Weird Writers Recommend Philosophy Books

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Brian Evenson: A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

I’ve occasionally taught a class just on this book, and when I do I suggest that students relax and read it almost like it’s fiction. Taken in those terms it’s a deeply imaginative book that poses all sorts of strange questions and then provides answers that are more like speculative imaginings. Mixing philosophy, fiction, psychology, geology, mycology, bird song, and a passel of other things, this is the kind of book that cracks your head open.

Nicole Cushing: Apology by Plato

In my opinion, a novelist should be wary of developing too great a fondness for philosophy. I say this because the modern philosopher simplifies the chaos of the world so it can be explained by a logical system, whereas the novelist revels in the world’s ambiguities and contradictions. A so-called “philosophical novel” runs the risk of slipping into didacticism, and a novel must be something greater than mere dramatized philosophy.

Therefore, my favorite philosophy book is Plato’s Apology (the famous dialogue in which Socrates faces his accusers). Why Apology? Because Socrates has no system to peddle. All he brings to the table is the knowledge that he knows nothing.

Jonathan Raab: Postmodernism For Beginners by Jim Powell and illustrated by Joe Lee

Illustrated for us dummies who need a little help wrapping our minds around philosophy. Provides an overview of the Postmodern movement and its attempts to help us understand the ever-shifting, futureshock-inducing contemporary world.

Vincenzo Bilof: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti

I think Ligotti’s philosophy may be one of the more human approaches to understanding the modern world. Conspiracy addresses human suffering and its relationship to our consciousness and sense of mortality, which provides us with a black mirror reflection of a contemporary mind. Advances in medicine and technology may convince us that we’re going to live forever, or that there’s always hope in some greater ideal that will transform the world into a place that is easier for us to accept. Ligotti is able to address the grand illusion of progress through the lens of the most human element of all: horror.

Sam Richard: The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem

If you’re at all familiar with The Situationists, you’re likely most familiar with Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, a work of profound insight on the nature of society, capitalism, and our role in our own subordination. While several other books came out of the Situationist International, the other most important, and sadly often overlooked, text is Raoul Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life.

Written with a poet’s sensibilities, The Revolution of Everyday Life serves as both critique and philosophy for lives lived under the rule of a form of capitalism that has infected every single aspect of our daily lives. We are no longer seen as people, or as citizens, but merely objects moved along the board in a system so large and complex that we perpetuate it without truly being aware of our relationship with it. Illuminating and nuanced without hopelessness or resorting to simplification. Highly recommended.

Curtis M. Lawson: Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is by Fredrich Nietzsche 

Nietzsche has been a huge influence on my world view and was my introduction to philosophy back in high school. Most folks credit Thus Spake Zarathustra or Beyond Good and Evil as his greatest works, and it’s hard to disagree with them. Ecce Homo is my favorite of his works, however.

In Ecce Homo Nietzsche puts his own work on trial and playfully teases himself. This book is the antithesis of the stuffy, self-righteous works of philosophers who desperately labor to prove that their way is THE way. It is insightful, thought-provoking, and fun.

Maxwell I. Gold: Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

For those with an interest in postmodernism and Marxist materialist philosophies, oh and the iron will to slay a Baulrog, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s seminal work Anti-Oedipus is for you! Volume one of this two-volume work is a brilliant, militant “schizoanalysis” into concepts of desire to reality and the capitalist system as well as examining the reactionary predispositions of Freudian psychoanalysis. I was supposed to keep this to one paragraph, but it’s really a fascinating work, one that you’d need to read a few times over.

Justin A. Burnett: Ethics by Baruch Spinoza

One thing I’ve realized is that you don’t have to buy a philosopher’s metaphysics to enjoy their work. And speaking of metaphysics, there’s not a more aesthetically pleasing and masterfully-argued system on the market than Spinoza’s. This book really brought me face to face with the joy of reading philosophy–so much of it can be an absolute uphill grind (I’m looking at you, Heidegger) that it’s easy to see how readers and writers alike are put off by it’s puffed-up self-seriousness. But Spinoza’s work is so crystalline and imaginative that it reveals another side of philosophy, a restless and colorful creativity that sets out to artistically reinterpret existence in a way no less invigorating (and, ultimately, fictional) than fiction itself. This is undoubtedly an important book, but don’t let that fool you–it’s also exciting (provided you possess just a smidge of familiarity with Aristotle and don’t mind a little brain work).

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