The most recommended stoicism books

Who picked these books? Meet our 77 experts.

77 authors created a book list connected to stoicism, and here are their favorite stoicism books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of stoicism book?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of Meditations

George J. Siedel Author Of Seven Essentials for Business Success

From my list on leadership that doesn’t have “leadership” in the title.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I headed the Executive Education Center at the University of Michigan I had the opportunity to meet with many great leaders and observe them in action. I also enjoy interacting with faculty colleagues who conduct state-of-the-art research on leadership. Because of this experience, I believe that leaders are made, not born, and that reading biographies, psychological studies, philosophical commentary, histories, and fiction like the books on my list is one of the best ways to gain insight into what you need to become a great leader. 

George's book list on leadership that doesn’t have “leadership” in the title

George J. Siedel Why did George love this book?

Leaders should develop a philosophy of life—a north star that will guide them through difficult times. This timeless classic by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius provides a combination of wisdom and practical advice that serves as a reference both for those in a leadership position and for individuals seeking a deeper understanding of their daily lives. Here is a sample: “The longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have, you cannot lose.”

By Marcus Aurelius, Maxwell Staniforth (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Penguin Great Ideas edition of Stoic philosophy in wise and practical aphorisms that have inspired Bill Clinton, Ryan Holiday, Anna Kendrick and many more.

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…


Book cover of The Making of Buddhist Modernism

Patrick Ussher Author Of Stoicism & Western Buddhism: A Reflection on Two Philosophical Ways of Life

From my list on modern-day adaptations of Buddhism and Stoicism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long been interested in what different traditions have to say about how to live our best lives. While a graduate student, I naturally drifted towards studying both Stoicism and Buddhism and wrote my MA dissertation on a comparison of both (which ultimately, much later, became the basis for my book). During my time as a Ph.D. student, I was actively involved in the Modern Stoicism project. As well as running the blog for the project, I was also involved, along with a team of academics and psychotherapists, in creating adaptations of that ancient philosophy for the modern world. I also draw on both philosophies in coping with chronic illness.

Patrick's book list on modern-day adaptations of Buddhism and Stoicism

Patrick Ussher Why did Patrick love this book?

McMahon’s book was a real opener for me as a practising Buddhist in my early 20s.

I’d always naturally assumed that the Buddhism I practised was essentially the same as the Buddhism of any other time and place. McMahon’s penetrating analysis of the differences between ancient and ‘Western’ Buddhism shattered that illusion, showing me that the Buddhism I followed was mainly the product of Buddhism’s encounter with the modern, Western world.

I deeply valued the doors McMahon opened for me: suddenly, I could take a much larger view of the Buddhist tradition, and I also came to realize how the various manifestations of philosophies and religions are interesting not just for what they teach but also because of what they can reveal about the societies that practise them.

By David L. McMahan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this book, David McMahan offers the first comprehensive attempt to chart the development of "modern Buddhism." His position is critical but empathetic: while he presents modern Buddhism as a construction of numerous parties with varying interests, he does not reduce it to a mistake, a misrepresentation, or a fabrication. Rather, he presents modern Buddhism as a complex historical process constituted by a variety of responses - sometimes trivial, often profound - to some of the most important concerns of the modern era.


Book cover of A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living

Matthew Van Natta Author Of The Beginner's Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity

From my list on practicing Stoicism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Matthew J. Van Natta is an author and podcaster who has been guiding people to Stoicism for over a decade. His focus is on the daily application of Stoic philosophy within the modern world. He writes fiction, drinks coffee, beer, and whiskey, and contemplates the human condition. His writings have been featured on SpiritualNaturalistSociety.org and Modern Stoicism.

Matthew's book list on practicing Stoicism

Matthew Van Natta Why did Matthew love this book?

A Field Guide to a Happy Life is an outstanding example of what a modern Stoic book can and should be. Pigliucci has taken the famous Handbook (Enchiridion) of the Roman Stoic teacher, Epictetus, and reworked it to reflect a more modern approach to the philosophy. As such, this field guide is a portable, practical guide to applying Stoic wisdom in your day to day life.

What I most appreciate about A Field Guide to a Happy Life is that the author’s update of the philosophy is clearly described in a later section of the book. This allows the reader to compare and contrast the ancient with the modern. What does it mean to adopt and adapt a two thousand year old philosophy? This unique book is both a practical philosophical guide, and a jumping off point to deeper study.

By Massimo Pigliucci,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Field Guide to a Happy Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Bursting with practical wisdom and engaging stories ... a Stoicism 2.0 for twenty-first century happiness' Skye Cleary

'A bold, contemporary updating of Stoicism for the present day' John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism

Learn how to survive life's hardships and enjoy its pleasures with the modern stoic mindset.

In this enlightening book, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers a thoughtful and modern reinterpretation of Epictetus's 53 lessons for living a good life. Drawing on the ancient wisdom of the Stoics, this is a comforting guide that will help you reclaim the power of your emotional response and let go of the…


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

Chuck Chakrapani Author Of Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life

From my list 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.

