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It is very easy to be intimidated by the subject of Philosophy. The world of academia is already a very exclusionary club, and Philosophy as a subject tends to attract the elitist of the elite. That being said, if someone wants to explore this fascinating subject on their own, either as a career or just as a passing interest, there are plenty of generous authors waiting with welcome arms to ease them into the process.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a novel by Milan Kundera. The premise is about two women, two men, and a dog, living together in the Spring of 1968 in Prague. The book touches on the theme of whether our lives are heavy or light when examining life at its root core. The book borrows from Nietzsche, another philosopher, to exclaim that that all events in the world will either repeat themselves forever in the same sequence through an eternal series of cycles or not. This idea of eternal recurrence, or lack of it, might seem to some people as a huge relief or an incredible burden. 

Crime and Punishment is a tale written by Dostoyevsky that provides the reader with different perspectives. Hence, the moral compass of an antagonist or protagonist is not a straight, fixed point. It rejects innately good or bad concepts to show the different aspects of the character’s lives. This enhances the reader’s world view by opening their minds to people who seem at first glance to have nothing in common with them. This might include race, religion, or color, among other things. It also paints a different perspective on the otherwise seemingly evident moral failings of a murderer. The author does such a great job of letting the reader into the killer’s mind that we begin to feel empathy for someone who started as one-dimensionally evil.

Some books take a more lighthearted, humorous approach to teaching first-timers about Philosophy. The Tao of Pooh was written as a way to bring the Eastern teachings of Taoism to a broader, Western audience. By using analogies involving beloved, fictional characters such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Taoism’s basic principles are explained. In a similar vein, The philosophy of The Simpsons: The D’oh! of Homer takes a look at philosophy and pop-culture while analyzing television’s longest-running sitcom.