

During the nerve-wracking 3,000-mile escape, Rogers falls in love with the family’s eldest daughter, Miriam, a sweet medical student with a militant streak. Everything seems hopeless when Jake is badly wounded, and Miriam must prove she’s as tough as her rhetoric to put down a mutiny by some of Jake’s fed-up crew–just as the U-boat closes in for the kill.

The Hunt for the Peggy C: A World War II Maritime Thriller

By John Winn Miller,

What is this book about?

John Winn Miller's THE HUNT FOR THE PEGGY C, a semifinalist in the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition, captures the breathless suspense of early World War II in the North Atlantic. Captain Jake Rogers, experienced in running his tramp steamer through U-boat-infested waters to transport vital supplies and contraband to the highest bidder, takes on his most dangerous cargo yet after witnessing the oppression of Jews in Amsterdam: a Jewish family fleeing Nazi persecution.

The normally aloof Rogers finds himself drawn in by the family's warmth and faith, but he can't afford to let his guard down when Oberleutnant Viktor…


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