100 books like The Mandarins

By Simone de Beauvoir,

Here are 100 books that The Mandarins fans have personally recommended if you like The Mandarins. 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 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 A Confession

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?

What amazes me about A Confession is that here is Tolstoy, one of the giants of world literature, at the top of his game, lamenting that there is no meaning to his life. This made me realize that there is no one immune from this feeling of purposelessness and that there are no prizes, accolades, awards, or other external things that will prevent you from feeling existential angst.

The book also shows how Tolstoy worked through his crisis, and although I do not agree with his conclusions, the path that he takes in the book was very useful for me in my own journey to meaning. 

By Leo Tolstoy, Aylmer Maude (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Despite having written War and Peace and Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, at the age of 51, looked back on his life and considered it a meaningless, regrettable failure. A Confession provides insight into the great Russian writer's movement from the pursuit of aesthetic ideals toward matters of religious and philosophical consequence.
Authentic and genuinely moving, this memoir of midlife spiritual crisis was first distributed in 1872 and marked a turning point in the author's career as a writer: in subsequent years, Tolstoy would write almost exclusively about religious life, especially devotion among the peasantry.
Generations of readers have been inspired…


Book cover of The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living

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 a little-known book that delves deeper and more effectively into the challenges of defining oneself than any other book I have read.

The book is an attempt by a famous critical theorist to speak to the common person who is struggling with the various pieces of advice and guidance that they receive from different sources. It is more complex and difficult than the others on the list, but I got so much out of it. 

By Mari Ruti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Should we feel inadequate when we fail to be healthy, balanced, and well-adjusted? Is it realistic or even desirable to strive for such an existential equilibrium? Condemning our current cultural obsession with cheerfulness and "positive thinking," Mari Ruti calls for a resurrection of character that honors our more eccentric frequencies and argues that sometimes a tormented and anxiety-ridden life can also be rewarding. Ruti critiques the search for personal meaning and pragmatic attempts to normalize human beings' unruly and idiosyncratic natures. Exposing the tragic banality of a happy life commonly lived, she instead emphasizes the advantages of a lopsided life…


Book cover of Man's Search for Himself

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?

May’s book was a game-changer for me. His focus on the challenge and importance of finding meaning in your life helped me to see how this is a worthwhile endeavor and provided me with a wonderful guide to my own exploration of the topic for myself.

Despite having been written in the 1950s, it is as relevant today as it was then. Anxiety and a sense of “what is the point of it all” have only increased in the last 70(!) years, and May’s clear writing and stories really spoke to me. 

By Rollo May,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man's Search for Himself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago

Benjamin Markovits Author Of Imposture

From my list on historical fiction about famous writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was fourteen years old, my family moved from Texas to London for a year, and I started going to a little second-hand book shop around the corner. It was run by a long-haired Canadian, who always smoked a pipe. There were only three or four aisles, plus a cluttered backroom. You could pick up a 19th-century edition of the complete works of Shelley, with uncut pages, for two pounds. One volume led to another, in the same way that one friendship can lead to another, or introduce you to a new circle of people. Twenty-odd years later, I decided to write a novel about some of these writers.  

Benjamin's book list on historical fiction about famous writers

Benjamin Markovits Why did Benjamin love this book?

Simone de Beauvoir met Nelson Algren in Chicago in 1947.

A couple of years later, his novel The Man with the Golden Arm won the National Book Award, and a few years after that De Beauvoir won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for her novel The Mandarins, which featured a character based on Algren. They became famous literary lovers, involved in a complicated triangle with De Beauvoir’s long-time partner Sartre.

But Cowie’s novel brings to life the ordinary intimacies and misunderstandings of their love affair – the title comes from de Beauvoir’s confusion about the time difference between Paris and Chicago. Caught up in the details of day-to-day life, people, even brilliant writers, don’t always have the time or vision to make real decisions about how they want to live, or who they want to love. It’s a brilliant book. 

By Douglas Cowie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sharp and intimate, Douglas Cowie’s reimagining of the turbulent love affair between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren asks what it means to love and be loved by the right person at the wrong time. Chicago, 1947: on a freezing February night, France’s feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir calls up radical resident novelist Nelson Algren, asking him to show her around. After a whirlwind tour of dive bars, cabarets and the police lockup, the pair return to his apartment on Wabansia Avenue. Here, a passion is sparked that will last for the next two decades. Their relationship intensifies during intoxicating…


Book cover of Les Parisiennes: Resistance, Collaboration, and the Women of Paris Under Nazi Occupation

Katrina Lawrence Author Of Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick

From my list on the history of Paris (and Parisians).

