100 books like The Outsider

By Albert Camus,

Here are 100 books that The Outsider fans have personally recommended if you like The Outsider. 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 Perfume

Theresa Levitt Author Of Elixir: A Parisian Perfume House and the Quest for the Secret of Life

From my list on perfume and scent.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of science who just completed a book on the role of perfume in the quest for the secret of life and vitality. While writing it, I became fascinated with the challenge of translating scent into language. While our nose can recognize a virtually infinite number of odors, there are only a few basic categories of description (“floral,” “woody,” “citrus,” etc.). To fully describe them often requires a poet’s touch – invoking a tapestry of memories, associations, and feelings to create the experience in the reader’s mind. These are some of the best books I’ve encountered for talking about the complex world of scent, and the importance of perfume in human history.

Theresa's book list on perfume and scent

Theresa Levitt Why did Theresa love this book?

A gruesome story of murder and desire that also happens to have the most vivid olfactory descriptions of any genre.

Suskind’s preternatural ability to summon odor from the page makes you feel as if you are there beside him, walking through the flowered hillsides of Provence, or in the back room of a perfume shop on the Pont au Change. His twisted use of classic perfume techniques is as accurate as it is chilling.

By Patrick Suskind,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An erotic masterpiece of twentieth century fiction - a tale of sensual obsession and bloodlust in eighteenth century Paris

'An astonishing tour de force both in concept and execution' Guardian

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today.

It is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts…


Book cover of Little Big Man

Alice Duncan Author Of Domesticated Spirits

From my list on humanity and its often savage inhumanity.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been blessed (or cursed) with a vivid imagination since childhood. Add to that the fact that my first three years were spent on a farm in Maine with nobody around but my mother and my sister, and I grew into a person who is happy alone and making up stories. After my family moved to California, I went to school with all colors, races, and religions and my sense of inclusiveness is abundant. Most of my stories deal with unfairness imposed upon humans by other humans. Nearly all of my books are funny, too, even when I don’t mean them to be. Absurdity is my pal.

Alice's book list on humanity and its often savage inhumanity

Alice Duncan Why did Alice love this book?

This is the story of Jack Crabbe. Jack was reared by both white and Cheyenne folks.

His story is a masterpiece and describes the destruction of Native Americans along with their way of life (including the bison they relied on). According to Jack, he even participated in the Battle of Little Big Horn and was the only white man who survived.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in American history and who wants to read about it in an entertaining way. There’s no way to disguise the hateful way European settlers wiped out native tribes and/or enslaved Natives and Blacks, but at least this is an engaging account thereof.

By Thomas Berger,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Little Big Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I am a white man and never forget it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten.' So starts the story of Jack Crabb, the 111-year old narrator of Thomas Berger's masterpiece of American fiction. As a "human being", as the Cheyenne called their own, he won the name Little Big Man. He dressed in skins, feasted on dog, loved four wives and saw his people butchered by the horse soldiers of General Custer, the man he had sworn to kill.

As a white man, Crabb hunted buffalo, tangled with Wyatt Earp, cheated Wild…


Book cover of Nights at the Circus

Katy Darby Author Of The Unpierced Heart

From my list on historical fiction with wanton & wilful women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historical fiction author (one novel published by Penguin, plus several Sherlock Holmes stories with Belanger Books) – and I read it avidly too, although many of the Victorian novels I love were considered frighteningly modern in their day. I’m fascinated by the 19th century as both reader and writer because of the incredible changes (social and technological) it saw, and the resulting dramas and tensions that emerged. Literacy and literary culture exploded during Victoria’s reign, but it was also a time of astonishing contrast: poverty versus huge wealth, outward virtue versus secret vice, prejudice and injustice (especially regarding women’s rights) versus struggles for social progress… sound familiar?

Katy's book list on historical fiction with wanton & wilful women

Katy Darby Why did Katy love this book?

Angela Carter is famous for her sumptuous language, structural playfulness, genre-bending, and seductive, logic-defying plots – and if you like gorgeous lyricism, unforgettable characters, and magical realism (emphasis on the magical), you’ll fall in love with Nights at the Circus. In 1899, journalist Jack Walser meets six-foot-two circus aerialist Fevvers, “the Cockney Venus”. Raised in a brothel and a graduate of freak shows, she’s now a star of the Victorian stage – but are her wings real, as she claims? Walser becomes part of the circus in body and spirit, as, disguised as a clown, he follows Fevvers to St Petersburg and into the wilds of Siberia, where Fevvers must draw on all her cunning and strength to survive – let alone save Walser, too. 

