Stoicism is a 3rd century school of philosophy created by the Greek philosopher Zino of Athens. Greece is arguably the home of modern civilization with its vast influence on the world through countless contributions that have shaped society today as we know it. Chief amongst their contributions is philosophy.
There are numerous “schools of philosophy,” but we will only focus on stoicism. Stoicism believes that the key to attaining a good living experience is cultivating an excellent and healthy mental state. This ideal mental state was said to be marked by virtue and rational thought.
For a stoic, the mindset would revolve around putting the “self” first but only in the positive betterment of the “self.” Think “Self Love” but in togas and olive head ornaments in ancient Greece, and you’d be close. Stoicism embodies all one would need to be a better person, parent, and all-around member of society. Its benefits are that countless wiser men than myself have been studying and practicing this philosophy— even went as far as writing books about it.
There are a plethora of books written on the wonders of stoicism but below are just a few; consider it my very own “Top Picks.” Let us dive right into the Best Books on Stoicism.
1. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius was a mighty man, an emperor of Rome for about two decades and, an avid proponent of the stoicism ideals. His life was exemplary, and he was the picture of strength and leadership.
This is one of the best books on stoicism because it is a detailed account of the actual struggles he faced as a man, stripped of the divine image he portrayed on the outside, his journey to stoicism, and how it changed his life forever. However, he was just like any man; anxious, tired, and prone to negative emotions. Stoicism was the cleanse he needed, and I can assure you, it will do the same for you.
2. Letters From A Stoic
We all know the story of Paul the Apostle and his habit of writing letters to his protégé, Thomas, to admonish and strengthen his resolve, but it would seem Paul took a page from someone else’s book; a Roman philosopher, Seneca.
“Letters From a Stoic” is a collection of actual correspondence, letters from Seneca to Lucilius. The aim was to make him less susceptible to weak and negative emotions, make him virtuous and help him tread the path to living a good life.
If you struggle with finding virtue, the purpose for your life, or even have trouble drowning out the voice of doubt, then this is the best book on stoicism for you.
3. The Daily Stoic
Stoicism is all about changing your life through intentional actions regularly. You must follow these steps strictly and, if possible, dedicate every day to mastering the art of stoicism. As we know, with any self-help teaching, commitment is vital; daily commitment is paramount.
“The Daily Stoic” is a book made for everyone out there who likes to take their philosophical teachings one day at a time. It contains one quote from a philosopher per day. This choice is this way so that you read one page per day, giving you the room to fully digest and integrate the lessons of that day before moving on to another, making it one of the best books on stoicism out there.
4. Stoicism by John Sellars
Stoicism has prevailed over almost half a millennia, owing to not just the efficacy with which it can genuinely change lives but also its ability to affect prominent lives as well. These individuals, who later became proponents of stoicism, lent their knowledge into “Stoicism” by John Sellars.
This book is what you might call the “Stoic Bible,” containing the teachings of countless great minds who have, throughout history, added their voice to the message of stoicism. For any aspiring student or a master wanting to increase their store of knowledge, this is the best book on stoicism for you.
5. How To Be a Stoic
This book brings a select group of stoic philosophers such as Socrates, Epictetus, and Cato. These men taught and introduced the teachings of virtue, the good life, and meaningful relationships.
“How To Be a Stoic,” as it is so aptly named, is a literal guide to becoming a stoic, opening your mind to the basics of the school of thought. To truly understand becoming a stoic, it is essential to acquaint oneself with the foundations of the concept.
For this reason, it is among the best books on stoicism out there for you.
6. The Obstacle Is the Way, Ryan Holiday
The goal of stoicism is to improve the individual’s life through determined and honest efforts to change their mindset. This change of attitude comes from adopting the virtues and statutes at your own pace, of course.
What makes “The Obstacle Is the Way” one of the best books on stoicism is that it doesn’t bore the readers with many ancient teachings or examples. Instead, it attempts to appeal to the modern individual through more fresh and relatable examples. These examples are individuals in this more recent era whose lives have also been changed through stoicism.
Proving that not only is stoicism not outdated, you too can also overcome your challenges.
7. Discourses of Epictetus, Epictetus
Perhaps you think stoicism isn’t the right school of thought for you; after all, all the individuals mentioned had pretty comfortable lives, stoicism only improved upon it. You may be right and yet, so very wrong.
But for whatever side you fall, consider the life of Epictetus, a Roman slave. He didn’t have the luxuries or clarity of purpose you’d typically associate with the other proponents of the philosophy. This book is among the best books on stoicism because it proves that regardless of your place or station, whether rich or poor, stoicism can and will change your life.
