20 Best Books On Stoicism For Beginners | 5 of Them Free

We understand the beginner’s conundrum; we are still there. The beginner wants to test the waters before taking a dive. Most do not want to spend any dime or time before making sure a new pursuit would be worth their effort. So, what follows is an internet search for free+good material on the subject.

But where does one go beyond the free-access articles and social media posts? To the books, of course. So, if you found a recent interest in the Stoic philosophy and want to explore more, we list the best books on Stoicism for beginners by ancient and modern authors.

  1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (A New Translation by Gregory Hays)
  2. The Enchiridion and The Discourses by Epictetus
  3. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine
  4. Stoicism (Ancient Philosophies) by John Sellars
  5. How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life by Massimo Pigliucci
  6. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson
  7. The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual by Ward Farnsworth
  8. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
  9. A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control by Massimo Pigliucci, Gregory Lopez
  10. The Beginner’s Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity by Matthew Van Natta
  11. Stoicism: A Very Short Introduction by Brad Inwood
  12. On The Good Life by Cicero
  13. Letters From A Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca and Robin Campbell
  14. Lectures And Fragments by Musonius Rufus
  15. A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living by Massimo Pigliucci
  16. How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers) by Epictetus and Anthony A. Long
  17. Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets by Chuck Chakrapani
  18. Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson
  19. Mastering The Stoic Way Of Life Paperback by Andreas Athanas
  20. Meditations: The Annotated Edition by Marcus Aurelius (Annotated and Edited by Robin Waterfield)

5 Best Free Books On Stoicism by Ancient Authors

In this, we pick up the books free to access and read. And also a few starter books you could buy. The books on this list are some of the most readable, graspable, and applicable works from Stoic literature.

1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations-Marcus-Aurelius Book Cover

It is easily the best book for the beginner from a Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. Remarkably, it is also a book for the advanced.

It is a book that comes through as philosophical poetry. The person who wrote it was a practicing Stoic for almost 40 years when he wrote it.

Incidentally, the author, Marcus Aurelius, wrote it for an audience of exactly one — only himself. He wrote it as a personal philosophical diary and tried to follow what he wrote till his death in 180 CE.

The first publication of the book came in 1559 with the title To Himself. We now know it as Meditations.

Marcus was Roman. Actually, he was the most powerful Roman in the entire world during his 20 years of rule as emperor of Rome. But he wrote the book in Greek because that was the language of his philosophical thoughts. And, he was not writing it for publication.

Several brilliant translations of Meditations exist today.

The best ones of Marcus Aurelius’ works to buy are:

The free ones on the internet are here below:

A Marcus Aurelius Quote:

Do not imagine that, if something is hard for you to achieve, it is therefore impossible for any man: but rather consider anything that is humanly possible and appropriate to lie within your own reach too.

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.19

2. The Enchiridion by Epictetus

enchiridion-by-epictetus

The Enchiridion or The Handbook is a short manual of ethical advice by the 2nd-century Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Arrian, a disciple of Epictetus, compiled this short book from his lectures.

The book does not bring up the metaphysics of Stoicism. The Enchiridion focuses on Epictetus’s advice on how to apply the Stoic philosophy in daily life.

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Epictetus (50 CE to 130 CE) was born or sold into slavery. He had a permanent disability of his leg, probably a result of his owner Epaphroditus twisting his leg for punishment.

However, Epaphroditus also allowed him to attend the lectures of Musonius Rufus, a Roman senator and Stoic teacher. Later, when freed, Epictetus started teaching Stoicism.

The Enchiridion is full of practical wisdom and forceful advice for those who seek contentment or eudaimonia in life. Epictetus said we can always be happy if we learn to expect and accept things just as they turn out. He insisted people are free to control their lives and live in harmony with Nature.

The best ones of Epictetus’ works to buy are:

The free ones on the internet are here below:

An Epictetus’ Quote:

Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.

— Epictetus, Enchiridion, 8

3. Letters From A Stoic by Seneca

Letters by Seneca

Born in 4 BCE, Seneca lived through the reigns of the first five emperors of Rome. Strangely, at least three of these emperors had wanted him dead. First, it was Caligula, in 37 CE. Then, it was Claudius, in 41 CE. Finally, it was Nero, in 65 CE. Seneca’s death by suicide came on the orders of Nero.

