10 books like The Myth of Sisyphus

By Albert Camus,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Myth of Sisyphus. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Birth and Death of Meaning

By Ernest Becker,

Book cover of The Birth and Death of Meaning

This is to me is the best book ever written for understanding what human beings are, how we are similar to and different from other animal species, how we develop from helpless newborns to fully functioning adults, and what we are striving for in our lives. Most nonfiction books make a point and then repeat it over and over with examples and anecdotes. In contrast, The Birth and Death of Meaning begins with evolution and progresses logically from its first page to its last. When you finish this book, you will have a much better understanding of yourself, the people in your life, historical and current events, and problems ranging from anxiety and depression to interpersonal conflict to prejudice.  

The Birth and Death of Meaning

By Ernest Becker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Uses the disciplines of psychology, anthropology, sociology and psychiatry to explain what makes people act the way they do.


Man’s Search for Meaning

By Viktor Frankl,

Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

In apposition to the Levi book I listed first, Frankl becomes more of what he already is, which is a transformation of a completely different sort. The author’s professional life becomes magnified, his thought processes on suffering become exponential. The Holocaust experience affects him so much, so deeply, that he emerges with a new field of thought that shakes up the foundational thought on mental health that Freud had well established. One is not a slave to his own mind; one can attain mastery under any circumstances with certain shifts of reason. Resonant for all time, and certainly for our time.

Man’s Search for Meaning

By Viktor Frankl,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked Man’s Search for Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the outstanding classics to emerge from the Holocaust, Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today, this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.


A Paradise Built in Hell

By Rebecca Solnit,

Book cover of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

We have all seen disaster movies and TV shows with people screaming and running around as the earthquake, tsunami, or Godzilla strikes. But Rebecca Solnit argues instead that normal people don’t panic during disasters – it is the elite, the wealthy, and the decision-makers who lose their minds. For normal people, altruism and mutual aid help all of us get through shocks, whether fire, car accident or COVID19. Her writing is excellent and she uses examples across time and space, ranging from the San Francisco earthquake at the start of the 20th century to the Mexico City earthquake at its end.

A Paradise Built in Hell

By Rebecca Solnit,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Paradise Built in Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."
-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of…


Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius (lead author), Gregory Hays (translator),

Book cover of Meditations: A New Translation

Once you have some idea of what Stoicism is by reading the Handbook, you will want to read Meditations, probably the most widely read and the most beloved of Stoic classics and deservedly so. It was a journal kept by the philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius while he was in battlefields. Meditations was a personal journal of Marcus, never intended to be read by anyone else. Yet centuries later, it became one of the most widely read books on Stoicism. It is filled with practical wisdom and offers a way out of our daily predicaments and shows us how to live our lives with integrity, beauty, compassion, and reason. 

Why this translation? There are many translations of this book but the one I recommend, especially to newcomers, is Meditations by Gregory Hays. This translation is less literal than most others and very accessible to the modern reader.

Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius (lead author), Gregory Hays (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations…


Socrates in Love

By Christopher Phillips,

Book cover of Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Die-Hard Romantic

This book really captures what it’s like to do philosophy in an informed but informal way. Philosophy as Socrates practiced it, and as it often is at its best, is a dialogue among several interlocutors. Different people share their different views on a topic, compare them, scrutinize and criticize them, and hopefully improve them. Phillips started a movement of Socratic cafés where people got together to do just that. The topics recorded here analyze love in its various forms (erotic, familial, friendly, hospitable, spiritual, and philosophical). Love is, in fact, basic to philosophy, which, as the word philosophia implies, is the love of wisdom. Read this in conjunction with Plato’s dialogues about Socrates’ trial and death: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo.

Socrates in Love

By Christopher Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Christopher Phillips goes to the heart of philosophy and Socratic discourse to discover what we're all looking for: the kind of love that makes life worthwhile. That is, love not defined only as eros, or erotic love, but in all its classical varieties. Love of neighbor, love of country, love of God, love of life, and love of wisdom-each is clarified and invigorated in Phillips's Socratic dialogues with people from all walks of life and from all over the world.


