This page contains a list of the eight best books by or about Albert Camus. Finding good introductory philosophy books can be difficult for two reasons. First, searching google for recommendations usually doesn’t bring up anything useful. Second, phrases like “best books by Camus” are ambiguous. One person may be looking for a short, beginner friendly introduction, someone else may want a comprehensive academic overview of Camus, a third person may be looking for classic works by Camus. This list tries to account for this ambiguity by recommending different types of books on Camus. Here are the best books on Camus in no particular order:
The Stranger – Albert Camus
Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.” First published in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.
The Plague – Albert Camus
A haunting tale of human resilience in the face of unrelieved horror, Camus’ novel about a bubonic plague ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature.
The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt – Albert Camus
By one of the most profoundly influential thinkers of our century, The Rebel is a classic essay on revolution. For Albert Camus, the urge to revolt is one of the “essential dimensions” of human nature, manifested in man’s timeless Promethean struggle against the conditions of his existence, as well as the popular uprisings against established orders throughout history. And yet, with an eye toward the French Revolution and its regicides and deicides, he shows how inevitably the course of revolution leads to tyranny. As old regimes throughout the world collapse, The Rebel resonates as an ardent, eloquent, and supremely rational voice of conscience for our tumultuous times.
The Fall – Albert Camus
Elegantly styled, Camus’ profoundly disturbing novel of a Parisian lawyer’s confessions is a searing study of modern amorality.
The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays – Albert Camus
One of the most influential works of this century, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought. Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide; the question of living or not living in a universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Albert Camus brilliantly posits a way out of despair, reaffirming the value of personal existence, and the possibility of life lived with dignity and authenticity.
The Cambridge Companion to Camus – Edward J. Hughes
Albert Camus is one of the iconic figures of twentieth-century French literature, one of France’s most widely read modern literary authors and one of the youngest winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. As the author of L’Etranger and the architect of the notion of ‘the Absurd’ in the 1940s, he shot to prominence in France and beyond. His work nevertheless attracted hostility as well as acclaim and he was increasingly drawn into bitter political controversies, especially the issue of France’s place and role in the country of his birth, Algeria. Most recently, postcolonial studies have identified in his writings a set of preoccupations ripe for revisitation. Situating Camus in his cultural and historical context, this 2007 Companion explores his best-selling novels, his ambiguous engagement with philosophy, his theatre, his increasingly high-profile work as a journalist and his reflection on ethical and political questions that continue to concern readers today.
Albert Camus: A Life – Oliver Todd
In this enormously engaging, vibrant, and richly researched biography of Albert Camus, the French writer and journalist Olivier Todd has drawn on personal correspondence, notebooks, and public records never before tapped, as well as interviews with Camus’s family, friends, fellow workers, writers, mentors, and lovers.
Todd shows us a Camus who struggled all his life with irreconcilable conflicts–between his loyalty to family and his passionate nature, between the call to political action and the integrity to his art, between his support of the native Algerians and his identification with the forgotten people, the poor whites. A very private man, Camus could be charming and prickly, sincere and theatrical, genuinely humble, yet full of great ambition.
Todd paints a vivid picture of the time and place that shaped Camus–his impoverished childhood in the Algerian city of Belcourt, the sea and the sun and the hot sands that he so loved (he would always feel an exile elsewhere), and the educational system that nurtured him. We see the forces that lured him into communism, and his attraction to the theater and to journalism as outlets for his creativity.
Albert Camus: From the Absurd to Revolt – John Foley
Adopting an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses philosophy, literature, politics, and history, John Foley examines the full breadth of Camus’ ideas to provide a rigorous guide to his political and philosophical thought, making a significant contribution to current debates in Camus research. Foley argues that Camus’ thought can best be understood through analysis of the concepts of “the absurd” and “revolt” and the relationship between them. The book includes a detailed discussion of Camus’ writings for the newspaper Combat, a systematic analysis of the discussion of the moral legitimacy of political violence and terrorism, a reassessment of the prevailing postcolonial critique of Camus’ humanism, and a sustained analysis of Camus’ most commonly neglected work, L’Homme révolté (The Rebel). Written with sufficient detail and clarity to satisfy both academic and student audiences, Albert Camus: From the Absurd to Revolt is an important discussion and defence of Camus’ philosophical thought.
This list was created by following a method that I’ve found to be useful when searching for introductory philosophy books. It involves:
- browsing required reading lists on university course syllabi
- searching for books using the Open Syllabus Project
- browsing the bibliographies of articles on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- searching for recommendations on philosophy forums
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Albert Camus
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Albert Camus
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