Letters or Epistles are a compilation of 124 essays disguised as letters to Lucilius. Seneca wrote these in the last two years of his life while he was exiled on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. He was under great stress then, and these letters were his way of relieving his burden.

Lucilius, a friend of Seneca, was then a procurator of Sicily who followed the Epicurean school. Seneca’s Letters try to win him over to Stoicism. The Letters shape up into a well-rounded handbook of advice and insights on Stoic philosophy. It was Thomas Lodge in 1614 who first translated these letters from Latin to English.

The best ones of Seneca’s works to buy are:

The free ones on the internet are here below:

A Seneca Quote:

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.

― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

4. Letters of Marcus Tullius Cicero by Cicero

Cicero-Selected-Works

Marcus Tullius Cicero was Rome’s greatest orator of his time and gave more than a hundred impeccable speeches. He was a controversial senator, but a brilliant lawyer and an unparalleled philosopher.

Unfortunately, his life ran parallel to the decline and demise of the Roman Republic. Cicero was a witness to the murder of Julius Caesar by a group of senators on the Ides of March in 44 BCE. A year later, Mark Antony, the next ruler of Rome, ordered his killing.

Cicero’s philosophy sided with the virtue-driven Stoics over the pleasure-loving Epicureans.

Cicero’s written works fall into three categories: his philosophical works, speeches, and about 900 letters. He was a prolific writer and a matchless translator of Greek works to Latin.

We get an idea of Cicero’s relevance today as we find out he gave us some of the most common words in modern English: quality, notion, individual, infinity, moral, and comprehension.

The best ones of Cicero’s works to buy are:


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The free ones on the internet are here below:

A Cicero Quote:

The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living. The love you gave in life keeps people alive beyond their time. Anyone who was given love will always live on in another’s heart.

― Marcus Tullius Cicero

5. Lectures And Fragments by Musonius Rufus

Lectures-by-Musonius-Rufus

Gaius Musonius Rufus was one of the greatest Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome. He was a highly respected teacher. He was called The Roman Socrates.

Musonius probably wrote nothing himself, or whatever he wrote did not survive. However, his philosophical teachings survive as 32 apophthegms and 21 discourses, preserved by his students.

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Musonius insisted the practice is more important than the theory. The way he taught involved not many, but a few precise and practical arguments that would sway the listener towards taking action.

Rufus held philosophy was nothing if not a practice of virtuous behavior. In his lectures, he dismissed a life of pleasure in favor of a life of virtue. To him, virtue was the only good as it alone keeps a person from making mistakes in life.

He condemned all luxuries and asked for living on a strict vegetarian diet and minimally priced clothing. A house was to protect from the elements and nothing more, he taught. He believed the human soul becomes resilient by enduring hardships and maintaining self-control through temptations.

Musonius had many illustrious pupils. However, his greatest student was Epictetus, who mentions him several times in The Discourses.

The best ones of Musonius Rufus’ works to buy are:

The free ones on the internet are here below:

A Musonius Rufus Quote:

You will earn the respect of all if you begin by earning the respect of yourself. Don’t expect to encourage good deeds in people conscious of your own misdeeds.

― Musonius Rufus, How To Live

10 Best Beginner Books On Stoicism By Modern Writers

Since posting this, our readers wished for a list of great beginner books on Stoicism by modern writers. We put the authors’ names in bold, so you know whom to follow. We pulled the reviews from GoodReads.

