The Ultimate Stoicism Reading List

Stoicism has absolutely changed my life. I’ve actually written a blog post about this very topic before. Whether you’re religious, spiritual, or everything (or nothing) in between – Stoicism is an approachable, practical way to live life. Stoicism is a philosophy that encourages reduced stress, heightened awareness, and increased happiness.

Stoicism explained.

It’s not terribly tough to define stoic. Stoicism is a philosophical belief that focuses primarily on control: or rather our lack of control over anything but our own selves. Acceptance of this lack of control leads to happiness. We can only control our own self and reactions – not what happens to us.

“Stoicism was founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC, but was famously practiced by the likes of Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment should be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.”

-Daily Stoic

How to pronounce Stoicism.

ST (like the “st” in “store”) OH (like the sound in “ocean”) I (like the I sound in “inch”) SIZ (like “scissor”) IM (like the “im” in “him”)

A complete guide to stoicism - learn why stoicism will change your life and how to be at peace, be more productive, and more grateful!

The Stoic philosophers and writers you should know.

There have been many well known Stoics throughout time. When exploring the Stoic school of philosophy, you’ll likely run into the following names.

Zeno

Stoicism is a form of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium. Zeno founded the Stoic school of philosophy, teaching in Athens at around 300 B.C. Zeno himself was born around 334 B.C.

Emperor Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 – and was also a Stoic philosopher. Potentially his most well known work, “Meditations,” was written as a reminder to himself while on military tour. Meditations is often touted as one of the greatest Stoic literary works of all time.

Ryan Holiday

I‘m personally anointing Ryan Holiday as the king of modern Stoicism. An author, podcaster, and Stoic himself, Holiday reads and writes voraciously – sharing what he’s learned along the way. Ryan Holiday’s “Daily Stoic” is easily in my top three favorite books of all time.

Popular Stoicism beliefs.

A few of my favorite Stoicism life lessons.

We cannot control our circumstances, but can only control how we react.

Stoics believe in the absolute fact that, unfortunately, we don’t really control what happens to us. We can’t control (not really) if we are diagnosed with an illness, if we lose our job, if our partner leaves us, or any of the other ill fated things life sometimes lays at our feet. I believe the Stoics are right. We can do our best to mitigate some risk, but we don’t really control what happens to us. Human beings don’t have anywhere near the amount of control we like to believe we do.

What Stoics do believe is that we can control how we “react” to the things that happen to us. We feel a lot of things, but we can choose what to continue to feel and most importantly, how to act.

Worrying is simply unnecessary suffering.

Like many people, I’m prone to worrying. I’ll take a scenario and imagine all the potential awful outcomes, fretting over the potential. The reality is – that’s all it is. Potential. Logic would tell you it makes no sense to worry about something that hasn’t happened yet. Until that something happens, worrying about it is just unnecessary suffering.

A complete guide to stoicism - learn why stoicism will change your life and how to be at peace, be more productive, and more grateful!

The best books Stoicism books to add to your library.

If you have a hunger to learn more about the Stoic philosophy, modern Stoicism, and how to adopt Stoic practices into your daily life – you’ll want to read. The stoics wrote and they read.

Admittedly a good deal of this Stoicism book reading list may seem like a giant ode to the author Ryan Holiday. Holiday is, dare I say it, the most prolific Stoic author of our time. Between his numerous books (all of which are works of art), his podcast, and his YouTube channel, Holiday produces plenty of Stoic content to consume. All of it is value driven. It would be impossible to write about modern Stoicism and not acknowledge the work of Ryan Holiday.

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

“Why have history’s greatest minds—from George Washington to Frederick the Great to Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with today’s top performers from Super Bowl-winning football coaches to CEOs and celebrities—embraced the wisdom of the ancient Stoics? Because they realize that the most valuable wisdom is timeless and that philosophy is for living a better life, not a classroom exercise.

The Daily Stoic offers 366 days of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the playwright Seneca, or slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus, as well as lesser-known luminaries like Zeno, Cleanthes, and Musonius Rufus. Every day of the year you’ll find one of their pithy, powerful quotations, as well as historical anecdotes, provocative commentary, and a helpful glossary of Greek terms.

By following these teachings over the course of a year (and, indeed, for years to come) you’ll find the serenity, self-knowledge, and resilience you need to live well. “

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

“Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. For anyone who struggles to reconcile the demands of leadership with a concern for personal integrity and spiritual well-being, the Meditations remains as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago.

In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in thirty-five years—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy. In fresh and unencumbered English, Hays vividly conveys the spareness and compression of the original Greek text. Never before have Marcus’s insights been so directly and powerfully presented.

