Top 5 Stoic Books That You Must Absolutely Read to Understand Stoicism
The best part about Stoicism is that you can go to the main books on Stoicism, read them and feel like they were written yesterday, not 2000 years ago. You can pick up Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus and find the writing fresh as always. In them, we find the wisdom to help us overcome adversity, find serenity, and live well. They contain timeless truths and wisdom for any age.
Understanding some key concepts such as MEMENTO MORI, AMOR FATI, PRAEMEDITATIO MALORUM, or VOLUNTARY DISCOMFORT, will allow us to better face many of the situations that we have to face throughout life.
I researched everything I could about the main Stoic literature. That research led to the following list: what I would call is (hopefully) the best collection of books on Stoicism.
1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Do not be fooled by the date on which Marcus Aurelius completed the writings that would be collected later in his Meditations: his content is philosophical, autobiographical, and full of common sense, and will sound contemporary and universal to any reader. Especially to those who are interested in learning more about the teachings of Stoicism, as a philosophical school that can contribute to improving the daily life of anyone.
Written in twelve books or chapters, the Meditations cover the vital reflections of the emperor during his last 12 years, in which moderation, respect for nature, the identification between all things and the universe (pantheism), as well as a deep conviction in Stoicism served as a philosophical and vital model.4
2. Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus
Epictetus’ Discourses are among the most influential Stoic writings. He sets out the fundamental ethical principles of Stoicism in a form that should help people to apply them more easily in practice and use them as a basis for leading a virtuous, calmer, and happier life.
The Discourses are therefore characterized by lively informality and are imbued with numerous anecdotes, pictorial examples, and dialogues. Their important message is that our happiness depends on us and that each of us has the ability to, with the help of reflection, insight, and hard work, achieve that goal. According to Epictetus, you should change your desires rather than the order of the world.
Epictetus in his lectures and discourses alludes to various life situations in which his students might find themselves and offers them advice on how to behave in those situations. The stoicism which he seeks to convey to his listeners represents a kind of mental hygiene, the purpose of which is to provide mental health and strength of character in those who adhere to it. Such an approach to philosophy requires serious personal engagement and no small intellectual and moral effort.
3. Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
Seneca was a multi-faceted personality, a proven enthusiast, politician, great proprietor, businessman, practitioner, and diffuser of philosophy, speaker, and poet.
The “Letters from a Stoic” form a set of 124 pieces published in twenty books. Seneca forged in these letters his masterpiece, the philosopher’s living testament, in which there are innumerable concerns, experiences, and thoughts of the author.
Here are some of the most original and most learned thoughts about morality, life, and sincerity of one of the greatest teachers of the morality of all time. Seneca provides evidence of his in-depth knowledge of the philosophy and sciences of the time, as well as of his lavish talent for creating original ethical theories and views.
4. A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine
This is probably one of the most famous modern introductory texts for beginners. The book is highly readable and, like other books on the list, provides an excellent introduction to philosophy for people looking to understand Stoicism.
The book gives a look at stoicism from the 20th century and how to use it to find happiness, in a world full of rush, competitiveness, and ego. A guide to learning to relativize concerns and focus on what is really in our control.
If I had to mention a book that was capable of compiling the origin of the first Stoics, Stoicism in Roman times until its decline in a didactic way, this would undoubtedly be the book.
All the tools that have been used for more than 2000 years- negative visualization, projective visualization, memento mori, practicing self-control- you will find many in this work of art.
5. How to be a Stoic, by Massimo Pigliucci
Massimo, an Italian author with a doctorate in genetics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, develops a rational and science-friendly philosophy that includes metaphysics with a spiritual dimension in a simple book, which aims to use ancient philosophy in our day-to-day.
For this, he uses the ideas of the slave Epictetus through a series of bases with a simple language and practical proposals to accompany those who are looking for the first contact with this philosophy, some pleasant and entertaining teachings to get closer to the ideas of Stoicism.
He is behind the popular blog “How to be a Stoic,” which is “an evolutionary guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century.” This is a perfect book to get started in Stoicism if you have a hard time reading a work by Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus.
Stoicism is a philosophy that helps more people every day to face their lives by making them control their emotions, and I have chosen these books so you can continue to advance on your path of personal growth.
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