Recommended Reading

If you are new to the practice of Stoicism, or you are just curious about what it entails, this list will guide you through the various perspectives on bringing about the transformation to 'the good life'.

Stoic Basics:

Gilbert Murray's 'The Stoic Philosophy' is a slightly dated, but overall excellent introduction to the heart of Stoic study and practice. It is the transcription of a speech given in the early 20th century, but has aged suprisingly well. You can download a free PDF from here.

Once you've finished with Murray, F. H Sandbach's The Stoics provide a quick overview of the origins of the school, along with a brief discussion of the main tenets of the philosophy. According to the Times Literary Supplement, this book is 'not only one of the best, but also the most comprehensive treatment of Stoicism written [in the 20th century.]' You can also download a free PDF from here.

Pop-Culture Stoicism:

Both The Stoic Art of Living (Tom Morris) and Guide to the Good Life (William Irvine) provide a general introduction for some Stoic ideas by bringing out popular themes into a modern context, leaving out any real rigor or challenging life adjustment. Nevertheless, they appeal to the majority of people looking for a Chicken Soup for the Stoic Soul approach to life. Morris' offering is a piecemeal gathering of various Stoic ideas, filtered through a modern Christian sensibility. Irvine's book, which is quickly becoming the go-to text for explorers of Stoicism, has just as much of a personal bent. His focus is more Buddhist, with a serious leaning towards Epicurean tranquility as the central tenet of his Stoicism. Any readers of either book are strongly encouraged to read widely from the books that follow.

Academic Stoicism:

If you are interested in the history of Stoicism, a good introduction is John Sellars' Stoicism. This book provides information without requiring application. A more exhaustive look at the history of Stoicism, its origins and ongoing influence is Brad Inwood's Cambridge Companion to the Stoics.

Scientific/Atheist Stoicism:

Lawrence Becker's 'A New Stoicism' dispenses with the now unpopular (in some circles) 'spiritual' aspect of Stoic practice and attempts to reinvent it for a post-modern scientific society.

Practical Stoicism:

If you are interested in learning about Stoicism as a personal practice, Keith Seddon's 'Stoic Serenity' is a great place to begin if you want to work on your own. Originally conceived as a correspondence course, this book includes some history, some philosophy, some practical work. It is with his kind permission that I have based 'A Stoic Course' on his book. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

The Stoic Teachers:

Relatively few Stoic texts have survived. Of the apparently massive libraries of ancient times, we only possess a handful of primary works from the Stoic teachers, and most of these from the Roman Stoics of the first and second century. Note that not all of the compilers of these works are entirely sympathetic to the Stoic approach to a life well lived. Take their introductions and annotations with a grain of salt, and consult some of the works listed above for additional perspectives.

Seneca - Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters (Moses Hadas)

The Complete Moral Letters of Seneca (Michel Daw)

Musonius Rufus - Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings (Cynthia King)

Epictetus - Epictetus: Discourses and Selected Writings (Robert Dobbin)

Marcus Aurelius - Marcus Aurelius: Meditations (Gregory Hays)

For a compilation of the words of the earlier Stoics, you may wish to refer to:

Hellenistic Philosophy - Hellenistic Philosophy - Stoic, Epicurean and Skeptic (A.A. Long)

The Stoics Reader - The Stoics Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia (Brad Inwood & Lloyd P. Gerson)

Commentary on the Teachers:

Besides reading their primary works, each of the major Stoics should be understood in the context of his times, and in his own terms. The following books provide the necessary background to both the individual Teachers, their particular interpretation and practice of Stoicism, as well as their relation to each other.

Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome (Brad Inwood)

Musonius Rufus and Education in the Good Life: A Model of Teaching and Living Virtue (J.T. Dillon)

Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life (A. A. Long)

The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (Pierre Hadot)

The Philosophic Life:

Finally, I would recommend two books in particular for examining one's own approach, or philosophy, to life. Anciently, philosophy was considered a practice, a way of life that one was converted to, and then exercised actively. Both Hadot and Sellars do an excellent job of highlighting some of the most important aspects of living a life that is well examined, and of integrating one's knowledge with one's daily expression of it.

Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault (Pierre Hadot)

The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy (John Sellars)