Are letters from a Stoic worth reading?

7 book tips for beginners

Choosing primary and secondary literature is not easy, especially at the beginning. With this article I would like to recommend 7 books to get you off to a good start in Stoic Philosophy.


The links go to and if you buy something via such a link, I get a small part of the sales proceeds. But you can also find many original texts online for free.

Self-reflections by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius ’self-reflections or“ meditations ”, as they are called in English, are very clear recommendations. This book first brought me to Stoic Philosophy. Marcus Aurelius originally wrote this book as a diary during the Marcomanni Wars. The style of writing (more precisely, how the translators translated) and the topics addressed make this book inspiring time and again.

Common themes include death, impermanence, disregard for fame and recognition, and the focus on the good life.

Personally, I like the Reclam translation best - the way the Greek words were translated into German. You can also find the text in the Gutenberg project.


Handbook of the Morals of Epictetus

Epictetus himself did not write anything. The star of philosophy of the Roman Stoa had a hard-working student named Arrian, who recorded the wisdom of Epictetus in the so-called “discussions” (Discourses in English). The handbook is a kind of “best of” (without direct reference) from these discussions and contains ethical regulations, commandments and admonitions. The style seems quite strict, but all the more haunting.

Epictetus called things by their name, as it should be.
In the handbook you will always find something new - even if it's just a memory.

You can also find the text for free in the Gutenberg project.

Epistulae morales - Seneca's moral letters to Lucilius

In over 100 letters, Seneca exchanged ideas with his friend Lucilius about how to live a good life based on philosophy. After a few letters, I got along well with Seneca's style, as he writes in great detail and exemplary. The letters deal with various topics from everyday life and also a little (stoic) philosophy, history or comparisons with Epicurus.

In addition to the letters, Seneca has written many other works.

A Guide to the Good Life - William Irvine

A Guide to the Good Life showed me the closer connections between stoic philosophy. The book is in English, but after clearing a few vocabulary it is easy to read. William Irvine also introduces the trichotomy of control in this book, which deviates from the ancient teaching of the dichotomy of control. This is a not entirely undisputed topic in the current discussion of Stoic Philosophy - but broadens the understanding of the same.

The Daily Stoic - Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselman

With the “Daily Stoic” or “The Daily Stoic” there is a book that provides a text passage from a stoic work for each day of the (leap) year, which is also provided with examples.

How I read such an original text

When reading a work by Seneca or Epictetus, it is important to know from which language the original text comes. Seneca wrote in Latin, Arrian (Epictetus) and Markus Aurelius in Greek. Accordingly, it can happen that some words have the same meaning but have been translated differently so that their connection is not clear. For example, the words "virtuous" and "moral or moral perfection" mean the same thing.

In some books I create an index myself, either directly in the book or on index cards or a reading journal. This means that I quickly find the topics in the plants again and again. To do this, I write a topic in the left column and on the right next to it all the page numbers or text passages in which I found this topic.

In doing so, I not only collect the stoic topics, but also the topics that are of interest to me in general.

Overview and further recommendations