By Herman Hesse
Grade Levels: 9+ and Adults
Originally published in German during the 1920s, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha took several decades to make its way to the English language and the US, but we’re very lucky that it did! Siddhartha is a novel about the search for meaning; it mirrors Hesse’s own journey and follows the main character Siddhartha, a Brahmin in India during the time of the Gautama Buddha. Although he encounters the Buddha, he rejects the structured life of a monk, instead going out to seek his enlightenment in his own way. This is one of many instances in which Hesse seeks to synthesize Buddhist teaching with the Western philosophical tradition. At once narrative and philosophical musings, Siddhartha’s journey teaches us about the value of experience - as wide and diverse as possible - in creating a whole and wise human being.
This book, despite being in German, became widely popular in the US after its translation. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its relevance in a time when there seem to be more paths to fulfilment, to enlightenment, than we could possibly have time to sample. Siddhartha’s quest for meaning mirrors the same journey will all participate in as we move through life, and this is what makes the novel so compelling almost a century after its first publication. This is a book that any student of philosophy or spiritual seeker, child or adult, can benefit from.