Stoicism as a school of philosophy originated in ancient Greece and was made popular by the Roman philosopher Seneca. The central idea of Stoicism is to focus on what is within our control and to accept what is not.
Stoicism has had a profound impact on human history and culture. Many influential figures throughout history have been influenced by Stoicism, including Marcus Aurelius, one of the most powerful Roman emperors, who was also a Stoic philosopher.
Seneca’s writings have also been studied and admired by many great thinkers like Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Spinoza. The Stoic philosophy has also had a strong influence on cognitive behavioral therapy, a popular modern form of psychotherapy.
Today, many people find comfort and guidance in Stoic teachings and are always on the lookout for great books on stoicism. So we compiled a list of 9 best stoic books that help people get a better understanding of stoicism.
The Meditations was originally written in Greek in the late 2nd century CE. It was not intended for publication or circulation but rather was a private journal that Marcus Aurelius used to reflect on his own thoughts and experiences.
The book was discovered and translated into Latin in the 16th century, and the first English translation was published in 1697. Since then, there have been numerous translations and editions of the text, including annotated and abridged versions.
The book is not a systematic philosophical treatise, but rather a series of observations and thoughts on topics such as self-improvement, virtue, and living a good life.
Marcus Aurelius was heavily influenced by the Stoic philosophers Epictetus and Seneca, and he draws on their teachings throughout the book.
In The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius offers practical advice on how to cope with adversity, live in harmony with nature, and cultivate virtues such as patience, courage, and wisdom.
The Meditations has been an extremely influential text throughout history. In the early modern period, it was read and studied by famous thinkers like Montaigne, Descartes, and Leibniz.
In the 18th century, it was highly regarded by leading Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire and Rousseau. In the 19th century, the book was a source of inspiration for Nietzsche and other philosophers.
And in the 20th century, The Meditations became popular among writers, artists, and political leaders. It has also been translated into many different languages and continues to be read and studied by people all over the world.
The Handbook (or “Enchiridion” in Greek) is a short text written by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, likely around AD 110. It is based on Epictetus’ lectures and is intended as a practical guide to Stoic philosophy.
The book is divided into 53 short chapters, which cover topics such as living in accordance with nature, handling grief, and practicing self-control.
The “Handbook” is often considered one of the most accessible and user-friendly introductions to Stoicism. It’s clear, concise, and full of practical advice.
“The Handbook” is particularly famous for its “pithy sayings” or “maxims,” which are short and memorable quotes that distill the essence of Stoic philosophy.
For example, Epictetus says, “Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you will go on well.” Or, “Never call yourself a philosopher, and don’t talk among laymen for the most part about philosophical principles, but act in accordance with those principles.”
These simple and profound sayings have stuck with readers throughout the centuries and can be applied in a variety of situations.
Many modern self-help books and psychological therapies are influenced by these maxims. They have even influenced the field of cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches people to challenge and change unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior.
Epictetus’ skill as a teacher was on full display in “The Handbook.” He was known for his ability to teach complex philosophical ideas clearly and engagingly.
He did not use overly complicated language or obscure concepts but instead focused on straightforward, actionable advice.
“Letters from a Stoic” is a collection of 124 letters written by the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger.
Seneca’s letters were not originally intended for publication. Instead, they were written as personal letters to his friend, Lucilius between AD 64 and AD 65.
However, after Seneca’s death, his letters were collected and circulated among the Stoic community. Eventually, they were published and became popular reading material for many generations.
The letters cover a wide range of topics, from Stoic philosophy and ethics to practical advice on living a good life. In these letters, Seneca shares his thoughts on topics such as friendship, generosity, and even facing death.
While they were written for a specific audience, the letters have resonated with readers throughout history, and they offer timeless wisdom on how to live a virtuous and meaningful life.
- A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine
“A Guide to the Good Life” is a wonderful book on Stoicism. It is a modern introduction to philosophy, and it draws heavily on the letters of Seneca as well as other Stoic texts.
In this book, William B. Irvine provides a practical guide to applying Stoic principles in daily life. He discusses topics such as overcoming negative emotions, pursuing meaningful goals, and cultivating a sense of gratitude.
“A Guide to the Good Life” was originally published in 2008, and it has since been revised and updated several times. It is now available in multiple languages, and it has become a popular book on Stoicism around the world.
In addition to being a great book for those new to philosophy, it’s also a great resource for those who are already familiar with Stoicism and want to deepen their understanding.
William B. Irvine’s inspiration for writing “A Guide to the Good Life” came from his personal experience with Stoicism.
As a young man, he was struggling with anger and depression, and he was searching for a way to improve his quality of life.
He found the answer in Stoic philosophy, which helped him to find peace and contentment in his daily life. He was so inspired by the philosophy that he decided to share it with others through his writing.
He wanted to show that Stoicism is not just an abstract philosophical theory, but a practical tool for living a meaningful and fulfilling life.
- The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot
The title of the book, “The Inner Citadel,” refers to a metaphor used by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Epictetus compared the mind to a fortress that must be defended against external threats.
