The best books on Stoicism (through the eyes of a psychiatrist and ethicist)

Ronald W. Pies Author Of The Three-Petalled Rose: How the Synthesis of Judaism, Buddhism, and Stoicism Can Create a Healthy, Fulfilled and Flourishing Life
By Ronald W. Pies

The Books I Picked & Why

The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations

By Marcus Aurelius, David Hicks, C. Scot Hicks

Book cover of The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations

Why this book?

There have been many fine translations of the classic Stoic handbook (the Meditations) by the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. But the one that captures the vigor and spirit of this great philosopher-ruler is the new translation by David and Scot Hicks. In bold, declarative sentences like, “The best revenge is not to do as they do,” Hicks and Hicks bring Stoicism to life and show its relevance to our very troubled age.

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Letters from a Stoic

By Lucius Seneca, Robin Campbell

Book cover of Letters from a Stoic

Why this book?

The Roman statesman, philosopher, and man of Letters, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, lived a tumultuous and storied life in a time of political turmoil in Rome. His brilliant and heartfelt letters to his friend, Lucilius, are at once chatty and personal, and yet meant “for the ages.” Seneca conveys many of the chief ideals of Roman Stoicism, and has sage advice on how to live “the good life” that still resonates with us today.

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A Guide to Rational Living

By Albert Ellis

Book cover of A Guide to Rational Living

Why this book?

Does your happiness depend on the opinion and good will of others? Or can you live a happy and fulfilled life even if others disapprove of you? Do events make you happy or sad, or do your emotions arise because of your thinking—whether rational or irrational? These are the central questions that psychologists Albert Ellis and Robert Harper address in this timeless classic of self-growth and self-care. The authors explicitly draw on the Stoic philosophers, including Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, as forerunners of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. Of all the books on the subject of living happily, creatively, and meaningfully, this one is near the top of my list.

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Michel de Montaigne

By Michel de Montaigne, J.M. Cohen

Book cover of Michel de Montaigne

Why this book?

How many people would adopt as their motto, “What do I know?” Yet it is this humility that characterizes the wisdom and humanism of the French philosopher, Michel do Montaigne. His essays are at once deeply (sometimes embarrassingly) personal, yet also universal in their concerns. Though raised a Catholic, Montaigne’s philosophy draws heavily upon Stoic and other classical sources, and he is best regarded as a Renaissance humanist. His wide-ranging essays are gems of condensed wisdom on what matters most in life.

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The Consolation of Philosophy

By V.E. Watts, Ancius Boethius

Book cover of The Consolation of Philosophy

Why this book?

Ancius Boethius (c. A.D.480-524) was a Roman philosopher whose life straddled the classical and medieval worlds. Thrown in prison by the emperor Theodoric on what were almost certainly false charges, Boethius wrote his moving dialogue between the ailing prisoner and his “nurse”, Philosophy. Drawing on many Stoic teachings, Boethius deals with topics like the nature of happiness; fate vs. free will, and how we can cope with events that we cannot control. His cardinal principle is that the only true joy is self-possession in the face of adversity.

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