At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others

At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others - Sarah Bakewell The author uses biography and the context of the times to explain the development of Existentialism. She mostly stays within the 20th century but does make an exception with Kierkegaard (the father of Existentialism) and details the influence that Phenomenology had on the development of Existentialism.

The author excels when she is describing Philosopher's ideas. In the first half of the book, she probably spent two hours on Heidegger's "Being and Time" and what it meant. She actually did one of the best summaries of the book that I've ever come across. She did it so good, she probably should put a warning label in the book because that might lead the listener to hunt down a copy of the book and read the most abstruse and frustrating book ever written (it's well worth suffering through and I hope this book inspires some people to hunt it down and suffer through it).

I'm more interested in ideas than I am in people's lives. The author really does a good job at explaining the philosophy and putting it into the context of the time period. For me, the book is most fun when she's talking about esoteric fine points of the Philosophy under discussion. During the last 3 hours of the book, she's getting away from the ideas and focus more on the people, and even makes the statement that she thinks "ideas are less important and the life of the philosopher is just as important for discovering their philosophy". She's right, but I still prefer to focus on the ideas not the person. Heidegger was a raging Nazi, but I still like "Being and Time". (It's just a personnel thing and I realize the author in general is probably right).

The author gives a consistent look at what at times can be an incoherent philosophy with its mutually exclusive set of beliefs. I would say, the way the author put the book together this book was much more informative on the philosophy of Existentialism (and Phenomenology) then a Great Course lecture series on Existentialism that I've previously had listened to because the power of story with a narrative ties various aspects of a story together more coherently even when the philosophy can be incoherent.

[Usually I zone out the narrator, but for me Antonia Beamish is perfect for Sarah Blackwell's books. She narrates so well that I instantly think it's the author reading the book herself}