8 Thoughtful Books Like The Stranger

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Books like The Stranger are so much more than their plots. They really make you think, divulging new meanings and raising new questions upon every read, it is no wonder people are on the hunt for more books like them.

In Albert Camus’ famous 1942 novella, his protagonist Meursault is described as an indifferent character. He does not cry at his own mother’s funeral, is impassive towards marriage and shows little remorse about a senseless murder he commits, he is therefore condemned to death because he doesn’t play by the “rules” of society.

The Stranger is divided into two parts, written from Meursault’s perspective before and after the murder and delves into his psychology, this rebel against society who feels little emotion for any of his actions in life. The novel has been deemed an exploration into the absurd touching on philosophy and existentialism, Camus writes beautifully in this a haunting rumination on morality.

The books like The Stranger listed below have some similarly cryptic characters and propose similar questions making you look at your own reaction to events, your thoughts and beliefs on life, they are equally thought-provoking and certainly worth a few reads. Happy pondering!

8 Books like The Stranger

The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

Kicking off this list of books like The Stranger is a novel with a particularly renowned protagonist, it’s the old soul of Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger’s incredibly enduring The Catcher in the Rye. From some sort of presumed institution, Caulfield recalls events from a particularly crazy few days that he spent underground in New York City.

Following his expulsion from boarding school, Holden scours the big city for some sort of connection, identity and meaning only to find that the world is full of even more “phony” people, pain and disappointment than he’d experienced before, (a realisation which only furthered his particular brand of teenage angst).

Despite a narrative that covers just a few days, Salinger dissects many thought-provoking topics such as mental health, alienation, loss and feeling rejected by society. The Catcher in the Rye has become something of a classic and is a novel I have returned to many times thanks to the multifaceted, brooding character of Caulfield.

Already know this classic coming-of-age novel? Check out our list of books like The Catcher in the Rye!

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

From a protagonist like Meursault who consciously knows and avoids conforming to society to the character of Esther Greenwood in our next novel, The Bell Jar, who feels an immense pressure to fit in, so much so that it slowly turns her insane. To the outsider, Esther Greenwood has it all. She is beautiful, successful, talented and brilliant but beneath the surface, she is crumbling.

Slowly succumbing to the social pressures expected of a young woman; to have a career, get married and care for children. After a few failed suicide attempts, Greenwood is admitted to a mental health facility and undergoes psychotherapy, electric shock therapy among many other interventions to get her head “straight.”

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The Bell Jar is a true literary accomplishment as Sylvia Plath excellently portrays the darkest corners of the human psyche highlighting the detrimental effects of social pressure. Written shortly before Plath’s own untimely suicide and said to be part autobiographical, The Bell Jar is a sobering read for anyone looking for more novels like The Stranger.

Have you already read this novel? Check out this list of books like The Bell Jar!

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka often explores a plethora of themes and topics in his work and his absurd novella The Metamorphosis is no exception, becoming one of the most widely read and influential novels of twentieth-century fiction.

Through the guise of a man, Gregor Samsa, turning into an enormous insect, Kafka mediates on the human condition, alienation, feelings of inadequacy and guilt. For as quickly as Gregor is transformed so too does how the world sees him, becoming a figure of disgust to those closest to him Gregor is an outsider in his own home – a truly alienated man.

Due to the hidden meanings and rumination on the predicaments of the modern man, Camus and Kafka are often compared though Camus once stated that Kafka gives his reader a glimmer of hope whereas he believes he does not.

Regardless, readers of books like The Stranger will find The Metamorphosis an enlightening read with much to ponder afterwards.

As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

Books like The Stranger make you consider all sorts of things, in William Faulkner’s influential novel As I Lay Dying we are prompted to consider life and death.

The story focuses on the Bundren family, centring around the death of mother Addie Bundren and documents their nine-day journey to Jefferson, Mississippi where she requested to be buried.

Narrated by different members of the family, and some characters they meet along the way, we see the difficulties they encounter en-route to the burial site including broken bones, fires, navigating floods, misplacing the coffin among others.

Written in different narrative styles including stream of consciousness and interior monologue, for example, we discover how Addie’s death affects each member of the family as they ponder and try to make sense of the nature of existence.

