Resources /Books /Guides

Stoic ResourcesFrom time to time I get asked about for recommendations about stoic resources, books and guides. As a result I’ve put together this list. I’ve personally used these, (in most cases). Perhaps you’ll find them of use?

I’ll add to these lists as I come across new resources that I’ve found useful. Of perhaps you want to suggest one that I’ve missed?

Resources

This is a non-exhaustive selection of books that I’ve found useful. Please suggest any that I’ve not listed so I can add them.

Stoicism Today: Selected Writings (Volume Two) has a low price to make it accessible to more people. And better than that, one of my own articles features in it!

I’m in good company. This is a collection of over forty essays and reflections from a diverse range of authors. It acts as both a guide to not only practising Stoicism in your own life but to all the different aspects of the modern Stoic revival.

You will learn about Stoic practical wisdom, virtue, how to relate to others and the nature of Stoic joy. You will read of life-stories by those who use Stoicism to cope with illness and other adversities. How Stoicism can be helpful to cultivate calm to contributing new solutions to the environmental crisis. And, just like the ancient Stoics did, it debates questions modern Stoics often ask. For example: Do you need God to be a Stoic? Is the Stoic an ascetic?

In summary, I’d recommend this book for those who want both practical wisdom and philosophical reflection. And also for anyone interested in practising the Stoic life in the modern world.

My Review

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 life. 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.


 

Originally written only for his personal consumption, Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations has become a key text in the understanding of Roman Stoic philosophy. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with notes by Martin Hammond and an introduction by Diskin Clay.

Written in Greek by an intellectual Roman emperor without any intention of publication, the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius offer a wide range of fascinating spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the leader struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. Spanning from doubt and despair to conviction and exaltation, they cover such diverse topics as the question of virtue, human rationality, the nature of the gods and Aurelius’s own emotions. But while the Meditations were composed to provide personal consolation, in developing his beliefs Marcus also created one of the greatest of all works of philosophy: a series of wise and practical aphorisms that have been consulted and admired by statesmen, thinkers and ordinary readers for almost two thousand years.

Martin Hammond’s new translation fully expresses the intimacy and eloquence of the original work, with detailed notes elucidating the text. This edition also includes an introduction by Diskin Clay, exploring the nature and development of the Meditations, a chronology, further reading and full indexes.

Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus (121-80) was adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius and succeeded him in 161, (as joint emperor with adoptive brother Lucius Verus). He ruled alone from 169, and spent much of his reign in putting down various rebellions, and was a persecutor of Christians. His fame rest, above all, on his Meditations, a series of reflections, strongly influenced by Epictetus, which represent a Stoic outlook on life. He was succeeded by his natural son, thus ending the period of the adoptive emperors.

If you enjoyed Meditations, you might like Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic, also available in Penguin Classics.


 

Although he was born into slavery and endured a permanent physical disability, Epictetus (ca. 50–ca. 130 AD) maintained that all people are free to control their lives and to live in harmony with nature. We will always be happy, he argued, if we learn to desire that things should be exactly as they are. After attaining his freedom, Epictetus spent his entire career teaching philosophy and advising a daily regimen of self-examination. His pupil Arrianus later collected and published the master’s lecture notes; the Enchiridion, or Manual, is a distillation of Epictetus’ teachings and an instructional manual for a tranquil life. Full of practical advice, this work offers guidelines for those seeking contentment as well as for those who have already made some progress in that direction.


 

Epictetus, a Greek stoic and freed slave, ran a thriving philosophy school in Nicropolis in the early second century AD. His animated discussions were celebrated for their rhetorical wizardry and were written down by Arrian, his most famous pupil. Together with the Enchiridion, a manual of his main ideas, and the fragments collected here, The Discourses argue that happiness lies in learning to perceive exactly what is in our power to change and what is not, and in embracing our fate to live in harmony with god and nature. In this personal, practical guide to the ethics of stoicism and moral self-improvement, Epictetus tackles questions of freedom and imprisonment, illness and fear, family, friendship and love, and leaves an intriguing document of daily life in the classical world.


