An extensive list of the best Stoicism books along with brief descriptions.
Stoicism is a philosophy that dates back over two thousand years. Unfortunately, some of the earliest texts written by the ancient Stoics weren’t preserved long enough for us to read today. But that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of Stoic reading material that we can enjoy and learn from.
From original material like Meditations, to modern-day interpretations like How To Be A Stoic, everything we need to know is at our disposal. And amazingly for an ancient philosophy, new books continue to be written about it.
Here is an extensive list of the best Stoicism books along with brief descriptions and links to them on Amazon. They are categorised as follows:
Best Stoicism Books: Modern Publications
In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy. Throughout the book, he 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.
‘In this thought-provoking book, Massimo Pigliucci shares his journey of discovering the power of Stoic practices in a philosophical dialogue with one of Stoicism’s greatest teachers.’
– Ryan Holiday
52 week-by-week lessons to help us apply timeless Stoic teachings to modern life. Whether you’re already familiar with Stoicism, or entirely new, this handbook will help you embrace challenges, thrive under pressure, and discover the good life!
Live Like a Stoic is the essential guide to help us live the good life.
It offers a year-long programme of 52 weekly exercises aimed at mastering an array of real-life troubles. Full of practical lessons, it provides all the tools needed to overcome any obstacles we might face.
The remarkable story of Marcus Aurelius’ life and philosophical journey is brought to life by philosopher and psychotherapist Donald J. Robertson, in a sweeping historical epic of a graphic novel, based on a close study of the historical evidence, with the stunning full-color artwork of award-winning illustrator Zé Nuno Fraga.
A daily devotional of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, as well as diamonds like Zeno, Cleanthes and Musonius Rufus.
The Stoic philosophy – that what is in the way, is the way – can be applied to any problem. It’s a formula invented more than 2,000 years ago, whose effectiveness has been proven ever since. From Barack Obama’s ability to overcome obstacles in his election races, to the design of the iPhone, the stoic philosophy has helped its users become world-beaters.
Ryan Holiday shows us how and why ego is such a powerful internal opponent to be guarded against at all stages of our careers and lives. We can only create our best work when we identify, acknowledge and disarm its dangers.
A fresh approach to understanding Stoicism through the lives of the people who practiced it. Through short biographies of all the famous, and lesser-known, Stoics, this book will show what it means to live stoically, and reveal the lessons to be learned from their struggles and successes. The result is a treasure trove of insights for anyone in search of living a good life.
Ryan Holiday shows why courage is so important, and how to cultivate it in our own lives. Courage is not simply physical bravery but also doing the right thing and standing up for what you believe; it’s creativity, generosity and perseverance. And it is the only way to live an extraordinary, fulfilled and effective life.
Everything in life begins with courage. This book will equip you with the bravery to begin.
Without self-discipline, all our plans fall apart. Here, Ryan Holiday shows how to cultivate willpower, moderation and self-control in our lives. From Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius, to Toni Morrison and Queen Elizabeth II, he illuminates the great exemplars of its practice and what we can learn from them.
In Journal Like a Stoic, Stoicism researcher and expert Brittany Polat, PhD, provides 90 days of journaling for the modern Stoic to ground themselves as they deepen their self-exploration, find discipline, cope with grief, or simply seek change (or to endure it).
A thoughtful and modern reinterpretation of Epictetus’s 53 lessons for living a good life. A comforting guide that will help you reclaim the power of your emotional response and let go of the things you can’t control.
Philosopher John Sellars weaves together the key ideas of the three great Roman Stoics – Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. With snapshots of their fascinating lives, he shows us how their ideas can help us today.
The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness, by Jonas Salzgeber
This compelling, highly actionable guide shows you how to deal more effectively with whatever life throws at you. A mix of timeless wisdom and empowering advice, it will point the way to anyone seeking a calm and wise life in a chaotic world.
Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a modern-day guide to Stoicism. The philosophy itself has been followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries. This books shows we can still use it today as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.