With an Introduction that outlines Marcus’s life and career, the essentials of Stoic doctrine, the style and construction of the Meditations, and the work’s ongoing influence, this edition makes it possible to fully rediscover the thoughts of one of the most enlightened and intelligent leaders of any era.”

Stoic Classics Collection: Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, Epictetus’s Enchiridion, Seneca’s On a Happy Life, On the Shortness of Life & On Providence

“In one beautifully laid-out volume, five of the most enduringly influential and important works of stoic philosophy — works that even thousands of years after their original publication, continue to inspire readers to greater self-mastery and self-improvement. Included in this volume:
– Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (derived from the 1880 translation by George Long (1800-1879)
– Epictetus’s Enchiridion (derived from the 1877 translation by George Long (1800-1879)
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s On a Happy Life, On the Shortness of Life, and On Providence (derived from the 1889 translations by Aubrey Stewart (1844-1918))”

Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday

“For millennia, Stoicism has been the ancient philosophy that attracts those who seek greatness, from athletes to politicians and everyone in between. And no wonder: its embrace of self-mastery, virtue and indifference to that which we cannot control has much to offer those grappling with today’s chaotic world. But who were the Stoics?

In this book, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman offer a fresh approach to understanding Stoicism through the lives of the people who practiced it – from Cicero to Zeno, Cato to Seneca, Diogenes to Marcus Aurelius. Through short biographies of all the famous, and lesser-known, Stoics, this book will show what it means to live stoically, and reveal the lessons to be learned from their struggles and successes. The result is a treasure trove of insights for anyone in search of living a good life.”

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

“Its many fans include a former governor and movie star (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip hop icon (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NBC sportscaster (Michele Tafoya), and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Cubs, and University of Texas men’s basketball team.

The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.

If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. And along the way it will inspire you with dozens of true stories of the greats from every age and era.”

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson

“Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the last famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes readers on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian―taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day―through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides readers through applying the same methods to their own lives.

Combining remarkable stories from Marcus’s life with insights from modern psychology and the enduring wisdom of his philosophy, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor puts a human face on Stoicism and offers a timeless and essential guide to handling the ethical and psychological challenges we face today.”

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

“All great leaders, thinkers, artists, athletes, and visionaries share one indelible quality. It enables them to conquer their tempers. To avoid distraction and discover great insights. To achieve happiness and do the right thing. Ryan Holiday calls it stillness–to be steady while the world spins around you.

In this book, he outlines a path for achieving this ancient, but urgently necessary way of living. Drawing on a wide range of history’s greatest thinkers, from Confucius to Seneca, Marcus Aurelius to Thich Nhat Hanh, John Stuart Mill to Nietzsche, he argues that stillness is not mere inactivity, but the doorway to self-mastery, discipline, and focus.

Holiday also examines figures who exemplified the power of stillness: baseball player Sadaharu Oh, whose study of Zen made him the greatest home run hitter of all time; Winston Churchill, who in balancing his busy public life with time spent laying bricks and painting at his Chartwell estate managed to save the world from annihilation in the process; Fred Rogers, who taught generations of children to see what was invisible to the eye; Anne Frank, whose journaling and love of nature guided her through unimaginable adversity.

More than ever, people are overwhelmed. They face obstacles and egos and competition. Stillness Is the Key offers a simple but inspiring antidote to the stress of 24/7 news and social media. The stillness that we all seek is the path to meaning, contentment, and excellence in a world that needs more of it than ever.”

The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual by Ward Farnsworth

“See more clearly, live more wisely, and bear the burdens of this life with greater ease―here are the greatest insights of the Stoics, in their own words. Presented in twelve lessons, Ward Farnsworth systematically presents the heart of Stoic philosophy accompanied by commentary that is clear and concise.

A foundational idea to Stoicism is that we appear to go through life reacting directly to events. That appearance is an illusion. We react to our judgments and opinions―to our thoughts about things, not to things themselves. Stoics seek to become conscious of those judgments, to find the irrationality in them, and to choose them more carefully.

In chapters including Emotion, Adversity, Virtue, and What Others Think, here is the most valuable wisdom about living a good life from ages past―now made available for our time.”

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

“Many of us insist the main impediment to a full, successful life is the outside world. In fact, the most common enemy lies within: our ego. Early in our careers, it impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult. At every stage, ego holds us back.

Ego Is the Enemy draws on a vast array of stories and examples, from literature to philosophy to his­tory. We meet fascinating figures such as George Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Katharine Graham, Bill Belichick, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who all reached the highest levels of power and success by con­quering their own egos. Their strategies and tactics can be ours as well.

In an era that glorifies social media, reality TV, and other forms of shameless self-promotion, the battle against ego must be fought on many fronts. Armed with the lessons in this book, as Holiday writes, “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.””

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

“One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives.

In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Readers learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have.

Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own lives. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.”