8. Enchiridion of Epictetus
Epictetus became a prominent figure in history after securing his freedom as a teenager from slavery in the Roman empire. Throughout his lifetime, he spent it studying and writing for the future individuals who would, in turn, learn from his experience.
The “Enchiridion of Epictetus” is one of the best books on stoicism for its raw and innocent viewpoint and what we need to accomplish to indeed ascend to the good life we so desire.
His main body of work is much shorter than the “Discourses of Epictetus,” but do not let its volume or lack thereof fool you; it contains a wealth of knowledge needed to instruct and guide aspiring stoics.
9. The inner citadel, Pierre Hadot
This book is focused on the life of the famous proponent of stoicism, Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Unlike other books written about him, “The Inner Citadel” takes a very in-depth approach to tell his story the right way it should be said.
Marcus Aurelius was very conscious of the soul and its role in our general wellness, referring to meditation as a way to put the “inner citadel,” the mind, in check.
Furthermore, “The Inner Citadel” is one of the best books on stoicism because it opens our minds to meditation’s true and unprecedented philosophy.
10. The Practicing Stoic, Ward Farnsworth
As is always made clear with every existing piece of stoicism media, the aim is to create a good life through the upholding of positive virtues that in turn lead to the wellness of the mind. A sound mind, it was believed, in itself, is capable only of good and just deeds.
This is among the best books on stoicism because it centers its content on the ethical teachings, what it truly means to live a good life and the difference between right and wrong.
It is the best manual for anyone desiring a new life of stoicism, with its easy-to-understand lessons and teachings.
11. Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald Robertson
In this modern world where “self-love” is the mantra of basically every individual, it would only make sense for those same individuals to consider a life of stoicism. You see, stoicism is the one sure path to unadulterated happiness. Stoicism worked so many years ago, and even today, it is still very relevant to society.
The premise of “Stoicism and the Art of Happiness” makes it truly one of the best books on stoicism. What better way to improve lives than to equip an individual with the tools to make better value judgments and gain control of their emotions and use stoicism to their overall advantage? I don’t see any other way either.
12. A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
Much unlike the other books in our list of best books on stoicism, “A Man in Full” is a captivating and well-written novel. A fictional tale highlights the perceived idea of a good life and contrasts it with what stoicism teaches to be a perfect life.
In this book, we find characters conflicted, some lost, but all in all, they believed that amassing wealth was going to make them happy or have a good life. They were wrong, of course. Tom Wolfe excellently infuses the teachings of three prominent stoic proponents as guidelines to help the characters conclude that they were wrong to chase wealth instead.
13. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William Irvine
Today, we are plagued with the sinking feeling that we may not be doing enough or that all our efforts might be in vain. This is because we refuse to live stoic lives and have placed a high premium on worldly possessions and wealth as our idea of a good life.
“A Guide to the Good Life” teaches patience, faith in what we cannot see, and accepting what we cannot change, making it one of the best books on stoicism out there. As the name suggests, it is a guide to a better life; all you need is to follow and practice the steps and lessons.
14. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Stoicism is often mistaken for lack of emotions or apathy; this misconception has made some individuals uncertain about taking the journey for fear they might lose themselves or their feelings in the process.
“Antifragile” addresses these misconceptions, showing that one can survive traumatic events and come out whole and not broken. Some might see coming out of a traumatic experience seemingly unshaken as lacking emotion, but in truth, it is a show of accurate control of one’s emotions.
This book is a personal favorite and among the best books on stoicism because it teaches one to be firm but not in the cliché way the run-of-the-mill self-help books do it. It is genuine and intentionally designed to help you live a better life.
15. Stoic Warriors by Nancy Sherman
“Stoic Warrior” is not only one of the best books on stoicism; it is also an exciting read. An eye-opener into the military world and how stoicism has dramatically influenced their activities and teachings as far back as the Greek wars.
It draws a much-needed straight line from the ethics of stoicism to the strange, often challenging methods of training the military dishes out to recruits and proven soldiers as well.
As a warrior, you must endure; regardless of the terrain or circumstances, you must persevere and ultimately overcome. You can do this by not giving in to your emotions asking you to quit or take a break. The funny part is, stoicism is all about this lifestyle as well. You, too, can become a stoic warrior and change your whole life today.
Stoicism is considered the backbone of every successful and prominent figure in history. Its origins and practice date back to ancient Greece, where its originator, Zino, came up with it after stumbling upon works by Socrates. From these works, he’d go on to postulate and create his school of thought.
In today’s society, stoicism is needed even more than ever, with many individuals unable to find a purpose for their lives or fully comprehend what a good life should entail. The guidance and lessons to be gotten from stoicism are as priceless and relevant as when they were written, I’m sure once you consume these best books on stoicism, you’ll fully understand.