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How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment

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An illuminating introduction to the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and its relevance to modern life In an age of self-exposure, what does it mean to be authentic? “Authenticity” has become attenuated to the point of meaninglessness; everyone says to be yourself, but what that means is anyone’s guess. For existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, authenticity is not the r An illuminating introduction to the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and its relevance to modern life In an age of self-exposure, what does it mean to be authentic? “Authenticity” has become attenuated to the point of meaninglessness; everyone says to be yourself, but what that means is anyone’s guess. For existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, authenticity is not the revelation of a true self, but an exhilarating quest towards fulfillment. Her view, central to existentialism, is that we exist first and then spend the rest of our lives creating—not discovering—who we are. To be authentic is to live in pursuit of self-creation and self-renewal, with many different paths towards diverse goals. How to Be Authentic is a lively introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy of existentialism, as well as an exploration of the successes and failures that Beauvoir and other women have experienced in striving towards authenticity. Skye C. Cleary takes us through some of life’s major relationships and milestones: friendship; romantic love; marriage; children; and death, and examines how each offers an opportunity for us to stretch toward authenticity. While many people don’t get to choose their path in life—whether because of systemic oppression or the actions of other individuals—Cleary makes a compelling case that Beauvoir’s ideas can help us become more conscious of living purposefully, thoughtfully, and with vitality, and she shows us how to do so in responsible ways that invigorate every person’s right to become poets of their own lives.


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An illuminating introduction to the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and its relevance to modern life In an age of self-exposure, what does it mean to be authentic? “Authenticity” has become attenuated to the point of meaninglessness; everyone says to be yourself, but what that means is anyone’s guess. For existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, authenticity is not the r An illuminating introduction to the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir and its relevance to modern life In an age of self-exposure, what does it mean to be authentic? “Authenticity” has become attenuated to the point of meaninglessness; everyone says to be yourself, but what that means is anyone’s guess. For existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, authenticity is not the revelation of a true self, but an exhilarating quest towards fulfillment. Her view, central to existentialism, is that we exist first and then spend the rest of our lives creating—not discovering—who we are. To be authentic is to live in pursuit of self-creation and self-renewal, with many different paths towards diverse goals. How to Be Authentic is a lively introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy of existentialism, as well as an exploration of the successes and failures that Beauvoir and other women have experienced in striving towards authenticity. Skye C. Cleary takes us through some of life’s major relationships and milestones: friendship; romantic love; marriage; children; and death, and examines how each offers an opportunity for us to stretch toward authenticity. While many people don’t get to choose their path in life—whether because of systemic oppression or the actions of other individuals—Cleary makes a compelling case that Beauvoir’s ideas can help us become more conscious of living purposefully, thoughtfully, and with vitality, and she shows us how to do so in responsible ways that invigorate every person’s right to become poets of their own lives.

30 review for How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment By Skye Cleary I was not familiar with Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy of existentialism and author Skye Cleary in her vast understanding and quest to find authenticity is indeed the Subject Matter Expert on this particular topic. Clearly a lot of research has been done on this topic and on Beauvoir's philosophy itself. As a woman who has multiple roles in my personal and professional endeavors, I found this topic to be one of i How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment By Skye Cleary I was not familiar with Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy of existentialism and author Skye Cleary in her vast understanding and quest to find authenticity is indeed the Subject Matter Expert on this particular topic. Clearly a lot of research has been done on this topic and on Beauvoir's philosophy itself. As a woman who has multiple roles in my personal and professional endeavors, I found this topic to be one of importance to me. I want to be as authentic as I can be as a nurse, an educator, a wife, a daughter, a mother, and a friend - among other things. This book is certainly not cliche - it has substance and is well organized. How To Be Authentic is not a one sitting type of a book, and as a matter of fact, I had to slow down and read this book, some passages multiple times before I allowed myself to move on to the next section. This nonfiction philosophy, biography, self-help book is an absolutely fantastic read. I am probably much closer to self-fulfillment or at least understand the process of discovering my true self a little better because of Cleary's book. Fantastic!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Beary Into Books

    Rating: 3.5 Mini Review: When I received this book I was immediately intrigued by the title and cover! I had no idea what it was about but I was excited to give it a try. I would say this one was interesting and good but it’s not a book you’ll want to finish in one sitting. While I was enjoying it for the most part I had to keep forcing myself to read it. I’m not sure if that’s because of the material or my mood at the time. I also found this one to be extremely repetitive which as you all know I Rating: 3.5 Mini Review: When I received this book I was immediately intrigued by the title and cover! I had no idea what it was about but I was excited to give it a try. I would say this one was interesting and good but it’s not a book you’ll want to finish in one sitting. While I was enjoying it for the most part I had to keep forcing myself to read it. I’m not sure if that’s because of the material or my mood at the time. I also found this one to be extremely repetitive which as you all know I hate repetition in books when it's unnecessary. This book is well written and the reader can see how much research and time the author put into this book which I really appreciated while reading. Overall, I would recommend this one because I think some will enjoy it. I think it just depends on the person and what they are looking for. Thank you so much @stmartinsessentials for the gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Massimo Pigliucci

