6 Books that Will Help You Through Your Existential Crisis

Because 2020 has been a hell of a year

Susan Lee
3 min readAug 12, 2020


Photo by Jaredd Craig

In a recent episode of “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” the First Lady talked about how we’re spending a lot more time alone than what we are used to. Not only are we stuck indoors, but we’re also stuck in our own heads which can be maddening after an extended period of time.

“I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression.” -Michelle Obama

Feeling this way is normal, but during the year of COVID-19, these are not normal times. The usual coping mechanisms are unhealthy distractions or temporary reprieves, but after months of quarantine and one crisis after another, the usual tactics don’t seem to be as effective. It becomes more difficult to ignore those existential questions such as “What am I doing with my life?”, “What is my purpose?” and “Am I happy?”

Two years ago, I went through a severe existential crisis and turned towards books as a lifeline. I figured that if what I’m doing now isn’t working, I need to learn something new. Here are six books that I cherish and still reach for when I need guidance:

“Ikigai” by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia

Learn the secrets of how to live a long and happy life, shared by the oldest people in the world (at least 100 years old and going strong). Here’s a hint: it starts with simplicity and community.

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl

The true story of a Holocaust survivor who survived a concentration camp by immersing himself in his purpose. It’s a powerful reminder that even if you might not be physically free, you can choose to be mentally free. You’ll come out of this story feeling immense gratitude.

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson

Screw being happy. Manson argues that the tough experiences are what gives life meaning. Learn how to prioritize yourself and shut down the noise while still being a good person. He also has a great weekly email newsletter.

“The Courage to Be Disliked” by Fumitake Koga and…



Susan Lee

First of Her Name, Queen of Resources, Protector of Her Time, the Unbothered, the Breaker of Generational Curses, and the Mother to a Literal SOB