Ultimately, the best book on Stoicism for you will be the one you can use to improve your life. These ten great books will help you explore the ancient Stoic philosophy and apply it to modern life.
Stoicism is a centuries-old philosophy that is still popular in 2024 due to its practicality and applicability to modern life.
Today, it inspires many entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, the military, and honest and hard-working people. Modern Stoics, like the ancient ones, still tie a fulfilling life to self-control, morality, reason, and courage.
I have been dabbling in Stoicism since 2019; this was my first post on it: Stoicism For Beginners: 7 Quick Lessons To Start.
One fine way to learn about Stoicism is through reading the modern translations and interpretations of classic texts.
This list of ten books on Stoicism will help you find one that will give you the most practical advice on how to embrace and apply Stoic principles of self-control, rationality, and acceptance to your life.
10 Best Stoicism Books For Beginners And Advanced
Whether you’re new to Stoicism or a seasoned practitioner, this list has something for everyone.
Here are the ten best Stoicism books you might add to your reading list:
Recommend The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living for anyone looking to delve into the world of Stoicism.
- Provides daily meditations on Stoic philosophy
- Features writings from Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius
- Offers practical advice for living a fulfilling life
The Daily Stoic offers a daily dose of Stoic philosophy. Each day’s content modernizes the teachings of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.
Its many helpful tips tell us how to live a fulfilling life, deal with difficult situations, and find inner peace.
This book is a great way to start or end your day. The authors quote the Stoic meditation for the day and then explain it in simple words
Some entries may seem repetitive because many Stoic ancient masters repeat the same idea in their own words. But then, it is a good thing because it drills the Stoic principle into your mind.
The book is a ready reference for anyone interested in Stoic philosophy. Keep it at your desk and pick it up every morning to imbibe a bit of Stoicism into your day.
The Daily Stoic is an excellent choice for everyone who wants to begin their day with a Stoic master’s insightful quote.
Overall, The Daily Stoic is a well-intended and well-written book that gives its reader a practical way to incorporate Stoic philosophy into their daily lives.
I recommend it to anyone interested in Stoicism, even those who do not want to dive into the philosophy but just want to dip their toes in to absorb the timeless wisdom.
If you want a short, 230-page guide to Stoicism as a pragmatic way to navigate life’s challenges, then Massimo Pigliucci’s “How To Be A Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living” is an excellent choice.
- You’ll appreciate the author’s clear and concise explanation of the complex ideas of Stoicism.
- This book is for anyone looking for ways to improve their lives through Stoic philosophy.
- The practical advice in the book is helpful, and I have applied them to my own life.
Massimo Pigliucci is a philosopher and teaching professor. He explains Stoicism and advises on how to apply it to modern life.
The book is divided into three parts:
- The first part introduces The Discipline of Desire (explaining what things we control and what is proper to want in life).
- The second part discusses The Discipline of Action (explaining how we should behave in this world and what our role models do).
- The third part provides The Discipline of Assent (explaining Stoic ideas on death, suicide, anger, anxiety, loneliness, love, and friendship).
Pigliucci uses ancient Stoic principles to make modern relevance, showing readers how to decide what’s within their control and what’s not.
Here are some of the Stoic exercises that he recommends:
- Gratitude: Stoics practice gratitude by taking time each day to reflect on the things they are grateful for. This can be done by keeping a gratitude journal or simply taking a few minutes each day to think about the things in your life that you are thankful for.
- Meditation: Stoics meditate by focusing their attention on the present moment and letting go of negative thoughts and emotions. This can be done by sitting in a quiet place and focusing on your breath, or by using a guided meditation.
- Visualization: Stoics visualize themselves successfully completing difficult tasks. This can be a helpful way to build confidence and motivation.
The book’s strength lies in its practical approach, offering 12 spiritual exercises that Pigliucci extracts from Epictetus’s Enchiridion:
- Examine your impressions.
- Remind yourself of the impermanence of things.
- The reserve clause. “Whenever planning an action, mentally rehearse what the plan entails.”