    I must admit that I'm a little biased, since Skye is a colleague and friend. But I had a really good time reading her How to Be Authentic. Even though I had some background knowledge of existentialism as a philosophy of life it was fascinating to discover much more about de Beauvoir's life and thought. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on friendship, aging, and death, but all the others are no less engaging. Of course that doesn't mean I'm ready to switch to existentialism (whatever that may m I must admit that I'm a little biased, since Skye is a colleague and friend. But I had a really good time reading her How to Be Authentic. Even though I had some background knowledge of existentialism as a philosophy of life it was fascinating to discover much more about de Beauvoir's life and thought. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on friendship, aging, and death, but all the others are no less engaging. Of course that doesn't mean I'm ready to switch to existentialism (whatever that may mean), nor that I don't disagree with both de Beauvoir and Skye on specific issues. But that's the fun of reading good philosophy!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Le On

    In HOW TO BE AUTHENTIC: Simone de Beauvoir and The Quest For Fulfillment, Skye Cleary resurrects the prominent feminist philosopher. Simone de Beauvoir, who spent most of her life terrorized by her own mortality, created a system of thought that transcended her corporeal self, resulting in a life immortalized by the beauty and necessity of her everlasting precepts. If the work of most philosophy is but a footnote to Plato, then the great works of feminist thought are but mere footnotes to de Bea In HOW TO BE AUTHENTIC: Simone de Beauvoir and The Quest For Fulfillment, Skye Cleary resurrects the prominent feminist philosopher. Simone de Beauvoir, who spent most of her life terrorized by her own mortality, created a system of thought that transcended her corporeal self, resulting in a life immortalized by the beauty and necessity of her everlasting precepts. If the work of most philosophy is but a footnote to Plato, then the great works of feminist thought are but mere footnotes to de Beauvoir. In traversing the trajectory of her life, Cleary asked: What does an authentic individual look like? In attempting to disentangle our desires from the influences of our environments, we often wonder how much of ourselves are, in reality, the products cultivated by our homes. And if most of our lives are indeed determined, then how free can we be? De Beauvoir argued that while we’re trapped, to some extent, in the facticities of our world (our genes, parents, socioeconomic statuses, and culture), most of us possess the ability to transcend them, or at least attempt to; fundamentally, environment isn’t destiny. And rather than propounding a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” version of philosophy, de Beauvoir highlights the importance of community and civic engagement for substantial material and psychological change. In wondering who we are and could be, Cleary maintains that we ought to additionally consider what we owe others, asserting, “Although authenticity is a quest, it’s not a solo one… Authenticity is about forging our own paths, but it doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we like. For Beauvoir, freedom without responsibility is meaningless. Responsibility means acknowledging that we are interconnected, and that we live situated in a particular time and place. Beauvoir—more so than any other philosopher—is unique in helping us navigate this tension between riding our own freedom and maneuvering through a world filled with others trying to do the same.” In essence, authenticity implies a strong sense of reality; in order to be real, we have to first possess a genuine understanding of our impact on the world and care enough about it. Unfortunately, while her philosophy was elegant and timeless, de Beauvoir struggled to enact it in her own life. Leading lives filled with countless scandals and some debauchery, de Beauvoir and her partner, existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, emotionally wounded countless lovers, including their own students. Although she tirelessly fought for human rights, I wondered how much de Beauvoir cared about individuals. And, like any other heroine or hero, her character wasn’t deficient in major flaws. As the book progressed, Cleary provided us with a lens through which to conceive of de Beauvoir’s perspectives. Stifled by a culture that told her who she was and ought to be, de Beauvoir became an iconoclast after discovering the vacuity of authoritative ideologies. In challenging the supposition of human nature, Cleary paraphrased Simone when she wrote, “Mystifications are false ideas about who we are and what we’re are supposed to be. Mystifications are a problem because they are illusions that get in the way of authenticity. One of these mystifications is the assumption that women and men have in-built essences that define them in an absolutist way—for example, that women are emotional and men are rational, and which enables men to perform better than women.” In this conception, human nature is less of a fact and more of a bludgeon. Analytic philosophers direct us to explore both the validity and consequences of ideas, respectively labeled “the upstream evidence” and “the downstream consequences” by philosopher Andy Norman. In doing so, we ask ourselves how beliefs affect our cultures and whether they’re worth holding onto. In the case of human nature, while its soundness is hotly debated, its consequences are indisputable. And de Beauvoir, like many other contemporary scholars and activists, acknowledged and articulated the exponential harms created by the construct, and justifiably disavowed it on both grounds. However, even with all of this in mind, the most impressive aspect of the book was the author’s willingness to be vulnerable, her decision to undertake a profoundly risky endeavor. In sharing her own struggles with mental illness and difficult romantic relationships, Cleary showed the reader how far away from the ideal the world can often be. Yet, she remained hopeful of its future. Skye opened the door to the dark side of life but provided us with the tools to initiate re-shaping it. In the perfect existential manner, she held up our collective contradictions to us. And one can argue that Simone de Beauvoir epitomized stark contradiction, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we would recognize that we do, too. To be authentic, we have to continue to acknowledge our own faults and those of our beliefs. We can’t proceed with those that perpetually, and selfishly, foster harm, for doing so would imply that we’re living in bad-faith (or denial in psychological terms). Cleary was honest about de Beauvoir’s weaknesses as well as her own, and her bravery isn’t lost on the reader. If there’s any limitation in this work, it’s that it leaves the reader begging to learn more, wishing to ask Cleary how she effectively continues to battle back against the demons of self-doubt.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Xavier Bonilla

