The best books on the art of living

Paul Allen Miller Author Of Horace
By Paul Allen Miller

Who am I?

While I am Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina and the author of ten books, I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. My parents were from rural Missouri. I never met a professor, a writer, or an artist growing up. I never seriously considered going to college. But I loved to read. When I went to college and discovered you could major in literature and ancient languages, my life changed. I am now at work on a book entitled Truth and Enjoyment in Cicero: Rhetoric and Philosophy Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which reflects on what Cicero can teach us about living in a post-truth age.


I wrote...

Horace

By Paul Allen Miller,

Book cover of Horace

What is my book about?

Quintus Horatius Flaccus, or Horace as he is known in English, was Rome’s greatest lyric poet. He is a profoundly ethical writer: not because he propounds a strict moral code, nor because he provides unambiguous embodiments of exemplary virtues, often just the opposite. Rather, Horace is an ethical writer owing to the way he forces our attention on the habits of daily life, on our petty foibles and vanities, on our momentary lusts and desires. He focuses our attention on these small moments of lyric intensity and satiric observation, even as he reframes them in the context of the momentous political events that led to the collapse of the republic, the observations of the great philosophical schools—Stoic, Epicurean, and Academic—and the previous 800 years of literary tradition.

The books I picked & why

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The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault

By Alexander Nehamas,

Book cover of The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault

Why this book?

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. It changed the way I think about Socrates, Plato, Foucault, and Nietzsche. It gave me a deep appreciation of the philosophical and ethical importance of irony as a way of being in the world. It convinced me to spend all my free time for several months reading Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, and it made me see the relationship between ancient philosophy and modern life in a fundamentally new way. It is simply one of the most beautifully written and suggestive books of modern philosophy published in English in the last fifty years.

The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault

By Alexander Nehamas,

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?

For much of its history, philosophy was not merely a theoretical discipline but a way of life, an 'art of living'. This practical aspect of philosophy has been much less dominant in modernity than it was in ancient Greece and Rome, when philosophers of all stripes kept returning to Socrates as a model for living. The idea of philosophy as an art of living has survived in the works of such major modern authors as Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Each of these writers has used philosophical discussion as a means of establishing what a person is and how a worthwhile…


The Courage of Truth

By Michel Foucault, Graham Burchell (translator),

Book cover of The Courage of Truth

Why this book?

These are Foucault’s final lectures in 1984. They are a remarkable testament to philosophical courage. In late December of 1983, Foucault fell ill. At this time he may have received a diagnosis of AIDS, but it is not sure. By March, he was regularly in and out of the hospital. At this point, he no longer sought a diagnosis but only inquired how much time he had. The editor Frédéric Gros observes that, like Socrates, whom Foucault references repeatedly in these lectures, he was more concerned with failing to complete his mission than with death. At the beginning of his final lecture, Foucault stood before his audience and said, “I am going to try to give you two hours of lecture today, but I am not absolutely sure I will make it.” He gave the full lecture.

The Courage of Truth

By Michel Foucault, Graham Burchell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Courage of the Truth is the last course that Michel Foucault delivered at the College de France before his death in 1984. In this course, he continues the theme of the previous year's lectures in exploring the notion of "truth-telling" in politics to establish a number of ethically irreducible conditionsbased on courage and conviction.


The Apology of Socrates

By Plato, James Harris,

Book cover of The Apology of Socrates

Why this book?

The Apology is where Western philosophy begins. Socrates is on trial for his life. The charge is impiety and corrupting the youth. His real crime, however, was teaching the young men of Athens to waylay their elders with difficult and impertinent questions. His message to these young men? Know yourself, know the limits of your knowledge, and do not care more for your possessions than you do for your soul and excellence. For Socrates’ unyielding commitment to live in accord with these principles, he gave his life. This is his defense speech.

The Apology of Socrates

By Plato, James Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Apology of Socrates, by Plato, is the dialogue that presents the speech of legal self-defence, which Socrates presented at his trial for impiety and corruption, in 399 BC.

★ Specifically: The Apology of Socrates is a defence against the charges of “corrupting the youth” and “not believing in the same gods as the city, but in other gods which are novel” to Athens.

★ The Apology of Socrates is the dialogue that depicts the trial, written by Plato who details the final days of the philosopher great Socrates. 

★ This book has been carefully adapted into modern English to…


The Complete Poems of Tibullus

By Albius Tibullus, Lygdamus, Sulpicia, Rodney G. Dennis (translator), Michael C. J. Putnam (translator)

Book cover of The Complete Poems of Tibullus

Why this book?

Tibullus is the great unsung hero of Roman poetry. His subtle and gently ironic poems are dedicated to his mistresses Delia and Nemesis, and to his pederastic beloved Marathus. They posit a lost Golden Age, when men lived in primal harmony, the earth spontaneously yielded up its bounty, and love was had al fresco without possessiveness. His poems reflect the kind of ironic pseudo-naiveté that can only be produced by the most sophisticated of urban intellects. Dennis and Putnam not only capture these richly textured poems about a simple life that never was and never could be, but they also reproduce the movement of Tibullus’s poetic line and meter. This is a poetry of suave and knowing elegance.

The Complete Poems of Tibullus

By Albius Tibullus, Lygdamus, Sulpicia, Rodney G. Dennis (translator), Michael C. J. Putnam (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tibullus is considered one of the finest exponents of Latin lyric in the golden age of Rome, during the Emperor Augustus' reign, and his poetry retains its enduring beauty and appeal. Together these works provide an important document for anyone who seeks to understand Roman culture and sexuality and the origins of Western poetry. The new translation by Rodney Dennis and Michael Putnam conveys to students the elegance and wit of the original poems. This title is ideal for courses on classical literature, classical civilization, Roman history, comparative literature, and the classical tradition and reception. The Latin verses will be…


Cicero De Amicitia, On Friendship: And Scipio's Dream (1884)

By Marcus Tullius Cicero, Andrew Preston Peabodya (translator),

Book cover of Cicero De Amicitia, On Friendship: And Scipio's Dream (1884)

Why this book?

Dramatically placed by Cicero as a follow-up to De Republica, Laelius in the De Amicitia is asked to reflect on his friendship with the recently deceased Scipio. Laelius speaks of his loss but also of the extraordinary gift that is friendship as a continuing desire for a form of fulfillment that only the other can provide. That ideal other, who is also a reflection of the self, becomes exalted as a sublime object who embodies a confluence of the personal and the political within the dimension of friendship as enjoyment. The art of friendship is, in fact, the art of living.

Cicero De Amicitia, On Friendship: And Scipio's Dream (1884)

By Marcus Tullius Cicero, Andrew Preston Peabodya (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cicero De Amicitia, On Friendship as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Socrates, life satisfaction, and Cicero?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Socrates, life satisfaction, and Cicero.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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