Suggested Reading

Doing Stoicism is hard, there can be no doubt—and part of that is because there’s so much to learn to really know if you’re doing Stoicism well! There’s no shortage of books on Stoicism, but it can be difficult to sort the worthwhile from the, let’s say “less worthwhile.” Below is a list of suggested reading compiled by Tanner and Kai (links on this page are not affiliate links).

Foundational Reading:

Our suggestion is to read these in the order we list them as we feel each builds upon the teaching of the previous or, at least, each makes more sense once the other foundational items have been delved into. We do not recommend attempting to read any of these books at the same time as you are reading any other of them. The aim is to learn and retain, not simply “get through” them.

The Art of Living, Epictetus & Sharon Lebell

Lebell delivers a masterful interpretation of Epictetus’s work in The Art of Living. At fewer than 150 pages, her work is perhaps the best introduction to Stoicism as it lays a foundation of basic Stoic principles in language that is easy to consume, understand, and retain. Once you’ve finished it, you will be in a better position to move forward, into your Stoic education.

Stoicism, John Sellars

This is the first introduction to Stoic philosophy for 30 years. Aimed at readers new to Stoicism and to ancient philosophy, it outlines the central philosophical ideas of Stoicism and introduces the reader to the different ancient authors and sources that they will encounter when exploring Stoicism.

The Enchiridion, Epictetus & George Long

George Long, who translated Meditations in the late 1800s, has produced what is potentially, to date, the best translation of Epictetus’ seminal work, the Enchiridion. The Dover thrift edition being perhaps the most affordable paperback version available.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius & Gregory Hays

Marcus Aurelius, very much the poster boy for Stoicism in our age, is the defacto entry-point for most into learning the philosophy. Hays’ translation offers the most recent translation of the original Koine Greek, and proves to be, at least in our experience, the most approachable translation for modern readers.

Lectures & Fragments, Musonius Rufus

Lesser known, but incredibly influential, Musonius Rufus was the teacher of Epictetus. His surviving works are few but incredibly informative. As the teacher of Epictetus, perhaps the most well known Stoic next to Marcus Aurelius, Musonius is a must read and both a short and easy one at that.

Seneca’s Letters on Ethics, Seneca & Margaret Graver

An unabridged and masterfully complemented (by Graver) version of Seneca’s famous letters to to his friend Lucilius during the first century CE. Seneca’s letters isn’t a book you read, cover to cover, rather one you become familiar with over time through casually run-ins.

Intelligent Virtue, Julia Annas

You will not understand Stoic Virtue until you read this book. It’s a heavy read, though not a difficult one. Annas walks us through a intelligent and logical explanation of Virtue as according to the Stoics, culminating in an understanding of the subject matter that will find you approaching Stoicism in an entirely more appropriate way. But you should not read this book before the others above as it assumes a strong familiarity of Stoic concepts.

Stoicism and Emotion, Margaret Graver

Without a doubt the most advanced read on the list up to this point. Graver’s work here is both seminal and incredibly dense. Nearly 400-pages on a topic that most people think has nothing to do with Stoicism (of course, at this point in the reading recommendations, that won’t be you!): Emotions. By the end of this book, your understanding of emotions in Stoicism will be near-unparalleled.

Continuing Education Reading:

Books on this list are not foundational, they’re more like expansional. Reading the ancient texts, and those that attempt to understand and interpret them, are absolutely necessary if you’re trying to understand and implement Stoicism as a life philosophy, but they can seem a world away when it comes to “modern” living. While we would argue that everything you need to know about living, regardless of era, can be found in those foundational texts, we recognize that might be a bit too stern a position to take. Below can be found books that we believe expand, in an academically sound way, on a foundational education in Stoicism. These books do not need to be read in order.

Breakfast with Seneca, David Fideler

Stoicism, the most influential philosophy of the Roman Empire, offers refreshingly modern ways to strengthen our inner character in the face of an unpredictable world. Widely recognized as the most talented and humane writer of the Stoic tradition, Seneca teaches us to live with freedom and purpose. His most enduring work, over a hundred “Letters from a Stoic” written to a close friend, explains how to handle adversity; overcome grief, anxiety, and anger; transform setbacks into opportunities for growth; and recognize the true nature of friendship.

The Inner Citadel, Pierre Hadot

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius are treasured today–as they have been over the centuries–as an inexhaustible source of wisdom. And as one of the three most important expressions of Stoicism, this is an essential text for everyone interested in ancient religion and philosophy. Yet the clarity and ease of the work’s style are deceptive. Pierre Hadot, eminent historian of ancient thought, uncovers new levels of meaning and expands our understanding of its underlying philosophy.

The Practicing Stoic, Ward Farnsworth

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.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, Donald Robertson

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.

Being Better, Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos

In our age of political polarization and environmental destruction, Stoicism’s empowering message has taken on new relevance. In Being Better, Kai Whiting and Leonidas Konstantakos apply Stoic principles to contemporary issues such as social justice, climate breakdown, and the excesses of global capitalism. They show that Stoicism is not an ivory-tower philosophy or a collection of Silicon Valley life hacks but a vital way of life that helps us live simply, improve our communities, and find peace in a turbulent world. Disclosure: This is Kai’s book