100 books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being

By Milan Kundera,

Here are 100 books that The Unbearable Lightness of Being fans have personally recommended if you like The Unbearable Lightness of Being. 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 The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

David L. Robbins Author Of War of the Rats

From my list on love and war and describing both battlefields.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve penned (so far) seventeen novels, most set during some historical conflict or other, all of them revolving around intense personal relationships (loyalty, love, betrayal, those sorts of profound truths). I tend to read the sorts of books I wish to write. I also teach creative writing at a university (VCU); I tell my students that if they want to really know what a character is made of, shoot at them or have them fall in love. In my own work, I do both.

David's book list on love and war and describing both battlefields

David L. Robbins Why did David love this book?

The Cold War is the war I was born into. No writer has chronicled the competition between superpowers better than LeCarre.

When Alec Leamas falls for Liz, he’s not aware of the depth of his feelings until she’s murdered as a pawn in the great game between Russia and the West. The revenge he seeks and the resolution he acquires are among LeCarre’s best efforts.

I was riveted to every scene. 

By John le Carré,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Spy Who Came in From the Cold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; and The Night Manager, now a television series starring Tom Hiddleston.

The 50th-anniversary edition of the bestselling novel that launched John le Carre's career worldwide

In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse-a desk job-Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered…


Book cover of The Moviegoer

Rich Marcello Author Of The Latecomers

From my list on contemporary fiction that will make you think.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been drawn to thought-provoking novels from my early days as a reader, and especially later when my own work took shape. My books tend to deal with life’s big topics––love, loss, creativity, self-discovery, aging, forgiveness, what it means to be a good man, and the climate crisis––so I tend to gravitate to ambitious novels focused on how we humans might evolve in a healthy way. My characters do have flaws, many of them, but in the end, they are resilient and figure out a way to take a step forward. All of the books I mentioned are similar in scope and approach.

Rich's book list on contemporary fiction that will make you think

Rich Marcello Why did Rich love this book?

The Moviegoer was the first novel I read which had little plot and a great deal of meaning. Basically, it’s about one man’s search for meaning in a world which values shallowness and consumerism above all else. It’s as relevant today as it was when written and the prose is amazing!

By Walker Percy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 1962 National Book Award and one of Time magazine’s 100 Best English-Language Novels, Walker Percy’s debut The Moviegoer is an American masterpiece and a classic of Southern literature. Insightful, romantic, and humorous, it is the story of a young man’s search for meaning amid a shallow consumerist landscape.

Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker, fills his days with movies and casual sex. His life offers him nothing worth retaining; what he treasures are scenes from The Third Man or Stagecoach, not the personal experiences he knows other people hold dear. On the cusp of turning thirty,…


Book cover of The Schopenhauer Cure

Anna Caltabiano Author Of The Seventh Miss Hatfield

From my list on exploring the transitions through life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in people—specifically exploring what makes us human from different angles and often different disciplines. Overtime, this has taken the shape of writing novels, studying biological anthropology, psychology, and medicine, and sometimes even just people watching. My novels have explored topics such as nonsuicidal self-injury, the pains of growing up, and growing up multicultural. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Psychology.

Anna's book list on exploring the transitions through life

Anna Caltabiano Why did Anna love this book?

Dr. Irvin Yalom is a writer and clinical practitioner who is beloved by many in the field of mental health and therapy. I, like many, admire the way in which he tackles the most difficult human dilemmas through intimate stories highlighting the universality of many of these topics. It was difficult for me to pick which of Dr. Yalom’s books to recommend, as I have thoroughly enjoyed each one I’ve read. However, The Schopenhauer Cure is particularly about confronting mortality—the realization of the ephemerality of life and the limitations and acceptance of what we can achieve. Through Dr. Yalom’s adroit depictions of Philip Slate and Julius Hertzfeld, we see the blurred edges of philosophy and psychology, where some of our most basic questions may best be addressed by the melding of the two.

