Recommended Stoic Reading

The best resources for virtuous living

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For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he has a conceit that he already knows. — Epictetus

One of the most often asked questions we get is about what to read to better learn Stoicism. Below is a list with links to each of the books we have recommended and ourselves have read in relation to the philosophy. It is by no means an exhaustive list, however, it covers a lot.

This list will be periodically updated as more works are read and/or recommended.

The Original Main Stoic Texts

The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

This translation by Gregory Hays is one of the most accessible of the translations of Marcus’ words. The Meditations is broken up into 12 books. If you start to read it, be aware that the first book is a dedication to those who helped raise Marcus into the man he became.

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca the Younger

While this collection does not include all of Seneca’s Moral Letters, it is a great starting point for anyone looking to see the advice Seneca has to offer. The translations are clean and easy to understand.

Dialogues and Essays by Seneca the Younger

Oxford World’s Classics offers great translations and this one is no different. Jumping further into Seneca’s writing, Dialogues and Essays is a collection of some of Seneca’s most important advice including his essay, On the Shortness of Life.

Discourses, Handbook, & Fragments by Epictetus

Robin Hard’s translation of Epictetus is easy to read and incredibly detailed with the introduction and notes that accompany the book. This version by Oxford World’s Classics includes all four books that survive of Epictetus’s Discourses, as well as the Handbook (Enchiridion) and Fragments.

The Works and Letters of Cicero

A lot of what we know of Stoicism is due, in part, to Cicero, who lived and worked with Cato the Younger during the years of the Roman Republic. While not a Stoic himself, much of his writings include Stoic tenets, and in some cases, the paradoxes of the philosophy.

That One Should Disdain Hardships by Musonius Rufus

Musonius is often referred to as the Stoic Socrates and from reading Cora Lutz’s translation, which was recently made into That One Should Disdain Hardships, you can see why. The book features the surviving lectures of Musonius in an easy to read masterpiece.

Books About Stoicism (Non-Academic)

Strictly Stoicism

Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars

By far the most accessible and easy to understand book on Stoicism. The book itself, written by philosophy lecturer John Sellars, is less than 100 pages and details the main tenets of the philosophy. It is a perfect introduction to Stoicism.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

By far one of the most popular books on Stoicism, Holiday and Hanselman’s The Daily Stoic features daily advice from the Stoics and how we can apply it to our day-to-day lives. Holiday also runs the popular Daily Stoic blog, podcast, and store which focuses on modern day application of Stoicism.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson

One of the most beloved books on Stoicism from recent memory, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor combines Robertson’s background as a psychotherapist and his love for Stoic philosophy. The book is part Stoic teaching, part biography of Marcus Aurelius. This is a great read and Robertson always makes himself available for people to discuss the philosophy and his books. He also runs one of the largest Facebook groups on Stoicism.

Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson

Robertson’s precursor to How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, Stoicism and the Art of Happiness is an in-depth, easy to understand, overview of the philosophy and how it can be applied to our daily lives.

The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

One of the more unique books on Stoicism, Farnsworth frames each chapter with a different tenet of the philosophy and explains that tenet through quotes from not only the Stoics, but also those philosophers who came after and were inspired by the words of the Stoics.

How to be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo’s first book on Stoicism, this takes the reader on a journey with the author to better understand the tenets of the philosophy and how one might use it in today’s world.

A Field Guide to a Happy Life by Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo’s latest on Stoicism, A Field Guide to a Happy Life is the author’s attempt to modernize and update Epictetus’s Enchiridion. The last part of the book also looks to the future and how Stoicism could be updated given our advancements in science and philosophy over the last 2,000 years.

A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine

Beloved by many, Irvine’s book helped to reinvigorate love for Stoic philosophy. In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine argues Epictetus’s Dichotomy of Control should really be a Trichotomy of Control.

A Very Short Introduction: Stoicism by Brad Inwood

A great overview of the philosophy, Brad Inwood distills all one needs to know about the philosophy into an easy to read 120+ page book.

The Art of Living by Epictetus (Interpretation by Sharon Lebell)

Lebell has taken Epictetus’ Enchiridion and reinterpreted (not translated) it for present day use. It is a beautiful and thought provoking work and is one most recommended by people.

The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber

In The Little Book of Stoicism, Salzgeber provides the reader with a quick introduction and history to the philosophy before delving into over 40 different exercises developed by the Stoics for every day living.

The Beginner’s Guide to Stoicism by Matthew Van Natta

Van Natta’s introduction to Stoicism has been heralded by many as a fantastic primer on the philosophy. He also has created a 5-Minute Stoicism Journal to help beginners better learn the philosophy.

