Skye C. Cleary, PhD MBA is a philosopher and writer. She teaches at Columbia University and the City University of New York, and is the author of How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment, Existentialism and Romantic Love and co-editor of How to Live a Good Life. Cleary’s writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Aeon, The Times Literary Supplement, TED-Ed, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among other outlets. She won the 2017 New Philosopher Writers’ Award and was a 2021 MacDowell Fellow. She lives in New York City.
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.
St Martin’s Press (US):
August 16, 2022
Formats: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
July 14, 2022
Formats: Hardback, ebook, audiobook
Reviews & Media
- LA Review of Books by Rebecca Brenner Graham
- Publishers Weekly
- Kirkus Review
- Am I Just a Product of My Environment? by Leon Garber
- Do we change the world, or just cope with it? by Massimo Pigliucci
“This timely book is a guide to living authentically and intentionally in a chaotic world. Skye Cleary is a modern day Simone de Beauvoir, drawing on Beauvoir’s important canon of work but going beyond to offer practical lessons for creating the existence that you truly want. If there’s just one authentic choice you can make today, buy this book!”
—Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Transcend and Host of The Psychology Podcast
“Timely and timeless. Cleary has given us an exceptional book that touches upon the most profound questions of the human condition: How to live authentically? How to create meaning? How to love? Beautifully written, this book draws what matters into sharp focus while silencing the noise, empowering women to take control of their lives. Should be required reading.”
—Samantha Rose Hill, author of Hannah Arendt
“Skye Cleary blends Simone de Beauvoir’s wisdom with her own in this lively guide to becoming a poet of your life”
—Nigel Warburton, host of Philosophy Bites and author of A Little History of Philosophy
“How To Be Authentic is a thrilling invitation to reconsider all our ways of seeing and being – how to parent, how to love, how to age, how to connect. It is a book like the best kind of conversation. We are in the company of not just one brilliant woman, but two. Skye Cleary is a wonderful guide to de Beauvoir’s work, while also bringing her own wisdom to our present moment. Fascinating. Necessary.”
—Tanya Shadrick, author of The Cure for Sleep
“Being authentic is not a matter of book learning, but certain books—the best ones—can clear a way for us to live a little more honestly and fully. This is one of them… Cleary allows Beauvoir to speak to our age and dares us, repeatedly, to become who we are.”
—John Kaag, author of Hiking with Nietzsche and Sick Souls, Healthy Minds
“As engaging and entertaining as it is thought provoking and serious. In her characteristically accessible and intimate style, Cleary takes us on a fascinating journey in search of the true meaning of authenticity, clearing away as she proceeds many of the tired clichés about ‘being oneself’ or ‘finding oneself’. Cleary’s focus in this book is feminism from an existentialist perspective. She explores what it is for women to achieve authenticity in today’s complex world.”
—Gary Cox PhD, author of How to Be an Existentialist and The Existentialist’s Guide
“The book sits at the intersection of biography, philosophy, and self-help, yet it transcends all three. Cleary successfully fuses philosophical analysis, personal insight, and cultural commentary…Cleary’s How to Be Authentic is fresh, new, and prescient.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books, Rebecca Brenner Graham
“Balanced with elements of critique, Skye Cleary delivers Simone de Beauvoir’s views on authenticity with matchless clarity. In this elegantly written text, abstract ideas are embodied with compelling stories from either or both Beauvoir’s life or that of the author. This coupling of the ethereal and earthly injects How to Be Authentic with a delightful resonance of authenticity that helps to bring home Beauvoir’s bounty of existential wisdom.”
—Gordon Marino, author of The Existentialist’s Survival Guide
“It isn’t easy to be authentic. Skye Cleary’s How to Be Authentic is the guide you need if you are serious about figuring out how to live a life truly worth living. And why wouldn’t you?”
—Massimo Pigliucci, K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York and author of How to Be a Stoic