 

This new guide to finding a happier way of life draws on the ancient wisdom of the stoics to reveal lasting truths and proven strategies for enhanced wellbeing. By learning what stoicism is, you can revolutionise your life, learning how to – properly – ‘seize the day’, how to cope in the face of adversity, and how to come to terms with whatever situation you’re in.

Donald Robertson is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, specialising in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), clinical hypnosis, and other evidence-based approaches. He has been in practice as a therapist for over fifteen years and mainly treats clients with anxiety-related problems at his clinic in Harley Street, London. Donald is also an experienced trainer and workshop facilitator.

He is the author of dozens of articles in therapy journals and magazines and of the books The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (2010) and The Practice of Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapy (in press). He is also the editor of The Discovery of Hypnosis (2009), the complete writings of James Braid, the founder of hypnotherapy.


 

From Stoic ethics to emotions, from Stoic mayors and mindfulness to practical philosophy, parenting, psychotherapy and prisons, from Star Trek and Socrates to Stoic lawyers, literature and living in general, this book brings together a wide-ranging collection of reflections on living the Stoic life today. You’ll read advice on coping with adversity, reflections on happiness and the good life and powerful personal testimonies of putting Stoicism into practise. But you’ll also read about the links between Stoicism and psychotherapy, Stoicism and mindfulness meditation and the unexpected places Stoicism can pop up in modern culture. This book will be of interest to both academics and non-academics alike and is about the varied ways in which the 2,300 year old philosophy as a way of life remains relevant to the concerns and needs of the present day.


 

In this short essay, Elen Buzaré examines ancient sources for clues to how Stoics of the Roman era used psychological techniques for turning doctrine into practical daily living, securing for themselves lives that flourished, free from troubles, enjoying an unshakeable peace of mind. With the help of this short guide, modern readers can similarly train themselves to live as Stoics, making progress towards the same ‘good flow of life’ and serenity, and develop a mindfulness that is immune to all harm, joyous in response to all that fate might bring. Especially suited to those who have already introduced themselves to the basics of Stoic doctrine, this little book will serve as inspiration and guide for anyone wanting to advance further on the Stoic way.


Stoic Resources

A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys – Seneca, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters

The “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius is seen as one of the three most important expressions of Stoicism. Pierre Hadot here uncovers levels of meaning and expands the understanding of its underlying philosophy through what he argues are the deceptive clarity and ease of the work’s style. Written by the Roman Emperor for his own private guidance and self-admonition, the “Meditations” set forth principles for living a good and just life. Hadot probes Marcus Aurelius’s guidelines and convictions and discerns the conceptual system that grounds them. Quoting the “Meditations” to illustrate his analysis, Hadot unfolds the philosophical context of the “Meditations”, commenting on the philosophers Marcus Aurelius read and giving special attention to the teachings of Epictetus, whose disciple he was. The soul, the guiding principle within us, is in Marcus Aurelius’s Stoic philosophy an invoilable stronghold of freedom, the “inner citadel”. This study offers a picture of the philosopher-emperor, a fuller understanding of the tradition and doctrines of Stoicism, and insight on the culture of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century.


Why should modern psychotherapists be interested in philosophy, especially ancient philosophy? Why should philosophers be interested in psychotherapy? There is a sense of mutual attraction between what are today two thoroughly distinct disciplines. However, arguably it was not always the case that they were distinct. Donald Robertson takes the view that by reconsidering the generally received wisdom concerning the history of these closely-related subjects, we can learn a great deal about both philosophy and psychotherapy, under which heading he includes potentially solitary pursuits such as ‘self-help’ and ‘personal development’.


The Discourses of Epictetus (Greek: Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί, Epiktētou Diatribai) are a series of extracts of the teachings of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus written down by Arrian c. 108 AD. There were originally eight books, but only four now remain in their entirety, along with a few fragments of the others.

Other Resources

Photo credit
David Negstad via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND