Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses” as Want to Read:
How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip and Stop Making Excuses

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  369 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
How to Be an Existentialist is a witty and entertaining book about the philosophy of existentialism. It is also a genuine self-help book offering clear advice on how to live according to the principles of existentialism formulated by Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and the other great existentialist philosophers. An attack on contemporary excuse culture, the book urges us to fac ...more
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by Bloomsbury Academic (first published 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How to Be an Existentialist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about How to Be an Existentialist

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Evan
Jan 02, 2012 Evan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a weird little book that does a middling job fulfilling its two distinct aims. It is neither an excellent theoretical introduction to existentialism for the uninitiated nor a practical manual that actually lays out a distinct method for implementing existentialism towards living a better life. The book adopts a hip, irreverent style and the discussion is interspersed with ironic asides-- presumably all to draw in the non-specialist reader and put him at ease with the weighty concepts. Ho ...more
Tyson Call
Mar 17, 2012 Tyson Call rated it really liked it
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a basic ability to grasp abstract concepts. Overall, it approaches its point with a direct simplicity, not over-saturating the concept with muddling jargon and academic posturing.

There is a bit in the middle when I started to feel a bit over my head (once he starts in with the "facticity"s) but it quickly passed.

It is short enough not to seem daunting, as many philosophers are dreadfully verbose, taking three pages to say what might be said in one.
...more
IJROTH
Dec 11, 2011 IJROTH rated it really liked it
During my first phenomenology-course at the University of Heidelberg, I almost gave up the idea to continue my studies of philosophy. I did not understand a single word as the professor started to talk about the two heavy-weights Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and their concepts of ‘Dasein’ (German for ‘being-there’). “The term refers to a person’s unique spatial and temporal situated-ness in this world.”, I remember him saying. I was too scared to ask, what the heck this was supposed to me ...more
Arjun Ravichandran
May 07, 2013 Arjun Ravichandran rated it it was amazing
This little book blew me away, for two reasons. Firstly, I had expected to be done with it in maybe 2 hours. Secondly, I expected it to be a silly jokey read, on the basis of its silly jokey title. I was wrong on both counts. The book is a short and dense treatise on existentialism, written in as jargon-free a language as possible, and still maintaining something of a 'the world is meaningless, get off your ass and do something about it' vibe, that is kind of inspiring without being mawkish. The ...more
Alexander Velasquez
Jul 10, 2016 Alexander Velasquez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
It would be more proper to title this work: How to Be Sartean or How to Be a Sartean Existentialist. There are different schools of thought within existentialism: e.g. Kierkegaardian, Christian existentialism, Merleau-Ponty's existential thought, et cetera. This book deals primarily with Sartre's version which is, of course, the most influential of them all.

Regardless, the first section goes over some fundamental concepts that prevail in the majority of all 20th century existentialist schools of
...more
Jason Ford
Apr 10, 2016 Jason Ford rated it really liked it
The author has already done the digestion of historic philosophers for us and presents a very clear idea of the existentialist philosophy
Diego Zarate
Jan 08, 2017 Diego Zarate rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Other pretentious people. Gotta keep the circlejerk going, man.
Basically Existentialism For Dummies, except with a lot much more of author involvement and weird metaphors.

If you've already read books on existentialism, I really wouldn't recommend reading this, since it's really just entry-tier existentialism. It was really what I expected it to be, witty yet actually insightful. He gives some pretty solid advice on how to understand Existentialism, also referring you to several good well known books by existentialists.

Did I also mention Cox quoted himself l
...more
Fiona Angelica
Although some explanations are good and simplified, I find the author's tone to be fairly narrow minded and plain rude. Maybe he is being authentic yet I am sure readers didn't buy this book to be insulted.
Samantha
This book was cheeky and made it easy to understand rather lengthy and confusing concepts of philosophy. It rambled a bit at times but overall it made learning fun! I enjoyed it!
Skye
Jul 01, 2014 Skye rated it really liked it
From my blog: So I'm reading this book, How to be an Existentialist by Gary Cox. It's one of the two books about Existentialism I borrowed from the library. This one is the hipper, friendly version, while the other book is more scholarly. Starting with this because I needed to ease myself in with these huge concepts first.

