The best modern books on Marcus Aurelius

Who am I?

I am an author and cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist. I am one of the founders of the Modern Stoicism nonprofit organisation and the president and founder of the Plato’s Academy Centre in Athens, Greece. I’ve published six books on philosophy and psychotherapy, mostly focusing on the Stoic philosophy and its relationship with modern psychology and evidence-based psychotherapy.

I wrote...

Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

By Donald J. Robertson,

Book cover of Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

What is my book about?

Verissimus is a full-colour graphic novel about the life and philosophy of Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, with artwork by award-winning Portuguese illustrator Zé Nuno Fraga. Marcus was the author of the Meditations, one of the most famous self-improvement classics of all time. Our graphic novel is a bit like a prequel to Gladiator (2000)—the Hollywood movie in which Marcus was portrayed by Richard Harris—but with a lot more Stoic philosophy. It’s full of epic action scenes, such as several major Roman battles, dramatic interpersonal conflict, between Marcus and many other prominent characters from his life story, and lots of references to how philosophy helped him to cope with the tremendous challenges he faced.  

The books I picked & why

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Meditations: The Annotated Edition

By Marcus Aurelius, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Book cover of Meditations: The Annotated Edition

Why this book?

This is the most recent translation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, at the time of writing but I’m mainly including it because of Robin Waterfield’s very thorough annotations, which are invaluable when it comes to understanding some of the more obscure passages. They provide historical and philosophical context that’s otherwise missing and make it much easier to appreciate what Marcus was trying to say.

The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

By Pierre Hadot, Michael Chase (translator),

Book cover of The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Why this book?

The French philosopher and historian, Pierre Hadot, was the first modern author to systematically describe the “spiritual exercises” found in ancient Greek and Roman philosophical texts. This book is the most popular scholarly analysis of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius available. It provides essential information on the underlying structure of Marcus’ writing and how it fits into the broader system of Stoic philosophy. Although an academic work, most nonacademics find Hadot very readable. 

Marcus Aurelius: A Biography

By Anthony Birley,

Book cover of Marcus Aurelius: A Biography

Why this book?

Although some people assume we don’t know much about Marcus Aurelius, the truth is that we probably know more about him than most other ancient philosophers, and certainly, there are several modern biographies of Marcus Aurelius but the best is this one by the British historian, Anthony Birley. Birley adopts a scholarly approach but he also keeps quite a tight focus on the events of Marcus’ life. (Frank McLynn’s biography is more widely-read but ranges more freely over topics such as the Roman empire’s economy.)  

Marcus Aurelius

By John Sellars,

Book cover of Marcus Aurelius

Why this book?

John Sellars is a British academic philosopher and one of the leading modern scholars of Stoicism but he’s also a great communicator and his writings are easily accessible to nonacademics. Many readers assume, at first glance, that the Meditations consist of “random musings.” However, this recent work on the philosophy underlying Marcus Aurelius’ thought helps to expose the systematic nature of his reasoning. 

Marcus Aurelius: A Guide for the Perplexed

By William O. Stephens,

Book cover of Marcus Aurelius: A Guide for the Perplexed

Why this book?

This is a short introduction to the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius written by an American professor of philosophy. A short biographical introduction is followed by chapters discussing some technical points of Marcus’ Stoic philosophy from the Meditations. I found the biography a good condensation of the details you’ll find in Birley’s book. Although this is designed as an introduction, it gets a little technical at times, so nonacademic readers might prefer to look at John Sellars’ book first. This book will help you to think more deeply about what Marcus is saying, though.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Marcus Aurelius, stoicism, and philosophy?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Marcus Aurelius, stoicism, and philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius Explore 20 books about Marcus Aurelius
Stoicism Explore 50 books about stoicism
Philosophy Explore 325 books about philosophy

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