10 books like Letters on Ethics

By Lucius Seneca, Margaret Graver, A.A. Long

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Letters on Ethics. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

By Donald Robertson,

Book cover of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

While William Irvine’s book introduced me to Stoic philosophy, Donald took me further into the incredible life of Roman emperor and Stoic Marcus Aurelius. This book takes you deeper into Stoic philosophy. I get asked whom I’d want to have lunch with, dead or alive, and I answer Marcus Aurelius. During his reign he was the most powerful person in the Western hemisphere. History is littered with examples that prove Lord Acton’s quip “Power corrupts; absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” Marcus is a rare exception.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor

By Donald Robertson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked How to Think Like a Roman Emperor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This book is a wonderful introduction to one of history's greatest figures: Marcus Aurelius. His life and this book are a clear guide for those facing adversity, seeking tranquility and pursuing excellence." --Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Obstacle is the Way and The Daily Stoic

The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous proponent.

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the final famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think…


Lives of the Stoics

By Stephen Hanselman, Ryan Holiday,

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

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…

Lives of the Stoics

By Stephen Hanselman, Ryan Holiday,

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…


Philosophy as a Way of Life

By Pierre Hadot,

Book cover of Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault

I simply had to include one of philosopher Pierre Hadot’s wise and weighty books on Stoic philosophy. The subject matter of this book is centered on Stoic thought, but draws on, compares, and contrasts Stoic ideas with other foundational ideas in ancient and more modern philosophy. The key theme, as the title suggests, is that philosophy’s highest calling is as a way to transform and improve the way one actually lives one’s life. While including chapters on Aurelius, and on Socrates, (a highly respected pre-Stoic inspiration to the Stoics), another main emphasis is on how Stoic practices serve as “spiritual exercises,” and how we can come to learn them, use them, and grow from them too as a means to make philosophy our own way of life. Not a particularly easy read, but a read well worth the effort – and repeated rereads as the years roll by.

Philosophy as a Way of Life

By Pierre Hadot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Philosophy as a Way of Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents a history of spiritual exercises from Socrates to early Christianity, an account of their decline in modern philosophy, and a discussion of the different conceptions of philosophy that have accompanied the trajectory and fate of the theory and practice of spiritual exercises. Hadota s book demonstrates the extent to which philosophy has been, and still is, above all else a way of seeing and of being in the world.


The Epictetus Club

By Jeff Traylor,

Book cover of The Epictetus Club

I wanted to include a book of fiction that brings Stoic thought to life in our modern world, and this was a tough decision for me. I’d like to draw attention to a wonderful little 150-page gem that is not nearly as widely known. Traylor’s fascinating little novel is actually “fictionalized,” its characters being crafted from actual people. And who are these people? Neither philosophers nor psychologists captivated by Stoic thought, nor average Joes or Janes out on the street, but the inmates of maximum security prisons Traylor met while working as a counselor. Epictetus is the Stoic who teaches most about personal, internal, moral freedom, and self-control, having once been a slave himself. This book shows how well the ex-slave’s lessons can resonate with and morally transform anyone today who strives for such freedom, even if imprisoned behind steel bars. Please do find an hour or two to read…

The Epictetus Club

By Jeff Traylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Take a fascinating look inside the old Ohio Penitentiary as you follow a group of inmates who meet weekly under the tutelage of a lifer named Zeno in a group called the Epictetus Club. The inmates study the teachings of this Greek philosopher, and with the help of his ancient wisdom they meet the daily challenges of their lives. Learning to think outside the limits of their own literal walls as they struggle to redeem themselves, the club members show us how to think beyond our own self-imposed limitations and comfort zones.


The Practicing Stoic

By Ward Farnsworth,

Book cover of The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User's Manual

In The Practicing Stoic, Ward Farnsworth has collected a wide range of Stoic and Stoicism-adjacent quotes into one place, each categorized by subject, and in so doing he has given every seeker of wisdom a true gift. Need advice concerning emotional health, overcoming adversity, dealing with wealth, or even the topic of death? The Practicing Stoic contains practical, timeless wisdom on every page. On my first reading, it felt like I was moving through years of my own journals, notebooks, and highlighted pages, except everything was conveniently organized rather than frustratingly scattered about. Farnsworth also lends us his own insights in this collection, as he expounds on the Stoic worldview while weaving together the many excerpts he has collected for us. The Practicing Stoic is a book I often find reason to return to, and it’s worth having on your shelf.

The Practicing Stoic

By Ward Farnsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Farnsworth beautifully integrates his own observations with scores of quotations from Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne and others. This isn't just a book to read-it's a book to return to, a book that will provide perspective and consolation at times of heartbreak or calamity."-The Washington Post

See more clearly, live more wisely, and bear the burdens of this life with greater ease-here are the greatest insights of the Stoics, in their own words. Presented in twelve lessons, Ward Farnsworth systematically presents the heart of Stoic philosophy accompanied by commentary that is clear and concise.

A foundational idea to Stoicism is…


The Stoics Reader

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Book cover of The Stoics Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia

The surviving writings of the “big three” Stoics—Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca—are the first places people turn when they want to learn about Stoicism from its original practitioners. But these three sources are missing something very important: a coherent overview of Stoic ethics. The Stoics Reader has not just one, but three such overviews from the ancient philosophical biographer Diogenes Laertius, the Stoic sympathizer Cicero, and the Stoic teacher of Augustus Caesar—Arius Didymus. This volume is one of the few places you can find an English translation of Arius’s summary of Stoic ethics, making it worth the price of purchase alone. 

