Existentialism is a largely philosophical notion that human existence is more or less, meaningless.

Soren Kierkegaard, generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher, proposed that each individual (not society or religion) is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely.

The existential fiction books on this list have been written by some of the worlds most distinguished authors. They’re sure to make such an impact on you that the way you observe and explore your life will be altered.

Best Existential Fiction Books

1. The Stranger by Albert Camus

(Featured in 10 Books That Will Absolutely Blow Your Mind)

The Stranger is a haunting, challenging masterpiece of literature. While it is fiction, it actually manages to express the complex concepts and themes of existential philosophy better than the movement’s most noted philosophical writings.

It’s a fantastic read, especially for contemplating human nature and our roles in the universe, if any.

2. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

A sobering exploration of the dangers inherent in the combination of human stupidity and indifference with mankind’s technological capacity for destruction.

3. Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Notes from the Underground is not only a masterpiece of Russian and existentialist literature, but all literature in general.

Weighty issues such as man’s desire to always choose free will, even if it’s not in his best interest. But merely for the fact that he can choose free will. As well as the moral and intellectual estrangement of the acutely aware man from himself, are discussed here.

4. The Trial by Franz Kafka

The story follows Joseph K while he’s on trial by a seemingly arbitrary court system.

What starts out feeling like a cautionary tale about misplaced and abused power quickly becomes stranger and morphs into a story of a deeper and more personal trial.

Before long, you notice that K is the one who seems to be doing the work of trying himself.

5. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

Antoine Roquentin is a solitary man, recently afflicted with a recurrent feeling. One that he terms ‘the Nausea’. He feels that life is repugnant, a vapid, shallow game between mindless people who have no real idea of their own purpose or consequence.

At first he dismisses these feelings as the typical lonely thoughts of an ageing academic. But as he is able to examine himself with greater clarity, Roquentin begins to learn that maybe he has stumbled upon one of the great truths of our reality.

6. The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by Milan Kundera

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kundera tries to determine whether our actions on this earth have significance and therefore weight.

Or whether our actions have no ramifications and are therefore light and are dead in advance.

7. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

(Featured in 10 Books That Will Absolutely Blow Your Mind)

Fight Club is the story of an unnamed narrator. An insomniac yuppie who spends his days helping insurance companies get out of having to pay their claims.

He wanders through a meaningless life until he discovers the emotional release of attending therapy groups for people suffering from various deadly diseases.

He meets Tyler Durden around this time and it’s Tyler who turns his life upside down.

8. Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett

“Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful!”

That phrase, said by one of the main characters of Waiting for Godot, somehow sums up the whole plot.

The play starts with two men, Vladimir and Estragon, sitting on a lonely road. They are both waiting for Godot. They don’t know why they are waiting for him, but they think that his arrival will change things for the better.

9. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man is timeless and it’s hard to believe that it was written nearly fifty years ago.

This book is about far more than racism. It is about loss of innocence and the rape of the soul. It is about exploitation, manipulation, and the gross hypocrisy that can exist in our society today.

10. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

(Featured in 7 Great Book Titles That Make You Want To Read The Book)

The novel is essentially a paranoid fantasy about machines which pretend to be people.

This is the book which the Ridley Scotts film Blade Runner was loosely based on.

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