By Irvin D. Yalom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the internationally bestselling author of Love's Executioner and When Nietzsche Wept, comes a novel of group therapy with a cast of memorably wounded characters struggling to heal pain and change lives

Suddenly confronted with his own mortality after a routine checkup, eminent psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld is forced to reexamine his life and work -- and seeks out Philip Slate, a sex addict whom he failed to help some twenty years earlier. Yet Philip claims to be cured -- miraculously transformed by the pessimistic teachings of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer -- and is, himself, a philosophical counselor in training.

Philip's…


Book cover of The Untouchable

Lee Polevoi Author Of The Confessions of Gabriel Ash

From my list on the Cold War told in the first person.

Why am I passionate about this?

I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the first time many years ago, while traveling aboard a Canadian National Railway train from Montreal to British Columbia. Something about the contrast between the majestic Canadian Rockies and the dark alleys of John Le Carré’s Berlin brought the Cold War fully to life and set me on the path to writing a novel of my own set during that time. (Living through some of those tense years of superpower stand-offs didn’t hurt.) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is told in third-person, but many Cold War novels written in the first person do a masterful job of evoking that troubled era. 

Lee's book list on the Cold War told in the first person

Lee Polevoi Why did Lee love this book?

John Banville is a famously prolific author, but his 1997 novel, The Untouchable, is unique in that it’s based on a real-life figure.

Anthony Blunt—who would later be exposed as one of the notorious Cambridge spies—rose to become an art expert to the Queen, even as he funneled purloined secrets to the highest reaches of the Kremlin. 

In The Untouchable, we follow Blunt’s fictional counterpart, Victor Maskell, from his poor Irish upbringing and conversion to Marxism at Cambridge, to his efforts on behalf of the Soviet Union well into the Cold War.

Victor’s first-person account—a miracle of authorly ventriloquism for a character bordering on the sociopathic—is rendered in Banville’s silky prose, a pure delight to read. For me, The Untouchable is a novel for the ages.

By John Banville,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Untouchable is an engrossing, exquisitely written and almost bewilderingly smart book . . . It's the fullest book I've read in a very long time, utterly accomplished, thoroughly readable, written by a novelist of vast talent' Richard Ford

Victor Maskell has been betrayed. After the announcement in the Commons and the hasty revelation of his double life of wartime espionage, his disgrace is public, his knighthood revoked, his position as curator of the Queen's pictures terminated. There are questions to be answered. For whom has he been sacrificed? To what has he sacrificed his life?

The Untouchable is beautifully…


Book cover of The Miracle Game

Simon Mawer Author Of Prague Spring

From my list on or around the Cold War from a child of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a child of the Cold War. Until the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 this strange standoff between the Soviet Union and the Western allies informed everyone’s life, but my own case was particular because my father served in the Royal Air Force. For three years he was even in command of three squadrons of nuclear bombers. With a background like that, how could I not be interested in the larger picture? Since then I have gone on to write novels with all kinds of settings but the other side of the now defunct Iron Curtain has always held a fascination... and has directly led to at least three of my own books.

Simon's book list on or around the Cold War from a child of the Cold War

Simon Mawer Why did Simon love this book?

Is there a Czech theme going on here? Well, the Czech lands have always produced artists, musicians and writers of the highest calibre and although he may not be widely known, Škvorecký is one of them. From exile in Canada following the Russian invasion of 1968, he wrote this extraordinary and fantastic novel about a miracle (a holy statue is seen to bow its head) in a Czech village in the first year of communist rule. Of course such irrational things couldn’t be allowed and the priest is condemned as a hoaxer. But now we’re in 1968 and everything is up for discussion including this forgotten event. Seen through the eyes of the author’s picaresque character, Danny Smiřický (who was present at the original miracle but unfortunately had dozed off at the vital moment so never actually saw St Joseph move), the whole story is relived and discussed. Part farce,…

By Josef Skvorecky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This energetic and hilarious novel is made even more important by the current final thawing of the long, Communist winter in Czechoslovakia. Moving between 1948, when our hero Danny Smiricky falls asleep in church while a miraculous event occurs, and 1968, when he observes the miracle of Prague Spring, The Miracle Game is a sharp look at the strange, sad, and silly things people do to survive.