The Stoics Reader

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This volume gathers together the most important evidence about Stoic thought surviving from the ancient world. It is an expanded version of the section on Stoicism in Inwood and Gerson's Hellenistic Philosophy, consolidating related texts into larger, more continuous selections, adding material on the skeptical attack on Stoicism, and a short section that introduces the reader to some of the more interesting texts on Stoic ethics from the Roman imperial period. Inwood and Gerson provide lucid, accurate translations, an Introduction that sets the works included in historical and philosophical context, a glossary of terms, a glossary of philosophers and philosophical…


Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

By Christopher Gill, Robin Hard (translator),

Book cover of Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

Author Elif Batuman wrote of the Stoic Epictetus, he “won me over with his tone, which was that of an enraged athletics coach.” He is feisty, demanding, sarcastic, but he can be surprisingly poignant and occasionally empathetic to his audience. Epictetus himself wrote nothing; what survives was written down by a student. We therefore witness Epictetus live as he works with his own student or even when he talks with magistrates who would came to consult with him at the end of the day. Epictetus had been a slave early in life so it packs quite a wallop when he tells freeborn Romans that they have the worst kind of slavery: enslavement to external goods at the cost of their inner freedom.

Discourses, Fragments, Handbook

By Christopher Gill, Robin Hard (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'About things that are within our power and those that are not.'

Epictetus's Discourses have been the most widely read and influential of all writings of Stoic philosophy, from antiquity onwards. They set out the core ethical principles of Stoicism in a form designed to help people put them into practice and to use them as a basis for leading a good human life. Epictetus was a teacher, and a freed slave, whose discourses have a vivid informality, animated by anecdotes and dialogue. Forceful, direct, and challenging, their central message is that the
basis of happiness is up to us,…


Epictetus

By A.A. Long,

Book cover of Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life

Another Stoic classic. Written, again, in a highly accessible, conversational style. In fact, the only teachings by Epictetus that we know of today were recorded from his lectures by his disciple Arrian.  This book has given great solace to many people over the years. It is said that Frederick the Great never campaigned without it. And, the war hero Admiral James Stockdale credits Epictetus with helping him endure seven and a half years in a North Vietnamese military prison—including torture—and four years in solitary confinement. “No man is free who is not master of himself.”

Epictetus

By A.A. Long,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The philosophy of Epictetus, a freed slave in the Roman Empire, has been profoundly influential on Western thought: it offers not only stimulating ideas but practical guidance in living one's life. A. A. Long, a leading scholar of later ancient philosophy, gives the definitive presentation of the thought of Epictetus for a broad readership. Long's fresh and vivid translations of a selection of the best of Epictetus' discourses show that his ideas are as valuable and
striking today as they were amost two thousand years ago. The translations are organized thematically within the framework of an authoritative introduction and commentary,…


The Role Ethics of Epictetus

By Brian E. Johnson,

Book cover of The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life

One of the most common types of questions I hear about Stoicism concerns what “the Stoic thing to do” is. In a certain situation, is it more Stoic to do X or Y? Johnson’s book does a masterful job of unearthing Epictetus’s theory of role ethics so that you can answer this question for yourself. By thinking about your roles in life, you can deduce the appropriate action in many circumstances. And what’s appropriate depends on who you are and what your role in the situation is. My personal Stoic practice owes a lot to Johnson’s work—while the book is indeed academic, it contains a lot of helpful information for the modern Stoic practitioner.

The Role Ethics of Epictetus

By Brian E. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Role Ethics of Epictetus: Stoicism in Ordinary Life offers an original interpretation of Epictetus's ethics and how he bases his ethics on an appeal to our roles in life. Epictetus believes that every individual is the bearer of many roles from sibling to citizen and that individuals are morally good if they fulfill the obligations associated with these roles. To understand Epictetus's account of roles, scholars have often mistakenly looked backwards to Cicero's earlier and more schematic account of roles. However, for Cicero, roles are merely a tool in the service of the virtue of decorum where decorum is…


Stoicism

By John Sellars,

Book cover of Stoicism

I don’t think it’s possible to practice Stoicism well without a solid understanding of what Stoicism is. It’s not a set of life hacks, but a life philosophy. This book provides a rigorous but very readable historical introduction to Stoicism as a coherent art of living by covering the three classical philosophical topics of ancient Stoicism—logic, physics, and ethics. It also provides a great historical overview, suggestions for further reading, and a handy glossary of key Stoic technical terms. If you’re looking for a single book covering the basics of ancient Stoicism, this is a great place to start.

Stoicism

By John Sellars,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first introduction to Stoic philosophy for 30 years. Aimed at readers new to Stoicism and to ancient philosophy, it outlines the central philosophical ideas of Stoicism and introduces the reader to the different ancient authors and sources that they will encounter when exploring Stoicism. The range of sources that are drawn upon in the reconstruction of Stoic philosophy can be bewildering for the beginner. Sellars guides the reader through the surviving works of the late Stoic authors, Seneca and Epictetus, and the fragments relating to the early Stoics found in authors such as Plutarch and Stobaeus. The…


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