- Ask yourself: “How can I use virtue here and now?”
- Pause and take a deep breath. “Remember, it is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed, you must believe that you are being harmed.”
- Other-ize. Ask yourself: “What makes us think that we are the universe’s special darlings, or that we ought to be?”
- Speak little and well. Let silence be your goal for the most part; say only what is necessary, and be brief about it.
- Choose your company well.
- Respond to insults with humor.
- Don’t speak too much about yourself.
- Speak without judging.
- Reflect on your day. “Admit not sleep into your tender eyelids till you have reckoned up each deed of the day—How have I erred, what done or left undone?”
Overall, my view is this is a great book for anyone who wants to read an engaging modern interpretation of the Stoic master Epictetus’ work. You will feel as if the professor was teaching you in an interesting class.
“How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius” by Donald J. Robertson is an excellent exploration of Stoicism as practiced by the last famous Stoic: Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor.
The book shows how to use Stoicism to live a purposeful modern life, using Marcus Aurelius’ writings as insights and advice. We learn how Marcus Aurelius used these Stoic principles to live his own life, and govern the Roman Empire during a time of great instability and crisis.
Here’s a chapter-wise extremely short summary to pique your interest in buying the book:
- Chapter 1. The dead emperor: Marcus Aurelius is in Vindobona (Vienna) at his death, but he’s not afraid. He rues how people “sneer at his vision of an empire that makes the freedom of its citizens its highest goal.” Robertson tells the shipwreck story that started Stoicism, and its four main virtues: wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
- Chapter 2. The most truthful child in Rome: Marcus’ childhood was focused on learning philosophy. He trains in practical wisdom, speaking skills, and mental resilience. He internalizes how our judgments, not events, upset us. Robertson gives us this tool: To ask ourselves in tough times, “What would Marcus do?”
- Chapter 3. Contemplating the sage: Marcus learns to listen patiently, speak wisely, and stay pure in thought. He says we should be able to answer truthfully if someone asks, “What’s going on in your mind right now?” He also recommends starting and ending the day with self-reflection.
- Chapter 4. The choice of Hercules: Pleasure is not happiness; true joy comes from virtue in actions. We learn how to conquer unhealthy desires, be rationally happy, and practice amor fati, or love of our fate.
- Chapter 5. Grasping the nettle: Marcus was frail but astoundingly resilient. Our judgments affect how we feel pain, so, to tolerate pain, we should see it without judging it (“cognitive distancing”). Our disabilities should not stop us from being virtuous. We must avoid overwhelming our minds by worrying about the future or ruminating about the past.
“It’s not events that upset us but our judgments about events.”— Epictetus, Handbook 5
- Chapter 6. The inner citadel and war of many nations: When we’re indifferent to results, we find that the obstacle is the way. We can prepare for adversities by “envisaging feared catastrophes as if they were really happening.” We learn how to reduce anxiety through emotional habituation.
- Chapter 7. Temporary madness: Anger is but temporary madness, and does more harm to us than to the person with whom we’re angry. We can conquer anger by accepting other people’s mistakes and being kind to our enemies.
- Chapter 8. Death and view from above: Marcus meditates on life, death, and philosophy during a near-death hallucination. I feel that this meditation (written in first person as Marcus Aurelius) is the most beautiful part of the book.
“Life is warfare and a sojourn in a foreign land. Our reputation after life is nothing but oblivion. What is it then that will guide man? One thing alone: philosophy, the love of wisdom.”— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 2.17
Robertson presents Stoicism for a modern, general reader. He distills complex philosophical ideas into easy practical lessons to help readers cope with adversity and keep their peace.
Delightfully, the book can stand on its own as a self-help book that helps develop wisdom and resilience, find calm and joy, and conquer anger and fear.
Get “How to Think Like a Roman Emperor” if you want Marcus Aurelius’ biography, a brief course on Stoic philosophy, or a self-help book to get happier in life.