Chuck's book list on Stoicism for beginners

Chuck Chakrapani Why did Chuck 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…

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…


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

Wendy Thomas Russell Author Of Relax It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids about Religion When You're Not Religious

From my list on finding your own philosophy of life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m drawn to the intersection of psychology, philosophy and pragmatism — a dynamic that can be found in the books I write, the conversations I enjoy, and the ways I choose to spend my down time. By getting in touch with my personal psychology (influenced by my brain chemistry, temperament and upbringing) and studying various philosophies (from the Stoics to Alain de Botton), I have begun to find my own truth and formulate my own best practices in life. I don’t always nail it — not by a long shot — but that’s why it’s called a practice. There are so many different ways to live a contented life. It can be awfully rewarding to locate your own.

Wendy's book list on finding your own philosophy of life

Wendy Thomas Russell Why did Wendy love this book?

I often joke that Marcus Aurelius is my brother from another mother. Sure, he was a Roman emperor who, if he’d lived, would be 1,900 years old this year, but the things he wrote in Meditations — his book on Stoic philosophy written for himself between 170 and 180 CE — are perfectly on point. I feel like he’s writing from inside my head, struggling with the same challenges I do. Of course, Aurelius is not so much like me as much as he’s like every human on the planet; he just happened to think and express himself in a direct, accessible way. His “epithets” – guiding principles for how he lived his life – inspired me to come up with my own epithets. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

By Marcus Aurelius, David Hicks, C. Scot Hicks

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Emperor's Handbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BEAR IN MIND THAT THE

MEASURE OF A MAN IS THE WORTH OF THE THINGS HE CARES ABOUT.

IF IT IS GOOD TO SAY OR DO

SOMETHING, THEN IT IS

EVEN BETTER TO BE CRITICIZED FOR

HAVING SAID OR DONE IT.

ARE MY GUIDING PRINCIPLES

HEALTHY AND ROBUST? ON THIS HANGS EVERYTHING.

Essayist Matthew Arnold described the man who wrote these words as "the most beautiful figure in history." Possibly so, but he was certainly more than that. Marcus Aurelius ruled the Roman Empire at its height, yet he remained untainted by the incalculable wealth and absolute power that had…


Book cover of The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Patrick Ussher Author Of Stoicism & Western Buddhism: A Reflection on Two Philosophical Ways of Life

From my list on modern-day adaptations of Buddhism and Stoicism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long been interested in what different traditions have to say about how to live our best lives. While a graduate student, I naturally drifted towards studying both Stoicism and Buddhism and wrote my MA dissertation on a comparison of both (which ultimately, much later, became the basis for my book). During my time as a Ph.D. student, I was actively involved in the Modern Stoicism project. As well as running the blog for the project, I was also involved, along with a team of academics and psychotherapists, in creating adaptations of that ancient philosophy for the modern world. I also draw on both philosophies in coping with chronic illness.

Patrick's book list on modern-day adaptations of Buddhism and Stoicism

Patrick Ussher Why did Patrick love this book?

I was really intrigued to learn that Albert Ellis, who created Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), actually cited Stoics like Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius as some of his main inspirations.

To my mind, Donald Robertson’s book masterfully traces the links between Stoicism and CBT, showing us how Epictetus’ key insight (that it is not events that harm us but our opinion about those events) actually underpins the entire nature of modern-day therapy.

I enjoyed Robertson’s exploration of all the shared assumptions and similarities between CBT and Stoicism, but I also appreciated his clear delineation of the differences. After all, Stoicism is ultimately about valuing virtue first and foremost, and that is something that CBT wouldn’t ever touch with a barge pole. In this way, I also appreciated how Robertson’s book reminds us of what makes Stoicism different.  

By Donald Robertson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This exciting new edition of The Philosophy of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) demonstrates how techniques and concepts from Socratic philosophy, especially Stoicism, can be integrated into the practise of CBT and other forms of psychotherapy. What can we learn about psychological therapy from ancient philosophers? Psychotherapy and philosophy were not always separate disciplines. Here, Donald Robertson explores the relationship between ancient Greek philosophy and modern cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy.

The founders of CBT described Stoicism as providing the "philosophical origins" of their approach and many parallels can be found between Stoicism and CBT, in terms of both theory and practise. Starting with hypnotism…


Book cover of Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Peter Vernezze Author Of Blogging The Plague: Camus, Covid-19, and the Current Chaos

From my list on psychotherapy and its philosophical origins.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an emeritus professor of philosophy now working as a licensed therapist, I feel uniquely qualified to span the two worlds of philosophy and psychotherapy. In addition to dozens of academic articles which no one has ever read, I’ve published books on modern China, ancient Greek Stoicism, Bob Dylan, and the TV show The Sopranos, which at least a few people seem to have picked up.

Peter's book list on psychotherapy and its philosophical origins

Peter Vernezze Why did Peter love this book?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy is premised on the belief that our thoughts are at the root of our negative feelings, and to alter those feelings, we need to alter our thoughts. The connection between reason and emotion can be traced back to Stoicism. Hence it is no surprise that the late Dr. Albert Ellis, the developer of the very similar Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, used to have a quote from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus on his webpage. In addition, the Cognitive Distortions which form the heart of CBT can mostly be found in The Art of Thinking (1662) by Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole.

