Albert Camus’s novel, The Stranger, published over 80 years ago in 1942, is considered to be a literary classic*, and has been interpreted as being both absurdist, and existentialist.
The story centers around an Algerian man named Meursault, who learns that his mother has passed away. As he attends her funeral, he is curiously devoid of any emotions. Shortly after, he and his girlfriend are invited to the beach house of his neighbor Raymond.
While there, they see Raymond’s ex-girlfriend’s brother and his friend. Affected by heat stroke and seemingly detached from his actions, Meursault ends up killing one of the men, and getting arrested for his actions.
His trial focuses on his lack of emotions during his mother’s funeral and his apparent lack of character. He is sentenced to death, and spends the rest of his days imprisoned, accosting a chaplain who tries to convert him from being an atheist to a believer.
If you’ve just finished Albert Camus’s classic novella, which is full of rich themes and intricate details, you’re likely on the search for similar titles. Below, we’ve rounded up several suggestions that you’ll love. While a majority of these are classics, some are fresh takes on the themes presented in The Stranger, and all of them are thoughtful, thought-provoking books with complex characters.
*The term literary classic is always evolving, and today includes diverse perspectives and storytellers; it refers to literature that is well-known and of high quality.
The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Doud
If you’re searching for a continuation of The Stranger’s plot line, this story is for you.
Doud has incredibly crafted a novel that focuses on the brother of the man who was killed, referred to as The Arab, in The Stranger. The story picks up seven decades after the story, as Haran, an old man, recounts his troubled life, with his brother’s murder and how he’s been treated by his own country, wishing to simply die in his old age. A powerful, brilliant novel, this will quench your thirst for more of The Stranger.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Another classic novella, you’ll love this book for its satirical allegory based on the Russian revolution of 1917, in which farm animals rebel against their farmer. At first, the animals work together towards the common goal of taking over the farm and making it a better place to live. However, a pig named Napoleon ends up in power, instituting rules and making the farm worse. As a reader, you’ll love unpacking and critiquing literary devices and allegory that make this work a classic.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Dostoyevsky’s greatest novel is one that will haunt you long after you’ve read the final page. Written in 1866, and first published in parts in a literary magazine, the novel focuses on a young man who unwittingly commits murder. As his conscience eats away at him and his paranoia devolves him into a walking ball of anxiety, as a reader, you’ll get into his head and see what makes him tick. This heavy novel actually features a main character who’s the opposite of Camus’s in The Stranger, in that he cares so much about the murder. Nevertheless, you’ll be spellbound as you read this novel.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Chances are you’ve heard of this story, since Matt Damon and Jude Law starred in the movie adaptation of Highsmith’s novel. When Ripley is recruited by Dickie’s father to go to Italy to convince him to return home to the family business, Ripley becomes obsessed with Dickie. When he senses that Dickie has grown tired of his friendship, Ripley ends up murdering him, assuming his identity, and carefully perpetuating his stolen identity through correspondence with Dickie’s girlfriend and family. A psychological thriller of a novel that was lauded at the time of its publication for being one of the best books written, fans of Camus’s The Stranger will relish this read-alike.
Buy a copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley here.
The Power of Flies by Lydie Salvayre
This intense novel will be a surefire hit with fans of The Stranger, for its echoing themes of psychological suspense and its main story centered around a murder. Readers have both raved and raged over the way the book is written, in a one-sided monologue during which the main character basically interrogates himself about his murder. While this work may not be for everyone, those who read it and love it, really enjoy it and draw comparisons between it and The Stranger.
Nutshell by Ian McEwan
For a wildly imaginative and highly compelling read, pick up Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. The narrator is a nine-month-old fetus who is able to hear its mother plotting how to murder its father with her lover. As the plot unfolds, and the baby remains helpless in the womb, readers are filled with a foreboding dread, as disbelief mixes with suspense. The slim novel really packs a punch and will stay with you long after you put it down.
The Fall Guy by James Lasdun
Don’t be fooled by the summery cover of this book; as you tear through the addictive pages, you’ll realize that you’ve been duped into reading a psychological thriller that will leave you gasping for air. When Matthew’s invited to vacation with his cousin, Charlie, and his wife, he’s prepared for a wonderful getaway to Upstate New York. When he realizes the wife may have secrets, things begin to spiral out of control, leaving you as the reader asking “what just happened?” Explaining its similarity to The Stranger would teeter dangerously close to giving away spoilers, so you’ll just have to trust us on this one.
