Works discussed in Colin Wilson’s The Outsider

Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson’s 1956 classic The Outsider is a book built on a foundation of other books, and reading it can leave you wanting to read all, or at least some, of the works Wilson mentions. I made the following list on the back of a recent re-read of Wilson’s book, and am including it on my website in the hope it can be useful to others, too.

I haven’t included every book Wilson mentions, only those that seem key to the development of his argument, chapter by chapter. Where possible, I’ve tried to find versions that can be read or downloaded for free online. Where the works aren’t in English, I’ve included notes on the translations available, and which one Wilson cites. For Van Gogh, I've linked to images of the paintings Wilson mentions.

Inevitably, deciding which works are ‘key’ to Wilson’s argument is going to be subjective, but I’ve tried to include all those Wilson spent time summarising or analysing, or which seemed to illustrate an important part of his argument. I've also added links to some of the works Wilson mentions only briefly, but which intrigued me enough to want to read them.

The Outsider itself is currently available from all booksellers, including Amazon.

Jump to chapter: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9

This page last updated 26th December 2022.

The Works

I. The Country of the Blind

II. World Without Values

III. The Romantic Outsider

IV. The Attempt to Gain Control

V. The Pain Threshold

Brief mentions: Death’s Jest Book by Thomas Lovell Beddoes. “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev. … No online English translation of Adam de L’Isle Adam’s Axël. (Wilson quotes from a passage quoted in Edmund Wilson’s Axel’s Castle.) Here it is in French, at

VI. The Question of Identity

VII. The Great Synthesis…

VIII. The Outsider as Visionary

Brief mentions: The Trembling of the Veil by W B Yeats. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung/The World as Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer. Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John by Sir Isaac Newton. Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw.

IX. Breaking the Circuit