I recently have gained a lot of interest in philosophy and have especially taken to Nietzsche's work and ideas. I am reading philosophy to understand on a more personal level to lead a more fulfilled life.

Does anybody have any recommendations for philosophical works that are concerned with staving off nihilism(besides Nietzsche's take) and existentialism relating to the 21 century or late 20th century?What are some modern philosophers take on nihilism and existentialism? I don't mind reading more technical works, I enjoy putting in the extra work to understand my reading. Thanks in advance and I apology if I tag this incorrectly.

  • Can you explain how you're defining existentialism? That might help to know what would qualify. Otherwise, there may be too much.
    – virmaior
    Nov 9, 2015 at 4:40
  • @virmaior I mean the kind of existentialistic theories on everyday life, like despair, existential crisis, existential angst, authenticity the absurd. Im not sure if im being clear though but I guess I general understanding of existentialism in the sense of how do we give our lives meaning or the process of finding meaning is what im interested in. Thanks
    – Bunny
    Nov 9, 2015 at 5:20

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately, I haven't found too many existentialist works with a nuts-and-bolts focus, so my recommended reading list is really short -- two books in fact.

  • Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Here, Frankl writes about finding our own meaning, and how meaning keeps us going on through the most difficult of conditions. His book begins with his experiences in a concentration camp, which lends his views more weight, as he's lived one of the most horrific experiences imaginable. This isn't some philosopher sitting at a Paris cafe and speculating about life.
  • The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. This isn't so much about staving off nihilism as it is about coping with a nihilistic life. Camus starts off claiming the only real philosophical question is why we don't kill ourselves. He then likens our existence to the legend of Sisyphus, who is condemned to all eternity to roll a boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll down again. He then suggests a way to live with this absurdity.
  • @ChrisSunami thanks. I was debating about the editorializing. The only reason I added it was to justify why I presented such a short reading list. I adjusted the answer. Is this better?
    – R. Barzell
    Nov 9, 2015 at 21:05

Søren Kierkegaard is considered the godfather of existentialism. His radical take on Christianity directly confronted issues of meaning and meaninglessness, as well as how to act in a world where no external constraints of law or morality can be held as absolutely valid. Fear and Trembling, The Sickness Unto Death and Either/Or are among his best known works.

Some of the other best-known existentialists include the French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Simone DeBeauvoir. Camus' The Plague is a powerful fictional exploration of how to proceed in a frighteningly arbitrary and random world without the support of belief in higher meaning or order. Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism is a rejection of nihilism even in the face of a world without imposed meaning.


The answer is contingent (no pun intended) on your familiarity with the field. For instance, is the use of "contingent" remotely a pun to you (however a bad one)?

If no, then start with Tom Flynn's "Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction" to get the general horizon in place and then zoom in from there.

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