Applying Stoic principles to contemporary issues such as social justice, climate breakdown, and the excesses of global capitalism. This books shows that Stoicism is not an ivory-tower philosophy or a collection of Silicon Valley life hacks. Rather, it is a vital way of life that helps us live simply, improve our communities, and find peace in a turbulent world.
The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient, by William B. Irvine
The Stoic Challenge is an engaging account of how to approach life with Stoic wisdom as your guide.
“I can see this book benefitting many people in their daily lives.”
–Donald Robertson, author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor
Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar, by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni
Cato’s life is a gripping tale rich with resonances for our own turbulent politics. Cato grappled with home-grown terrorists, a public and private debt crisis, a yawning gap between rich and poor, and a fractious ruling class whose lives took on the dimensions of soap opera. He relentlessly opposed the rise of Julius Caesar, but his stubbornness led to the eventual fall of the Roman Republic. This is the story of this uncompromising man’s formation in a time of crisis.
The great insights of the Stoics are spread over a wide range of ancient sources. This book brings them all together for the first time. It systematically presents what the Stoic philosophers said on every important topic. Each topic is 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.
David Fideler mines Seneca’s classic works in a series of focused chapters, clearly explaining Seneca’s ideas without oversimplifying them. Best enjoyed as a daily ritual, like an energizing cup of coffee, Seneca’s wisdom provides us with a steady stream of time-tested advice about the human condition.
While few soldiers may have read the works of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, it is undoubtedly true that the ancient philosophy known as Stoicism guides the actions of many in the military.
Stoic Warriors is the first book to delve deeply into the ancient legacy of this relationship. It explores what the Stoic philosophy actually is, the role it plays in the character of the military, and its powerful value as a philosophy of life.
From workers facing stress and burnout to first responders in a pandemic, from soldiers on the battlefield to citizens fighting for racial justice Sherman shows how Stoicism can help us fulfil the promise of our shared humanity.
In nine lessons that combine ancient quotes and daily exercises with contemporary psychology, Stoic Wisdom is a field manual for the art of living well.
Ancient truths that will revolutionize your life. Discover how the ancient wisdom of the Stoic philosophers can provide you with a philosophy of life in the twenty first century which will make you more resilient, more positive, more successful and more happy.
Learn the merits of seizing the day. Discover how to survive and thrive in tough times. Change what you can while accepting what you can’t. Your pathway to a better life starts right here.
This book is a fascinating interweaving of Stoic philosophy and contemporary cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Robertson rightly reminds us of how much CBT owes its philosophical origins to the Stoics. He urges us to redirect our attention to the past to see how modern CBT still has much to learn from its ancient precursors. Highly recommended. –Michael Neenan, Co-Director of the CBT Programme, Centre for Stress Management, Bromley, Kent, UK
In The Quest for Character, philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci blends ancient sources with modern interpretations to give a full picture of the philosophy and cultivation of character, virtue, and personal excellence—what the Greeks called arete. At heart, The Quest for Character isn’t simply about what makes a good leader. Drawing on Socrates as well as his followers among the Stoics, this book gives us lessons perhaps even more crucial: how we can each lead an excellent life.
This easy-to-navigate Stoicism guide gives you the emotional tools needed to let go of the things you can’t control and find joy in what you have. Through thought-provoking strategies and exercises, this book helps you find contentment so you can build closer relationships and become an active member of society.
Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior, by James B. Stockdale
When physical disability from combat wounds brought about Jim Stockdale’s early retirement from military life, he had the distinction of being the only three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor. His writings all converge on the theme of how man can rise with dignity to prevail in the face of adversity.
The “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius is seen as one of the three most important expressions of Stoicism. Hadot here uncovers levels of meaning and expands the understanding of its underlying philosophy.
“Extensively researched. A book that will be welcomed by both scholars and those with a more casual interest in history. Most important to our time is the detailed study of power politics and the inevitable consequences of weakness and corruption. An engrossing account of a time when rational thought was set aside in favor of passion”.