The Book of Evidence by John Banville
Banville’s masterpiece has rightfully earned lauds as being a beautiful twist of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Camus’s The Stranger. The story focuses on Frederick Montgomery, who has committed an unplanned yet brutal murder while attempting to commit a robbery. Readers will tear through his story, wondering if what they’re reading is the truth, or simply the divulgences of a mad man.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This classic novel, published in the late 1800s, presents evergreen lessons in morality and continues to remain popular even today. Readers will find parallels between the moral characters of the main players in Wilde’s and Camus’s books. When Dorian Gray sells his soul to ensure that he retains his youth and vitality, a portrait of himself instead ages. Readers will be privy to the wild exploits Dorian pursues and wonder how one can be so vain and devoid of morals.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
If you loved The Stranger because it was a thoughtful story that focused on one man’s
thoughts, dive into Moby Dick. This famous novel, published in 1851, documents Captain Ahab’s vengeful quest to kill the white whale that injured him. Don’t shy away from its length; readers who finish it will be rewarded as they witness the Captain’s spiral into madness, as he crisscrosses the ocean to exact his revenge.
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
For a book that will leave you questioning the main character’s morals, just like The Stranger may have, Black Chalk is not to be missed. When a group of college friends come up with a game, in which they push each other to the limits with dares and pranks, they have no idea the lengths to which it will go. When the friends meet again fourteen years later, the game has gotten out of hand; just how far will one of them go to win it? A dark, psychological thriller which will leave you gasping out loud.
Ulysses by James Joyce
If you’re up for a challenge and loved analyzing the monologue of The Stranger, go and grab a copy of the amazing modernist work, Ulysses. Influenced by The Odyssey, readers are taken along on Leopold Bloom’s day and are privy to his inner monologue, which is told in stream of consciousness. The novel has several companions that can help you interpret all of the allegories and the use of literary devices that Joyce speckles throughout. This is another classic that will give you a trippy, thoughtful reading experience.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The absurdist story of a man who has suddenly metamorphosed into a beetle overnight, Kafka’s classic will enrapture fans of The Stranger. As Gregor attempts to navigate life in his new form, readers are privy to his feelings of ostracization, guilt, and bewilderment. While Camus focuses on his main character’s lack of feelings, Kafka focuses heavily on Gregor’s feelings, and readers will love analyzing just how they shape the character.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
If you haven’t read Faulkner, you’re missing out. Considered to be one of the great modernists of his time, the author penned the dark comedy As I Lay Dying, which is uniquely told through alternating viewpoints using stream-of-consciousness. The story focuses on how a family is going on a trek to fulfill her last wish: to be buried among her family members. As readers enter the minds of the characters, they witness a series of events that stack up on the wrong side of luck for the family.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
For another novel in which the main character feels alienated and disconnected, try out the classic The Catcher in the Rye. Told in a stream of conscious narration style, readers learn about angsty teenager Holden Caulfield’s actions over the course of a weekend. Having just been expelled from his prep school, Holden makes his way to New York City, where a series of events show just how aloof he feels from society.
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
For another philosophical classic novel written in the existentialist style by a French writer, pick up Nausea. Main character Antoine Roquentin is an author whose feelings of nausea stem from his negative and overly critical viewpoint of himself and of those around him, paired with his loneliness. Readers have noted the novel, which is written as a diary, is wonderful for its darkness and its artistry.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
If you’re searching for a novel that explores the psychology of its main character, The Bell Jar is perfect for you. Written by Sylvia Plath, who endured through her own depression, and is suspected to have chronicled her own mental health decline in the pages of this book. Esther Greenwood has just graduated from college and is struggling with what to do after graduation. After spiraling into depression and attempting suicide, she undergoes therapy and experiences new things.
The Trial by Franz Kafka
For another novel that follows the plot of a man on trial for a crime, add The Trial to your TBR. When Josef K is arrested for a crime he’s unaware of committing, the banker is forced to desperately defend himself, feeling confused and scared. Readers will be taken along on this terrifying, psychological tale of a man who is victim to a system against which he is powerless.
The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
For a dazzling classic that is full of lust, betrayal, and murder, pick up F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Fans of The Stranger will be drawn to the plot twists in this novel, and the intricately woven storylines. Although characters in The Great Gatsby have clear and passionate motives for their actions, unlike Camus’s characters, fans of The Stranger will be drawn to the characterization and thoughtfulness of the novel.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Coehlo’s modern classic, The Alchemist, follows an Andulasian shepherd on a physical and spiritual journey. As he meets various characters, including an Alchemist, Santiago slowly uncovers his true self, tuning into age-old wisdoms about love and life along the way. While this short novel may not seem similar to The Stranger, major themes, like morality, will elicit interest from readers. Add this one to your TBR list, because it could likely become your new favorite.
What style is The Stranger written in?
The Stranger is written in the absurdist and existentialist styles.
What other books has Albert Camus written?
Camus has written several works, but his fiction novels include The Stranger, The Plague, A Happy Death, The First Man, and The Fall.
You may enjoy Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Is there a movie based on Albert Camus’s work, The Stranger?
Yes, Italian director Luchino Visconti directed a film in 1967 that is based on Camus’s novel.
What age reader is The Stranger appropriate for?
The Stranger is a dark psychological novel in which murders and questionable moral decisions occur. It’s generally recommended for people who are at least 16 years and older.
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