4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: For The Contemporary Reader
“Meditations” is a great work of philosophy for beginners and advanced Stoics. It was written by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE) — by far the most powerful man in the world.
Despite being written over 2,000 years ago, the writing is clear and concise, making it easy and relevant for modern readers.
The three most notable translations of Meditations are:
The English translation by Gregory Hays is widely considered to be the best. His modern style makes these reflections on life, civilization, and nature relevant and easy to understand.
Overall, I’d highly recommend Meditations by Gregory Hays to anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of Stoic philosophy and look inside the mind of The Philosopher-King.
This book is an annotated edition from world-renowned classics expert Robin Waterfield, who offers a definitive translation of this much-beloved text, with copious notes and footnotes.
Robin Hard is a German classicist who has specialized in the study of Greek philosophy.
His translation of Meditations is considered one of the most accurate and readable translations of the work. He avoids jargon and technical language to capture the spirit of Marcus Aurelius’ writing while making the book readable and engaging.
- “Meditations” offers a deep and insightful look into the philosophy of a Roman Emperor.
- Written as a private journal, it gives us bold insights into life/death, morality, and human nature.
- Marcus Aurelius, the last great Stoic of antiquity, explores Stoicism from the position of a powerful king struggling like a human being.
Marcus draws from his own ideas and those of Socrates, Epicurus, and Stoicism to show us how a great leader practices philosophy in daily life.
Surprisingly, this private journal of thoughts was never meant to be published, as Marcus wanted it destroyed at his death.
However, it survived and has never gone out of print since it was first published in the 10th century. The churchman Arethas, who found it, wrote to a friend,
“I have had for a while now a copy of the Emperor Marcus’s invaluable book. It was not only old but practically coming apart. . . . I have had it copied and can now pass it on to posterity in better shape.”.
The book is incredibly thought-provoking. His approach to philosophy is not just theoretical but practical and adaptive.
- Marcus Aurelius encourages readers to reflect on their own thoughts and behaviors and to strive for self-improvement. And be prepared to deal with “meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly” people.
- His emphasis on using every life situation as a chance to understand and practice philosophy, like objective judgment, unselfish action, and willing acceptance of external events (amor fati), is particularly inspiring.
- He notes that it is not shameful to ask for help when overwhelmed, a reminder that even the most powerful emperor is not immune to the trials and struggles of life.
Marcus’s writing strikes an extraordinary balance between image and idea. For example,
“Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone—those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us—a chasm whose depths we cannot see.”— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.23
Marcus wrote in Koine Greek. The first English translation came out in 1634 by Meric Casaubon.
Marcus focuses on key attributes of human life – character, virtue, self-control, kindness, and memento mori. He reminds himself to stay focused on the present moment and that death is not to be feared when it comes to carrying out his worldly duties.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.11
William Irvine’s “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” offers a deeply personal and insightful look into the wisdom of Stoic philosophy and its relevance to modern life.
- The book is a hands-on guide to Stoicism, providing modern examples for applying ancient principles.
- It presents many Stoic techniques for managing desires, regulating negative emotions, focusing on controllable aspects of life, and building emotional resilience.
- It helps you understand what you can and cannot control, encouraging a focus on the former and acceptance of the latter to have a more fulfilling and serene life.
William B. Irvine, a professor of philosophy at Wright State University, explains Stoicism by interpreting the wisdom of four influential Roman Stoics: Epictetus, Seneca, Musonius Rufus, and Marcus.
The book is organized into four sections:
- The first explores the origins of Stoicism.
- The second presents Stoic Psychological Techniques for fostering tranquility, notably “negative visualization or Premeditatio Malorum”.
- The third part provides “Stoic advice” on social relationships, handling insults, grief, anger, luxurious living, the pursuit of fame and fortune, aging, and death.
- The final part includes Irvine’s humorous reflections on his journey in practicing Stoicism.
Reading this book has softened my anger toward the rascals and idiots (both my words, not the author’s) around me. I can now see them trying their best to be who they are, and that I cannot control what they do or think.