    One of my most anticipated books of 2022 did not disappoint! Skye Cleary captures the essence of Beauvoir’s philosophy. She outlines the central pieces of her philosophy while leaving room for fair criticism and mixed with various examples in our modern times. Cleary has stayed true to accurate analysis of Beauvoir’s ideas on feminism and how her philosophy is still very relevant for us today. Highly recommend everyone read this well-researched and well-written book!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of this book, and it was so good that I binged it within a day. The only other book I’ve read from Cleary is the one she co-authored How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy, and since then, I’ve followed her on Twitter, and she’s a cool person. I was skeptical of this book because as much as I love philosophy, I dislike history books and biographies. I’ve tried reading some biographical books of some philosophers and was b I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of this book, and it was so good that I binged it within a day. The only other book I’ve read from Cleary is the one she co-authored How to Live a Good Life: A Guide to Choosing Your Personal Philosophy, and since then, I’ve followed her on Twitter, and she’s a cool person. I was skeptical of this book because as much as I love philosophy, I dislike history books and biographies. I’ve tried reading some biographical books of some philosophers and was bored out of my mind. This book was totally different, and if more biographical books were written like this, I’d read all of them. I had zero knowledge of Simone de Beauvoir other than hearing her name now and then. This book not only made me interested in some of her work, but I gained so much value from the lessons Cleary pulls from Beauvoir’s work. What made this book great is that it’s maybe 40-50% biography, but the rest is analyzing Beauvoir’s ideas and explaining them with real-world examples. Cleary pulls from some personal stories such as her experience being a woman or about marriage, and she also explains how Beauvoir's ideas can be applied to modern-day activism and other situations. It’s also great because as much as Cleary respects Beauvoir’s work, she discusses some of Beauvoir’s controversial or outdated views as well. This book is phenomenal, and I haven’t gained this much value from a book in a while. I’ll definitely be re-reading it, and it deserves a ton of attention once it launches.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan Cassino

    Cleary very obviously knows her stuff: she brings in not only Beauvoir’s non-fiction writings, but mines her other works for examples of how to put Beauvoir’s ideas into practice. Were this book an explanation of Beauvoir’s brand of feminist existentialism, I’d be all over it. However, I think that the structure of the book works against Cleary’s strengths. It’s generally built out of a series of life situations, in which Cleary described how Beauvoir’s philosophy would apply to aging, marriage, Cleary very obviously knows her stuff: she brings in not only Beauvoir’s non-fiction writings, but mines her other works for examples of how to put Beauvoir’s ideas into practice. Were this book an explanation of Beauvoir’s brand of feminist existentialism, I’d be all over it. However, I think that the structure of the book works against Cleary’s strengths. It’s generally built out of a series of life situations, in which Cleary described how Beauvoir’s philosophy would apply to aging, marriage, children and such, making it something like a self-help book built around existentialism, which is stretching things a little thin. Beauvoir has a lot to say about many of these topics, but in trying to demonstrate the application to the modern world, Cleary brings in stories from her own life, and those of her friends, which seems unnecessary: given how eventful Beauvoir’s own life was, it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t an example from her life that could be used. The result is what the kids would call “cringe,” like a professor sharing way too much information during a class discussion. My other quibble is about Cleary’s repeated discussion of Beauvoir’s lack of awareness of intersectionality. Beauvoir was a remarkably privileged woman, something that she acknowledged in her writing. Her experiences don’t necessarily apply to less privileged women, something that’s especially important when we’re talking about self-actualization, a process that can be easily derailed by a lack of material resources. A book that really dealt with that, that tried to show how existentialism might apply to people who aren’t as privileged as Beauvoir or Sartre were, could be really great- but this isn’t that book. The examples that aren’t from Beauvoir are from the author and her friends- who all seem to be privileged women, too. As a result, we get something that academics (including myself!) are guilty of a lot: saying that we acknowledge intersectionality so we can get away with not really dealing with it. Look, this is better than 90% of the self help books out there, as there’s real, serious philosophical content. But it’s too bad it’s playing in that league, rather than a more ambitious work of pop-philosophy that Cleary seems to have in her.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Brenner Graham, PhD

