The words stoic or stoicism often seems like it is only used in descriptions of literary characters of a bygone age. It does not seem like something you should have any idea about or look into. Truth be told though, now, more than ever, a little bit of stoicism might be just what you need. You just have not realised it yet. With this article, I will take some time to describe what stoicism is before diving into the best books to teach you Modern stoicism philosophy.
What is stoicism?
Founded in the 3rd century BC (yes, it’s been around for that long!), the definition of stoicism is “the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint”. According to its teaching, the path to happiness is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself. One must not be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain. This in itself is common teaching, even in Buddhism, and one which we find ourselves trying to grasp onto more and more in modern society.
Our days are filled with anxieties and fears which hold us back from fulfilling our true potential. The pursuit of temporary desires often leaves us feeling empty after a while. This is why stoicism made a return in the late 20th century as people tried to regain control of their lives and try not to let external forces influence them. Stoics believe that you have everything you need to succeed. All you need to do is adapt to life’s circumstances and not allow it to change your core state.
Now that you know what stoicism refers to, let’s take a look at the best books to teach you modern stoicism philosophy.
Best books on modern stoicism
Let me first start by saying that if you want to dive off the deep end and go straight to the original masters themselves then the three books you can take a look at is:
- The Discourses of Epictetus by Epictetus
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius by Seneca
This list is dedicated to books which reference the above books using their teachings in a more modern world
📘 OUR CHOICE
A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine
Discover more about:
- The wisdom of stoic philosophy
- Avoiding the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction
- Attaining tranquillity
- How to let go of the past and focus on things we can control
The author, William B. Irvine, sifts through the stoicism of ancient Rome to demonstrate how its teachings are still applicable today. In doing so, the book, much like its title says, provides a guide to a good life. By using stoic techniques, and his own personal experience with them, Irvine describes how the reader can also live better and be more content with what we have. Using examples from the Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, Irvine describes how we should become thoughtful observers of our own lives in order to better identify the sources of stress and pain. By following the techniques in this book, you will find yourself taking the first steps to attain a joyful life.
📘 BOOK #2
This book is not an easy read, but it is so worth it! Lawrence C. Becker dives deep to evaluate the teachings of the great stoics before attempting to extrapolate what those teachings would look like in our modern world. He takes into consideration modern philosophy, experimental science and developmental psychology and makes some powerful statements. He believes that virtue and not happiness is the true pursuit of a stoic and even rejects the popular definition of a stoic. This book takes you on a journey that will breakdown the theoretical foundations of stoicism and shows you how to apply it to a modern world.
📘 BOOK #3
The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
Discover more about:
- Classic stoicism and why so many great minds follow its teachings
- Daily meditations to help you on your journey
- Exercises to follow to become a stoic
- Building resilience
Providing daily quotations from the masters of stoicism, Ryan Holiday guides you on your journey to becoming a stoic in the modern world. He endeavours to break down the quotations into their basic teachings and provides exercises for the reader to follow to implement them in their daily lives. The author explains how stoicism is timeless and that it can be used to live a better life. By following these teachings over a span of a year, you will be able to make it a daily habit and find the serenity and resilience you need to live well.
📘 BOOK #4
Donald Roberston brings us this simple yet empowering book which shows the reader how to use old school stoicism to make positive changes in your life. He uses case studies to highlight key teachings and how it is applied and the results which follow. This practical approach, with tools for self-assessment along the way, effectively demonstrates the results stoicism can achieve. So if you want to seize the day and live happily but don’t know where to start, this may be the book for you!
📘 BOOK #5
Jonas Salzgeber introduces the ready-to-use mix of timeless wisdom and empowering advice that will point the way to anyone seeking a calm and wise life. The book makes Stoic philosophy easy and actionable in the demanding modern world that we currently live in. The book is divided into two parts with the first being a basic introduction into the teachings of stoicism and what you will get out of it. The second part is all about putting it into action, including 55 stoic practices for everyday living. All in all, it is an easy to read book and an excellent guide to stoicism.
These five books are definitely the best books to teach you about modern stoicism philosophy. Due to the nature of the content, they can sometimes be harder to read as they explore the deep philosophical teachings of stoicism and its benefits. However, the positive influence stoicism can have in one’s life is undeniable and once you understand the basics, it becomes easier to implement. The great thing about these books is that they provide a great range in their explorations of modern stoicism. You have a guide to set you on your path, a debate to make you question, a daily motivator, a simple explanation and an all-rounder which provides history and a modern guide. Go on, give it a try! At least you can say you now know what stoicism is and how it fits into the modern world!