100 books like Being and Nothingness

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Sarah Richmond (translator),

Here are 100 books that Being and Nothingness fans have personally recommended if you like Being and Nothingness. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

Years ago, I was a janitor. When I would take a shower, it was like I could never get the stench off my body. I like Susan Strasser’s book because it reminds me of the waste I use to clean up daily. She examines the most unprecedented commonplace act of throwing things out and how it has transformed American society.

Her classic book about trash world culture is fascinating to me because, in the last hundred years, the way of life has been replaced by mass consumption, disposable goods, and waste on an unimaginable scale. Her book could easily be used as a metaphor for the ‘homeless,’ whom some view as “disposable’ goods. Her book illustrates that what counts as trash depends on who counts it, and what we throw away defines us as much as we keep it.

Strasser argues that in Western society, popular understanding of cleanliness, gender,…

By Susan Strasser, Alice Austen (photographer),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Waste and Want as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life-throwing things out-and how it has transformed American society.

Susan Strasser's pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part of that culture-the trash it produces-and finds in it an unexpected wealth of meaning.

Before the twentieth century, streets and bodies stank, but trash was nearly nonexistent. With goods and money scarce, almost everything was reused. Strasser paints a vivid picture of an America where scavenger pigs roamed the streets,…


Book cover of The Culture of Make Believe

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

I liked the book because it is not just about racism, but it grapples with how hate manifests itself in our Western world.

Jensen paints on a huge canvas detailing American racism from the genocidal slave trade through lynchings to the 2000 murder of Amadou Diallo by NYC police and covers a wide range of other cultural horrors as well: the massacres of Native Americans, the Holocaust, the 8,000 deaths from the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in India and the deaths of 500,000 children in Iraj. 

By Derrick Jensen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Culture of Make Believe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an examination of the very heart of our civilization. The Culture of Make Believe is a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.


Book cover of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

When I was a homeless artist, I stumbled across this brilliant book, and it validated my belief that contrary to what global capitalists believe, free markets outside the West do not spread wealth in the hands of an ‘outsider’ minority but instead generate ethnic envy and hatred among the frustrated, impoverished majorities.

Amy Chua states that billions of poor, exploited, and powerful people around the world (homeless and displaced) watch as the wealthy minority in the United States continues to amass more control, prestige, and tax breaks.

Ironically, Chua points out, although America is viewed “as arrogant, hegemonic and vapidly materialistic, most of the downtrodden would rather be in the U. S. than anywhere else. In 2023, close to 10 million illegal migrants have entered the U.S. via the porous Texas border.

By Amy Chua,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked World on Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The reigning consensus holds that the combination of free markets and democracy would transform the third world and sweep away the ethnic hatred and religious zealotry associated with underdevelopment. In this revelatory investigation of the true impact of globalization, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua explains why many developing countries are in fact consumed by ethnic violence after adopting free market democracy.

Chua shows how in non-Western countries around the globe, free markets have concentrated starkly disproportionate wealth in the hands of a resented ethnic minority. These “market-dominant minorities” – Chinese in Southeast Asia, Croatians in the former Yugoslavia, whites…


Book cover of The Outsider

John H. Sibley Author Of Being and Homelessness: notes from an underground artist

From my list on understanding homelessness and existentialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Chicago-based artist, author, veteran, and teacher. I studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1968 during the bloody Tet Offensive during the Vietnam era. Upon my discharge I got my BFA in 1994. I got convicted for a crime I did not commit, and I became a homeless-existential artist on Chicago’s mean streets for six months. I got hired by an Acoustic company, and I married and worked for twenty-seven years while raising a family. I now work as an art teacher. All my nonfiction books chronicle different episodes in my life. 

John's book list on understanding homelessness and existentialism

John H. Sibley Why did John love this book?

All my life, I have felt like an "outsider." Wright’s book depicts American racism and its devastating consequences in raw and unflinching terms.

The main character Damon Cross, a Chicago negro, disillusioned with the futility of life and the mess he has made of it, reminds me of when I was homeless. The fossilized, decadent cultural barons of American art have always kept me at bay. My entire career has been as an outsider. Outcast. The invisible man. Interloper. Picasso had a blue period. I had a blues period.

All my life, I have used painting and writing as a means of exorcising demons from my being in the world. Art has saved me from dementia. If I didn’t have art to channel my creative impulses, I’m sure I would have become Wright’s Damon Cross.

In the novel, Damon Cross becomes homeless and loses his identity in a subway crash…

By Richard Wright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Outsider as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Richard Wright, one of the most powerful, acclaimed, and essential American authors of the twentieth century, comes a compelling story of one man's attempt to escape his past and start anew in Harlem.

