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The best Stoic books

Stoicism is a timeless philosophy that is finding lots of renewed interest thanks to people like Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday.

From dealing with social media to facing the prospect of our our mortality, the ancient wisdom of the Stoics is very relevant today.

I discovered this philosophy a few years ago and it has helped me navigate uncertain times and build a small business.

It can help you too.

Here are the books that best show the way of the Stoics for our modern times.

The Obstacle Is The Way

This book is a best seller for a very good reason. The author, Ryan Holiday, take Stoicism and breaks it down into small chunks that are very relate-able to our modern day.

This is the book I recommend for someone just getting into Stoicism. It takes the ancient yet timeless wisdom and presents it in a very accessible way.

Shortly after I read this book I was laid off from a job that I really liked. While that was depressing, the insights from this book helped me keep perspective.

I quickly found a new job that turned out to not be a very good fit for me. Losing 2 jobs in 4 months can be very crushing to one’s self image.

By reflecting on the wisdom in this book, I was able to quickly see that my feelings about my job situation where just that: feelings.

This book helped me to realize that how I felt and the situation I was in were not the same thing. Things are happening, but they don’t care about me, they just are.

As strange as that might sound, it was really helpful. I didn’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for myself, instead I saw this as a sign and opportunity to strike out on my own.

This book did not make my setbacks easier to handle, instead it showed me that I should handle them a different way than I normally would.

That sounds counter intuitive, but its the best I can do to explain the huge shift in mindset this book gave me.

If you feel stuck in your life, or if someone else is pulling the strings, you need to read this book.


Marcus Aurelius was the 16th Emperor of Rome. He wrote down his thoughts in a journal as a way to empty his mind. Many of his journals were combined into this book which is considered one of the cornerstones of Stoic philosophy.

It is worth noting that because these were in his journals many believe they were never meant for publication. As a result these are snapshots into the daily life one of the most power men in the world at that time. While reading the book it occurred to me that even though he lived thousands of years ago and was way more powerful, he too had to deal with the same crap that I do.

This book is not as easy to read as The Obstacle Is The Way. The translation by Gregory Hays does a great job of putting the words of Marcus Aurelius into “modern” English. But the text can read like a like college text book at times. There are plenty of quotable passages in the book, but occasionally there will be a wall of text that requires a more than a quick scan to comprehend.

As I continued on my journey to recover my sense of self, I began to read this book. There are many, many nuggets of wisdom in this book.

Sometimes in life it helps to compare yourself to someone else. This is a dangerous exercise though, no two people live the same life. Simply doing the same actions does not mean you will get the same results.

But at the same time, it is good to see what others have overcome in their own struggles.

Marcus Aurelius is one of those people that we should look to as an example of what is possible. We know what he achieved, it is in the history books.

And thanks to this book, we know what he was thinking as he was doing it. And he basically had the same thoughts and struggles that you and I do.

The main difference is how he handled it. This book sheds light on his thoughts process as he handles betrayal, nasty people, and the general struggle of the human condition.

I feel that we should look to Marcus as an example of how to live our lives. As with anyone he was not perfect, but his approach lead him to great success.

We can’t all be emperor of Rome, but we can be like him.

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