By Judith S. Beck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hundreds of thousands of clinicians and graduate students have relied on this text--now significantly revised with more than 50% new material--to learn the fundamentals of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Leading expert Judith S. Beck demonstrates how to engage patients, develop a sound case conceptualization, plan individualized treatment, structure sessions, and implement core cognitive, behavioral, and experiential techniques. Throughout the book, extended cases of one client with severe depression and another with depression, anxiety, and borderline personality traits illustrate how a skilled therapist delivers CBT and troubleshoots common difficulties. Adding to the third edition's utility, the companion website features downloadable worksheets…


Book cover of Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care

Kimberly Mair Author Of The Biopolitics of Care in Second World War Britain

From my list on showing how care isn’t always a good thing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like everyone else, I have life-long experience of caring and not caring for things; being sometimes careful and other times careless. Communication has been my central interest as a historical sociologist, and I’ve been considering its relationship to care (attachment, affection, worry, and burden) and security. I have always liked the word care, employing it often in the sense of warm attachment, but I have been looking at how care can at times enact control, violence, or abandonment.

Kimberly's book list on showing how care isn’t always a good thing

Kimberly Mair Why did Kimberly love this book?

I loved that Hamilton’s unpacking of the etymology of security led right to the notion of care.

This book had a shaping impact on how I think about care and its ties to security – a relation that continues to animate my interests. I learned that my cares (affections, attachments, worries) may mobilize me to enhance my security, which also may be done inadvertently at the expense of someone else’s. To put it another way, when we seek security, we are seeking to let go of our cares or to care less.

Security attends to the “inflated focus” on security as an instrument of control in contemporary cultural life and does so richly, drawing upon cultural forms such as fables, literature, and art in a beautiful and provocative text.

By John T. Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From national security and social security to homeland and cyber-security, "security" has become one of the most overused words in culture and politics today. Yet it also remains one of the most undefined. What exactly are we talking about when we talk about security? In this original and timely book, John Hamilton examines the discursive versatility and semantic vagueness of security both in current and historical usage. Adopting a philological approach, he explores the fundamental ambiguity of this word, which denotes the removal of "concern" or "care" and therefore implies a condition that is either carefree or careless. Spanning texts…


Book cover of Marcus Aurelius

Donald J. Robertson Author Of Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

From my list on modern books on Marcus Aurelius.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist. I am one of the founders of the Modern Stoicism nonprofit organisation and the president and founder of the Plato’s Academy Centre in Athens, Greece. I’ve published six books on philosophy and psychotherapy, mostly focusing on the Stoic philosophy and its relationship with modern psychology and evidence-based psychotherapy.

Donald's book list on modern books on Marcus Aurelius

Donald J. Robertson Why did Donald love this book?

John Sellars is a British academic philosopher and one of the leading modern scholars of Stoicism but he’s also a great communicator and his writings are easily accessible to nonacademics. Many readers assume, at first glance, that the Meditations consist of “random musings.” However, this recent work on the philosophy underlying Marcus Aurelius’ thought helps to expose the systematic nature of his reasoning. 

By John Sellars,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this new study, John Sellars offers a fresh examination of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations as a work of philosophy by placing it against the background of the tradition of Stoic philosophy to which Marcus was committed.

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius is a perennial bestseller, attracting countless readers drawn to its unique mix of philosophical reflection and practical advice. The emperor is usually placed alongside Seneca and Epictetus as one of three great Roman Stoic authors, but he wears his philosophy lightly, not feeling the need to state explicitly the ideas standing behind the reflections that he was writing for…


Book cover of Meditations: The Annotated Edition

Donald J. Robertson Author Of Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

From my list on modern books on Marcus Aurelius.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist. I am one of the founders of the Modern Stoicism nonprofit organisation and the president and founder of the Plato’s Academy Centre in Athens, Greece. I’ve published six books on philosophy and psychotherapy, mostly focusing on the Stoic philosophy and its relationship with modern psychology and evidence-based psychotherapy.

Donald's book list on modern books on Marcus Aurelius

Donald J. Robertson Why did Donald love this book?

This is the most recent translation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, at the time of writing but I’m mainly including it because of Robin Waterfield’s very thorough annotations, which are invaluable when it comes to understanding some of the more obscure passages. They provide historical and philosophical context that’s otherwise missing and make it much easier to appreciate what Marcus was trying to say.

By Marcus Aurelius, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was the sixteenth emperor of Rome -- and by far the most powerful and wealthy man in the world. Yet he was also an intensely private person, with a rich interior life and deep reservoirs of personal insight. He collected his thoughts in notebooks, gems which have come to be called his Meditations. Never intended for publication, the work survived his death and has proved an inexhaustible source of wisdom and one of the most important Stoic texts of all time. In often passionate language, the entries range from essays to one-line aphorisms, and from profundity to…