Irvine convinces me I’m better off appreciating what I have and feeling blessed to have my friends and family.
It’s an easy book to read, see my screenshot below:
Irvine’s call to practice Stoicism stealthily resonates with me. I recommend this book to all readers, especially if you want to improve your mental well-being.
In “365 Ways To Be More Stoic” Tim Lebon and Kasey Pierce present daily Stoic wisdom to guide readers toward a happier, more purposeful existence.
The book weaves together the wisdom of ancient Stoics and the experiences of modern Stoics to create a full course in Stoicism that serves both beginners and seasoned practitioners.
Its bite-sized pieces of Stoic wisdom are easy to digest and remember, making it an ideal handy resource for lovers and practitioners of Stoicism.
“365 Ways to be More Stoic” guides the reader on how to use covers the four cardinal virtues of Stoicism — self-control, courage, justice, and wisdom — to cope with adversity, manage anger, and reflect on the brevity of life.
The book’s structure is simple and list-driven, presenting Stoic ideas in engaging chunks, making it fun and easy to read. Buy this to book yourself a year-long resource of inspiring tools, stories, actions, and rituals to enrich your life with meaning and happiness.
You will be immersed in Stoicism through prompts, concepts, challenges, inspirations, quotes, examples, quizzes, and case studies.
See below how Lebon & Pierce equip readers to absorb the Stoic wisdom of the day by giving out small, achievable daily practices to tackle frustration, adversity, inevitable, and even mortality.
The big five takeaways from “365 Ways to be More Stoic”:
- Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest.
- Focus on your character, which is the road to happiness.
- Cultivate virtues of self-control, courage, justice, and wisdom.
- Learn how to cope with adversities with calmness and manage anger.
- Remember the shortness of life and make the most of every moment.
7. Journal Like A Stoic: A 90-Day Stoicism Program to Live with Greater Acceptance, Less Judgment, and Deeper Intentionality
I would recommend “Journal Like a Stoic” by Brittany Polat, PhD, for anyone looking to incorporate the principles of Stoicism into their daily life through journaling.
- The book provides clear and accessible teachings on Stoicism and how to apply it to daily life.
- The 90-day program is well-organized and provides incisive prompts that allow for deep exploration of one’s thoughts and behaviors.
- The book is a concise and practical guide that is easy to follow for both beginners and those familiar with Stoicism.
Journal Like a Stoic is a 90-day program that provides a clear and accessible guide to incorporating the principles of Stoicism into daily life through journaling. The book is well-organized and provides incisive prompts that allow for a deep exploration of one’s thoughts and behaviors.
The book is concise and practical, easy to follow for both beginners and those familiar with Stoicism.
One of the strengths of Journal Like a Stoic is its focus on practical application. The author provides clear and accessible teachings on Stoicism and how to apply it to daily life. The book is also well-organized, with each day’s prompts building on the previous day’s work. This allows for a gradual and deep exploration of one’s thoughts and behaviors.
However, some readers may find the daily journaling commitment to be too time-consuming or difficult to maintain.
Moreover, the book is focused solely on Stoicism and may not be suitable for those looking for a more general approach to self-improvement.
I recommend Journal Like a Stoic for anyone looking to incorporate the principles of Stoicism into their daily life through journaling. The book provides clear and accessible teachings, a well-organized 90-day program, and incisive prompts for deep exploration of one’s thoughts and behaviors.
“Letters from a Stoic: Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius” is a collection of personal letters written by the Roman philosopher Seneca. These letters to his friend Lucilius, who was the Governor of Sicily, are a cornerstone of Stoic philosophy, embodying its principles and practices.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, also known as Seneca the Younger (c.4BCE-65CE), was an educated figure in ancient Rome, skilled in rhetoric, grammar, and ethics. His fame comes from his practical approach to Stoic philosophy, considering it as a means for self-improvement.
But he was hated by the emperors. Caligula exiled Seneca over a suspected affair with Caligula’s sister. Claudius recalled Seneca but exiled him again. Then Agrippina recalled Seneca to Rome to tutor her son Nero. Later, he became chief advisor to Nero. Eventually, Nero forced him into suicide.