By Angela Carter,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nights at the Circus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction

From the master of the literary supernatural and author of The Bloody Chamber, her acclaimed novel about the exploits of a circus performer who is part-woman, part-swan

Sophi Fevvers-the toast of Europe's capitals, courted by the Prince of Wales, painted by Toulouse-Lautrec-is an aerialiste extraordinaire, star of Colonel Kearney's circus. She is also part woman, part swan. Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover Fevvers's true identity: Is she part swan or all fake? Dazzled by his love for Fevvers, and desperate for the scoop of…


Book cover of Imaginary Friends

Christopher Wilson Author Of Cotton

From my list on mavericks and oddballs.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some authors plan a book then write it. I can’t. I need to find a fresh surprise every day as I discover the book by writing it. And it’s been mavericks, oddballs, and outsiders that have drawn me in. I’m a maximalist. I enjoy the extreme and exotic. I empathise with outsiders. Having trained as a psychologist I developed an interest in oddities of experience and behaviour. And this focus on the maverick matches the potentials of fiction. Novels are great at depicting the inner lives of their characters, their motivations and worldviews, and the diverse ways to be human.

Christopher's book list on mavericks and oddballs

Christopher Wilson Why did Christopher love this book?

Training as a psychologist, I read Leon Festinger’s study “When Prophecy Fails” describing his research study infiltrating a doomsday cult whose believers expected to be rescued by flying saucers from the planet Clarion. Alison Lurie then novelised this scenario in Imaginary Friends. Here we meet a parade of oddballs: psychologists whose everyday normality is deceit, pretending to be delusional themselves, spying on other’s lives: a group of pious, well-meaning souls awaiting extra-terrestrial salvation: a cult leader who receives and relays the group’s alien guidance: the lead researcher who claims to be possessed by the spirit of “Ro of Varna”.

It’s a deft and clever satire that shows the conventions of oddness, and the oddness of conventions.

By Alison Lurie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Roger and his all-time hero, Tom McMann, are about to infiltrate the Truth Seekers - a unique small-town cult whose credo involves sex, spiritualism and science fiction. Their flying saucer messiah is Ro, resident of the distant planet Varna, who sends his daily cosmic messages through Venea, a nubile teen-age psychic who lives with her Aunt Elsie in upstate New York. For Roger and McMann the experience is all a bit much, held spellbound by Verena's considerable charms and Ro's imminent trip to Earth, all sense of logic falls apart; and before they know it, the sanity of rational thought…


Book cover of France Since 1945

Jeremy Black Author Of France: A Short History

From my list on the history of France.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian with wide-ranging interests and publications, including, in European history, histories of Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Mediterranean, eighteenth-century Europe, Europe 1550-1800, Europe since 1945, and European warfare.

Jeremy's book list on the history of France

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

The leading British interpreter of French history from 1940 produced this valuable guide to a period of major transformation in French history. Gildea has cogently argued that French politics reflects long-lasting divisions that play out in different mileux.

By Robert Gildea,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked France Since 1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The last fifty years of French history have seen immense challenges for the French: constructing a new European order, building a modern economy, searching for a stable political system. It has also been a time of anxiety and doubt. The French have had to come to terms with the legacy of the German Occupation, the loss of Empire, the political and social implications of the influx of foreign immigrants, the rise of Islam, the destruction of rural life, and the threat
of Anglo-American culture to French language and civilization.
Robert Gildea's account examines the French political system and France's role…


Book cover of Natchez Country: Indians, Colonists, and the Landscapes of Race in French Louisiana

Christian Pinnen Author Of Complexion of Empire in Natchez: Race and Slavery in the Mississippi Borderlands

From my list on race and slavery in colonial Mississippi Valley.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of race and slavery in the lower Mississippi Valley because the region is a fulcrum of United States history. I was always fascinated by the significance of the Mississippi River for American expansion, society, and culture. Ultimately, this region of the country is so deeply influenced by people of African descent that must be included in all histories, and I wanted to share their stories in a particular place during the colonial period. Telling these stories in places where they have commonly been less well represented is very rewarding and it opens more ways to understand the histories of places like Natchez along the Mississippi River.