SO FAR some of the takeaways I gleaned:

Everyone is free, we are solely responsible for our lives. Ie. if you are not free it's because you chose not to be free.
Okay let me quo
...more
Shawn Ingram
Jun 07, 2014 Shawn Ingram rated it it was amazing
Shelves: existentialism
Another solid intro to existentialism though this one is rather focussed on Sartre. Which is not a real fault as it is only an intro and as Sartre was and is pretty much the de facto existentialist.

Ever mindful of the importance of remaining practical, the author says that to be an existentialist requires three things:

1. Knowledge of the philosophy and world-view of existentialism
2. Believe the philosophy and world-view of existentialism
3. Striving to live and act in accordance with the princ
...more
Sense History
Dec 22, 2014 Sense History rated it it was ok
It might be strange to find this book in my collection on the Sense of History. And I wasn't really thrilled by it after reading, I must confess. But it contains a few pages on the philosopy of Time that really are of interest to my focus of attention.
Cox elaborates on how existentialist philosophers pay a lot of attention to the concept of consciousness, as being the relation between us and reality. What struck me was that he writes: "what we are is the endless march forward in time", past and
...more
Marc
Dec 18, 2014 Marc rated it did not like it
Shelves: philosophy
In my university years I was very attracted to existentialism. I'm not a specialist, but of all philosophies I've come to know, this was the one I thought was most relevant, especially through its close link with real life. I read quite a lot by Camus and also some by Sartre, and I was especially charmed by the notions of freedom and responsibility.
Some thirty years later I found this rather thin book in a bookstore and I couldn't resist a renewed acquaintance. I'll say it straightforwardly: I w
...more
Michelle
Mar 02, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Where to start? This book was great. My first full exposure to existentialism and boy, was it a good one. Covers things like the basic foundations of existentialism, the Other, bad faith, authenticity, temporal relationships, being, being-with-others, being-for-others,being-in-situation, etc. There's so many great quotes in this book (55 highlights in my kindle) but a favorite is this one:

"Existentialism recommends bravely accepting that this is how life is and making the most of it. It recomme
...more
Jasmine
Feb 07, 2012 Jasmine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: wanna be existentialists.
Shelves: british
So it's really hard right now to not beat you about the head with a hundred zillion quotes from this book. I mean there are so many important terms, there are so many insightful statements. the section on bad faith was one of the best I've ever read, the section drawing parallels between nietzsche and sartre... swoon.

So there is this thing about philosophers... no joke... a philosopher is not an expert on a school they are an expert on a guy (except simon critchely who is an expert on everythin
...more
Winterwade
Jul 11, 2015 Winterwade rated it really liked it
This small book is a satisfying primer for a newcomer to existentialism, making additionally for a fun read for those well-versed in- and perhaps somewhat jaded by- heavier volumes on the subject. Sartre receives the most attention, but Nietzsche and others are also covered in some detail.

Winning points for me were the inclusion of Camus (simply because he refused the label of 'existentialist' does not mean his work didn't represent many of the discipline's focal areas) and a brief discussion of
...more
Tim
Apr 09, 2012 Tim rated it liked it
Quite a lot of pretentious tosh surrounding basically a reasonable way to view life. Probably worth reading as an introduction.

This is a fairly readable book, although some of the more philosophical sections need to be reread, and I think I get them now but am not sure.

From what I can gather, a person is a work in progress, not a defined thing. They are a combination of their previous choices and the possibilities that future choices may bring. Everyone is free in the sense of not only being abl
...more
Nick
Jan 20, 2015 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a simple read, but then as the author says, most philosophical tracts require re-reading. I will have to return to this book at a later point to understand some of the finer points about "factivity" and "bad-faith".

