Stoicism has risen in popularity over the past decade; largely in response to the work of Ryan Holiday and The Daily Stoic. Both philosophers and students are exploring how they can use the ancient teachings as a guide to leading a good life. The increased interested has led to a lot more books being published, especially by those wishing to cash in on the trend.
This guide is designed to help you discover the best book to help you learn more about Stoicism. I only recommend books that have been thoroughly reviewed and recommended by others. I’ll help you find the right book for your personal journey and share the resources that will help you get the most out of the book.
This guide does not include the works by the original philosophers, nor does it include analysis of their work. Additional reading lists are listed at the end.
The Daily Stoic
The Daily Stoic is a useful introduction to Stoic principles. Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman collected 366 meditations that reflect the Stoic philosophy. These are from some of the core Stoic thinkers, as well as people who embody Stoic principles. These meditations are presented in 1-3 sentences, followed by a couple of paragraphs of analysis. This slowly introduces you to the core concepts of Stoicism without overwhelming you. The commentary also allows you to see how the concept fits into a larger framework.
This book is a great introduction to Stoic principles because you are exposed to key concepts in a digestible format. It isn’t overwhelming while still piing your interest. Some reviewers disagree with Holiday’s interpretations of the original texts and argue that it isn’t an accurate representation of Stoicism. Such reviewers have recommended just sticking to the original quotes.
How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life
This is one of my favourite introductory books about Stoicism. Massimo presents the the main concepts as part of a continuing dialogue with Epictetus. This conversational style makes complex concepts in a way that is easier to understand. He also provides examples of how to apply the principles to modern life; rather than placing them within the historical context of the Roman empire. Some consider this to be targeted more towards those at an intermediate level rather than beginner, however I found it to be accessible.
The guide is worth buying as it is likely you will return to it multiple times on your journey. It is Massimos own interpretation of the Stoics. I’d recommend that you visit his blog and patreon to see if you like his style.
It’s worth noting that title is a bit of a misnomer; the book is more of a rumination rather than a guide