The Story of Philosophy

By Will Durant,

Book cover of The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers

This is the book that really got me into philosophy. My girlfriend gave it to me when I was a teenager. I opened it up began reading, and I never really stopped. Durant’s book gives what I now understand to be a rather conventional account of the origins and history of Western philosophy, but it does it very well. It enthusiastically and eloquently leads readers into the central conceptual concerns, principles, and problems of the central figures of the Western traditions. It’s intellectually substantial, and it doesn’t require advanced degrees. A joy to read, and in a word, for me, life-changing.

The Story of Philosophy

By Will Durant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers, from Plato to Dewey.

Few write for the non-specialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant's insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for anyone who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world.


The Story of Philosophy

By Bryan Magee,

Book cover of The Story of Philosophy

Magee’s splendid introductory book is my go-to recommendation for those who wish to enter the world of philosophical ideas. Yes, it’s old-school in the sense that it can be annoyingly androcentric and Eurocentric. A supplement like Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting’s remarkable Philosopher Queens or Julian Baggini’s volume below should be read in tandem. Having said that, however, no one else pulls together the history of western philosophy with terse, informative, and fascinating accounts of important figures and schools as well as Magee. Plus, Magee’s text luxuriates amidst the lush, generous, and illuminating visuals that make Dorling Kindersley volumes so voluptuous. 

The Story of Philosophy

By Bryan Magee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explore 2,500 years of Western philosophy, from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers, with this ultimate guide's stunning and simple approach to some of history's biggest ideas.

This essential guide to philosophy includes thoughts on our modern society, exploring science and democracy, and posing the question: where do we go from here?

Easy-to-understand text is accompanied by works of art and artifacts from history, as the big ideas and important thinkers are introduced through time. Famous quotes are highlighted, and the sidebars discuss other ideas or key works to include extra context around the theories and people.

Celebrate the world's…


How the World Thinks

By Julian Baggini,

Book cover of How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy

Is philosophy a strictly western phenomenon, a stream of thinking that originated roughly in early sixth-century BCE Greece and flowed through forward the Roman Empire, Islamic culture, and into western modernity? Does it do a kind of violence to force the intellectual achievements of other traditions into a western philosophia-shaped box? Or is it more accurate to say that philosophy has flowered all over the world – in India, China, Africa, Australia, the Americas, and elsewhere? This book makes a compelling case for the latter. It helped introduce me to arguably philosophical traditions of thought all over the world in a way that’s clear, provocative, and engaging. Baggini’s as great a communicator as he is a philosopher.

How the World Thinks

By Julian Baggini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER*

'There to fill the Sapiens-size hole in your life' Observer

In this groundbreaking global overview of philosophy, Julian Baggini travels the world to provide a wide-ranging map of human thought.

One of the great unexplained wonders of human history is that written philosophy flowered entirely separately in China, India and Ancient Greece at more or less the same time. These early philosophies have had a profound impact on the development of distinctive cultures in different parts of the world. What we call 'philosophy' in the West is not even half the story.

Julian Baggini sets out to…


Being and Nothingness

By Jean-Paul Sartre,

Book cover of Being and Nothingness

Sartre was not a good philosopher in the classical sense. He wasn’t great at constructing arguments. But what he was unquestionably great at was intuitions. He had them, and they were usually spot on, and as a result he was right about most things. In this large book, we find a sustained development of a single brilliant, intuition: anything you are aware of is not you. You are the awareness rather than anything you are aware of. You are nothingness. One implication of this helped me get through the second half of my first marathon. Experiential unpleasantness is a motive to stop, but not part of me, and it is up to me how I interpret it. My motives can never compel me. I am in this sense free.

Being and Nothingness

By Jean-Paul Sartre,

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?

Sartre explains the theory of existential psychoanalysis in this treatise on human reality


Existentialism Is a Humanism

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Carol Macomber,

Book cover of Existentialism Is a Humanism

This short talk has become one of the defining texts of existentialism. We have no essence, no purpose, no reason to be, and this both frees us and dooms us: we are doomed to be free. The heavy responsibility for creating meaning is placed firmly on our shoulders. Most people find the burden too heavy to bear and seek relief through what Sartre calls “bad faith,” which he spends much time detailing. You will recognize yourself somewhere in there. Sartre tells us there’s nothing we can do about this, but we can do nothing—we can embrace this nothingness and create a meaning for ourselves. 

Existentialism Is a Humanism

By Jean-Paul Sartre, Carol Macomber,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


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