The best books about the meaning of life 📚

Browse the best books on the meaning of life as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning

By Viktor Frankl

Why this book?

If to people I love I could only give a single book, this would be it. I’ve read it three times and will revisit it until I die. Imprison a man in hell on Earth where the souls of his loved ones rise from the smokestacks of the crematorium within his sight. His friends die starving and beaten in the mud. What’s left of human dignity? Is there anything redeeming? Is there a chance for forgiveness, or even beauty or love? This tragic account of an appalling time is one of the greatest books ever written. I improve as a…
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The best novels of beauty and grit among the hardships of life

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Book cover of My Happy Life

My Happy Life

By Lydia Millet

Why this book?

My book club found this book depressing and shook their heads at my choice. I found it a fascinating account of a life that is meaningful for its owner. The protagonist is a woman dying in an abandoned mental hospital after years of abuse and neglect. And yet, she has a psychological condition that makes her infinitely compassionate towards others: she can only perceive goodwill and love. When she tells the story of her “happy life,” she even feels bad for her rapist. You will love or hate this book. But it will make you think.

From the list:

The best books that helped me find my meaning of life

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Book cover of The Secret History of the World

The Secret History of the World

By Jonathan Black

Why this book?

For those interested in the hidden mysteries of science and nature and trying to work out the meaning of life, this is essential reading. It goes from the creation to the end of the world, explaining the various mysteries along the way, all of which are not actually secret, but in plain sight, if you know where and how to look.

From the list:

The best books about the hidden mysteries of business, science, and nature

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Book cover of The Birth and Death of Meaning

The Birth and Death of Meaning

By Ernest Becker

Why this book?

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…

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The best books on the core desires that guide human behavior

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Book cover of Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

By Richard Rorty

Why this book?

If you think too much and you’re not religious, you may have bumped up against a question that troubled much of my existence: on the one hand, I want (and sometimes fail) to live a life I can call morally good, but on the other hand, I don’t have any sort of theories or transcendental claims to base my “morally good” on. It’s hard to say you believe in X when your answer to “Why do you believe in X?” is, “because it’s X!” Rorty (on my reading) reminds us we don’t need to be torn apart by the intrusion…

From the list:

The best books that helped me find my meaning of life

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Book cover of Eating Animals

Eating Animals

By Jonathan Safran Foer

Why this book?

What is the meaning of life? We could take the question further by disposing of our blinkers and asking, what is the meaning of the other lives that may not look like ours? These lives consist of the millions of animals who die in the factory farms built to conceal their suffering and turn them into fungible objects, not lives. Safran’s book is an eye-opening exposition of how we have enslaved animals for food that we don’t even need in the 21st century—damaging ourselves and the environment in the process. One meaning of life: the value of letting other lives…

From the list:

The best books that helped me find my meaning of life

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