Stoicism is a philosophy that dates back over two thousand years. Some of the earliest texts written by the ancient Stoics weren’t preserved long enough to read today, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of Stoic reading material for us to enjoy and learn from. From original material like Meditations, to modern-day interpretations like How To Be A Stoic, everything we need to know has been committed to paper. 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:
In A Guide to the Good Life, 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.
‘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
In A Handbook for New Stoics, renowned philosopher Massimo Pigliucci and seasoned practitioner Gregory Lopez provide 52 week-by-week lessons to help us apply 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!
The Daily Stoic offers a daily devotional of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the playwright Seneca, and the slave-turned-philosopher 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 in battles and board rooms 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.
In Ego is the Enemy, 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, and that we can only create our best work when we identify, acknowledge and disarm its dangers.
In this book, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman offer 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.
In this enlightening book, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers a thoughtful and modern reinterpretation of Epictetus’s 53 lessons for living a good life. Drawing on the ancient wisdom of the Stoics, this is a comforting guide that will help you reclaim the power of your emotional response and let go of the things you can’t control.
In Lessons in Stoicism, 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, to show us how their ideas can help us today.
In vivid prose, Sellars shows how the works of these three Stoics have inspired readers ever since, speaking as they do to some of the perennial issues that face anyone trying to navigate their way through life.
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 and live up to your best self.A mix of timeless wisdom and empowering advice, The Little Book of Stoicism will point the way to anyone seeking a calm and wise life in a chaotic world.
In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, 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.
The Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer, and More Resilient, by William B. Irvine
The Stoic Challenge is a beautifully engaging account of how to approach life with a particular gem of Stoic wisdom as your guide. I can see this book benefitting many people in their daily lives, and I’m sure they’ll go on to recommend it to their friends.–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 and his lifelong battle to save the Republic.
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 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.
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. Soldiers and seamen learn early in their training “to suck it up,” to endure, to put aside their feelings and to get on with the mission.
Stoic Warriors is the first book to delve deeply into the ancient legacy of this relationship, exploring what the Stoic philosophy actually is, the role it plays in the character of the military (both ancient and modern), and its powerful value as a philosophy of life.
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, discovering how to survive and thrive in tough times, and 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 but, sadly, how often this debt is insufficiently acknowledged. 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
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 have been many and varied, but all converge on the central 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. Pierre Hadot here uncovers levels of meaning and expands the understanding of its underlying philosophy through what he argues are the deceptive clarity and ease of the work’s style.
“Extensively researched. A book that will be welcomed by both scholars and those with a more casual interest in history. In addition and most important to our time is the detailed study of power politics and the inevitable consequences of weakness and corruption allowing power to be concentrated into few hands… An engrossing account of a time when rational thought was set aside in favor of passion and when good men cowed in the face of tyranny and did nothing to stem it.” —New York Journal of Books
William O. Stephens lucidly sketches Marcus Aurelius’ upbringing, family relations, rise to the throne, military campaigns, and legacy, situating his philosophy amidst his life and times, explicating the factors shaping Marcus’ philosophy, and clarifying key themes in the Memoranda.
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, how difficult it is to become a sage, and how this difficulty can be explained.
A. A. Long, a leading scholar of later ancient philosophy, gives the definitive presentation of the thought of Epictetus for a broad readership. 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 within the framework of an authoritative introduction and commentary, which offer a way into this world for those new to it, and illuminating interpretations for those who already know it.
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.
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)
Selected from the Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic are a set of ‘essays in disguise’ from one of the most insightful philosophers of the Silver Age of Roman literature. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Latin with an introduction by Robin Campbell.
This splendid new translation of essential selections from “On Anger,” presented with an enlightening introduction and the original Latin on facing pages, 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. Edited and translated by James S. Romm, How to Die reveals a provocative thinker and dazzling writer who speaks with a startling frankness about the need to accept death or even, under certain conditions, to seek it out.
On Benefits, written between 56 and 64 CE, is a treatise addressed to Seneca’s close friend Aebutius Liberalis. 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 personal significance to Seneca, who remarked in one of his later letters that philosophy teaches, above all else, to owe and repay benefits well.
Anger, Mercy, Revenge comprises three key writings: the moral essays On Anger and On Clemency—which were penned as advice for the then young emperor, Nero—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.
Hardship and Happiness collects a range of essays intended to instruct, from consolations—works that offer comfort to someone who has suffered a personal loss—to pieces on how to achieve happiness or 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, the other three being Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Musonius’ pupil Epictetus. During his life, Musonius’ Stoicism was put to the test, most notably during an exile to Gyaros, a barren island in the Aegean Sea. Because Stoicism was, for Musonius, not merely a philosophy but a prescription for daily living, he has been called “the Roman Socrates.”
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, a book which was thought to be lost until part of it was discovered in a papyrus fragment at Hermopolis in 1901.
Lives and the Eminent Philosophers of Diogenes Laertius 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 a longer period of time than any other extant ancient source, from the Presocratic Thales to Epicurus.
Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness, and come up with all sorts of different definitions and 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, and enable us to appreciate the really good things in life for what they are.
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 fk about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. 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, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fk is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.
“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.” – Amazon review
“If you read but one book this year, Dr Frankl’s book should be that one.” (Los Angeles Times)