Cross Damon is a man at odds with society and with himself—a man of superior intellect who hungers for peace but who brings terror and destruction wherever he goes. The Outsider is an important work of fiction that depicts American racism and its devastating consequences in raw and unflinching terms. Brilliantly imagined and frighteningly prescient, it is an epic exploration of the tragic roots of criminal…


Book cover of Imperial Bedrooms

Mike Thorn Author Of Shelter for the Damned

From my list on descent into existential darkness.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mike Thorn is the author of Shelter for the Damned, Darkest Hours, and Peel Back and See. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, and The NoSleep Podcast. His books have earned praise from Jamie Blanks (director of Urban Legend and Valentine), Jeffrey Reddick (creator of Final Destination), and Daniel Goldhaber (director of Cam). His essays and articles have been published in American Twilight: The Cinema of Tobe Hooper (University of Texas Press), Beyond Empowertainment: Exploring Feminist Horror (Seventh Row), The Film Stage, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick.

Mike's book list on descent into existential darkness

Mike Thorn Why did Mike love this book?

With Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis channels many of his career-long obsessions into a nihilistic work of Hollywood noir, written in a minimalist prose style that evokes both Raymond Chandler’s staccato brutalism and Joan Didion’s haunting lyricism. Imperial Bedrooms takes a razor to Hollywood’s beautiful surfaces while drawing the reader deeper and deeper into protagonist Clay’s misanthropic paranoia. The writing is masterful, existential horror frozen into sentences so spare and focused they often resemble haiku. It features what might be my favorite closing line in fiction: “The fades, the dissolves, the rewritten scenes, all the things you wipe away—I now want to explain all these things to her but I know I never will, the most important one being: I never liked anyone and I’m afraid of people.”

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Imperial Bedrooms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Clay is a successful screenwriter, middle-aged and disaffected; he's in LA to cast his new movie. However, this trip is anything other than professional, and he's soon drifting through a louche and long-familiar circle - a world largely populated by the band of infamous teenagers first introduced in Bret Easton Ellis's first novel Less Than Zero. After a meeting with a gorgeous but talentless actress determined to win a role in his movie, Clay finds himself connected with Kelly Montrose, a producer whose gruesomely violent death is suddenly very much the talk of the town.

Imperial Bedrooms follows Clay as…


Book cover of Nausea

K.K. Edin Author Of The Measurements of Decay

From my list on exploring philosophy through fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a lawyer and novelist with a Master’s degree in philosophy. I read philosophy and its history to seek wisdom, knowledge, morality, meaning, and the means by which to think well. That is also why I read fiction. And a great philosophical novel can do what a treatise cannot: it can enlighten by style, perspective, the elicitation of empathy, by poignancy and aesthetic awe, and other qualities unique to good fiction. Although I could not possibly represent all the great philosophical novels in this short list, I’ve tried to present a meaningful cross-section. I hope you find these novels as enjoyable and meaningful as I have.

K.K.'s book list on exploring philosophy through fiction

K.K. Edin Why did K.K. love this book?

Nausea does not rely on the extreme or outlandish scenarios of science fiction to explore philosophical themes. Rather, this novel is about a person’s growing malaise over his conscious relationship to objects, people, and ultimately himself. It reaches into some very fundamental aspects of our relationship to the world, and asks you to look at the mere structure of existence after all particularities (names, shapes, colors, history, etc.) are wiped away, and then asks you how you feel about it. Through an existentialist lens, it also explores certain political questions. And for those more technically interested in philosophy, the novel does a better job of showing existentialism’s relationship to phenomenology than many academic papers. 

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Richard Howard (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogs his every feeling and sensation. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which "spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time - the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain."

Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature (though he declined to accept it), Jean-Paul Sartre - philosopher, critic, novelist, and…


Book cover of Froth on the Daydream

Angel Dionne Author Of Sardines

From my list on Books that depict the existential pains of human existance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like to believe that my own characters struggle with being human. They struggle with their bitterness, their relations to others (or lack thereof), and their unresolved guilt. What happens when guilt is left unresolved? What happens when someone enters into a state of self-imposed isolation? These are topics I enjoy exploring in my work. I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a child. My mother deserves all the credit. At bedtime, rather than reading bedtime stories to me from a book, she would make up a story and then ask me to do the same. This helped me to develop a lifelong love for reading and writing.

Angel's book list on Books that depict the existential pains of human existance

Angel Dionne Why did Angel love this book?

I feel as though this book isn’t widely known. The plot is quite bizarre and surreal–a man falls in love with a woman who is growing a water lily in her lung.

The novel’s theme of grief stood out to me, and I feel it was perfectly illustrated by Collin’s desperate attempts to keep his wife alive. It is evident that Vian used Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy as inspiration for this novel.

Book cover of What Is Existentialism? Vol. I: History & Principles

Frank Scalambrino Author Of The Philosophy of Being in the Analytic, Continental, and Thomistic Traditions: Divergence and Dialogue

From my list on philosophical metaphysics on what is be-ing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a classically and formally trained philosopher. I have a Doctorate in Philosophy from Duquesne University (2011). I've been interested in philosophy for as long as I can remember; however, I began formally studying philosophy when I first discovered the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. I began teaching philosophy at the university level in 2004. I've taught over 100 university-level courses, including graduate-level courses in both philosophy and psychology. I'm presently finishing my tenth philosophy book, along with over 50 professional peer-reviewed articles in philosophy. These days my attention is devoted to sharing philosophy on the internet through The Philosophemes YouTube Channel, @Philosophemes on Instagram, and the Basic Philosophical Questions Podcast

Frank's book list on philosophical metaphysics on what is be-ing

Frank Scalambrino Why did Frank love this book?

