So I have made a collection of amazing books that every person who is interested in Existential Awe should read:
Existentialism is a Humanism – Jean Paul Sartre
Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism serves as a great starter text for the existentialist philosophy. This was originally a presentation that Sartre gave to an audience in France to defend existentialism from its detractors. In it, he argues that existentialism is a philosophy of freedom in a world without God, and that we are responsible for ourselves. It’s not heavy philosophy reading like some of his other works.
Quotable quote: existence precedes essence
Le Deuxieme Sex – Simone De Beauvoir
Simone De Beauvoir is another amazing existentialist philosopher. Le Deuxieme Sex is not only an existentialist text, it is also a catalyst for 2nd Wave Feminism, and deals with proto-concepts of intersectionality and women’s historic place in society. Beauvoir argues against the idea that women and men are innately unequal, and instead says that power and oppression are the causes of women’s suffering.
Quotable Quote: One is not born a woman, but becomes one.
L’Etranger – Albert Camus
This is a really hard story to describe. Camus writes a story about a man who feels not, or hears not. While he is in a way responsible for his actions, there is also a sense that he has lost himself. An amazing tale, and not an existentialist cautionary tale. I have met so many people who have told me that because of this story, they thought existentialism is about doom and gloom. 1. Camus is an absurdist, he rejected the existentialist title, 2. Camus is not telling people to live like Mersault. If you haven’t read it, you will understand when you are finished. Robert Solomon has an amazing talk on The Stranger.
Daytripper – Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba
I found this comic book by serendipity when I was at the Beguiling in Toronto. I was looking for a different comic, and saw the title, and bought it. Little did I know this book would become one of the founding philosophical works in my repertoire. The character Jose, is a man who write obituary stories for a newspaper. He lives in the shadow of his father, who is a successful novelist. The story is magic realism, it’s characters live almost as if in a dream, with Jose looking for answers to existence, and really living his life. Every chapter ends with a familiar bite, of how others will remember us when we die. What stories will they tell?
Quotable quotes: “I drink my coffee black so it is strong and memorable.”
Local – Brian Wood
Local is Brian Wood’s masterpiece explanation of how we transform over time. Meagan is a girl who runs away from home and travels around. Originally meant to be a character without a name, Meagan’s story shines through Local from beginning until end. Her story involves questions of ethics, and how we create ourselves. Meagan travels all around North America, and Ryan Kelly (the artist), has made sure that each space she is in looks the way it did during the year Meagan was there. Do our things make our identities, or the stories we have instead? You will either love Meagan for her truthful humanity, or you will hate her. I personally love her complex emotions and traits. She is a person who is carving out a niche for herself in life, and it takes a long journey for anyone to really understand themselves.
Island – Aldous Huxley
People tend to dismiss ideas of utopia as too fantastical and not grounded in realism. Island is the exception to this rule. Written similarly to Thomas Moore’s Utopia (The book that popularized the term Utopia), Island is a story of what our world could look like. When Will Farnaby accidentally lands on the Forbidden Island of Pala, he finds a paradise where people work for self-fulfillment, and for the chance to enlighten themselves. This book is very much grounded in Eastern philosophy, but in a way that accurately represents these religions. Will Farnaby is led around the Island meeting various people who illustrate to him why Pala is amazing. The irony of it all? Will is going to help exploit the Palanese, and their demise to big oil is fairly inevitable. Huxley draws from Aristotle, Buddhism, Hinduism, and history to create a world that could be, but never will as long as our current system is in place. A great introduction to eastern philosophy too. I could go into more detail, but instead I hold a lotus flower out instead.
Quotable Quote: “Attention, Attention. Here and now boys”
Work In Progress, I will add more books occasionally.