Banana Yoshimoto’s debut novel Kitchen was such a sensation in Japan that the press dubbed the public’s obsession “bananamania.” Yoshimoto’s raw and poignant book paints a moving picture of urban life in 1980s Tokyo. It’s a love letter to the people and experiences that help us cope with loneliness: the misfits who cross paths in large cities, the way they become like family, and the simple but profound truth that when all feels lost, there’s nothing like the healing power of a good meal.

Nietzsche’s outspoken philosophical views continue to rattle feathers over 100 years after his death, and his Genealogy of Morals is no exception. To Nietzsche, humans aren’t cut out for politeness: we like power, and we like to wield it over others. He thinks the Greeks and Romans—with their orgies and gladiators—did it better. Find out why in this step-by-step breakdown of Nietzsche’s infamous polemic against priests, scientists, philosophers, and everybody else who prefers the quiet life.

Imagine you’re a robot and someone–or something–else is running your life behind the scenes. Richard Dawkins’ groundbreaking 1973 bestseller The Selfish Gene argues just that. According to the “gene’s eye view” of evolution, we only exist as vessels to protect and pass on our genes, which are the things that really matter. This controversial claim was a game changer in the science of evolution.

Plato’s early dialogues take on the trial and execution of his mentor Socrates. Plato wrote five dialogues, each questioning a so-called virtue of Athenian society (such as modesty). Plato shows how hard they are to define, thereby exposing the charges against Socrates as a sham. In this study guide on the Euthyphro for LitCharts, Plato targets the concept of piety.

Mulligan wrote this high-paced young adult thriller in ten days straight after befriending several young children living on a landfill in the Philippines. Moved by his experiences, Mulligan wrote a story that celebrates the resilience, strength, and charm of disenfranchised children, while exposing the inhumane conditions in which many of them are forced to live.

Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish, famously brought to life on the big screen in Tim Burton’s adaptation starring Ewan McGregor, reframes the life of a modern man as a series of myths. Edward Bloom, the story’s protagonist, is no Hercules or Odysseus from the famous Greek myths. He’s an advertising salesman from Alabama. Nonetheless, Wallace shows how the arc of a contemporary life and the quest for personal fulfillment–navigating adolescence, work, romance, parenthood, and ultimately, death–is no less epic of a journey.