After extensive research, this is the only book in existence that answers the question: What is existentialism? Existentialism may be understood as the correct point of departure for addressing the philosophy of being as it relates to the individual. In other words, existentialism provides the philosophical framework with which to answer the question: What does it mean to be?

Existentialism is the culmination of the philosophical tradition moving from Kant through the German Romantics to Heidegger and Sartre, among the other existentialists. In regard to Kant’s division, it differs from Deleuze’s choice to articulate transcendental philosophy with cosmology as the point of departure, in that it takes psychology as the point of departure. Yet, at the same time, just as understanding “the moment of vision” brings about a kind of gestalt shift in the reader’s perspective, so too though existentialism may be characterized as transcendental psychology, it has a higher…

By Frank Scalambrino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Is Existentialism? Vol. I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The term “existentialism” was coined in the 1940s. Whereas other books regarding existentialism merely repeat the platitudes that “There is no such thing as existentialism” or that “The term ‘existentialism’ has no coherent meaning,” this two-volume set actually answers the question “What is existentialism?”

Volume I identifies the seven (7) principles of existentialism and the necessary and sufficient conditions for a philosophy to be existential, and introduces readers to the depth of the problem by showing how the question “What is existentialism?” can be answered in multiple ways, all of which are provided in this two-volume set.

Vol. I, then,…


Book cover of Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story

William Egginton Author Of The Rigor of Angels: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality

From my list on the ultimate nature of reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of humanities at Johns Hopkins and have spent my career thinking, teaching, and writing about the relations between literature, philosophy, and science. Many years ago I started out thinking I would be a scientist, but then got pulled into literature and philosophy. Still, that original passion never left me. As I studied and read the great authors and thinkers from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages to the modern era, the big, fundamental questions of our place in the universe and the ultimate nature of reality seemed as pertinent to poets and philosophers as it is to physicists and cosmologists. 

William's book list on the ultimate nature of reality

William Egginton Why did William love this book?

In this philosophical page-turner, Jim Holt seems to grab every major scientist and thinker he can find by the collar to make them face down arguably the most fundamental question of all: why there is something instead of nothing.

Whether talking to string theorists or experts on German existentialism, Holt keeps the tone as light as the questions are profound. In an added treat, the reader gets a real sense of the people behind some of the most creative minds on the planet. 

By Jim Holt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Does the World Exist? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tackling the "darkest question in all of philosophy" with "raffish erudition" (Dwight Garner, New York Times), author Jim Holt explores the greatest metaphysical mystery of all: why is there something rather than nothing? This runaway bestseller, which has captured the imagination of critics and the public alike, traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. Holt adopts the role of cosmological detective, traveling the globe to interview a host of celebrated scientists, philosophers, and writers, "testing the contentions of one against the theories of the other" (Jeremy Bernstein, Wall Street Journal). As he interrogates his list of…


Book cover of The Demon

Jim Alexander Author Of GoodCopBadCop

From my list on unreliable narrators.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a comic book writer, published by Marvel and DC Comics, turned novelist. I enjoy getting inside the heads of my characters until they become entities of their own, with their own voices and actions. At that point I’m merely the facilitator; an interested spectator with a keyboard. Maybe, one whose prose shows a visual flair. Sometimes, I hear competing voices in my head, rather like the warring personas that feature in my debut novel GoodCopBadCop, but I don’t like to play favourites. 

Jim's book list on unreliable narrators

Jim Alexander Why did Jim love this book?

The narration is completely devoted to the worldview of main character Harry White. A man who climbs the ladder of corporate and social America thanks to unnatural drives inside him both dedicated to achieving his success and predicated ultimately to securing his eventual self-destruction. The demon is inside Harry White and it is the American dream. An extraordinary novel from an extraordinary writer who had already written himself into the annals of American literature with such classics as Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Room. The Demon in my view is Selby Jr.’s most personal and impersonal work.

By Hubert Selby Jr.,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Demon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A womanizer’s struggle for self-control spirals into crime, madness, and murder
Harry White grew up in blue-collar Brooklyn, but the young man’s charm, smarts, and good looks have helped him earn a place as an uptown junior executive. White’s gifts have also made his love life easy, and he takes special pleasure in seducing married women. But when “Harry the Lover” is ready to grow up and leave his womanizing behind, White finds that suppressing his libido has dangerous consequences. His attempts at restraint awaken something sinister, causing White to seek excitement in a new form of violence and depravity.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in existentialism, homelessness, and agnosticism?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about existentialism, homelessness, and agnosticism.

Existentialism Explore 61 books about existentialism
Homelessness Explore 34 books about homelessness
Agnosticism Explore 13 books about agnosticism