This collection of the best Albert Camus books are the ones you should read if you’re looking to tackle some of the famous French writer’s back catalogue.
Albert Camus was born in Algeria to parents of French descent. This background influenced his career and features heavily in many of Camus’ books.
Many of the books by Camus listed below focus on the philosophy of the absurd, which is best referenced in his philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus’ novels such as The Plague, The Fall and The Stranger also focus on this theme.
Camus’ work has achieved widespread recognition and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times.”
Keep scrolling to discover the best books by Albert Camus and why you should add them to your reading list!
Table of Contents
Best Albert Camus Books
The Plague is arguably Camus’ most famous book and one that became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The book tells the story of a plague that affects the Algerian city of Oran and the efforts of the people there to battle a deadly plague that befalls the town.
It’s seen as an existentialist classic even though Camus objected to it being referred to as such. We see how the townspeople vary in their response to the plague. With some accepting their fate, others seeking to scapegoat, and a few resisting.
Reading The Plague a few years after the pandemic made the book much more relatable. I didn’t read it during the pandemic which may have been a good thing given the contents of the book.
But it’s remarkable how accurate Camus’ summation of the experience of a deadly outbreak and the aftermath are. It may bring back some memories of darker times, but it’s not hard to see why this is one of Camus’ best books.
The Fall is the first book by Camus I read and it’s one of the most interesting on this list.
The novel follows the story of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a ‘judge-penitent’ who recounts his life to a stranger in an Amsterdam bar.
During the course of these monologues, Jean-Baptiste talks about a range of themes that are central to lots of Camus’ work, such as nihilism, absurdity and the futility of existence.
Unfortunately, The Fall was Camus’ last full piece of fiction before his death in 1960 at the age of 46. It’s a brilliant book that exposes the absurdity of life and the loss of innocence within it.
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay that introduced his philosophy of the absurd through the Ancient Greek figure of Sisyphus.
He was a figure in Greek mythology who was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain only to see it roll back down again.
This myth is used by Camus to describe his feelings about coping with life, which is that it might be a thankless task in a universe that has no meaning, but that we can take measures to live a beautiful life of meaning.
The Myth of Sisyphus is one of the best books by Camus if you want an introduction to his philosophy. The essay sums it up well and it will help you better understand some of the novels on this list.
The Stranger is the first of Camus’ novels that he wrote and follows the story of Meursault a settler from France living in Algeria.
The book deals with Camus’ take on the absurd as Meursault is drawn into a murder that takes place on a beach.
In Camus’ own words, the book looks at “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.” The story is divided into two parts, with part 1 taking place before the murder and part 2 afterwards.
The Stranger is a brilliant book to get a sense of absurdism and is also a good place to start if you want to get a sense of Camus’ work.
The Rebel is a book-long essay that looks at various artistic and political rebels throughout history such as Arthur Rimbaud and Lucretius.
The figures are assessed by Camus and he details how their rebellion led to the development of revolutionary thinking and philosophy.
Camus wrote the essay in an attempt to try and understand the time he lived in, which at the time of writing was the 1950s when countries were seeking independence from colonial masters. An example is Algeria seeking independence from France.
The Rebel is a dense and arguably the most philosophical of all Albert Camus books. If you want a deep dive into his philosophy, this is the book to read!
A Happy Death
A Happy Death is one of the shorter books by Albert Camus on this list, with just over 100 pages.
It’s a novel that looks at a singular question: Is it possible to die a happy death? The book draws from Camus’ experiences working in Algiers at a maritime commission, his travels through and his troubles with tuberculosis.
If you’ve read The Stranger before this one, you’ll notice there are similarities between the two. The main character is Mersault, which is close to Meursault featured in The Stranger. A Happy Death is written in the third person, while The Stranger is in the third person.
A Happy Death can be seen as a precursor to The Stranger, and the book was published posthumously, which explains the striking similarities. Still, the difference in perspectives makes them both worth reading and you’ll get an insight into Camus’ mind by reading A Happy Death.
