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Best Books on Stoicism

Published or Updated On: 
November 29, 2022

I’ve spent years studying Stoicism. I’ve read most of the popular books on the topic, including source material from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. If you’re looking for the best books on Stoicism, look no further. Here’s an ordered list of recommended reading for someone looking to learn Stoicism.

Controversial take

I recommend starting with modern books on Stoicism. Many consider these books “second class” to the original works by ancient Stoics themselves. I don’t buy it. The original works are thousands of years old, so they are harder to read and require more sifting. Modern books do a better job of providing scaffolding through which to understand the core tenants of the philosophy. I suggest starting with modern books, then moving onto the source material. It will help you get the most out of them.

1. A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine

This book is a solid introduction to Stoicism. It covers a number of the most important basics and is written in a way that is accessible to general audiences. It isn’t perfect (he blunders the bit on “trichotomy of control”), but it’s the first Stoic book I read and it’s the first one I’d recommend to others looking to get their feet wet.

See my book notes on it here.

2. How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson

After you get some basics down, this is the next book to tackle. It will “level up” your understanding and give you a great deal of highly practical Stoic tools for dealing with anger, fear, pain, desire and more. I use the perspectives and techniques in this book on a daily basis, and have now for years.

See my book notes on it here.

3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (Gregory Hays translation)

If you read this book, you will be reading the personal diary of the most powerful man in the world at the time. Marcus was a key Stoic figure and Emperor of Rome. These were his private reflections, never intended for publication. The Gregory Hays translation is the easiest to read out there. My copy of this book is well-loved with notes and highlights!

4. Moral Letters to Lucilius by Seneca

Seneca was one of the most prolific Stoics and his works are full of worldly wisdom. Some letters to get you started are “On the shortness of life”, “On groundless fears”, “On festivals and fasting”. His writing is fairly accessible but many of the letters do require some sifting to extract the most valuable lessons.

5. Enchiridion by Epictetus

Written by the ancient Stoic Epictetus, Enchirdion (translates to “Handbook”), is a short book (~20 pages) with advice on how to live. Generally, Epictetus is my least favorite Stoic to read because it feels like he’s trying to beat me over the head with his ideas, but this booklet is an exception. Some very densely packed wisdom!

6. The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

A friend of mind described this as a “Greatest Hits” of Stoicism. I think that’s the perfect way to describe it. Farnsworth does a great job of organizing everything you’ll have learned from the other books, putting it all into one place. He answers your burning questions, offers helpful analogies, and will deepen your understanding by including more contemporary philosophers. This book is essential to any practicing Stoic.

Honorable Mentions

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Holiday's books are very popular, but I've found his style of writing to be too wordy, story driven and unclear for me. The other books on this list changed my life, his books were entertaining. That said, a lot of people love them.

A Handbook for New Stoics by Massimo Pigliucci

This book is free if you have Audible and Pigliucci is a popular modern Stoic author.

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