Book cover of Twenty Letters to a Friend: A Memoir

Simon Mawer Author Of Prague Spring

From my list on or around the Cold War from a child of the Cold War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a child of the Cold War. Until the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 this strange standoff between the Soviet Union and the Western allies informed everyone’s life, but my own case was particular because my father served in the Royal Air Force. For three years he was even in command of three squadrons of nuclear bombers. With a background like that, how could I not be interested in the larger picture? Since then I have gone on to write novels with all kinds of settings but the other side of the now defunct Iron Curtain has always held a fascination... and has directly led to at least three of my own books.

Simon's book list on or around the Cold War from a child of the Cold War

Simon Mawer Why did Simon love this book?

Svetlana Alliluyeva was Josef Stalin’s daughter. In 1967 she fled to the West bringing this memoir with her. It was published to universal acclaim in the same year. An epistolary memoir it gives remarkable insight into her life growing up in the Kremlin. Haunting, at times lyrical, always affecting, she shows Stalin as something other than the monster we take him to be. She makes no excuses for him but it is salutary to see him portrayed as a father and a human being. An antidote to the all-too-easy dismissal of him as ‘a monster’.

By Svetlana Alliluyeva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twenty Letters to a Friend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this riveting, New York Times-bestselling memoir—first published by Harper in 1967—Svetlana Alliluyeva, subject of Rosemary Sullivan’s critically acclaimed biography, Stalin’s Daughter, describes the surreal experience of growing up in the Kremlin in the shadow of her father, Joseph Stalin.

Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva, later known as Lana Peters, was the youngest child and only daughter of Joseph Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, his second wife. In 1967, she fled the Soviet Union for India, where she approached the U.S. Embassy for asylum. Once there, she showed her CIA handler something remarkable: A personal memoir about growing up inside the Kremlin that…


Book cover of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Miles Borrero Author Of Beautiful Monster: A Becoming

From my list on living this wild and precious life to its fullest.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a trans, Latinx yoga teacher, writer, and musician who transitioned at the age of 40. Before that, I’d spent most of my life trying to live by someone else’s rules…only to realize, when my dad was dying, that I was not truly living. The funny thing is, as an artist and teacher, I’d dedicated myself to helping others live their lives to the fullest but had not granted myself the same courtesy. Sometimes, our lessons are hard-won. The books on this list have been beacons of hope and treasure trove chests of inspiration for me, as I hope they will be for you, too. 

Miles' book list on living this wild and precious life to its fullest

Miles Borrero Why did Miles love this book?

Ocean’s book is vulnerable, intimate, and heartbreaking in the most life-affirming way.

The way he writes about love between a mother and son, and a son and another boy, feels so universal and delicate, like the scent of a rose that is here one moment but just as suddenly drifts away. As an immigrant myself, I felt the starkness in the way Ocean describes the hardship of living in a land not one’s own.

I finished the book feeling like I needed to go hug my mom and tell her I love her. Those bonds of family are so shattering yet important. Ocean’s book reminds me to allow myself all the depth of feeling because life is hard, but whoa, it is also gorgeous. 

By Ocean Vuong,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times Bestseller!

Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal in Fiction, the 2019 Aspen Words Literacy Prize, and the PEN/Hemingway Debut Novel Award

Shortlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Winner of the 2019 New England Book Award for Fiction!

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Oprah.com, Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, Nylon, The Week, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more.

"A lyrical work of self-discovery that's shockingly intimate and insistently…


Book cover of Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes

Rick Shenkman Author Of Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics

From my list on why voters often behave irrationally.

Why am I passionate about this?

Rick Shenkman is a New York Times bestselling author, historian, and journalist who, after reading and writing history books for 40 years, decided to spend the past decade discovering what social scientists have to say. To his great joy, he learned that since he had last studied their work in college they had come to a vast new understanding of human political behavior. He now uses their insights into political psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and genetics to help explain our fucked up politics.

Rick's book list on why voters often behave irrationally

Rick Shenkman Why did Rick love this book?

This is a highly readable and fun book published back in 1982 by one of the leading primatologists of our era. A close student of ape behavior, Frans de Waal shows how smart apes are and what we can learn about ourselves by studying their behavior. He demonstrates that, contrary to common belief, it is not by physical strength alone that an alpha ape hangs onto its power at the top of the social pyramid. More important than their muscles is their ability to form coalitions with others.  