The First Man
The First Man is a novel that was published thirty-five years after the death of Camus in a car crash. at the time of the accident, it was an unfinished manuscript that was found at the scene of the crash.
It’s an autobiographical novel that follows the story of Jacques Cormery, a boy whose story reflects that of Camus.
We follow Cormery as he progresses through the school system in Algeria and deals with life in a colonised country. It’s different from the other Camus novels on this list and less philosophical in nature.
The First Man is an interesting book, one made more so by its publication thirty-five years after Camus’ death. That it’s different from the other books on this list makes it worth reading alone.
Exile and the Kingdom
Exile and the Kingdom is a collection of six short stories that look at the underlying theme of loneliness and the feeling of being a foreigner in one’s own country.
Generally, all six of the stories look at people from outside Algeria living in the country and the difference between the Muslim world and that of France.
The stories are fascinating and reveal the breadth of Camus’ work. The Silent Man, looks at the lives of lower-class labourers, while The Renegade or a Confused Spirit focuses on a missionary who converted to the religion of a tribe he encounters.
The stories in Exile and the Kingdom all touch on Camus’ philosophy of the absurd and are a good introduction to his work if you haven’t read any of his novels before.
Personal Writings is a collection of three volumes of essays that Camus wrote focusing on his early life growing up in Algeria.
These essays are some of his most intimate writing and offer a good insight into Camus’ upbringing and the experiences that came to shape life his life.
The Wrong Side and the Right Side look at his early life growing up in a working-class neighbourhood where poverty was rife. Nuptials regales with the beauty of landscapes such as the sun and sea.
While the final volume, Summer, looks at the cities of Algeria and Oran, with some of Camus’ thoughts on nature and identity too.
Personal Writings offers a different glimpse into what made Camus tick and is worth reading if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the man behind the famous books.
Speaking Out: Lectures and Speeches: 1937-58
Speaking Out is a collection of lectures and speeches that Camus gave during a period of twenty-one years.
As well as writing a lot, Camus gave many lectures and speeches. They give you another insight into his career, life and thoughts as he talks about a range of topics.
An early speech, that he gave when he was twenty-two, looks at the politics of the pre-war Mediterranean. You’ll also find his Nobel acceptance inside and many more speeches that have been translated into English for the first time.
The speeches and lectures contained in Speaking Out are fascinating and reveal more about Camus’ character and his thoughts. If you want to learn more about his career and political leanings, this is a good book to buy.
Committed Writings is a collection of Albert Camus’ political writing that offers a distinct contrast to most of the other books on this list.
The essays in this book are some of the most interesting Camus wrote and shine a light on a side of his life that’s often overshadowed by his other works.
One, Letters to a German Friend, was written during the occupation of France in the Second World War. It refers to Camus’ experience in the French resistance and reflects on what it means to love your country.
Reflections on the Guillotine is an impassioned cry for the abolition of the death penalty. Written at a time when death by guillotine was still commonplace. while his Nobel acceptance speech features one of the quotes for which Camus would become famous:
“To create today means to create dangerously”
Committed Writings is a brilliant read and will leave you in awe of Camus’ foresight and resolve.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Albert Camus book should I read first?
If you want an introduction to Albert Camus’ philosophy of absurdism, The Myth of Sisyphus is a good place to start.
If you want to read one of Camus’ novels first, either The Plague or The Stranger are easy to follow and distil his philosophical thoughts.
What is Albert Camus’ best work?
I think The Plague is Camus’ best work. It’s a gripping story that blends a fascinating narrative with his philosophy of the absurd.
That said, Camus has many great novels and I could have said The Plague, The Fall or The Stranger and there wouldn’t be much debate.
Is Albert Camus easy to read?
Yes, Camus’ books are easy to follow and written in simple language which means people of all reading abilities should be able to rad his work without much difficulty.
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