Stoic philosophy is one of the most accessible and practical ways of living. These are some of my favorite books about Stoic principles and ideas. Some are the foundation writings of Stoic philosophy, others are books that I have found very useful in living a more Stoic life.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
On the recommendation of Tim Ferriss, this is the first book that I read on Stoicism. The first time through it made an certainly made an impression, but it was the second and third pass where the ideas and teachings really started to stick. Irvine, a professor of philosophy, makes Stoicism accessible and practical to our modern world. If you’re new to Stoicism, this is a great book to start with.
Enchiridion by Epictetus
Considered one of the “Big 3” of ancient Stoic philosophers, Epictetus was born a slave who later gained his freedom and taught philosophy for the rest of his life. Although he endured a permanent limp, Epictetus taught that we should learn how to be content with the life we have and that we are truly in control of our own happiness. To our benefit, Epictetus’ teachings were written down by his student Arrianus and survived over the centuries.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius, considered the last of the “Good 5 Emperors” of the Roman Empire, is also one of the “Big 3” of ancient Stoic philosophers. His personal journal, which became the work known as Meditations, was not meant to be a published work, but throughout his writings, we see a man who, although at the pinnacle of power, reminds himself to act with compassion and understanding while ruling over the largest and most powerful empire of his day.
Letters From a Stoic by Seneca
As a chief advisor to Nero, Seneca was one of the most influential men of his time and tried to reign in the paranoid and erratic Emperor. Seneca was a playwright and author of several books but is most known for his writings on stoicism. His letters to a young friend on how to live a good life are one of his most treasured and lasting works.
Existential Kink by Carolyn Elliot
Carl Jung said, “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will rule our lives and we will call it fate.” This might seem an odd choice for a stoic book, and the title is certainly provocative, but this is one of the best books I’ve run into about facing up to your shadow self. We all have parts of us we don’t like, don’t understand, and wish would go away, but to become a more whole person, we have to accept ourselves for who we truly are. This book helps us move past our ego defenses and learn to not only accept, but to love those dark parts of us.