When starting to become interested in Stoicism, or working on one’s wellbeing in general, it can be a bit intimidating to think of all there is we have to learn. It is in our best interests to start our study of a new topic with a clear roadmap of what it is we will be learning and a guide to follow. If we have this map, then we are less likely to be daunted at the sometimes incomprehensible amount of information ahead of us (and starting with Stoicism can definitely feel like that).
This is actually the first idea I wrote down when I decided to launch this project. Many of my clients, after our discussions about Stoicism, would ask me where to begin, and after awhile I decided to collate my own little list which I believe to be a good place to start. Forgive me for being like many others, but I do have affiliate links for these books, so if you were to purchase a book via that link I would make a commission in the order of a few pence. However, a non affiliate link is also available and clearly labelled. All of these books are available from any good bookshop, and I actively encourage you to spend a bit of time in the philosophy section of any bookshop, as you never know what gems you may find.
Without further ado then, first comes the book list, and then comes a brief explanation of how I would suggest go about reading them.
Letters from a Stoic – Seneca
Dialogues and Essays – Seneca (especially On The Shortness of Life and On The Happy Life)
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
Enchiridion – Epictetus
Discourses and Selected Writings – Epictetus
Happy – Derren Brown
How To Be A Stoic – Massimo Pigliucci
The classical Stoics (Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius) are represented with some of their best known texts here. It might be tempting to rush out and buy almost everything, these books can all be acquired fairly cheaply and will take a while to read and understand. I often find myself flicking through them, scanning until a passage really strikes me and then rereading the whole letter or essay.
The last two books, Happy and How To Be A Stoic, are written by modern authors and, in some ways, are the best introduction to the philosophy. Happy, written by Derren Brown, was my introduction to Stoicism and is, in my opinion, one of the best written books available. He provides a brief and fascinating history of how we have come to define and develop a problem with seeking happiness; and then very clearly and very naturally introduces the reader to Stoicism with great care, compassion and humour. I have always been an admirer of his work, so I am perhaps biased, but his book is a wonderful companion to the classic texts, and brilliant for a more easily digestible message.
Massimo Pigliucci’s book How To Be A Stoic, is another wonderful read and again, makes the Stoic principles easy to digest and put into practice. When I was creating the Stoic training for my research this book was never far away and I believe it should be a staple on the shelf of anyone looking for a practical interpretation of Stoicism.
There are, of course, many other fantastic books by other authors, some of which I’ve read and some I haven’t. Over time I will update this list, but I wanted to keep it fairly short and most of all, useful. I want you to go and be able to buy one or two of these books and enjoy reading them without getting overwhelmed.
If you were to ask me what I would do when faced with this list, I’d choose one of the books by modern authors, one by a classic author, and begin there. You can add to your collection over time and, all being well, you will in time have a collection of books that you can turn to for both joy and instruction.
Please leave a comment recommending some of your favourite books or additions you would make to this list, and give this post a like and share if you enjoyed it and wish to do so.
I’ll be back with another post soon!