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The Existentialist’s Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age

By Gordon Marino

HarperOne, 2018

The Existentialist's survival guide cover

Gordon Marino, Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf, directs the College’s Hong-Kierkegaard Library. He is also a prolific essayist, boxing writer, and public intellectual. The Existentialist’s Survival Guide combines his passion for existentialism generally, and the writings of Kierkegaard specifically, with his essayist’s instinct to ruminate on the human condition.

This must have been a tough book to write, because it lays bare passages in the author’s life that he’s not proud of now: violence, addiction, broken relationships. At one point Marino refers to the book as a “memoir,” and it certainly contains elements of that genre. But the point of disclosing those passages in his life is to identify the kinds of challenges we all face as individuals—his chapter titles are “anxiety,” “depression and despair,” “death,” “authenticity,” “faith,” “morality,” “love”—and then to offer ways to address them from the writings of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, and others.

You might be saying to yourself, “It’s all well and good for a philosophy professor to look to Heidegger to address his issues, but ordinary people won’t get anything from the philosophers people read in college.” I dare you to test that view by reading this book. It’s an earnest attempt to translate the insights of some powerful thinkers into practical, consequential guidance for anyone struggling with living authentically.

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