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been obsessed with Paris since the age of five. For most of my life I’ve travelled there regularly and read every book on the subject I could find. After working as a beauty editor, I decided to try to make my passion my day job. That inspired me to write Paris Dreaming: What the City of Light Taught Me About Life, Love & Lipstick, and launch a travel consultancy business, Paris for Dreamers. I work with like-minded lovers of Paris, who constantly yearn for the city’s beguiling beauty and fascinating history, and who are always planning their next trip—or visiting Paris virtually, through the pages of a book!

Katrina's book list on the history of Paris (and Parisians)

Katrina Lawrence Why did Katrina love this book?

How Parisians survived Nazi Occupation—to what extent they resisted or collaborated—has been debated for decades but Sebba looks through a new lens: What did Parisiennes, specifically, do during these years? She was just in time to interview some key women who, having survived concentration camps, went on to live defiantly long lives. Others wouldn’t speak, still traumatised by their experiences. But Sebba has plenty to work with, and the pace at which she pulls it all together propels this book’s sense of importance. One can’t help but feel relieved that these stories have now been told. Some of it is shameful, sure, but you ultimately remember the tales of until-now-unsung heroines, whose fierce love for their city, above even their own welfare, makes them well deserving of a place in Paris history.

By Anne Sebba,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Les Parisiennes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Anne Sebba has the nearly miraculous gift of combining the vivid intimacy of the lives of women during The Occupation with the history of the time. This is a remarkable book.” —Edmund de Waal, New York Times bestselling author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes

New York Times bestselling author Anne Sebba explores a devastating period in Paris's history and tells the stories of how women survived—or didn’t—during the Nazi occupation.

Paris in the 1940s was a place of fear, power, aggression, courage, deprivation, and secrets. During the occupation, the swastika flew from the Eiffel Tower and danger lurked…


Book cover of La Règle Du Jeu

David Mikics Author Of Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker

From my list on the movies.

Why am I passionate about this?

It all goes back to growing up in the 1970s, when PBS would show the same handful of classic foreign movies over and over—Bergman, Truffaut, Fellini. And there was the rest of TV, too, where I discovered John Ford, Orson Welles, Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and much more. On the late late show, you could usually find Casablanca. I saw Kubrick’s 2001 a few years after it came out and was knocked out by the first mainstream movie that asked its viewers to wonder—to actively speculate in awestruck fashion about what was happening on screen. The movies have always been a passion for me. The movie screen is where we dream and float away and sink within ourselves all at once. As the critic David Thomson put it, “Not even heroin or the supernatural ever went this far.”

David's book list on the movies

David Mikics Why did David love this book?

Virtually any volume in the BFI Film Classics series—now sadly defunct--is worth recommending. But I’m especially fond of this one, about Jean Renoir’s masterpiece The Rules of the Game (La Règle du Jeu)--my favorite movie along with Kubrick’s 2001 (a very different kind of film!). Perkins explores each of the film’s characters, bringing out the full dimensions of Renoir’s humanism, his grand comic flair, and the bittersweet aura of this great movie completed as World War II was about to engulf Europe.

By V.F. Perkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked La Règle Du Jeu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Renoir's famous and controversial comedy of manners has a troubled history. Victor Perkins presents here a sensitive socio-historical study of Renoir's revised edition of the film, released 20 years after its premiere; shaped by the profundity and originality of its form.


Book cover of Churchill's Secret Messenger

Susan J. Godwin Author Of Rain Dodging: A Scholar's Romp through Britain in Search of a Stuart Queen

From my list on women spies and ‘lost libraries’ of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sadly, there is not one Jewish family in this world who does not have a connection to the Holocaust. I imagine that my pull towards World War II heroic women is become I am a Jewish woman. I have a passion for books and many of the characters in my choices share this passion. I also have a passion for Britain. France is not too shabby either; the Parisian setting in some of the books are descriptive and gripping.

Susan's book list on women spies and ‘lost libraries’ of World War II

Susan J. Godwin Why did Susan love this book?

