The best books to understand Stoicism from multiple perspectives

Gary W. Cross Author Of Exploring the Way of Epictetus: His Destination, Directions, and Strategies
By Gary W. Cross

Who am I?

In my series on Ways of the World, my aim is to let the founder of each way tell us of their way in their words: the destination that they suggest we all seek; the directions that they offer to help us to reach the destination, and the strategies that they offer to help us to successfully follow their directions. I find it marvelous that we can listen to people, such as Epictetus, who lived thousands of years ago; people whose words can help us to improve our ways. You would be right if you have guessed that the books I recommend are primary sources.


I wrote...

Exploring the Way of Epictetus: His Destination, Directions, and Strategies

By Gary W. Cross,

Book cover of Exploring the Way of Epictetus: His Destination, Directions, and Strategies

What is my book about?

Epictetus was born a slave in Hierapolis (in present-day Turkey). He studied Stoic philosophy while still a slave. After attaining his freedom, he taught philosophy in Rome before being banished by Emperor Domitian (along with other philosophers) in 89 CE.  Epictetus went to Nicopolis (in present-day Greece) where he continued to teach philosophy. I suggest it is to Epictetus that we must turn to best understand the way of the Stoic. 

The books I picked & why

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The Stoics Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Book cover of The Stoics Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia

Why this book?

A good place to start the exploration into Stoicism. This book introduces the main characters of Stoicism, and the main areas they focused on, such as Physics and Ethics. Importantly, the book provides sources from ancient sources to expound the different areas.


Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

By Christopher Gill, Robin Hard (translator),

Book cover of Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

Why this book?

It is by listening to Epictetus that we best learn the way of the ancient Stoics. Epictetus’ Discourses and Handbook are, arguably, the works that have most shaped Stoicism for the last two thousand years. Listening to Epictetus, we become aware of our ways (our thoughts, beliefs, concepts, and behaviours) that have been shaped by the ancient Stoics. Listening to Epictetus, we learn of a way that offers much that can still help us to improve our own way to a better life.


Letters from a Stoic

By Lucius Seneca, Robin Campbell (translator),

Book cover of Letters from a Stoic

Why this book?

Lucius Seneca was the most prolific writer of the later Stoics. Included in his works are one hundred and twenty-four letters that he wrote to his friend Lucilius which not only offer many insights into stoicism, but also insights into the mind of Seneca and more generally into the then Roman way of life.


Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius, A.S.L. Farquharson (translator),

Book cover of Meditations

Why this book?

Meditations is a collection of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor (at the other extreme, Epictetus was born a slave). The original title is unknown, and over the years many titles have be used, such as ‘The Book of Marcus’ and ‘Things to one’s self’. I suggest that the latter title, more accurately reflect its contents.


Hellenistic Philosophy

By Lloyd P. Gerson, Brad Inwood,

Book cover of Hellenistic Philosophy

Why this book?

This book not only provides excellent texts of early Stoicism, but also provides texts of Epicureanism, and Scepticism, the other dominant philosophies at the time, and thus places Stoicism in the context of the time.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in stoicism, Epictetus, and life satisfaction?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about stoicism, Epictetus, and life satisfaction.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Michel de Montaigne, Meditations, and The Twelve Caesars if you like this list.