100 books like The Culture of Make Believe

By Derrick Jensen,

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

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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Her classic book about trash world culture is fascinating to me because, in the last hundred years, the way of life has been replaced by mass consumption, disposable goods, and waste on an unimaginable scale.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 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 Being and Nothingness

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 living on Chicago’s cold streets for six months, it was hard for me to believe in a compassionate Judeo-Christian God. It was difficult for me to reconcile how a just and benevolent God would let African pregnant women be thrown into the Atlantic Ocean and perish with thousands of other slaves.

That is why I became agnostic and was attracted to Sartre’s belief in the essential freedom of individuals, and he also believed that as free beings, people are responsible for all elements of themselves, their consciousness, and their actions. It made me question why I was homeless. Was it because of bad choices in life? Or was it just the experience of being a black male in a racist capitalist society?

Sartre became an existentialist because of the war and an encounter with Merleav Ponty, who taught him the political dimension of human…

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Revisit one of the most important pillars in modern philosophy with this new English translation—the first in more than 60 years—of Jean-Paul Sartre’s seminal treatise on existentialism. “This is a philosophy to be reckoned with, both for its own intrinsic power and as a profound symptom of our time” (The New York Times).

In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre published his masterpiece, Being and Nothingness, and laid the foundation of his legacy as one of the greatest twentieth century philosophers. A brilliant and radical account of the human condition, Being and Nothingness explores what gives our lives significance.

In a new and…


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 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 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 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 Existentialism Is a Humanism

Mike James Ross Author Of Intention: The Surprising Psychology of High Performers

From my list on books to help you find meaning in your life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been interested in purpose and meaning since I snuck into a high school philosophy class when I was 10 years old. Since then, I have not only worked on my own quest for meaning in my life but also helped dozens of others through these types of questions as an executive coach and business leader. I believe that having an answer to the question “why am I here?” is the crucial ingredient to living a happy and fulfilled life, and I’ve been working for years to distill all that I have learned on the subject into a useable and accessible collection of insights.

Mike's book list on books to help you find meaning in your life

Mike James Ross Why did Mike love this book?

This is an amazing and brief explanation of what existentialism is and why it should matter to anyone looking for meaning in their life.

I love that Satre demystifies his philosophy, making it accessible and understandable to anyone. The book is actually the transcription of a lecture he gave, so it is wonderfully readable and full of examples and situations that I learned a lot from.

He also defends existentialism from some of its common critiques, which makes the book even more useful as an introduction. Many of my questions were answered here!

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Carol Macomber (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Existentialism Is a Humanism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was to correct common misconceptions about his thought that Jean-Paul Sartre, the most dominent European intellectual of the post-World War II decades, accepted an invitation to speak on October 29, 1945, at the Club Maintenant in Paris. The unstated objective of his lecture ("Existentialism Is a Humanism") was to expound his philosophy as a form of "existentialism," a term much bandied about at the time. Sartre asserted that existentialism was essentially a doctrine for philosophers, though, ironically, he was about to make it accessible to a general audience. The published text of his lecture quickly became one of the…


Book cover of The Fall

Tom Strelich Author Of Dog Logic

From my list on satires with one thing in common.

Why am I passionate about this?

I consider myself not only a student of satire, but also as a master practitioner with an innate and instinctive aptitude for it—like those born with perfect pitch or hand-eye coordination, kind of like an idiot savant, only hopefully without the idiot part. Satire is the perfect literary platform because it allows both the writer and the reader to explore the landscape of the human experience, the absurdity, the grandeur, the mystery, the horror—not with a sermon or a polemic or a sigh, but with a laugh and a nodding smile of recognition.

Tom's book list on satires with one thing in common

Tom Strelich Why did Tom love this book?

The author’s voice captured me.

Once again, I’d never read anything like it before. He was having a conversation with me. I was now a character in an Amsterdam bar with him, the war had just ended, we were smoking cigarettes and drinking gin.

He would respond to my silent questions, and wax and wane philosophically, metaphysically, morally, ethically, and occasionally comically. 

And the beauty was that it had happened so randomly—a roommate had thrown the book in the trash, declaring it to be “bullshit.” I knew the lad to be an imbecile (an acceptable term at the time), so I fished the book out of the trash, read the first sentence, and loved it.

It was the quantumly entangled counter particle to Candide: one particle from the age of reason, the other particle from the age of existentialism.

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Introducing Little Clothbound Classics: irresistible, mini editions of short stories, novellas and essays from the world's greatest writers, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith

Celebrating the range and diversity of Penguin Classics, they take us from snowy Japan to springtime Vienna, from haunted New England to a sun-drenched Mediterranean island, and from a game of chess on the ocean to a love story on the moon. Beautifully designed and printed, these collectible editions are bound in colourful, tactile cloth and stamped with foil.

Jean-Baptiste Clamence - refined, handsome, forty, a former successful lawyer - is in turmoil. Over several drunken…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in existentialism, homelessness, and the Holocaust?

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 the Holocaust.

Existentialism Explore 61 books about existentialism
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The Holocaust Explore 389 books about the Holocaust