    HOW TO BE AUTHENTIC sits at the intersection of biography, philosophy, and self-help, yet it transcends all three. Cleary fuses philosophical analysis, personal insight, and cultural commentary. she organizes the book into three sections that emulate the structure of Beauvoir’s own THE SECOND SEX: thoughts on being human, current problems faced, and ideas for action. Cleary’s blend of contemporary, personal, and philosophical analysis further parallels much of Beauvoir’s work. feeling down latel HOW TO BE AUTHENTIC sits at the intersection of biography, philosophy, and self-help, yet it transcends all three. Cleary fuses philosophical analysis, personal insight, and cultural commentary. she organizes the book into three sections that emulate the structure of Beauvoir’s own THE SECOND SEX: thoughts on being human, current problems faced, and ideas for action. Cleary’s blend of contemporary, personal, and philosophical analysis further parallels much of Beauvoir’s work. feeling down lately? powerless in the face of structures of oppression? cliché inspirational quotations cannot help. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Beauvoir’s work counters that all selves are impressionable, prone to instability, forever changing. “Dance like nobody’s watching.” to the contrary, existentialists accept that our existence takes on meaning in relation to other people. Beauvoir’s understanding of authenticity might not fit into an Instagram or Pinterest post, but you can find it in HOW TO BE AUTHENTIC by Skye Cleary.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Khirs

    First, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced e-copy to read in exchange for a fair and honest review. "How to Be Authentic" did not do it for me. I found it repetitive and hard to WANT to read. I enjoy Simone de Beauvoir, but this made me tire of seeing her name really quickly. However, Cleary seems to have a distinct direction and clear goals for the book which I can very much respect. It seems to be a book crafted by someone who enjoys their work and talking about, writing a First, thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced e-copy to read in exchange for a fair and honest review. "How to Be Authentic" did not do it for me. I found it repetitive and hard to WANT to read. I enjoy Simone de Beauvoir, but this made me tire of seeing her name really quickly. However, Cleary seems to have a distinct direction and clear goals for the book which I can very much respect. It seems to be a book crafted by someone who enjoys their work and talking about, writing about, thinking about de Beauvoir in various ways. Overall, I can see the appeal that it has for others who will enjoy this kind of book, I do. For me, I was put off early on and never regained desire to read it even though I pushed on. (Perhaps, though, this is because it reminds me of graduate school in a less than positive way.) It's not my kind of book, it wasn't written for me, and that's okay. I'm sure others will find it much more enjoyable and much more palatable than I did, so please take my review and rating with a grain of salt. 3/5

  10. 5 out of 5

    TallieReads

    A comprehensive introduction to the modern day applications of Simone de Beauvoir and existentialism. Not gonna lie, at first I was really bored with this. I listened to it as an audiobook so, I think that was part of it. However, once I got into it this was really interesting and it definitely appealed to my philosophical side. I always identified with existentialism but had never actually read in depth research on the topic. I loved how the author acknowledged Beauvoir’s lack of focus on inter A comprehensive introduction to the modern day applications of Simone de Beauvoir and existentialism. Not gonna lie, at first I was really bored with this. I listened to it as an audiobook so, I think that was part of it. However, once I got into it this was really interesting and it definitely appealed to my philosophical side. I always identified with existentialism but had never actually read in depth research on the topic. I loved how the author acknowledged Beauvoir’s lack of focus on intersectionality as well as various other shortcomings. Despite some of her views being dated, I still felt like a learned so much about myself on this journey. What does being authentic look like for me? I’m still figuring it out but I feel more inspired to embrace all the emotions that come with learning to accept life and death. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Keenan