Seneca’s letters are practical advice on achieving a good life, avoiding corruption, and living without fear of death.
Written in a conversational style, the letters reflect traditional Stoic values like courage, self-control, and rationality while conveying a tolerant and cosmopolitan outlook. Seneca’s interpretation of Stoicism remains a timeless declaration of the dignity of the individual mind.
The book offers profound insights into the human condition, giving guidance on various aspects of life. Seneca discusses virtue, self-control, death, and happiness. He encourages Lucillus to focus on what is within his control and calmly accept what is beyond his control, highlighting that happiness comes from within.
Seneca advises living a simple life, facing adversity, developing resilience, and recognizing the transient nature of life.
Throughout, Seneca shares personal stories and experiences to support his insights for a fellow human being who is grappling with the same troubles in life.
Overall, “Letters from a Stoic” is a timeless piece of Stoic literature that gives out practical wisdom for leading a good life.
The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual is for anyone seriously interested in Stoicism.
- Provides a comprehensive overview of Stoicism and its practical applications.
- Written in an accessible and engaging style that is easy to understand.
- Includes a wide range of quotes and examples from ancient Stoic philosophers.
The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual is a must-read for anyone interested in Stoicism. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the philosophy, including its history, key concepts, and practical applications. The author writes in an accessible and engaging style that is easy to understand, even for those who are new to Stoicism.
One of the book’s greatest strengths is its use of quotes and examples from ancient Stoic philosophers. These passages help to illustrate the key concepts of Stoicism and provide readers with a deeper understanding of the philosophy. The author also includes helpful exercises and practical advice for applying Stoicism in everyday life.
However, some readers may find the book’s focus on philosophy and theory to be too abstract. The book could benefit from more concrete examples of how Stoicism can be applied in everyday life. Additionally, some readers may be disappointed by the lack of original content, as much of the book consists of quotes and passages from other Stoic works.
Overall, The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual is a valuable resource for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of the philosophy and apply its principles in their own life.
“The Little Book of Stoicism” is a helpful and accessible introduction to Stoic philosophy.
- Provides a clear and concise introduction to Stoicism for beginners
- Offers practical tips and exercises for applying Stoic philosophy to daily life
- Written in an accessible and engaging style
The author and editor are twin brothers, who do an impressive job of explaining the key concepts and principles of Stoicism to the casual reader.
You will find practical tips and exercises for applying Stoic philosophy to everyday life, such as journaling and negative visualization.
Keep in mind, this is a book for beginners. So if you’re already familiar with Stoicism, you may find it too basic. If you start with this book, you might buy more books about Stoicism that explain it better and in a more nuanced way.
Still, the exercises and tips are helpful for everyone.
Overall, I may suggest The Little Book of Stoicism as a great option for the casual reader who’s interested in learning about Stoic philosophy.
Honorable Mentions: 10 More Stoicism Books
Each book here is exceptional in its own right, justly ranked among the Amazon Best Sellers in Greek & Roman Philosophy:
- Mastering The Stoic Way Of Life – Andreas Athanas
- Stoicism for Inner Peace – Einzelgänger and Fleur Vaz
- 20 Short Stories To Build A Stoic Lifestyle – Cyrus Valen
- Stoicism Made Simple: Find Your Inner Peace – Terry Cole
- The Stoic’s Guide to Emotional Mastery – Winston Meskill
- Stoicism for Modern Times (3 books in 1) – Alexander Clarke
- Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control – Ryan Holiday
- Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living – David R. Fideler
- Stoicism: How to Use Stoic Philosophy to Find Inner Peace – Jason Hemlock
- Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living – Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
Seneca, a rich and powerful Roman senator and Stoic philosopher, wrote the book “On the Happy Life” around 58 AD. In it, he tells us that happiness is about living a worthy life.
So, as they pursue worthy lives, can Stoics be happy?
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