Overall the book has left me with a deep impression of how the existentialists see life as it is, its lack of purpose and meaning, and yet are able to celebrate life and humanity. The book charts a way to deal with this hopelessness and comes up with a positive way to live and avo
...more
J K
Sep 27, 2014 J K rated it really liked it
Very short! But I found this an insightful, entertaining introduction to the concept of Existentialism, without being utterly conclusive. Further reading required. However, it boils essentially down to - own your decisions and mistakes, blame nobody but yourself, be who actually you are - once you figure THAT out, unless you don't like it, in which case, like, change it. But for god's sake, don't whine about everything because it's all on you - whatever your situation. Which, frankly, is good ad ...more
Marta
Mar 02, 2013 Marta rated it really liked it
A great little book which outlines the very basics of existentialism without falling into a wormhole of philoso-speak that leaves you feeling like a total idiot. I think it serves as a good entry point into this domain and does a good job of highlighting the points where existentialist philosophers disagree. The authour wrote his PHD and several books on Sartre, so he uses a lot of examples from Sartre's works, but still does an ok job of introducing other key existentialist thinkers.
Rachel
Eh. I had to check this out repeated times from the library because I never could seem to finish it. That should have told me something, but I always thought I'd give it another chance because I enjoy a good philosophical read. It turns out there was a reason I wasn't finishing it. I agree with this guy's review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
Vince Ciaramella
Mar 24, 2015 Vince Ciaramella rated it really liked it
Not a bad book for an introduction into a very confusing and sometimes misunderstood branch of philosophy. I really enjoyed the style of writing Mr. Cox employes. Thought I have some issues with the philosophy in itself (some of the ideas proposed about being or striving to be authentic) I felt this was a great book for those wanting to learn more.
Alex Witkowski
Feb 04, 2013 Alex Witkowski rated it really liked it
The writing style is frustrating and the author is a little self-serving, but the material is presented in an incredibly digestible and interesting manner. A typically challenging topic is offered here in a very understandable simplification. All things considered, given the subject matter, it's a quick read.
Zaki Ibrahim
Sep 07, 2011 Zaki Ibrahim rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book that shares the fundamental ideas of Existentialism and teaches us how to be one. Very enjoyable read, Gary Cox is a witty writer indeed! Highly recommended for those interested in Existentialism or what to get real in life.
Joshua
Aug 30, 2014 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A philosophy course meets Monty Python. A wonderful overview of Existentialism that does not shy away from the more complex issues it tackles, nor the more complex facets of the philosophy. Simply mind blowing stuff.
Georgina
Nov 16, 2012 Georgina rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I'm revisiting this book after an initial whiz-through. It's the sort of philosophy book I enjoy the most - breaking down abstract ideas into practical chunks. The second reading has built on the initial one, which opened my eyes. Now I have a deeper insight. Really enjoying it.
Eric Kalnins
Aug 16, 2015 Eric Kalnins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, intriguing short book that potentially opens new vistas. A worthy read whose concepts, for me at least, will need further exploration to achieve comprehensive understanding.
Recommended
V.
Nov 13, 2014 V. rated it did not like it
I would not recommend the book to anyone who has a chance of reading another book instead. Over-simplification and pretentious arrogance are the key-words of this book. But if you want to get a feeling of belonging to a superior class of philosophers with inflated senses of their worth, go ahead.
Jessica
Jul 20, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for people to read to have an easy and basic understanding of existentialism. Not only does Gary Cox give examples of other great works to read he doesn't have to use the philosophical speech to explain it.
Lou Gillies
Jul 11, 2012 Lou Gillies rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, concise book on existentialism which makes difficult concepts easier to grasp. I read this following an introduction on existentialist counselling on my course, of which very little made sense. This book has filled in the gaps (gaping chasms!). And I love the sarcastic asides!!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction
  • Waarom is de burger boos? Maarten van Rossem over hedendaags populisme
  • Political Philosophy: A Beginners' Guide for Students and Politicians
  • The Shrink and the Sage: A Guide to Modern Dilemmas
  • Introducing Kierkegaard
  • Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky
  • Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy
  • Kierkegaard: A Very Short Introduction
  • Existentialism (Beginner's Guides)
  • Do You Think What You Think You Think?
  • Certainty
  • Basic Freud
  • Sanity, Madness and the Family: Families of Schizophrenics
  • Kees de jongen
  • Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings
  • The Present Age
  • Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day

Share This Book



“To choose not to choose is still a choice for which you alone are responsible.” 23 likes
“Part of being of a true existentialist is wanting to be what we make ourselves be by the way we choose to act, as opposed to making excuses for the way we act and regretting it.” 20 likes
More quotes…