The best philosophical novels from global writers that I love

The Books I Picked & Why

Demian

By Hermann Hesse

Demian

Why this book?

Self-realization and the duality of human nature are the dominant themes of this coming-of-age story. Emil Sinclair, the narrator, and protagonist of the book, struggles between light and dark, good and bad, and Damian, Sinclair’s mysterious classmate, and friend, helps Sinclair reach eventual self-awareness. Damien is a fascinating psychological analysis of a vulnerable youthful soul in search of its own true identity and that’s why it’s perfect for young adults and/or individuals who aim to discover their own unique path in life. As an addict of such themes, I read this book in college and still re-read it (now and then) when in self-doubt.


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Immortality

By Milan Kundera

Immortality

Why this book?

If you were to read one of Kundera’s novels, let it be this, Immortality! It’s the last of a trilogy (that includes The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being), and Kundera’s masterful attempt to answer questions such as: What’s the meaning of life? And is immortality so unbearable as our brief existence?

Its plot is Kunderian, light, and poetical. The story initiates from a simple gesture by Agnes, one of the protagonists, but as it progresses the reader begins to feel the heaviness of mortality and the endless challenges of love. It’s a beautiful discussion on the nature of one’s legacy, and how one changes (or not) through the passage of time, and unfortunately can’t do much about it.


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Still Life with Woodpecker

By Tom Robbins

Still Life with Woodpecker

Why this book?

Still Life with Woodpecker tells the story of the love affair between Leigh-Cheri, an environmentalist princess, and Bernard Mickey Wrangle, an outlaw known as the Woodpecker. It’s a pure tribute to love and the enthusiasm for life and endeavors to emphasize the unreserved need we have to have in order to keep both of these alive.

Bernard reminds Leigh-Cheri that “Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet.” One of the best reads for one who is in love or in need of falling in love!


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What's Left of the Night

By Ersi Sotiropoulos, Karen Emmerich

What's Left of the Night

Why this book?

What's Left of the Night gives an imagined account of the young Cavafy's three-day visit to Paris in 1897. This trip proved to be an important journey for the then-unknown Greek poet who was in search of his poetic voice among other things.

The book is about the artist, as well as any ordinary human being, who yearns to reach his/her own higher potential or to live for something higher and for a moment he/she does. This literary work of genius is a hymn to the irremediable desire of the humble soul that reaches for the stars, despite the fact that in the majority, or almost all, of its life lives in the gutter.


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The Book Thief

By Markus Zusak

The Book Thief

Why this book?

It’s a story about Liesel, an orphan girl (and a thief of books) who grows up in Germany during World War II. The book’s narrator is Death who is charming and much more empathetic than any other ordinary death you might have heard/read or briefly encountered.

Even though Liesel’s everyday life is struck by war, she manages to find comfort within the stolen words of books. Thus her playfulness and curiosity survive and among them Liesel’s ability to keep on hoping, in spite of the fact that most of her beloved family and friends perish before the war ends. The Book Thief is a bright take on the grim realities of war and it might remind you of Benigni’s academy award movie winner Life is Beautiful.


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