Best Contemplative Fiction Books

These books have more to teach you about being human than most non-fiction.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

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DFW is arguably the most talented writer of the last half-century. This is by no means an easy read. It’s long and meticulously detailed, but it’s also incredibly unique. Scattered, and one part comedy and one part philosophical inquiry, it’s set in an imagined near-future. It questions the paradox of what we consider entertainment and what that means for our pursuit of happiness.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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There are few books with better character development than this masterpiece. It’s set as a murder mystery, but in reality, it’s far more than that. It follows the story of four brothers with very different and very complex takes on life. They are vivid and contradictory and alive, and through them, Dostoyevsky embarks on a quest to uncover and challenge human nature.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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This is a charming tale about a boy on an adventure. It’s illustrated as a children’s book, but the lessons hold more value for adults. Short and easily digestible, it’s a beautiful reminder to have our inner child question the seemingly practical ways in which we live. Life is more than much of the mundanity of adulthood. The Little Prince is about showing us that.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

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Camus won the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature, and The Stranger shows why. It’s an easily absorbed book on the surface, but the hidden depth in each chapter is captivating. It’s a philosophical account of what it means to be an outsider, and it also explores the themes of morality and meaning. This is all done through a straightforward yet compelling narrative.

The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka


Kafka is one of the most influential fiction writers ever to live, and this is a collection of all he wrote, except three novels. The stories range from sad to funny to both. The beauty of his work is that as strange and detached as some of it appears, it’s irrevocably human. At his core, Kafka wrote about very ordinary things. He just looked at them differently.