The best epicureanism books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about epicureanism and why they recommend each book.

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The Art of Happiness

By Epicurus,

Book cover of The Art of Happiness

Epicurus wrote a series of letters summarizing his philosophy and we also have a couple of sets of short aphorisms that report key ideas. All of these are translated in this volume, along with the ancient biography of Epicurus and a substantial introduction. For any one keen to learn more about Epicureanism, the first thing to reader are his letters, especially the Letter to Menoeceus and the Letter to Herodotus.


Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.


I wrote...

The Pocket Epicurean

By John Sellars,

Book cover of The Pocket Epicurean

What is my book about?

A short, smart guide to living the good life through an introduction to the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we've been in search of what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own answer: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word "Epicurean" with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy that Epicurus established was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the vision of an ideal life developed by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquillity or contentment.

Epicureanism

By Catherine Wilson,

Book cover of Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction

Wilson’s Very Short Introduction is a great overview of the central themes in Epicurean philosophy. If you want to learn more about Epicurean atomism, knowledge, the nature of the mind, politics, and ethics, then this book will give you a solid foundation and references to further academic reading.


Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.


I wrote...

The Pocket Epicurean

By John Sellars,

Book cover of The Pocket Epicurean

What is my book about?

A short, smart guide to living the good life through an introduction to the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we've been in search of what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own answer: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word "Epicurean" with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy that Epicurus established was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the vision of an ideal life developed by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquillity or contentment.

How to Be Content

By Horace, Stephen Harrison,

Book cover of How to Be Content: An Ancient Poet's Guide for an Age of Excess

The Roman poet Horace was influenced by Epicurean ideas and they often feature in his work. This book forms a nice introduction to Horace and his works, with carefully chosen selections in both English and the original Latin. Horace might not be the first place that someone curious about Epicureanism would look, but he’s well worth reading, both in his own right and as a Epicurean author. 


Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.


I wrote...

The Pocket Epicurean

By John Sellars,

Book cover of The Pocket Epicurean

What is my book about?

A short, smart guide to living the good life through an introduction to the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we've been in search of what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own answer: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word "Epicurean" with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy that Epicurus established was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the vision of an ideal life developed by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquillity or contentment.

At Home on the Range

By Margaret Yardley Potter,

Book cover of At Home on the Range

I met well-known author Liz Gilbert at a book signing in San Francisco. She was friends with a fellow cookbook author from Estonia and New York who recommended we meet Elizabeth Gilbert. While Liz was unpacking boxes of old family books, she rediscovered a book called At Home on the Range, written by her great-grandmother, Margaret Yardley Potter. Having only been peripherally aware of the volume, Gilbert dug in with some curiosity, and soon found that she had stumbled upon a book far ahead of its time. Part scholar and part crusader for a more open food conversation, Potter espoused the importance of farmer’s markets and ethnic food (Italian, Jewish, and German), culinary shortcuts, and generally celebrated a devotion to epicurean adventures.


Who am I?

Gina Meyers is well known for her popular culture television trivia and cooking expertise books related to Harry Potter, Twilight, and the iconic television show Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Gina's Love At First Bite, The Unofficial Twilight Cookbook was featured on the NBC hit show, The Office. Gina's goal is to reignite the spark of imagination and creativity in the kitchen, introducing youth, teens, and fans of magical sitcoms to the culinary arts.


I wrote...

From Muggles to Magic: The Complete Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

By Gina Meyers,

Book cover of From Muggles to Magic: The Complete Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

What is my book about?

Smuggle in some muggle magic with The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Butterbeer And More! Inside this new and improved edition of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes To Butterbeer, you will find all things sugary to satisfy your sweet tooth, including Ron’s Love Spell Sugar Cookies, Butterbeer Cupcakes, Pumpkin Juice, Hermione's Precious Potion, Mulled Mead, Rock Cakes, Treacle Crisp, Pumpkin Fudge, Yorkshire Pudding, Cauldron Cakes, King’s Cross Butterscotch Bars, Harry’s Tea and Get Out Of a Jam Cookies, Cockroach Clusters, and much, much more, if you dare.

Hellenistic Philosophy

By Brad Inwood, Lloyd P. Gerson,

Book cover of Hellenistic Philosophy

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.


