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The Existential List: What to read while facing catastrophe

It's not everyday, thank goodness, that we experience such a pervasive, worldwide existential threat like we are facing now with COVID-19, but that is our reality today. So a lot of us are at home trying to find things to do that will distract us from the economic and respiratory doom that is impending. Now in general I recommend people try and avoid constantly checking Corona updates so that we don't bog our brains down with any more anxiety than is needed. But there is still some wisdom, I believe, in staring our deepest existential fears in the eye.

Death ends a life but the idea of death can make us feel more alive than ever. We learn to cherish every breath, every relationship, and many of the things that we take for granted.

Some may find it morbid that I am providing you a reading, watching, listening list that is full of references to death but I am confident that by consuming this material you will be able to use this crisis to tap into a well of meaning that perhaps you didn't know was there. None of these recommendations come from strictly religious sources but you may notice a religious undertone. This is because one can't speak of existence and purpose without tapping into universal feelings that are 'spiritual' for lack of a better term. But whether religious or none this list has something for you.

Here are some articles, videos, podcasts and books that can get your started on your existential journey. This is not an extensive list as I kept it to only materials I have recently consumed myself. Maybe there are some notable exclusions that you would add. I'd welcome your suggestions.


Top Five Regrets of the Dying

5 Things Death Can Teach Us About Living Life to the Fullest

A Guide to Grieving

Gentle Advice for When Your Loved One Receives a Terminal Diagnosis


What Really Matters at the End of Life

Talk About Death While You’re Still Healthy

The Lies Our Culture Tells Us About What Matters

Joe Rogan & Joseph Ledoux on Existential Anxiety

Joan’s Death from ‘Derek’

The Perfect Ending from ‘Derek’

Books (F for fiction)

When Nietzche Wept - Irv Yalom (F)

The Death of Ivan Illyich - Leo Tolstoy (F)

Staring into the Sun - Irv Yalom

The Second Mountain - David Brooks

The Alchemist - Paulo Coehlo (F)

Man’s Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl

Homo Deus - Yuval Noah Harari

Books About Rebuilding After Disaster

Connected & Blueprint - Nicholas Christakis (one is about social connection and contagion, the other is about building or rebuilding societies)

Antifragile - Nassim Taleb

Kid’s Books

Charlotte’s Web - EB White

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - Kate DiCamillo

Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs - Tomie dePaola

The Invisible String - Patrice Karst


Responsibility is the key to meaning - Jordan Peterson

The Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe with Dr. Sean Carroll - Psychology Podcast

Death Over Dinner - The Art of Manliness Podcast

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