    How to be Authentic does the twofold job of introducing readers to the philosophy of "authenticity" of famed existentialist Simone de Beauvoir and placing it in the context of the 21st century and the writer's own life in it. In this framework, life events and choices are understood in terms of striving for personal freedom, understanding on a deep level the same ambition in others, and deriving meaning in life from the pursuit of projects and goals that enhance said freedom (known as transcende How to be Authentic does the twofold job of introducing readers to the philosophy of "authenticity" of famed existentialist Simone de Beauvoir and placing it in the context of the 21st century and the writer's own life in it. In this framework, life events and choices are understood in terms of striving for personal freedom, understanding on a deep level the same ambition in others, and deriving meaning in life from the pursuit of projects and goals that enhance said freedom (known as transcendence). Being a prominent feminist, de Beauvoir's philosophy of personal freedom frequently casts its glance at the unfairly limiting structures of the patriarchy and at woman's oppression in society, a topic that's just as important now as it was in 1949 when The Second Sex was published. While I appreciate the effort to make "The Beaver"'s philosophy more approachable, I found this collection lacking in structure and overly peppered with moments from the author's life that took away from the main text in distracting ways. Mentioning in every chapter that the writings of a Parisian women born in 1908 didn't fully capture the distinct plight of women of colour, or going on about her relationships that in any philosophical system could easily be seen to be toxic, diluted the text to the point of annoyance. This would be a great book with some better editing and less of the author's life story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    How to Be Authentic presents Beauvoir’s philosophies in clear and accessible ways. However, even if you are familiar with Beauvoir, I think you will gain an even deeper appreciation through the way the author modernizes parts of her work and explores what it means to be and how to become authentic. I really appreciated how Skye didn’t shy away from exploring and validating critiques of Beauvoir’s work, especially her lack of emphasis on the experience of women of color and the intersections of o How to Be Authentic presents Beauvoir’s philosophies in clear and accessible ways. However, even if you are familiar with Beauvoir, I think you will gain an even deeper appreciation through the way the author modernizes parts of her work and explores what it means to be and how to become authentic. I really appreciated how Skye didn’t shy away from exploring and validating critiques of Beauvoir’s work, especially her lack of emphasis on the experience of women of color and the intersections of oppression. Through this book you can expect to learn more about Beauvoir’s work through the author’s own personal experiences and through examples that engage with Beauvoir’s contemporaries, including Hannah Arendt. Not only will you learn about Beauvoir and Cleary’s life and work, but you will also learn how to apply Beauvoir’s theory and the quest for fulfillment to your own life. “Authenticity frees us to remove those masks we use to protect ourselves. It allows us to pursue an open future of our choosing.” Highly recommend! Pub date is August 16, 2022!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Austin Pierce

    As a former college philosophy major who loves Sartre and Camus, I always felt that it was a glaring omission that I didn’t know more about Beauvoir or her philosophy. At one point, a few years ago, I tried to read her book The Ethics of Ambiguity. But I found it too impenetrable. It was dense and abstract and I struggled to follow what she meant. It was good, but I just couldn’t connect with it. The Second Sex is, obviously, a classic. But at roughly 40 hours as an audiobook, I was always too int As a former college philosophy major who loves Sartre and Camus, I always felt that it was a glaring omission that I didn’t know more about Beauvoir or her philosophy. At one point, a few years ago, I tried to read her book The Ethics of Ambiguity. But I found it too impenetrable. It was dense and abstract and I struggled to follow what she meant. It was good, but I just couldn’t connect with it. The Second Sex is, obviously, a classic. But at roughly 40 hours as an audiobook, I was always too intimidated by it. I figured one of her novels would be my entry point—until I found this book. This book was a surprisingly quick read. I went through it in either 3 or 4 days. I loved the framing of it: The author exploring how to live her own life through the lens of Beauvoir. This felt apt since so much of Beauvoir’s work is personal and autobiographical. This work was also written to a female reader, by a female author, about a female icon. I found this to be refreshing. We are far too accustomed, especially in philosophy, to be reading the exact opposite. This book was a good introduction to Beauvoir and makes me even more interested in going further into her work—which is precisely what you’d want from a book like this. It should send you excitedly back to the source material. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but the author did a great job at making it accessible and relatable. I’m glad I read it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sayani