The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflection on the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday

“For more than two thousand years, Stoic philosophy has been the secret operating system of wise leaders, artists, athletes, brilliant thinkers, and ordinary citizens. With the acclaimed, bestselling books The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego Is the Enemy and The Daily Stoic, Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman have helped to bring the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus to hundreds of thousands of new readers all over the world.

Now Holiday and Hanselman are back with The Daily Stoic Journal, a beautifully designed hardcover journal that features space for morning and evening notes, along with advice for integrating this ancient philosophy into our 21st century lives. Each week readers will discover a specific powerful Stoic practice, explained and presented with related quotations to inspire deeper reflection and application, and each day they will answer a powerful question to help gauge their progress.

Created with a durable, Smyth-sewn binding and featuring a helpful introduction explaining the various Stoic tools of self-management, as well as resources for further reading, this is a lasting companion volume for people who already love The Daily Stoic and its popular daily emails and social media accounts. It can also be used as a stand-alone journal, even if you haven’t read the previous books.

For anyone seeking inner peace, clarity, and effectiveness in our crazy world, this book will help them immensely for the next year—and for the rest of their lives.”

How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life by Massimo Pigliucci

“Whenever we worry about what to eat, how to love, or simply how to be happy, we are worrying about how to lead a good life. No goal is more elusive. In How to Be a Stoic, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers Stoicism, the ancient philosophy that inspired the great emperor Marcus Aurelius, as the best way to attain it. Stoicism is a pragmatic philosophy that focuses our attention on what is possible and gives us perspective on what is unimportant. By understanding Stoicism, we can learn to answer crucial questions: Should we get married or divorced? How should we handle our money in a world nearly destroyed by a financial crisis? How can we survive great personal tragedy? Whoever we are, Stoicism has something for us–and How to Be a Stoic is the essential guide.”

The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy) by Brad Inwood

“This volume offers an odyssey through the ideas of the Stoics in three ways: through the historical trajectory of the school itself and its influence; the recovery of the history of Stoic thought; and finally, the ongoing confrontation with Stoicism. The study demonstrates how Stoicism refines philosophical traditions, challenges the imagination, and ultimately defines the kind of life one chooses to lead. Advanced students and specialists will discover a conspectus of developments in this interpretation of the Stoics and new readers will be drawn to its accessibility.”

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero

“From acclaimed classical historian, author of Ghost on the Throne a high-stakes drama full of murder, madness, tyranny, perversion, with the sweep of history on the grand scale.

At the center, the tumultuous life of Seneca, ancient Rome’s preeminent writer and philosopher, beginning with banishment in his fifties and subsequent appointment as tutor to twelve-year-old Nero, future emperor of Rome. Controlling them both, Nero’s mother, Julia Agrippina the Younger, Roman empress, great-granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus, sister of the Emperor Caligula, niece and fourth wife of Emperor Claudius.

James Romm seamlessly weaves together the life and written words, the moral struggles, political intrigue, and bloody vengeance that enmeshed Seneca the Younger in the twisted imperial family and the perverse, paranoid regime of Emperor Nero, despot and madman.

Romm writes that Seneca watched over Nero as teacher, moral guide, and surrogate father, and, at seventeen, when Nero abruptly ascended to become emperor of Rome, Seneca, a man never avid for political power became, with Nero, the ruler of the Roman Empire. We see how Seneca was able to control his young student, how, under Seneca’s influence, Nero ruled with intelligence and moderation, banned capital punishment, reduced taxes, gave slaves the right to file complaints against their owners, pardoned prisoners arrested for sedition. But with time, as Nero grew vain and disillusioned, Seneca was unable to hold sway over the emperor, and between Nero’s mother, Agrippina—thought to have poisoned her second husband, and her third, who was her uncle (Claudius), and rumored to have entered into an incestuous relationship with her son—and Nero’s father, described by Suetonius as a murderer and cheat charged with treason, adultery, and incest, how long could the young Nero have been contained?

Dying Every Day is a portrait of Seneca’s moral struggle in the midst of madness and excess. In his treatises, Seneca preached a rigorous ethical creed, exalting heroes who defied danger to do what was right or embrace a noble death. As Nero’s adviser, Seneca was presented with a more complex set of choices, as the only man capable of summoning the better aspect of Nero’s nature, yet, remaining at Nero’s side and colluding in the evil regime he created.

Dying Every Day is the first book to tell the compelling and nightmarish story of the philosopher-poet who was almost a king, tied to a tyrant—as Seneca, the paragon of reason, watched his student spiral into madness and whose descent saw five family murders, the Fire of Rome, and a savage purge that destroyed the supreme minds of the Senate’s golden age.”

Got Stoicism books to add to this reading list? Drop your recommendations in the comments below!

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