—New York Journal of Books
William O. Stephens lucidly sketches Marcus Aurelius’ upbringing, family relations, rise to the throne, military campaigns, and legacy.
This book offers a reconstruction of this pivotal notion in Stoicism, starting out from the two extant Stoic definitions, ‘knowledge of human and divine matters’ and ‘fitting expertise’. It focuses not only on the question of what they understood by wisdom, but also on how wisdom can be achieved.
A. A. Long, a leading scholar of later ancient philosophy, gives the definitive presentation of the thought of Epictetus. Long’s fresh and vivid translations of a selection of the best of Epictetus’ discourses show that his ideas are as valuable and striking today as they were amost two thousand years ago. The translations are organized thematically, which offer a way into this world for those new to it, and illuminating interpretations for those who already know it.
This volume gathers together the most important evidence about Stoic thought surviving from the ancient world. It is an expanded version of the section on Stoicism in Inwood and Gerson’s Hellenistic Philosophy, consolidating related texts into larger, more continuous selections.
Tad Brennan explains how to live the Stoic life–and why we might want to. Stoicism has been one of the main currents of thought in Western civilization for two thousand years: Brennan offers a fascinating guide through the ethical ideas of the original Stoic philosophers, and shows how valuable these ideas remain today, both intellectually and in practice.
The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life offers an original interpretation of Epictetus’s ethics and how he bases his ethics on an appeal to our roles in life. Epictetus believes that every individual is the bearer of many roles from sibling to citizen and that individuals are morally good if they fulfill the obligations associated with these roles.
In this elegant and clearly written work, Margaret Graver gives a compelling new interpretation of the Stoic position. Drawing on a vast range of ancient sources, she argues that the chief demand of Stoic ethics is not that we should suppress or deny our feelings, but that we should perfect the rational mind at the core of every human being.
The range of sources that are drawn upon in the reconstruction of Stoic philosophy can be bewildering for the beginner. Sellars guides the reader through the surviving works of the late Stoic authors, Seneca and Epictetus, and the fragments relating to the early Stoics found in authors such as Plutarch and Stobaeus.
In this definitive and moving biography, Emily Wilson presents Seneca as a man under enormous pressure, struggling for compromise in a world of absolutism. The Greatest Empire offers us the portrait of a life lived perilously in the gap between political realities and philosophical ideals, between what we aspire to be and what we are.
Best Stoicism Books: Writings by Stoics
Originally written only for his personal consumption, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations has become a key text in the understanding of Roman Stoic philosophy. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with notes by Martin Hammond and an introduction by Diskin Clay.
This annotated edition offers the definitive translation of this classic and much beloved text. Included are copious notes from world-renowned classics expert Robin Waterfield. It illuminates one of the greatest works of popular philosophy for new readers and enriches the understanding of even the most devoted Stoic.
Epictetus, a Greek stoic and freed slave, ran a thriving philosophy school in Nicropolis in the early second century AD. His animated discussions were celebrated for their rhetorical wizardry and were written down by Arrian, his most famous pupil.
(Free PDFs courtesy of Tim Ferriss can be found here)
Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic are a set of ‘essays in disguise’ from one of the most insightful Roman philosophers. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Latin with an introduction by Robin Campbell.
This is a splendid new translation of essential selections from Seneca’s On Anger. It is presented with an enlightening introduction and the original Latin on facing pages. The book offers readers a timeless guide to avoiding and managing anger. It vividly illustrates why the emotion is so dangerous and why controlling it would bring vast benefits to individuals and society.
How to Die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life (Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers), by Lucius Annaeus Seneca
How to Die gathers in one volume, for the first time, Seneca’s remarkable meditations on death and dying. The book reveals a provocative thinker and dazzling writer who speaks with startling frankness about the need to accept death.
On Benefits, written between 56 and 64 CE, is a treatise addressed to Seneca’s close friend Aebutius Liberalis. It is the longest of Seneca’s works dealing with a single subject—how to give and receive benefits and how to express gratitude appropriately. On Benefits is the only complete work on what we now call “gift exchange” to survive from antiquity. Benefits were of great significance to Seneca, who remarked in one of his letters that philosophy teaches, above all else, to owe and repay benefits well.