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. 

On the Nature of Things

By Lucretius, Martin F. Smith (translator), W.H.D. Rouse (translator)

Book cover of On the Nature of Things

Lucretius’ poem De rerum natura is the longest ancient work we have outlining Epicurean ideas. It’s also a masterpiece in its own right, covering everything from the origins of the cosmos, the rise and fall of civilizations, and the development of human culture to the nature of sensation and how to think about death. There are numerous translations out there; this one is a reliable translation into prose that has the original Latin verse on the facing page, along with helpful notes.


Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.


I wrote...

The Pocket Epicurean

By John Sellars,

Book cover of The Pocket Epicurean

What is my book about?

A short, smart guide to living the good life through an introduction to the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we've been in search of what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own answer: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word "Epicurean" with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy that Epicurus established was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the vision of an ideal life developed by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquillity or contentment.

Letters on Ethics

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

Book cover of Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius

Perhaps I’m cheating a bit on this one since I promised to recommend the best “modern” books on Stoicism and Seneca wrote his 124 famous letters almost 2,000 years ago, but since my other recommendations are Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus heavy, I wanted to make sure that any person exploring Stoicism for the first time gets a taste of Seneca too. While there are some wonderful books out there on the intriguing character of Seneca the man I’m not aware of a particular one-volume book that examines Seneca’s philosophy with the kind of depth we see in books on Aurelius and Epictetus. Besides, while the letters are ancient, this particular translation is modern and has been done by two highly-respected scholars of Stoic thought of the very first rank. They do a wonderful job (though I must admit, I first met Seneca’s Letters through the Penguin and Loeb editions and…


Who am I?

Kevin Vost earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at Adler University with internship and dissertation work at the Southern Illinois University’s Alzheimer Center. He first came to know and love the Stoics in the 1980s through his studies in cognitive psychotherapy. He has taught psychology and gerontology at the University of Illinois at Springfield and Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of twenty books on psychology, philosophy, physical fitness, and theology, with three more books in press, including Memorize the Stoics! The Ancient Art of Memory Meets the Timeless Art of Living.


I wrote...

The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living

By Kevin Vost,

Book cover of The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living

What is my book about?

Regardless of their sometimes ambiguous concepts of God, the Roman Stoic philosophers did acknowledge Him, but on the basis of reason alone, because they had not met Christ. Nonetheless, they did deduce from God's existence our need to live lives of virtue, honor, tranquility, and self-control--and they developed effective techniques to help us achieve this. Musonius Rufus the teacher, Epictetus the slave, Seneca the adviser to emperors, and Marcus Aurelius, the emperor himself, produced a practical technology we can use to integrate Christian ethics into our own daily practice. As Kevin Vost so wonderfully illustrates in his new book, The Porch and the Cross, the Stoics can help us learn--and remember--what is up to us, and what is up to God alone.

The Therapy of Desire

By Martha C. Nussbaum,

Book cover of The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics

Each chapter in this book wrestles with central themes of Hellenistic Philosophy, which includes Stoicism, but also Epicureanism and Skepticism. The essays are wonderfully written, and deal with pressing eternal problems, such as the political significance of anger, and the nature and pitfalls of physical pleasure. Dr. Nussbaum relates the Stoics and other Hellenistic philosophers to pressing contemporary issues and concerns.



Who am I?

I have always loved the Stoics, from the first time I read Seneca. I appreciate that they seek to speak to a wider audience than most philosophers, on issues that concern many: happiness, anxiety, pain, loss. The Stoics were wonderful writers, whose influence has been manifest throughout western philosophy. And they extended their expertise beyond the academy, and were very involved in politics. Seneca was the advisor to the emperor Nero; Cicero, who dabbled in Stoicism, was perhaps the most famous senator of Rome. Marcus Aurelius was emperor. 


I wrote...

Life After Privacy: Reclaiming Democracy in a Surveillance Society

By Firmin Debrabander,

Book cover of Life After Privacy: Reclaiming Democracy in a Surveillance Society

What is my book about?

