Best books on existentialism

Featured in

    Looking for the best books on existentialism? See our list of the most influential titles here, and learn about the history of existentialism.

    Best books on existentialism

    Existentialism is one of the most influential philosophical movements of the 20th century. It has sparked debates on issues such as freedom, identity, and choice. These issues are as relevant today as they were when first explored by great thinkers like Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Immanuel Kant, René Descartes, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and one-time Marxist Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev.

    This article will explain existentialism, discuss its history, and dive into a variety of great reads about existentialism that offer valuable insights.

    What is existentialism?

    Existentialism is a philosophical movement that grew out of nineteenth-century Europe, particularly France. It has had an immense influence on culture, psychology, and the history of philosophy. The movement was particularly relevant during World War II when the people of most countries were facing an existential crisis.

    Existentialist philosophy is driven by the insight that human beings are autonomous and can find meaning through their own choices. Existentialists focus on the subjective experience of an individual’s existence in the face of what they see as the meaninglessness or nihilism of the world. Christian theologians such as Soren Kierkegaard (Danish), Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (German), and Blaise Pascal (French) sought to reconcile faith with their new understanding of life.

    Existential philosophy has been described as “the belief that human existence precedes essence”—i.e., that human beings exist before they define themselves and determine who they will become. This means individuals have free will to make decisions and take responsibility for their consequences.

    Existentialist thought also emphasizes subjectivity: each person has their own way of seeing things, and there is no objective truth (good and evil) available to everyone at once. In other words, there’s nothing like “human nature,” and one’s perspective is shaped by personal history and beliefs.

    Existentialist themes are also addressed in psychotherapy, which often includes exploring how one arrives at meaning in life by examining how beliefs are formed and critically evaluating them. These themes were particularly relevant during World War II when Europe faced an existential crisis. Existentialist thinkers reject determinism (the idea that all events are predetermined) in favor of greater freedom for individuals to construct their own lives.

    Notable existentialist philosophers include Gabriel Marcel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, Simone de Beauvoir, Karl Jaspers, Edmund Husserl, and Albert Camus, among many others. Their works discuss questions related to consciousness, being in the world, ontology (the nature of being), and phenomenology (the study of experience).

    Best books on existentialism

    Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre

    Existentialism is a Humanism is a foundational book exploring the implications of existential philosophy for our understanding of the human condition. In this work, Sartre offers an analysis of human freedom and how people can take ownership of their lives despite the limitations and absurdities of the world.

    He examines how individuals must make meaningful choices that are ultimately motivated by their own values and ethical standards. This book is essential to gaining insight into existential philosophy and its relevance to our daily lives.

    The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

    This book is a landmark exploration of the moral complexities which arise from the experiences of freedom in modern life. De Beauvoir examines the different meanings and components which comprise human identity to pinpoint why individuals exist with such ambiguity.

    She argues that it is precisely this ambiguity which allows individuals to create their own meaning and lead meaningful lives even amid chaos and uncertainty. This book provides invaluable insights into living authentically while recognizing existing limits.

    Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre

    Being and Nothingness is often considered one of his most important works on philosophy and existentialism. In this book, he discusses how humans are essentially composed of nothingness or “nothingness within being,” which gives them an extraordinary capacity for freedom but also renders them vulnerable to absurdity due to the gap between their potential for action and reality’s constraints.

    He further explores issues like consciousness, emotions, social relationships, responsibility, bad faith, and authenticity as key elements in understanding human behavior in an existentially meaningful way.

    Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

    One of the most influential philosophical works of the 20th century, Being and Time by Martin Heidegger is a foundational text in the field of existentialism.

    The book analyzes human existence (Dasein) as being in the world, exploring the fundamental structures of time, modernity, and truth. Heidegger’s work has been referred to as the cornerstone of existentialist thought, providing a deep insight into how we exist in the world.

    The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

    A classic work of absurdist literature, The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus explores humanity’s search for meaning in an irrational universe. In this essay, Camus outlines his famous “Myth of Sisyphus”—a mythical Greek figure doomed to forever push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again, symbolizing our futile efforts at finding purpose in life.

    With its evocative exploration into existence and despair, The Myth Of Sisyphus remains one of the most important books ever written on existential philosophy.

    Honorable mentions

    • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Dostoyevsky)

    • Letter to His Father by Franz Kafka

    • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

    • No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

    • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

    Find the classics of existentialism on Speechify

    With an extensive library of titles, including books on existentialism, Speechify makes it easy and convenient to access audiobooks anytime, anywhere.

    All you need is the Speechify app, which allows you to stream your favorite books at any pace using natural-sounding voices. Plus, you can easily pause or rewind sections if needed.

    Try Speechify today and experience the joys of listening to your favorite books from the New York Times bestsellers list and more!

    Whether you’re looking for books by a humanistic author like Friedrich Nietzsche or a staunch existentialist like Jean-Paul Sartre, you’ll always find something to read.

    FAQ

    What are the three beliefs of existentialism?

    Phenomenology, freedom, and authenticity

    Do existentialists believe in God?

    Existentialists do not believe in the existence of a traditional, omniscient god or any other supernatural being.

    What does existentialism say about the meaning of life?

    Existentialism believes that life has no inherent meaning; it is up to each individual to create their own unique and personal meaning of life. This means that the purpose of life is determined by the individual, not by any external source or predetermined structure.