  1. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius – Donald Robertson – In this book, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.
  2. How to Be A Stoic: Ancient Wisdom For Modern Living – Massimo Pigliucci – In this book, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers Stoicism, the ancient philosophy that inspired the great emperor Marcus Aurelius, as the best way to attain it. Pigliucci shows that Stoicism can provide a philosophy of life consistent with a modern scientific worldview, and with atheism or agnosticism as well as different forms of religion. He provides many vivid examples of everyday situations in which Stoic philosophy was found helpful in his own life.
  3. Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – William Irvine – In this book, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives. Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us.
  4. The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual – Ward Farnsworth – This book brings together the great insights of the Stoics that are spread over a wide range of ancient sources for the first time. It systematically presents what the various Stoic philosophers said on every important topic, accompanied by an eloquent commentary that is clear and concise. The result is a set of philosophy lessons for everyone – the most valuable wisdom of ages past made available for our times, and for all time.
  5. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living – Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman – Presented in a page-per-day format, this daily resource of Stoic inspiration combines new translations of Seneca, Epictetus, Zeno with calls to further reflection and action by the authors. Arranged topically following the same three movements (Perception, Action, Will), this guide features twelve principles for overcoming obstacles and achieving greater satisfaction.
  6. A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control – 52 Week-by-Week Lessons – Massimo Pigliucci, Gregory Lopez – In this book, renowned philosopher Massimo Pigliucci and seasoned practitioner Gregory Lopez provide 52 week-by-week lessons spread over the year, progressively with the themes of desire (aspects of your life that you’re in control of and how tenuous they can be), action (patience and calm amid the unpredictable), and assent (reacting without impulsivity, not being quick to judge). It helps us apply the timeless Stoic teachings to modern life. Whether you’re already familiar with Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, or you’re entirely new to Stoicism, this handbook will help you embrace challenges, thrive under pressure, and discover the good life.
  7. Stoicism (Ancient Philosophies) – John Sellars – This book provides a lucid, comprehensive introduction to this great philosophical school. It gives an overview of the history of the school, covers its philosophy as a system, and explores the three main branches of Stoic theory. John Sellars includes historical information on the life and works of the ancient Stoic philosophers and summaries, analyses, and appraisals of their principal doctrines in logic, physics, and ethics. He also includes a fascinating account of the Stoic legacy from later antiquity to the present. The volume includes a glossary and chronology.
  8. Stoicism: A Very Short Introduction – Brad Inwood – This book is a helpful introduction to the tenets of Stoicism. Inwood looks at the three prominent Stoic writers (Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius) and compares their views of Stoicism to other ancient philosophies: Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Epicureanism. This is not a guide to using Stoicism in your everyday life or even extolling the benefits of such practices. This book is giving you the history and an overview of the major Stoic areas of thought, Logic, Physics, Ethics.
  9. Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life – Chuck Chakrapani – In this book, Chuck Chakrapani outlines the Stoic secrets for achieving total freedom, no matter who you are and what obstacles you face in life. Using modern examples, Chuck explores how anyone can achieve personal freedom by practicing a few mind-training techniques. Hailed as one of the best books on Stoicism, it is a great introduction to Stoic beliefs and principles and the author does a great job of showing how these ancient ideas are applicable to modern-day living. Stoic concepts are expressed very clearly and effectively and the book is full of practical exercises, which are very useful in dealing with common problems in everyday life.
  10. Stoicism and the Art of Happiness: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Life – Donald Robertson -This book is an excellent overview of Stoic ethics and interpreted it for the modern reader without losing much authenticity in the process. The author describes how the Stoic philosophy relates to CBT. Any myths about stoicism like not being emotional were carefully argued against, and Robertson was moderated in his rhetoric instead of making you feel inadequate like a lot of self-help books do. This book contains various exercises and meditations you could try out. The author also talks about cultivating virtue rather than tranquility, even though Western psychology places so much emphasis on happiness and feeling good all the time.
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Final Words

Finally, here are some recently published and highly recommended books on Stoicism:

  1. Mastering the Stoic Way of Life: Improve Your Mental Toughness, Self-Discipline, and Productivity With Ancient Stoic Wisdom – Andreas Athanas
  2. The Beginner’s Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity – Matthew Van Natta
  3. How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers) – Epictetus and Anthony A. Long
  4. A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living by Massimo Pigliucci
  5. Meditations: The Annotated Edition by Marcus Aurelius (Annotated and Edited by Robin Waterfield)

You may not find another set of philosophical writing more freely and easily accessible than Stoicism. So, get started on giving your life a Stoic touch.

P.S.: We do not store any of the books mentioned in the links above. You may visit the links to find and buy/read the books there.

Read the awe-inspiring story of
Zeno, The First Stoic

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.


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