The exploration into morality combined with the structure, style and drama in As I Lay Dying are just some of the many reasons why it has become such a literary classic.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Some novels like The Stranger experience problems of censorship for the ideas raised in their works while others like our next book, The Alchemist, are famed for it. Paulo Coelho’s captivating novel about a boy, a dream and a journey has inspired a devout following around the world since its initial publication in 1988.

Santiago is a young Andalusian shepherd boy who travels from Spain across desert land to Egypt in search of some treasure, all the while never knowing what this treasure is, just knowing that it is there and he must find it.

The novel reveals the different obstacles Santiago must overcome on his quest along with the different people he meets including a Gypsy woman, a King, thieves and an Alchemist all who help him in some way on his journey.

Though dazzling in its simplicity, The Alchemist is a powerful story which not only highlights that “treasure” can be found within but also the importance of listening to your heart, following your dreams and evolving personally.

Are you a fan of this novel already? Check out our list of books like The Alchemist!

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

Another affecting exploration into society’s view on those who are different from us in our next novel like The Stranger, it is Daniel Keyes’ beautiful, and at times harrowing, Flowers for Algernon.

The novel unfolds via the diary entries of Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man on the quest for intelligence which results in him partaking in an experimental trial, one only ever before been used on a laboratory mouse. A mouse which he calls Algernon.

All Charlie had ever wanted was to be of normal intellect, to understand the jokes his colleagues make and at first the experiment works, Charlie’s intelligence grows and his IQ soars beyond the doctor’s expectations, just as Algernon’s did before him. However, over time, Algernon starts to regress and deteriorate posing the question of what will happen to Charlie?

Keyes’ poignant portrayal of humanity whereby we should not be measured by our intelligence or looks but by our kindness, by the way we communicate with others and how we love is anything short of heartbreaking.

Flowers for Algernon really makes you think and is a fitting choice for this list of introspective books.

Already familiar with this poignant novel? Have a look at our list of books like Flowers for Algernon!

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

On the surface, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a gripping romp around one man’s deal with the devil, but delve deep beneath and Oscar Wilde navigates the philosophical dilemma of aesthetics and morality, which makes it the perfect choice for anyone looking for a book similar to The Stranger.

Dorian Gray is young, handsome and charming and the eternal muse of society painter Basil Howard. While Basil is painting him one day, Dorian catches the eye of the outspoken and opinionated Lord Henry Wooton and they become fast friends, with Lord Henry impressing Dorian with his hedonistic outlook.

Dorian, influenced by Lord Henry, soon comes to believe that beauty and pleasure are the only things in life worth pursuing and decides to sell his soul on the provision that he will never age but Basil’s painting of him will instead. Like any devilish deal, of course, things don’t end well but not before we get a glimpse of the libertine lifestyle Dorian has been lured into.

Now said to be Wilde’s most popular story, despite some initial censoring issues, prepare to be dazzled by The Picture of Dorian Grey.

Already read this book? Browse our list of more books like The Picture of Dorian Gray!

The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus

The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay exploring the absurd written by Albert Camus and is, therefore, a great accompaniment to The Stranger and any book like it.

Citing many of his philosophical influences such as Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, Camus describes the philosophy of the absurd as our fundamental need as human beings to allocate meaning to life even though the universe remains silent in response.

To demonstrate this absurdity, Camus uses the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who is condemned for eternity to push a boulder all the way up to the top of a mountain only for it to roll all the way to the bottom again, likening this to our aforementioned need to attribute meaning to everything.

This philosophy appears in a lot of Camus’ work particularly The Stranger but also some of his plays making The Myth of Sisyphus a must-read for fans of thought-provoking books like The Stranger.

Food for thought is one way to describe introspective books like The Stranger, of course, they can just be enjoyed as they are as great novels to read with interesting characters, however, once you start thinking about them it quickly becomes impossible to stop.

Are you looking for more books like The Stranger? Have any recommendations that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!

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Claire Hool

Claire is a writer for Books like This One. She holds a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing and loves reading classics and literary fiction. Some of her favourite writers include F Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton. Read more from Claire


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