Just heard of Marcus Aurelius? Learning about ancient philosophy? Looking for the best books on stoicism? You’re in the right place! In this list of book recommendations, you’ll find 3 core stoic texts and 15 of the best stoic books ever written.
Before we jump in, let’s tackle a few common FAQs about stoic philosophy…
What is stoicism? Stoic philosophy teaches that the best way to be happy is to accept and strive to express the most virtuous version of yourself in every moment, no matter what comes your way. Stoic philosophy first flourished for about 600 years (from ~300 BC to ~300 AD) before losing ground to Christianity in the 4th century AD. Since then, it’s made several comebacks including a major surge in popularity over the last 15 years.
Where do I start reading stoicism? If you’re looking for an introduction to stoicism, try Ryan Holiday’s excellent The Daily Stoic (#1), The Obstacle Is The Way (#4) or Ego Is The Enemy (#6). After that, you may want to try something from the ancient stoics like Seneca’s Letters From A Stoics, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations or Epictetus’s Discourses before circling back for more stoic ethics and philosophy from some more best books on stoicism.
What’s the best book on stoicism? There is no best stoic book. There is only the best stoicism book for you. If you want your stoicism, in short, concentrated doses, try Letters from a Stoic, Meditations or The Daily Stoic (#1). For an introduction to stoicism with more narrative, try The Obstacle Is The Way (#4).
Stoicism is about as practical and accessible as philosophy gets, so don’t let this list overwhelm you. Scan my recommendations, pick a book on Stoic philosophy that excites you and start reading.
And until next time, stay humble, be awesome and go well.
The 3 Ancient Stoic Texts
These three ancient stoic texts contain the most concentrated and practical collection of Stoic wisdom we know of today. There are others but these are the best place to start.
- Letters from a Stoic (-49), Seneca (Summary)
A powerful and practical collection of 124 letters on how to become a more devoted stoic in every aspect of life, by stoic philosopher and tutor to emperor Nero, Seneca the Younger.
256 pages. Rated 4.3 over 18,200 reviews on Goodreads.
- Meditations (180), Marcus Aurelius (FREE Summary)
A deeply humbling and thought-provoking insight into the stoic mindset of one of history’s greatest leaders and thinkers – by Roman emperor, philosopher and example to us all, Marcus Aurelius.
303 pages. Rated 4.2 over 102,600 reviews on Goodreads.
- Discourses and Selected Writings (108), Epictetus
A transcription of a collection of intensely practical informal lectures given on the subject of happiness and freedom around 108 AD, by stoic philosopher and freed slave, Epictetus.
276 pages. Rated 4.4 over 2,200 reviews on Goodreads.
The 15 Best Books on Stoicism
Why these books and not others? The best books on stoicism below are the top picks from my master database, ranked them by a combination of Goodreads rating, the number of Goodreads reviews and first publication date. The goal is to give a good balance of what’s most loved, what’s most popular and what’s delivered timelessly relevant advice.
- The Daily Stoic (2016), Ryan Holiday (Summary)
366 Meditations for Clarity, Effectiveness, and Serenity
416 pages. Rated 4.4 over 5,700 reviews on Goodreads.
- Courage Under Fire (1993), James B. Stockdale
Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior
32 pages. Rated 4.3 over 800 reviews on Goodreads.
- A Guide to the Good Life (2008), William B. Irvine (Summary)
The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
326 pages. Rated 4.2 over 10,000 reviews on Goodreads.
- The Obstacle Is the Way (2014), Ryan Holiday (Summary)
The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
201 pages. Rated 4.1 over 24,800 reviews on Goodreads.
- The Practicing Stoic (2018), Ward Farnsworth
A Philosophical User’s Manual
256 pages. Rated 4.5 over 600 reviews on Goodreads.
- Ego Is the Enemy (2016), Ryan Holiday (Summary)
226 pages. Rated 4.1 over 20,600 reviews on Goodreads.
- How to Think Like a Roman Emperor (2019), Donald J. Robertson (Summary)
The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
304 pages. Rated 4.4 over 2,300 reviews on Goodreads.
- Stoicism (2006), John Sellars
219 pages. Rated 4.2 over 300 reviews on Goodreads.
- Stoicism and the Art of Happiness (2013), Donald J. Robertson
256 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads.
- The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (2010), Donald J. Robertson
Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy
316 pages. Rated 4.2 over 200 reviews on Goodreads.
- How to Be a Stoic (2017), Massimo Pigliucci (Summary)
Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life
288 pages. Rated 4.0 over 4,200 reviews on Goodreads.
- Lessons in Stoicism (2019), John Sellars
What Ancient Philosophers Teach Us about How to Live
96 pages. Rated 4.3 over 400 reviews on Goodreads.
- The Little Book of Stoicism (2019), Jonas Salzgeber
Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness
287 pages. Rated 4.2 over 1,300 reviews on Goodreads.
- Your User’s Manual (2018), Anderson Silver
A Guide for Purpose and an Anxiety Free Life in the 21st Century
86 pages. Rated 4.2 over 100 reviews on Goodreads.
- The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (2003), Brad Inwood
450 pages. Rated 4.0 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
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