    How To Be Authentic Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment Author: Skye C. Cleary Imprint Publisher: St. Martin’s Essentials ISBN: 9781250271358 Pages: 352 **This book was kindly provided by the author herself for review.** In a world mired with constant information, influences, and irrational discourse, Skye Cleary brings Simone de Beauvoir’s existential philosophy for a modern reader to contemplate a path in authenticity. This is clearly my favorite philosophy book of 2022. Taking Beauvoir’ How To Be Authentic Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment Author: Skye C. Cleary Imprint Publisher: St. Martin’s Essentials ISBN: 9781250271358 Pages: 352 **This book was kindly provided by the author herself for review.** In a world mired with constant information, influences, and irrational discourse, Skye Cleary brings Simone de Beauvoir’s existential philosophy for a modern reader to contemplate a path in authenticity. This is clearly my favorite philosophy book of 2022. Taking Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949) among other works and distilling it for modern readers in a post-pandemic world where resting sociopolitical problems have become truly visible is a commendable literary act. But do not mistake the book for a self-help manual that dots airport stands. This is a gentle introduction to existential philosophy and particularly Beauvoir’s influence on feminist movements. At the outset, we are introduced to Beauvoir’s “existence precedes essence” aphorism meaning that we exist first and then cultivate our essence throughout our lives. This is the basic tenet of becoming authentic; we create our essence. And since we are constantly creating our essence, authenticity is not a virtue set in stone. It is freedom with responsibility and a morally attuned inner quest while we coexist with other beings. Part I of the book delves into the nature of human existence. The difference between “freedom” or movement towards an authentic existence and “facticity” or facts of our lives. As it turns out most of our lives are spent concentrating on our facticity. But progressing towards freedom is to transcend our facticity and choosing what Beauvoir calls “projects”. This is detailed in part III of the book. These projects are activities that reflect our choices in an authentic light as stated above. Part II of the book breaks down ways of thinking about authentic choices with regard to friendship, romantic love, marriage, motherhood, aging, and death. For example, even though Beauvoir and Sartre never married, their relationship evolved because they valued a merger of ideas and a oneness that defined their authentic relationship. This arrangement worked for our French philosophers but might not be the authentic code for everyone else. The trick is to discover our own authentic paths where we can express our freedom with the choices that lie before us in the socioeconomic background in which we reside. That is the ultimate journey to transcend our facticity towards freedom. “Authenticity is a receding goal, like snow that liquidates as soon as it caresses our skin. And if you think you have achieved authenticity, it’s certain you have not. Authenticity is not like a certification you can hang on your wall. Authenticity is an adventure, not an endpoint in itself. So why bother chasing such an elusive goal? Because not striving for authenticity is tantamount to metaphysical malnutrition.” A particularly interesting section of this book describes Beauvoir’s study of Saint Teresa of Ávila as an authentic mystic. Bernini’s famous sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is a physical embodiment of her existential philosophy where she has transformed her personal sexual feelings into a deeply religious association with God. But how does this differ from religious fanaticism? Saint Teresa in her many writings urged her readers to think for themselves, to be open to self-knowledge, and beware of delusional rhetoric. Even Descartes was inspired by Saint Teresa at one point. This inspires us to look deeper into historical figures that are often brushed off because they have a monochromatic biography. Every human on this earth has been on a perpetual journey and some were on a constantly changing one. That makes all of us polychromatic beings who have more than the proverbial eye meets. What I really like about the book is that it contains the author’s own experiences in her profession and personal life and how Beauvoir inspired her to be a better human being and work towards authenticity with the choices she had. As a woman, this was really motivating as Beauvoir has been for so many generations of women to overcome the sense of “Other” and make lead authentic fulfilling lives. Even though Beauvoir lived in a very different time than ours the problems of systemic oppression have been universal in society throughout history. Time and again with myriad examples from her own times and Beauvoir’s world the author compels a beautiful narrative of self-introspection. A sunny disposition or not, it doesn’t harm to reflect on some authentic choices for ourselves now and then.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Will Robinson

    As Mick Jagger extolled in one of the more philosophical Rolling Stones songs You better stop, look around Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes Here comes your nineteenth existential crisis I may be remembering a line wrong but as a human that is too aware of the strangeness of existence versus the reality of existing, existentialism has always come across to me as one of the better, more grounded philosophies. It is superior to the vacancy of nihilism and becomes the self-he As Mick Jagger extolled in one of the more philosophical Rolling Stones songs You better stop, look around Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes Here comes your nineteenth existential crisis I may be remembering a line wrong but as a human that is too aware of the strangeness of existence versus the reality of existing, existentialism has always come across to me as one of the better, more grounded philosophies. It is superior to the vacancy of nihilism and becomes the self-help book of philosophies with its goal to be more authentic—Be a Better You! Live your Best life! as it has become Oprah-fied. Yet, becoming more authentic is a positive goal and is something I strive to achieve yet many times fail which is why I read Skye C. Cleary’s (philosophy professor at Columbia University) new book How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment. One of the best-known existentialists was Simone de Beauvoir (who also invented modern feminism with her book The Second Sex and the epochal sentence "One is not born but becomes a woman"). Authenticity has become a popular notion meaning that there is a pure form of yourself that you must find and emulate. However, she did not believe that there was some sort of pure essence of being but that the human condition is such that the self is constantly evolving “…a vibrant self that we create through our choices.” We make ourselves, not find ourselves. We also do not do it alone—compassion for others is essential for authenticity. It is not an inward-only quest, there is a more outward aspect to authenticity because we coexist with others. The author has chapters titled, Friendship, Romantic Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Aging, and Death. There were good insights into all the subjects. Still, I found the chapters on Friendship and Marriage to be the most compelling even if I did not always agree with de Beauvoir- especially on her real-life open relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, probably the most famous existentialist and let’s be truthful—a womanizer (but not if they are ugly-his own words). Cleary defends their relationship as authentic but there were all too real consequences to their treating of lovers (Family- as they strangely called them) as things to be tossed to the side leading to some having nervous breakdowns and at least one committing suicide. But Cleary states that for a marriage to be authentic, labor must be divided equally to make up for historical inequalities that privileged men’s careers, personal lives, and finances. And authentic marriages require regularly building a marriage together over the course of a lifetime. Of course, only the most paragon of marriages can live up to this existential ideal when many times all too human foibles disrupt this building when past baggage, petty squabbles, and resentment rear their ugly heads. But the best parts of the book are when the author brings in her own life and shows actual vulnerability (she’s used botox). This is where real life intrudes on the philosophical schematic and not even Professor Cleary cannot always live up to the ideals of authenticity. However, this reveals the reality that people can still aspire to fulfillment through authenticity, even if the road isn’t a straight line. Having self-awareness that you are flawed, yet still striving to better yourself through change is about as authentic as one can be.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Natalie (booknerdalie)