If your mental image of an alpha ape is a brawny male, forget it. De Waal profiles one female ape, Mama, who manages for years to dominate a group by exercising power more prudently than her male rivals, who shriek and throw tantrums when they don't get their way. This is the good news. The bad news is that apes are Machiavellian.…

By Franz DeWaal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first edition of Frans de Waal's Chimpanzee Politics was acclaimed not only by primatologists for its scientific achievement but also by politicians, business leaders, and social psychologists for its remarkable insights into the most basic human needs and behaviors. Twenty-five years later, this book is considered a classic. Featuring a new preface that includes recent insights from the author, this anniversary edition is a detailed and thoroughly engrossing account of rivalries and coalitions-actions governed by intelligence rather than instinct. As we watch the chimpanzees of Arnhem behave in ways we recognize from Machiavelli (and from the nightly news), de…


Book cover of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

Ling Ling Huang Author Of Natural Beauty

From my list on the power of music.

Why am I passionate about this?

For most of my life, I've been a professional classical violinist. I had my first performance on stage at the age of 4, went to a music conservatory at the age of 15, and have gone on to play on some of the best concert stages in the world, from the Elbphilharmonie to Carnegie Hall. My violin playing and writing inform each other, and I think of myself as a translator between the two. I love to do both, and I’m certain I couldn’t do one without the other. It's always a pleasure to see music in the books I read. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Ling's book list on the power of music

Ling Ling Huang Why did Ling love this book?

I love and will read anything by Abdurraqib.

His writing is so insightful and poetic which is just another way that his prose transports us closer to the music that is often his subject matter.

As a classical musician, I have so many gaps in my knowledge of popular music and I consider that a blessing now because I get to learn what I missed through his writing and experiences. These essays are diverse, covering everything from a Bruce Springsteen concert to Carly Rae Jepsen to being Black in America.

He has a true gift for making anything and everything compelling and powerful.

By Hanif Abdurraqib,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 2018 "12 best books to give this holiday season" —TODAY (Elizabeth Acevedo)
* A "Best Book of 2017" —Rolling Stone (2018), NPR, Buzzfeed, Paste Magazine, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, CBC, Stereogum, National Post, Entropy, Heavy, Book Riot, Chicago Review of Books, The Los Angeles Review, Michigan Daily
* American Booksellers Association (ABA) 'December 2017 Indie Next List Great Reads'
* Midwest Indie Bestseller

In an age of confusion, fear, and loss, Hanif Abdurraqib's is a voice that matters. Whether he's attending a Bruce Springsteen concert the day after visiting Michael Brown's grave, or discussing public displays of…


Book cover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Paul Burman Author Of The Snowing And Greening Of Thomas Passmore

From my list on time-bending that turn reality inside-out.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of three novels, several short stories and quite a few articles about writing and literature. While I’ve haven’t aimed to write for a specific genre—all three of my novels are different in this respect—my plots usually focus on a mystery. I enjoy novels with strong, credible characters, which are based in a recognisable, everyday reality, but where bizarre events can turn the world upside down.

Paul's book list on time-bending that turn reality inside-out

Paul Burman Why did Paul love this book?

This is the first novel I read by Haruki Murakami and it got me hooked on his writing.

Toru Okada is tasked with finding his lost cat but, as he searches, the past stories of other characters constantly intersect and become inescapable detours, which often foster ambiguity and a sense of becoming lost in a charmed world.

We’re left with an impression of a world slipping into the surreal, where reality becomes blurred like Okada’s memory of what his missing cat looks like, and where “Ten minutes is not ten minutes” because time can stretch and shrink. I was frequently surprised and sometimes confounded by this but, because of Murakami’s skill as a writer, felt pleasantly lulled with the same dreamlike acquiescence as his hero into following Okada’s convoluted journey.

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INCLUDES A READING GUIDE

Toru Okada's cat has disappeared and this has unsettled his wife, who is herself growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has started receiving. As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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