In his metaphor, external threats represent external events and circumstances that are beyond our control, such as death, illness, and poverty. The inner citadel, on the other hand, represents our ability to control our thoughts and actions.
Hadot’s book is based on his lectures at the College de France, which were given in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These lectures were immensely popular, and they were eventually published in book form.
The title “The Inner Citadel” was chosen to reflect the theme of the lectures, which was the inner life of the Stoic philosopher. Hadot aimed to show how Stoic philosophy can help us to cultivate wisdom, virtue, and inner strength.
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the depth and complexity of Stoic philosophy.
- The Stoic Challenge by William B Irvine
“The Stoic Challenge” is a follow-up book to “A Guide to the Good Life,” in which William B. Irvine explores the practical applications of Stoicism. In this book, he challenges readers to apply Stoic principles to their own lives by committing to a series of 30-day challenges.
Each challenge is designed to help the reader practice a specific Stoic virtue, such as courage, temperance, or wisdom.
First, the reader is given an overview of the challenge and its philosophical basis. Then, the reader is asked to commit to practicing the challenge for 30 days.
Finally, the reader is given a series of daily tasks to complete, which are designed to help them practice the challenge concretely.
For example, one challenge asks the reader to practice poverty by cutting back on their expenses for 30 days. Another challenge asks the reader to practice patience by taking a long walk every day.
Since its publication, “The Stoic Challenge” has had a profound impact on the lives of many readers. In the words of one reader, “The book made me more aware of my thoughts and how I could react to my circumstances differently.
I learned how to let go of my expectations and be more accepting of what is in my control and what is not.” Another reader said, “The book made me more mindful and intentional with my time and my choices.
It also helped me be more compassionate and understanding towards others.” For many, the challenges in the book have led to positive changes in their lives, both big and small.
- How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson
“How to Think Like a Roman Emperor” is a book by the cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson. The book uses the life of the Stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius to illustrate the principles of Stoic philosophy and show how they can be applied in modern life.
In the book, Robertson explores topics like the nature of the self, the importance of virtue, and the relationship between reason and emotion.
The overall intent of the book is to show how Stoicism can help people to live a more virtuous and meaningful life, even in the face of adversity.
“How to Think Like a Roman Emperor” is praised for its engaging and accessible writing style. It is not overly academic or dry but rather brings philosophical concepts to life with vivid examples and language people can relate to.
Robertson’s experience as a psychotherapist is evident in his ability to bring complex ideas into the realm of everyday life.
This makes the book a pleasure to read, and it has been praised by both academics and laypeople alike. It has even been called “a self-help book for the ages” by some reviewers.
- The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber
“The Little Book of Stoicism” is a short and sweet introduction to the philosophy of Stoicism, written by Jonas Salzgeber. The book is broken up into 100 mini-chapters, each one exploring a different aspect of Stoic thought.
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For example, some of the chapters cover topics such as accepting what you cannot control, finding purpose in life, and overcoming negative emotions.
The book is written in a light and easy-to-understand style, making it perfect for readers who are new to Stoicism or philosophy in general. It is a quick and enjoyable book anyone could read.
- The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
“The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday is a popular and accessible guide to Stoic philosophy. Holiday is a writer and entrepreneur who has written extensively about Stoicism and its applications in modern life.
In this book, he breaks down Stoic teachings into daily meditations, with a different topic for each day of the year. The book is designed to be read over the course of a year, providing you with a daily dose of Stoic wisdom. The book covers a wide range of topics, from courage and resilience to anger and grief.
“The Daily Stoic” ranks highly among books on Stoicism for several reasons. One, the book’s format makes it easy to read and understand. The daily meditations are concise, making it easy to fit a bit of Stoic wisdom into your day.
Additionally, Holiday’s writing style is engaging and relatable, making the book accessible to a wide range of readers.
Finally, the book focuses on practical application, and that makes it a useful tool for applying Stoicism to your everyday life. It’s an excellent starting point for anyone interested in Stoicism.
Hey, don’t leave yet. For spending this much time with us, we have another recommendation for you: “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday.
Do you know why this book is especially meant for you? Don’t say I told you, but it is simply a Stoicism-made easy book. A modern book with very relatable, not far-fetched ideas that teach Stoicism in the most basic way. Anyone can understand the concept of Stoicism just by reading this book.
For one, it talks about the likes of Barack Obama and the virtues one can learn from them. You see, these are not people in the distant past. Not even when you can still go to meet most of them in person. They are people you know, and you know what that means; understanding becomes almost natural.
We recommend you read as much as you can of all the books on Stoicism mentioned so far. Each book offers a different perspective on the philosophy, and they are all valuable for their reasons.
“Meditations” provides the writings of a Stoic emperor himself, while “A Guide to the Good Life” provides a modern interpretation of Stoic teachings.
“The Inner Citadel” offers a scholarly look at the history and philosophy of Stoicism, and “The Daily Stoic” provides short lessons for everyday life. Reading all of these books will give you a well-rounded understanding of philosophy.Share