    What is the difference between existentialism and nihilism?

    Existentialists place emphasis on individuals creating meaningful lives by actively choosing certain values and paths. Nihilists assert there is no universal truth about anything, and nothing matters.

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

    Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify

    Recent Blogs

    • AI Speech Recognition: Everything You Should Know
      AI Speech Recognition: Everything You Should Know
      Arrow
    • AI Speech to Text: Revolutionizing Transcription
      AI Speech to Text: Revolutionizing Transcription
      Arrow
    • Real-Time AI Dubbing with Voice Preservation
      Real-Time AI Dubbing with Voice Preservation
      Arrow
    • How to Add Voice Over to Video: A Step-by-Step Guide
      How to Add Voice Over to Video: A Step-by-Step Guide
      Arrow
    • Voice Simulator & Content Creation with AI-Generated Voices
      Voice Simulator & Content Creation with AI-Generated Voices
      Arrow
    • Convert Audio and Video to Text: Transcription Has Never Been Easier.
      Convert Audio and Video to Text: Transcription Has Never Been Easier.
      Arrow
    • How to Record Voice Overs Properly Over Gameplay: Everything You Need to Know
      How to Record Voice Overs Properly Over Gameplay: Everything You Need to Know
      Arrow
    • Voicemail Greeting Generator: The New Way to Engage Callers
      Voicemail Greeting Generator: The New Way to Engage Callers
      Arrow
    • How to Avoid AI Voice Scams
      How to Avoid AI Voice Scams
      Arrow
    • Character AI Voices: Revolutionizing Audio Content with Advanced Technology
      Character AI Voices: Revolutionizing Audio Content with Advanced Technology
      Arrow
    • Best AI Voices for Video Games
      Best AI Voices for Video Games
      Arrow
    • How to Monetize YouTube Channels with AI Voices
      How to Monetize YouTube Channels with AI Voices
      Arrow
    • Multilingual Voice API: Bridging Communication Gaps in a Diverse World
      Multilingual Voice API: Bridging Communication Gaps in a Diverse World
      Arrow
    • Resemble.AI vs ElevenLabs: A Comprehensive Comparison
      Resemble.AI vs ElevenLabs: A Comprehensive Comparison
      Arrow
    • Apps to Read PDFs on Mobile and Desktop
      Apps to Read PDFs on Mobile and Desktop
      Arrow
    • How to Convert a PDF to an Audiobook: A Step-by-Step Guide
      How to Convert a PDF to an Audiobook: A Step-by-Step Guide
      Arrow
    • AI for Translation: Bridging Language Barriers
      AI for Translation: Bridging Language Barriers
      Arrow
    • IVR Conversion Tool: A Comprehensive Guide for Healthcare Providers
      IVR Conversion Tool: A Comprehensive Guide for Healthcare Providers
      Arrow
    • Best AI Speech to Speech Tools
      Best AI Speech to Speech Tools
      Arrow
    • AI Voice Recorder: Everything You Need to Know
      AI Voice Recorder: Everything You Need to Know
      Arrow
    • The Best Multilingual AI Speech Models
      The Best Multilingual AI Speech Models
      Arrow
    • Program that will Read PDF Aloud: Yes it Exists
      Program that will Read PDF Aloud: Yes it Exists
      Arrow
    • How to Convert Your Emails to an Audiobook: A Step-by-Step Tutorial
      How to Convert Your Emails to an Audiobook: A Step-by-Step Tutorial
      Arrow
    • How to Convert iOS Files to an Audiobook
      How to Convert iOS Files to an Audiobook
      Arrow
    • How to Convert Google Docs to an Audiobook
      How to Convert Google Docs to an Audiobook
      Arrow
    • How to Convert Word Docs to an Audiobook
      How to Convert Word Docs to an Audiobook
      Arrow
    • Alternatives to Deepgram Text to Speech API
      Alternatives to Deepgram Text to Speech API
      Arrow
    • Is Text to Speech HSA Eligible?
      Is Text to Speech HSA Eligible?
      Arrow
    • Can You Use an HSA for Speech Therapy?
      Can You Use an HSA for Speech Therapy?
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      The Best Celebrity Voice Generators in 2024
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      YouTube Text to Speech: Elevating Your Video Content with Speechify
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      The 7 best alternatives to Synthesia.io
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Everything you need to know about text to speech on TikTok
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      The 10 best text-to-speech apps for Android
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      How to convert a PDF to speech
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      The top girl voice changers
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      How to use Siri text to speech
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Obama text to speech
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Robot Voice Generators: The Futuristic Frontier of Audio Creation
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      PDF Read Aloud: Free & Paid Options
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Alternatives to FakeYou text to speech
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      All About Deepfake Voices
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      TikTok voice generator
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Text to speech GoAnimate
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      The best celebrity text to speech voice generators
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      PDF Audio Reader
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      How to get text to speech Indian voices
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Elevating Your Anime Experience with Anime Voice Generators
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Best text to speech online
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Top 50 movies based on books you should read
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Download audio
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      How to use text-to-speech for Quandale Dingle meme sounds
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Top 5 apps that read out text
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      The top female text to speech voices
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Female voice changer
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Sonic text to speech voice generator online
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Best AI voice generators – The Ultimate List
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Voice changer
      Arrow
    • Surprising HSA-Eligible Items
      Text to speech in Powerpoint
      Arrow
    footer-waves