Privacy is gravely endangered in the digital age, and we, the digital citizens, are its principal threat, willingly surrendering it to avail ourselves of new technology, and granting the government and corporations immense power over us. In this highly original work, Firmin DeBrabander begins with this premise and asks how we can ensure and protect our freedom in the absence of privacy. Can--and should--we rally anew to support this institution? Is privacy so important to political liberty after all? DeBrabander makes the case that privacy is a poor foundation for democracy, that it is a relatively new value that has been rarely enjoyed throughout history--but constantly persecuted--and politically and philosophically suspect. The vitality of the public realm, he argues, is far more significant to the health of our democracy, but is equally endangered--and often overlooked--in the digital age.

How Much Is Enough?

By Robert Skidelsky, Edward Skidelsky,

Book cover of How Much Is Enough?: Money and the Good Life

Philosophies of simple living are often addressed primarily to the individuals who is seeking happiness. This is largely true, for instance, of both Epicureanism and Stoicism. How Much Is Enough? shows how the questions raised by such philosophies also bear on the economic policies and political culture of rich, modernized societies. The basic argument of the book is that it is foolish for these societies to strive for endless economic growth. They are already wealthy enough to provide the basic conditions of the good life for all their citizens, including a radical reduction in the hours that people need to work. But this isn't happening because capitalism continually inflames people's misguided desire for more stuff and higher status. So the machine just keeps on pointlessly creating desires while plutocrats keep creaming off the wealth of society which could otherwise be distributed more equitably and more rationally. The book offers a…


Who am I?

I am a philosopher who is especially interested in relating philosophy to everyday life. So I like to ask–and try to answer– questions such as: Why is frugality considered a moral virtue? Are there times when rudeness is justified? What makes some kinds of work shameful? I earned my Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin and am currently a Professor of Philosophy at Alfred University in Alfred, New York.


I wrote...

The Wisdom of Frugality: Why Less Is More - More or Less

By Emrys Westacott,

Book cover of The Wisdom of Frugality: Why Less Is More - More or Less

What is my book about?

From Socrates to Thoreau, most philosophers, moralists, and religious leaders have seen frugality as a virtue and have associated simple living with wisdom, integrity, and happiness. But why? And are they right? Is a taste for luxury fundamentally misguided? If one has the means to be a spendthrift, is it foolish or reprehensible to be extravagant?

In this book, Emrys Westacott examines why, for more than two millennia, so many philosophers and people with a reputation for wisdom have been advocating frugality and simple living as the key to the good life. He also looks at why most people have ignored them, but argues that, in a world facing an environmental crisis, it may finally be time to listen to the advocates of a simpler way of life.

The Library of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum

By David Sider,

Book cover of The Library of the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum

In the first century BC an Epicurean community developed in the Bay of Naples area. A key figure in this community was Philodemus, an Epicurean philosopher originally from Jordan who had studied at the Epicurean Garden in Athens. His patron owned a villa near the town of Herculaneum and his library contained numerous works by both Philodemus and Epicurus himself. When Vesuvius erupted in the next century the villa was buried, only to be discovered in the eighteenth century. Since then, scholars have recovered and deciphered the burnt papyri from the villa’s library, discovering a whole host of otherwise lost Epicurean texts. David Sider’s wonderful book tells this story in a detailed by accessible way, all lavishly illustrated.


Who am I?

John Sellars is a Reader in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author of multiple books on ancient philosophy, including Hellenistic Philosophy. He is also a founding member of Modern Stoicism and The Aurelius Foundation, both non-profit companies devoted to bringing Stoicism to a wider audience and showing how it can benefit people today.


I wrote...

The Pocket Epicurean

By John Sellars,

Book cover of The Pocket Epicurean

What is my book about?

A short, smart guide to living the good life through an introduction to the teachings of Epicurus. As long as there has been human life, we've been in search of what it means to be happy. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epicurus came to his own answer: all we really want in life is pleasure. Though today we tend to associate the word "Epicurean" with indulgence in the form of food and wine, the philosophy that Epicurus established was about a life well lived even in the hardest of times. As John Sellars shows in this concise, approachable guide, the vision of an ideal life developed by Epicurus and his followers was a life much more concerned with mental pleasures and the avoidance of pain. Their goal, in short, was a life of tranquillity or contentment.

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