The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot

Perhaps one of the most influential and well-rounded look at Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations, Hadot takes the reader on a philosophical exploration that makes the argument that the Meditations is a mental gym for Marcus, not a regular diary.

Philosophy as a Way of Life by Pierre Hadot

Stoic Warriors by Nancy Sherman

Stoicism and Other Philosophies

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

On Desire by William B. Irvine

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations by Jules Evans

A New Stoicism by Lawrence Becker

History and Biographies (General)

In addition to the surviving writings of the Stoics, several other historians of the time periods have documented the Stoics, their philosophy, and, in some cases, their disagreements with the philosophy. But from these texts, we are better able to understand the Stoic philosophy as it was first developed and later grew as it made the jump from Greece to Rome.

Overall Biography

Lives of the Stoics by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

SPQR by Mary Beard

Plutarch’s Lives (Volumes I & II) by Plutarch

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

The Civil Wars by Appian

The Annals by Tacitus

The Histories by Tacitus

Civil War by Lucan

Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius

Histories and Biographies (The Stoics)

In order to better understand the lives they lived, it is important to try and read biographies of the Stoic philosophers. Unfortunately, in some cases, there is not much information to go on. For example, Epictetus has no biography listed below (Though A.A. Long’s book on Epictetus could be thought of as a biography in some sense) as there is little to no information on his life. So, many of these biographies are pieced together from the works of the ancient historians through a modern day lens.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius: A Life by Frank McLynn

Ten Caesars by Barry Strauss

Seneca the Younger

The Greatest Empire by Emily Wilson

Dying Every Day by James Romm

Cato the Younger

Rome’s Last Citizen by Rob Goodman & Jimmy Soni

Cicero

Cicero by Anthony Everitt

Cicero: A Portrait by Elizabeth Rawson

Histories and Biographies (Emperors)

In order to better understand the philosophy, we need to understand Greece and Rome at the time, as well as the major players. Below is a list of biographies and histories of people who came face to face with the Stoics and interacted, or fought them in the case of Caesar and Cato, and thus benefits the student of the philosophy to know the history and context of what some of the Stoics are referencing (Such as Seneca who viewed Cato and his fight against Caesar as a Stoic sage).

Julius Caesar

Rubicon by Tom Holland

Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman

Caesar by Adrian Goldsworthy

The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss

Augustus

Augustus by Anthony Everitt

Augustus: First Emperor of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy

Caligula

Caligula: The Corruption of Power by Anthony Barrett

Caligula: The Mad Emperor of Rome by Stephen Dando-Collins

Caligula by Aloys Winterling

Nero

Nero by Edward Champlin

Rome is Burning by Anthony Barrett

Hadrian

Hadrian by Anthony Everitt

James Stockdale

Courage Under Fire by James Stockdale

Princeton University Press Recent Translations

Princeton University Press over the last few years began producing a series called Ancient Wisdom for Modern Readers. A good portion of the series thus far has focused on the essential works and essays of Cicero and Seneca. These new translations are easy to understand and come with complimentary introductions to not only the work, but also the underlying philosophy contained within each work.

How to Grow Old by Cicero

Cicero’s masterpiece on what it means to grow old and how we all can. This book is filled with timeless wisdom.

How to be a Friend by Cicero

Still heralded today as one of the most important works ever written on the topic, How to be a Friend teaches its readers how to find and keep friends. For a work written over 2,000 years ago, the words are still relevant today.

How to Think About God by Cicero

It is due to Cicero that we better understand Stoicism and their beliefs. How to Think About God is Cicero’s approach to higher powers for both believers and non-believers.

How to Die by Seneca

Besides Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was the Stoic (whose work most survives) who constantly wrote about and contemplated death. How to Die is a series of excerpts from Seneca’s work, aggregated into a single book with translations by James Romm.

How to Keep Your Cool by Seneca

Based upon Seneca’s De Ira (Essay: On Anger), James Romm’s translation focuses on the most important aspects and teaches the reader how a Stoic handles anger.

How to Give by Seneca

The most recent translation by James Romm of Seneca’s writing, this one focuses on Seneca’s work, On Benefits, and discusses how generosity is one of the most important virtues to living.

How to be Free by Epictetus

The most recent translation by Epictetus expert A.A. Long, this quick read provides the reader with everything they need to know about Epictetus and his Enchiridion.

Free Resources and Texts

Online one can find many versions of the original Stoic texts which are now out of copyright. Below is a link to some of them including George Long’s translations:

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The Enchiridion by Epictetus

Discourses with Enchiridion by Epictetus

Moral Letters by Seneca, compiled and presented by Tim Ferriss (Tao of Seneca Volumes I, II, III)

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The Stoic Within participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more simplistic terms, if you buy a book on Amazon from a link in this article, I receive a very small percentage of its price.

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