This one I listened to. I normally read.

A story of one young woman drafted into Churchill’s overseas spy network, aiding the French Resistance behind enemy lines and working to liberate Nazi-occupied Paris. London, 1941: Due to Rose Teasdale’s fluency in French, she is recruited for the Special Operations Executive, a secret British organization that conducts espionage in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Rose parachutes into France with a new codename: Dragonfly. Posing as a cosmetics saleswoman in Paris, she ferries messages to and from the Resistance. (Of course, typically in fiction,) she falls for a French Resistance fighter who has also dedicated himself to the cause.

By Alan Hlad,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Churchill's Secret Messenger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A riveting story of World War II and the courage of one young woman as she is drafted into Churchill’s overseas spy network, aiding the French Resistance behind enemy lines and working to liberate Nazi-occupied Paris…

London, 1941: In a cramped bunker in Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, underneath Westminster’s Treasury building, civilian women huddle at desks, typing up confidential documents and reports. Since her parents were killed in a bombing raid, Rose Teasdale has spent more hours than usual in Room 60, working double shifts, growing accustomed to the burnt scent of the Prime Minister’s cigars permeating the stale…


Book cover of Paris: Capital of the World

Mike Rapport Author Of Rebel Cities

From my list on the history of Paris.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian specialising in the French Revolution at the University of Glasgow. During my doctorate, my now wife and I stayed in Ménilmontant in the 20th arrondissement. There grew a knowledge and love of Paris that have never diminished. As part of my research, I explore the places and spaces where events unfolded, trying to understand how these sites have since changed and been overwritten with new meanings and historical memories: I have the worn-out boots to show for it. I’m currently writing a book on Paris in the Belle Époque, from the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 to the outbreak of the First World War.

Mike's book list on the history of Paris

Mike Rapport Why did Mike love this book?

At first sight, the title evokes a certain Gallic hauteur, but it does not take long to see that this is simply a foretaste of the rich exploration of the myths of Paris – how the great city has been depicted, imagined, and perceived over time. This is the story of Paris as the capital of modernity, art, fashion, revolution, sex, pleasure, science, and crime. With writers, artists, poets, and visitors as witnesses, and lavishly illustrated, this is a colourful meander through the myths and illusions that have shaped the many images of Paris. 

Whatever the actual realities beneath these multiple faces, asks Higonnet at one point, ‘who could, in our culturally unanchored world, imagine life without this city?’    

By Patrice Higonnet,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In an original and evocative journey through modern Paris from the mid-eighteenth century to World War II, Patrice Higonnet offers a delightful cultural portrait of a multifaceted, continually changing city. He explores Paris as the capital of revolution, science, empire, literature, and art, describing such incarnations as Belle Epoque Paris, the Commune, the surrealists' city, and Paris as viewed through American eyes. He also evokes the more visceral Paris of alienation, crime, material excess, and sensual pleasure.


Book cover of Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do

Adrian Wilkinson Author Of Human Resource Management: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on managing people and working lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

My grandfather was a labour activist in Hull in the UK and my father had many classic labour texts such as the book by Tressell, listed below. That got me interested in the world of work and later more specifically in managing people. I moved from studying economics to employment relations /human resource management. Given that most of us (workers) spend 80,000 hours of our lives at work - more time than we are likely to spend on any other activity during our lifetimes - how we spend these lives has remained a source of fascination

Adrian's book list on managing people and working lives

Adrian Wilkinson Why did Adrian love this book?

It is a rich and memorable oral history of America told by more than a hundred workers across a huge slice of American working life including those of paperboys, photographers, switchboard operators, actors, writers, executives, barbers, sanitation truck drivers, stockbrokers, professional athletes, teachers, grave diggers, lettuce pickers and many more.

It shows how work is a search for both a daily crust and meaning. The book inspired a musical and a recent Netflix series with Obama as the host.

By Studs Terkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perhaps Studs Terkel's best-known book, Working is a compelling, fascinating look at jobs and the people who do them. Consisting of over one hundred interviews conducted with everyone from gravediggers to studio heads, this book provides a timeless snapshot of people's feelings about their working lives, as well as a relevant and lasting look at how work fits into American life.



5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in existentialism, Paris, and presidential biography?

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

Existentialism Explore 61 books about existentialism
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