    This is a very specific book rec for all my wannabe modern philosophers! @skye_cleary has put together a seriously enlightening book that takes existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s views on life and happiness and applies them to the modern human condition — growing up, friendships, social media, motherhood, death, and more. I get that not everyone watched The Good Place and got hooked on philosophy like I did, but I found this to be such an enjoyable listen (I have it on audio too!). It’s This is a very specific book rec for all my wannabe modern philosophers! @skye_cleary has put together a seriously enlightening book that takes existential philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s views on life and happiness and applies them to the modern human condition — growing up, friendships, social media, motherhood, death, and more. I get that not everyone watched The Good Place and got hooked on philosophy like I did, but I found this to be such an enjoyable listen (I have it on audio too!). It’s not some boring recitation of de Beauvoir’s beliefs. I truly enjoy how @skye_cleary takes her own life — plus both the fiction and nonfiction writings of the philosopher — and melds it into the pages, incorporating human rights, feminism, and all that good stuff. If you’re a nonfiction fan, consider this one for sure. I love a good philosophy moment for me because it allows me to think about my life and decisions — I take a step back and wonder how I can live more thoughtfully and purposefully. Also, I’m just in utter awe of the intense research of this book??!! Just wow. Who’s team philosophy is fun?! 🙋🏼‍♀️

  17. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    As someone who became a feminist through the outdated and incomplete philosophies of second wave feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, I highly recommend this book. Author Skye Clearly explores Beauvoir's existentialist philosophies of authenticity, self and womanhood and contextualizes them to today's time. Throughout the work, Beauvoir's philosophies are challenged through an intersectional lens. This critical analysis connects individuals with a deeper understanding of feminist thought and provi As someone who became a feminist through the outdated and incomplete philosophies of second wave feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, I highly recommend this book. Author Skye Clearly explores Beauvoir's existentialist philosophies of authenticity, self and womanhood and contextualizes them to today's time. Throughout the work, Beauvoir's philosophies are challenged through an intersectional lens. This critical analysis connects individuals with a deeper understanding of feminist thought and provides jumping off points for additional reading from thought-leaders of different races and socioeconomic classes. After reading, I bought three copies of the book. One for myself, and two for friends who were struggling with understanding how to be true to themselves while supporting others. Plus, narration on the audiobook is AMAZING!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    My admiration of de Beauvoir’s philosophical prowess and my life long struggle with the concept of authenticity were the two things that made this book an essential read for me. The fact that Cleary started by pointing out that authenticity is a problem concept and that facticity is a limiting factor in achieving authenticity looked promising. However, the fact that she applied little rigor to either concept meant that whatever points she made after that, however meaningful, however interesting, My admiration of de Beauvoir’s philosophical prowess and my life long struggle with the concept of authenticity were the two things that made this book an essential read for me. The fact that Cleary started by pointing out that authenticity is a problem concept and that facticity is a limiting factor in achieving authenticity looked promising. However, the fact that she applied little rigor to either concept meant that whatever points she made after that, however meaningful, however interesting, did not necessarily spring from those concepts. I enjoyed the initial chapter, felt supportive of much of the ‘self help’ proposals, but everything became a little too repetitive and mildly disappointing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris Meinke

    Excellent overview of the practical application of Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy extracted from her philosophic and literary works, augmented with the contemporary thinkers influenced by her. De Beauvoir wasn’t a system builder, but rather more interested in the practical application of existential thinking- this book embodies this approach giving real world approaches to friendship, love, family and community walking the tightrope of being true to yourself as well as your obligations to other Excellent overview of the practical application of Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy extracted from her philosophic and literary works, augmented with the contemporary thinkers influenced by her. De Beauvoir wasn’t a system builder, but rather more interested in the practical application of existential thinking- this book embodies this approach giving real world approaches to friendship, love, family and community walking the tightrope of being true to yourself as well as your obligations to others. Skye Cleary’s personal anecdotes highlight the complexity of “being authentic” as an ongoing project. All in all a great read, and a prompt to delve deeper into the work of De Beauvoir.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bri