This book comprises three key writings: the moral essays On Anger and On Clemency, and the Apocolocyntosis, a brilliant satire lampooning the end of the reign of Claudius. Friend and tutor, as well as philosopher, Seneca welcomed the age of Nero in tones alternately serious, poetic, and comic—making Anger, Mercy, Revenge a work just as complicated, astute, and ambitious as its author.
This book collects a range of essays intended to instruct. They range from consolations—works that offer comfort to someone who has suffered a personal loss—to pieces on how to achieve tranquility in the face of a difficult world. Expertly translated, the essays will be read and used by undergraduate philosophy students and experienced scholars alike.
Musonius Rufus (c. AD 30–100) was one of the four great Roman Stoic philosophers. During his life, Musonius’ Stoicism was put to the test, most notably during an exile to Gyaros. Stoicism was, for Musonius, not merely a philosophy but a prescription for daily living. As such, he has been called “the Roman Socrates.”
This collection of Musonius Rufus’s lectures and sayings, translated by Cora E. Lutz, offers readers access to the thought of one of history’s most influential and remarkable Stoic thinkers.
Little is known about 2nd century Greek Stoic philosopher Hierocles. The only biographical reference to him is from his contemporary Aulus Gellius who describes him as a “grave and holy man.” Hierocles was famous for his Elements of Ethics. The book was thought to be lost until part of it was discovered in a papyrus fragment at Hermopolis in 1901.
Lives and the Eminent Philosophers is a crucial source for much of what we know about the origins of philosophy in Greece. The work covers a larger number of figures and longer period of time than any other extant ancient source.
A work by the prominent Alexandrian philosopher. The books gives an individualistic example of Stoic thought as it existed in the late first century BC.
This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadot’s book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is, above all else a way of seeing and of being in the world.
Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness. They have come up with all sorts of different ideas for how we might live a happier life. Here, Derren explores the history of happiness from classical times until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. His aim is to reclaim happiness for us all.
A Little Happier’s 17 inspiring and reassuring lessons will help you define and find your own happiness. Its lessons challenge us to think differently about the meaning of happiness and how we can over overcome anxiety in a difficult world.
This book examines the work of psychological illusionist Derren Brown to understand the significance of storytelling and ancient philosophy in our society. Reflecting on the social disconnection and political polarisation of recent times, Darren Kelsey considers how we can rebuild a sense of collective cohesion and common good, weaving together contemporary psychology with ancient Stoicism to cut through the noise of modern life.
In her magnificent novel, Marguerite Yourcenor recreates the life and death of one of the great rulers of the ancient world. The Emperor Hadrian, aware his demise is imminent, writes a long valedictory letter to Marcus Aurelius, his future successor. The Emperor meditates on his past, describing his accession, military triumphs, love of poetry and music, and the philosophy that informed his powerful and far-flung rule.
Take a fascinating look inside the old Ohio Penitentiary as you follow a group of inmates who meet weekly under the tutelage of a lifer named Zeno in a group called the Epictetus Club. The inmates study the teachings of this Greek philosopher, and with the help of his ancient wisdom they meet the daily challenges of their lives.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson
There are only so many things we can give a f*ck about so we need to figure out which ones really matter. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. The Subtle Art is a much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor.
Useful tips and tricks from Stoicism, Buddhism, CBT and popular psychology. This book encourages us to face our fears, embrace adversity and leave our comfort zones.
Are you ready to get uncomfortable and build a more resilient mindset?
“The author is especially sharp and funny when commenting on certain, senseless, aspects of modern life, and how they affect people and their lives. His observations are about American society but they also apply to our own.
As a bonus, halfway though the book, the development of one of its characters will introduce you to Stoic philosophy.”
“If you read but one book this year, Dr Frankl’s book should be that one.” (Los Angeles Times)
I hope this list of the best Stoicism books helps you on your Stoic journey, happy reading!