The best books on Stoicism for beginners

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the Editor of the free online magazine The Stoic and the author of some twenty books on Stoicism. My day job is President, Leger Analytics, and I am also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University. I am not a professional philosopher. I study and write about Stoicism because it helps us to live better, free of fear, anxiety, worry, or anger.


I wrote...

Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life

By Chuck Chakrapani,

Book cover of Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life

What is my book about?

Most of us are outwardly free but not inwardly so. Anger, fear, worry, and anxiety entrap us. Is it possible to be completely and utterly free no matter what is happening to us now and what may happen in the future? Yes, said the ancient Stoics and gave us a blueprint for a happy life. Two thousand years later their blueprint still works the way they said it would.

Unshakable Freedom brings Stoicism to the digital age. Using contemporary, as well as historical, examples of people who used Stoicism to achieve personal freedom, this book offers a path to the good life, including 12 specific mental exercises you can do to achieve personal freedom.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Art of Living

Chuck Chakrapani Why did I love this book?

How do you get a quick understanding of what Stoicism is and what it can do for you? There are many good books on Stoicism, but not all of them are easy to follow. If they are easy to follow, they are not short. Sharon Lebell’s The Art of Living is short, clear, and is a faithful rendition of Epictetus’ Handbook. By just investing a few hours in this book, you can become a better person living a more pleasant life (assuming you follow the principles!). In this book, Epictetus shows us how to live a life that leads to freedom and happiness.

Why this version? The Art of Living is not a scholarly work and is not a true translation of the original. It is a modern English rendering of it, a good place for a beginner to start their journey into Stoicism.

By Epictetus (lead author), Sharon Lebell (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An immense dose of Epictetus would do us all a great deal of good, and I am grateful (beyond irony) to Tom Wolfe for reviving Epictetus" - Harold Bloom. So what makes the writings of this former slave so powerful today? Epictetus observed that although everyday life is fraught with difficulty, a life of virtue is within reach. He dedicated his life to outlining the simple way to happiness, fulfillment, and tranquility. By putting into practice the 93 witty, wise, and razor-sharp instructions that make up "The Art of Living", readers learn to gracefully meet the challenges of everyday life…


Book cover of Meditations: A New Translation

Chuck Chakrapani Why did I love this book?

Once you have some idea of what Stoicism is by reading the Handbook, you will want to read Meditations, probably the most widely read and the most beloved of Stoic classics and deservedly so. It was a journal kept by the philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius while he was in battlefields. Meditations was a personal journal of Marcus, never intended to be read by anyone else. Yet centuries later, it became one of the most widely read books on Stoicism. It is filled with practical wisdom and offers a way out of our daily predicaments and shows us how to live our lives with integrity, beauty, compassion, and reason. 

Why this translation? There are many translations of this book but the one I recommend, especially to newcomers, is Meditations by Gregory Hays. This translation is less literal than most others and very accessible to the modern reader.

By Marcus Aurelius (lead author), Gregory Hays (translator),

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Meditations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nearly two thousand years after it was written, Meditations remains profoundly relevant for anyone seeking to lead a meaningful life.

Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations…


Book cover of Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius

Chuck Chakrapani Why did I love this book?

We learn more through stories than through reading about abstract concepts. Lives of the Stoics is the story of the ancient Stoics. Who were they? How did they think? How did they live? If we want to live a Stoic life, then it helps us to know how other Stoics applied philosophy in their own lives: How did they face adversity? How did they handle betrayal? How did they handle prosperity? How did they deal with the ups and downs of life? The tone of the book is more informal and personal rather than authoritative. Yet this is one of the best books on Stoicism. Instead of giving us advice on how to use Stoic principles to live a better life, Holiday and Hanselman give us actual examples of people who lived by the principles and the results they got. If you are serious about practicing Stoicism, you will get a lot out of this book. There is no better introduction to living a Stoic life.

This book is unique. I can think of no alternative which even comes close.

By Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lives of the Stoics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
#1 WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER

From the bestselling authors of The Daily Stoic - an inspiring guide to the lives of Stoicism's greatest practitioners

A New York Times Noteworthy Pick

'In story after page-turning story, Lives of the Stoics brings ancient philosophers to life.' - David Epstein, bestselling author of Range

'Wonderful' - Chris Bosh, two-time NBA Champion

For millennia, Stoicism has been the ancient philosophy that attracts those who seek greatness, from athletes to politicians and everyone in between. And no wonder: its embrace of self-mastery, virtue and indifference to that which we cannot…


Book cover of Stoicism: A Very Short Introduction

Chuck Chakrapani Why did I love this book?

If you read the three books mentioned above, you will get a very good idea about Stoicism and how it can help you to lead a better life. But these books do not give a comprehensive overall picture of Stoic philosophy. They tend to ignore many aspects of Stoicism. If you want to have a good overall understanding of Stoic philosophy without having to spend a lot of time or money, get this book. In just 152 pages, Brad Inwood, a distinguished Stoic scholar, gives a clear account of what Stoicism is all about. If you are serious about Stoicism, at some point you need to have a reasonable understanding of what Stoicism actually was and is. You can find no better introduction to Stoicism than this.

This book is so concise, comprehensive, and clear, there’s no other book that directly competes with this one.

By Brad Inwood,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Stoicism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stoicism is two things: a long past philosophical school of ancient Greece and Rome, and an enduring philosophical movement that still inspires people in the twenty-first century to re-think and re-organize their lives in order to achieve personal satisfaction. What is the connection between them?

This Very Short Introduction provides an introductory account of Stoic philosophy, and tells the story of how ancient Stoicism survived and evolved into the movement we see today. Exploring the roots of the school in the philosophy of fourth century BCE Greece, Brad Inwood examines its basic history and doctrines and its relationship to the…


Book cover of Letters from a Stoic

Chuck Chakrapani Why did I love this book?

Seneca was one of the last of the ancient Stoics who lived during the time of Nero. Towards the end of his life, he wrote several letters to a young prefect, Lucilius. These letters were not just meant to be read by Lucilius but the generations to come as well. Seneca’s letters are well written and cover a wide range of topics as they relate to the art of living. These essays are a ‘how to’ guide to living.

Why this translation? Although there are 124 letters in all, modern translators tend to translate just a selection. Robin Campbell is no exception. I chose this translation because it is as good as any and it is not pricey.

By Lucius Seneca, Robin Campbell (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Letters from a Stoic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'It is philosophy that has the duty of protecting us ... without it no one can lead a life free of fear or worry'

For several years of his turbulent life, in which he was dogged by ill health, exile and danger, Seneca was the guiding hand of the Roman Empire. This selection of Seneca's letters shows him upholding the ideals of Stoicism - the wisdom of the self-possessed person immune to life's setbacks - while valuing friendship and courage, and criticizing the harsh treatment of slaves and the cruelties in the gladiatorial arena. The humanity and wit revealed in…


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Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


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