Christian's book list on race and slavery in colonial Mississippi Valley

Christian Pinnen Why did Christian love this book?

George Milne writes the definitive history of the Natchez people and how their encounter with the French changed the power dynamics in the lower Mississippi Valley in the eighteenth century. Milne draws on research in French archives to show how French and Natchez built a fragile cultural understanding based on misinterpretation of social and cultural cues. This book is very good at elaborating on the complicated relationships that often turned on questions of race, dominance, and submissiveness in the lower Mississippi Valley. It specifically highlights the way in which the Natchez people became aware of the way the French viewed them as racially inferior and in turn defined their own people as distinct from Europeans and Africans.

By George Edward Milne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At the dawn of the 1700s the Natchez viewed the first Francophones in the Lower Mississippi Valley as potential inductees to their chiefdom. This mistaken perception lulled them into permitting these outsiders to settle among them. Within two decades conditions in Natchez Country had taken a turn for the worse. The trickle of wayfarers had given way to a torrent of colonists (and their enslaved Africans) who refused to recognize the Natchez's hierarchy. These newcomers threatened to seize key authority-generating features of Natchez Country: mounds, a plaza, and a temple. This threat inspired these Indians to turn to a recent…


Book cover of Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (Now with Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting)

Sophie Brickman Author Of Baby, Unplugged: One Mother's Search for Balance, Reason, and Sanity in the Digital Age

From my list on parenting that you actually want to read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the mother of three children, ages 6, 3, and 1, and because I tend to write about what interests me, started to investigate the world of parenting when my eldest was born. (Prior to that, I was a food reporter and editor.) As my husband, a tech entrepreneur, kept bringing home pieces of technology that were supposed to make my life easier (spoiler alert: they rarely did), I found myself urgently trying to figure out what was best for my kids, and myself: the boring pile of blocks, or the flashy, sexy iPad? I spent years delving into the fields of neurobiology, psychology, philosophy, and pediatrics to get a better handle on these questions

Sophie's book list on parenting that you actually want to read

Sophie Brickman Why did Sophie love this book?

This enjoyable, first-person romp about raising kids in France is a must-read for any francophile. Druckerman is an American who married a Brit, and they relocated to Paris, where they had three children. With a reporter’s eye, Druckerman tackles such questions as, how on earth do French parents have their kids sleeping through the night at a few weeks old, and how is it that French children sit down to civilized three-course meals when they aren’t yet three feet tall? 

By Pamela Druckerman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"On questions of how to live, the French never disappoint. . . . Maybe it all starts with childhood. That is the conclusion that readers may draw from Bringing Up Bebe." -The Wall Street Journal

"I've been a parent now for more than eight years, and-confession-I've never actually made it all the way through a parenting book. But I found Bringing Up Bebe to be irresistible." -Slate

The runaway New York Times bestseller that shows American parents the secrets behind France's amazingly well-behaved children, from the author of There Are No Grown-ups.

When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby…


Book cover of The Spies of Warsaw

Andrew Kaplan Author Of Blue Madagascar

From my list on spy thrillers that are about more than spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never planned to be a spy thriller writer. One day an editor suggested I write genre fiction. “Pick a genre you read just for fun,” he said. For me, that was spy novels. I had some background (military intelligence, journalist in Europe, Africa, etc.) and John Le Carré had shown that spy novels could be serious fiction. An encounter in the Amazon jungle sparked my first spy thriller, Hour of the Assassins. Then came Scorpion, Homeland, and the rest. What’s the attraction? Intelligence agents lie better than most because their lives depend on it. But if you dig hard enough, you get small truths. Big ones too.

Andrew's book list on spy thrillers that are about more than spies

Andrew Kaplan Why did Andrew love this book?