    A really great understanding of Simone de Beauvoir's work. Cleary understands the material enough to both make it relevant to our world as well as note shortcomings and flaws in the ideology. Lots of interesting points on how to endeavor to live a fulfilling life, build fulfilling relationships, help people grow and overcome obstacles, and nurture children and friends into their authentic selves. The narrator (Gabra Zackman) does a great job and make the audiobook an easy listen. Thank you NetGa A really great understanding of Simone de Beauvoir's work. Cleary understands the material enough to both make it relevant to our world as well as note shortcomings and flaws in the ideology. Lots of interesting points on how to endeavor to live a fulfilling life, build fulfilling relationships, help people grow and overcome obstacles, and nurture children and friends into their authentic selves. The narrator (Gabra Zackman) does a great job and make the audiobook an easy listen. Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the advance copy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a good book and I enjoyed it. However, I did think I was getting a more psychology/self-help kind of book to help me live more authentically with myself. This was entirely about the feminist philosophies of the famous Simone de Beauvoir, which I did very much enjoy, I was just expecting a different kind of book. There's so much good information in this book. I ear-marked and underlined so many pages. So many of the feminist issues of today were written about expertly and concisely. I th This was a good book and I enjoyed it. However, I did think I was getting a more psychology/self-help kind of book to help me live more authentically with myself. This was entirely about the feminist philosophies of the famous Simone de Beauvoir, which I did very much enjoy, I was just expecting a different kind of book. There's so much good information in this book. I ear-marked and underlined so many pages. So many of the feminist issues of today were written about expertly and concisely. I think everyone should give this a book a read. As long as they aren't too mislead by the title.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan audio for the audiobook ARC! How to Be Authentic is an interesting look at Simone de Beauvoir and her lasting influence on feminism, feminist culture, and society in general. As someone with very little prior knowledge about de Beauvoir, I found this to be a fascinating introduction and a well-written survey of her impact and legacy. And I'm sure that even de Beauvoir enthusiasts will gain from this insightful book. Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan audio for the audiobook ARC! How to Be Authentic is an interesting look at Simone de Beauvoir and her lasting influence on feminism, feminist culture, and society in general. As someone with very little prior knowledge about de Beauvoir, I found this to be a fascinating introduction and a well-written survey of her impact and legacy. And I'm sure that even de Beauvoir enthusiasts will gain from this insightful book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Olin

    One of the few life-changing books I've read in the past few years. Many philosophy books are helpful, but are focused on resignation and acceptance. Instead, Cleary's book is a call to action, providing a framework for your life. I really appreciated her "existential framework" chapter, which boiled down thousands of pages of Beauvoir and Sartre into it's essence. Existentialism is, at it's core, a choice- and action-based way to live your best life, regardless of the facts of your past and pres One of the few life-changing books I've read in the past few years. Many philosophy books are helpful, but are focused on resignation and acceptance. Instead, Cleary's book is a call to action, providing a framework for your life. I really appreciated her "existential framework" chapter, which boiled down thousands of pages of Beauvoir and Sartre into it's essence. Existentialism is, at it's core, a choice- and action-based way to live your best life, regardless of the facts of your past and present.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    How many different ways can one author suggest we live authentically? Too repetitive and existential for my taste, but I can definitely appreciate the intense study of Simone de Beauvoir that the author completed to write this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ShanKL

    Thank you St. Martins Essentials for the complimentary copy of this novel. How to be Authentic is an accurate analysis of Beauvoir's ideas on feminism with many of the philosophies applicable for today. It is a well-written novel. Thank you St. Martins Essentials for the complimentary copy of this novel. How to be Authentic is an accurate analysis of Beauvoir's ideas on feminism with many of the philosophies applicable for today. It is a well-written novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    allyson link

    I think as an educator who is new to the field and facing loads of imposter syndrome, this is a helpful book. An introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy with stories of women's successes and failures in being authentic, this book is "self-help" without feeling like it. I think as an educator who is new to the field and facing loads of imposter syndrome, this is a helpful book. An introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy with stories of women's successes and failures in being authentic, this book is "self-help" without feeling like it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lou | haus + hearth

    A wonderful, thoughtful introduction to Simone de Beauvoir and her philosophy, viewed through a modern, more intersectional lens. Equal parts validating and thought provoking, a must read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roy Kenagy

    DMPL HOLD PLACED 220827 Podcast interview

  29. 5 out of 5

    Britt-Marie

    Clearly written and intelligible for the educated lay reader. Inspires a thirst to read more existentialism.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liesje

    If you've read Simone het boojs, it's not interesting. If you haven't it might be. If you've read Simone het boojs, it's not interesting. If you haven't it might be.

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