Stoicism has been growing increasingly popular over the last decade, helped by a huge number of silicon valley entrepreneurs, financial leaders, authors, and other thought leaders swearing by their lessons.
If you haven’t read any of the classical stoic books, you should. That advice needs no qualification: they’re excellent, endlessly applicable, and more often than not, readers come out of them fundamentally changed in how they think about the world.
Most people get into Stoicism from one of two books: Letters from a Stoic by Seneca, or Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Some, though fewer, discover it via Epictetus in his Discourses or the Enchiridion.
I love seeing philosophy get this much respect, but only reading a couple of the Stoics gives you a narrow view of practical philosophy. There are a host of other books that you’ll enjoy if you enjoy any of the Stoics, and in the interest of learning even more about mental improvement, practical philosophy, and strategies for life, you should check them out.
Once you’ve read Letters, Meditations, Discourses, and Enchiridion, try these ones.
Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Taleb is the closest person we have to a modern stoic. His arguments draw significantly on Seneca in particular, but they’re mixed with modern science, finance, and scenarios that will be familiar to anyone reading his books. Antifragile is endlessly applicable to your own life, but you might also find that The Black Swan is an easier entry point for his work.
“The best way to verify that you are alive is by checking if you like variations. Remember that food would not have a taste if it were not for hunger; results are meaningless without effort, joy without sadness, convictions without uncertainty, and an ethical life isn’t so when stripped of personal risks.”
Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Another modern Stoic, Emerson argues for the merits of relying on yourself and thinking for yourself instead of falling prey to the whims of the majority.
“Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”
The Bhagavad Gita
You’d be surprised how much of Stoic thought is mirrored by Eastern religion and philosophy. The Gita is a short, easy introduction to Hindu religion, filled with Stoic and other practical philosophical wisdom.
“Reshape yourself through the power of your will; never let yourself be degraded by self-will. The will is the only friend of the Self, and the will is the only enemy of the Self.”
Striking Thoughts by Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee blends Zen buddhism with fighting wisdom into this book of aphorisms. Similar to the Gita, you’ll find that Eastern mysticism shares many beliefs with the Stoics.
“An intelligent mind is constantly learning. — An intelligent mind is one which is constantly learning, never concluding — styles and patterns have come to conclusion, therefore they [have] ceased to be intelligent.”
Maxims and Reflections by Goethe
Famous for his poetry and other literature, this book of aphorisms is an extensive reflection on life philosophy from Goethe. It discusses writing, creativity, life, philosophy, love… everything.
“Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are; if I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.”
In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell
A must read for anyone who has trouble relaxing, or who works 8+ hours a day. I like re-reading it when I start to feel guilty for not buckling down and working all day every day. Many of the arguments reflect the Stoic ideas against needless toil.
“The morality of work (the notion that everyone ought to work to earn their life) is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery.”
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The philosophy is beautiful and empowering, discussing taking your own path, living simply, happiness, and standing out confidently. For a further push to stop caring what people think and to live your own life, there are few books as useful.
“Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”
The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus
An ancient book of stoic wisdom, it’s remarkable how many of these aphorisms are common phrases today. Since it’s aphorisms, you’ll get different things out of it each time, and you can open it to any page and find something to ruminate on.
“Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.”
Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind
Primarily useful in its ability to inspire introspection, worth reading for practicioners of mindfulness. Keep the concept of beginner’s mind present to avoid hubris, or limited potential. It reinforces many of the ideas of Stoic self-improvement and humility.
“Doing something is expressing our own nature. We do not exist for the sake of something else. We exist for the sake of ourselves.”
Principles by Ray Dalio
If a stoic philosopher started a hedge fund and wrote a business book, it would be Principles. Dalio has concisely and expertly laid out his philosophy of life, and for anyone enjoying the stoics, it will be both familiar and an interesting twist on many of the core ideas.
“Truth—more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality—is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.”