Reading a novel by Alan Furst is like seeing Casablanca for the first time, if it were written by Hemingway. There’s that same evocative atmosphere of people smoking cigarettes, having affairs, making sophisticated remarks, while looming over them is the war. Furst mines a narrow niche. All of his books are set in Europe either during World War Two or in the Thirties, with the war threatening. The protagonist here is Colonel Mercier, military attaché at the French embassy in Warsaw. Mercier must navigate the salons and alleyways of Warsaw against all manner of spies and German agents. The book is also an exploration of love in a desperate time through Mercier’s affair with the beautiful Anna, a Polish lawyer. It’s very good. Furst is always good. 

By Alan Furst,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Autumn evening in 1937. A German engineer arrives at the Warsaw railway station. Tonight, he will be with his Polish mistress; tomorrow, at a workers' bar in the city's factory district, he will meet with the military attache from the French embassy. Information will be exchanged for money. So begins The Spies of Warsaw, with war coming to Europe, and French and German operatives locked in a life-and-death struggle on the espionage battlefield. At the French embassy, the new military attache, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, a decorated hero of the 1914 war, is drawn in to a world of abduction,…


Book cover of Pronoun Envy: Literary Uses of Linguistic Gender

Emilia Di Martino Author Of Celebrity Accents and Public Identity Construction: Analyzing Geordie Stylizations

From my list on language and identity and why it matters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of English Linguistics interested in all aspects of language, identity, society, and power. I grew up and live in Southern Italy, in the Naples area, except for extended summertime family visits to San Diego, Southern California. I alternate my reading and writing between books on language and identity (how we self-promote ourselves to the public through personal style and narratives, molding our public image in a way we believe most advantageous to us) and texts on language and society (how we as individuals do things with words and gather information about other people from the way they communicate) and how these aspects intersect with power issues.

Emilia's book list on language and identity and why it matters

Emilia Di Martino Why did Emilia love this book?

In 1971, in response to a protest by women students at the Harvard Divinity School against the masculine universal, the chair of Harvard’s linguistics department, Calvert Watkins, wrote a letter to Crimson, cosigned by other colleagues. Explaining the concept of ‘markedness,’ he contended there was “really no cause for anxiety or pronoun-envy on the part of those seeking such changes.” Anna Livia’s book─originally her PhD thesis at Berkeley, uses the controversial phrase as the departure point for an enlightening analysis of a wide range of English and French texts problematizing the traditional linguistic gender system. The study reveals that rather than stemming from undue envy, gendered language is justifiably at the core of feminist battles. How can we express ourselves fully if our identities are not adequately represented in discourse?

By Anna Livia,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this interdisciplinary book, Livia examines a broad corpus of written texts in English and French, concentrating on those texts which problematize the traditional functioning of the linguistic gender system. They range from novels and prose poems to film scripts and personal testimonies, and in time from the nineteenth century to the present. Her goal is to show that rather than being a case of misguided envy, battles over gendered language are central to feminist
concerns. This fresh and exciting scholarship will appeal to linguists and scholars in literary and gender studies.


Book cover of Building the Devil's Empire: French Colonial New Orleans

Katrina Gulliver Author Of Modern Women in China and Japan: Gender, Feminism and Global Modernity Between the Wars

From my list on the history of cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in cities through my research on culture in Asia. I came to appreciate how much cities generate culture - and are the exchange points for different ideas. I’ve hosted a podcast on urban history, edited a book (Cityscapes in History: Creating the Urban Experience), and written about urban space for various magazines and websites.

Katrina's book list on the history of cities

Katrina Gulliver Why did Katrina love this book?

This book is about the city of New Orleans, and how it came to be, as an outpost of 3 empires in turn (the French, the Spanish, and the nascent United States). Its cultural mix gave it a rich identity, but also practical issues - whose legal system would be followed? What language should be used? This legacy created a particular urban environment, and Dawdy’s work brings out the most fascinating stories in how this city came to be.

By Shannon Lee Dawdy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Building the Devil's Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Building the Devil's Empire" is the first comprehensive history of New Orleans' early years, tracing the town's development from its origins in 1718 to its revolt against Spanish rule in 1768. Shannon Lee Dawdy's picaresque account of New Orleans' wild youth features a cast of strong-willed captives, thin-skinned nobles, sharp-tongued women, and carousing travelers. But she also widens her lens to reveal the port city's global significance, examining its role in the French Empire and the Caribbean, and she concludes that by exemplifying a kind of rogue colonialism - where governments, outlaws, and capitalism become entwined - New Orleans should…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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