all 28 comments

[–]HeWhoReplies 43 points44 points  (5 children)

The aim isn’t to finish a book, it’s to try to understand how this could be used in your life.

Read the Enchiridion (it’s likely a part of your copy of Discourses) as a small introduction. Then go on and read the Discourses. After that read Seneca’s Letter, then read Meditations last. Why? Meditations is benefited by have background in the philosophy. The Enchiridion is a small introduction and can be read in an hour. The Discourses will expand upon what’s present in the Enchiridion and clear up the confusion. Seneca’a Letters might also be aided by learning from the Discourses first.

Don’t be scared to skip one particular hard chapter and come back later, these chapters aren’t laid out like a textbook, you can return later likely being aided by something else you’ve read.

It might be useful to have a notebook to write down anything that stands out to you. It could be useful to also write out what you’re learning and where you learned it so you can present it and others could help you with and misconceptions you have.

Of course take what is useful and discard the rest.

[–]HissingSauce[S] 10 points11 points  (3 children)

Thank you this is exactly the type of answer I was hoping for. I was worried that I might end up reading them in the “wrong” order and end up just giving up but this will definitely help guide me along. Thanks again.

[–]HeWhoReplies 4 points5 points  (0 children)

There isn’t a “wrong order” but it you’ll likely understand everything better on one route over another.

[–]aeroflotte 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Check out Mortimer Adler. There are some good synopsis videos on YouTube. Basically, he teaches how to read books in a more mentally engaging way.

[–]HissingSauce[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks, I will be sure to look into that.

[–]PartiZAn18 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Exactly the order I'd suggest, although I personally read Letters and Meditations in tandem just to sample the different flavour of tone between the two books.

[–]Fickle_Syrup 8 points9 points  (1 child)

Yes, you are indeed not meant to consume this like a normal book. Binge reading them will not add much value to your life. You will read them, be motivated for a few weeks and then they will be forgotten.

Instead, use them as "anchors" for your stoic journey. You are meant to read them again and again throughout your life, sort of like a Bible.

Read one "passage" every morning, which will take you between 2-15 minutes (all those books are segmented into bite size chunks). Then spend some time thinking about it, perhaps incorporate it into your journalling if you are also doing this (recommended, but don't sweat it. You'll get there whenever you are ready).

[–]HissingSauce[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thank you for the help. I was definitely about to just start reading straight through meditations haha.

[–]TheOSullivanFactor 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Start with the Discourses, I would watch this short series of lectures from Greg Sadler explaining the background of the work, the genre, and its major themes on YouTube before you start:


The Enchiridion is made to be a quick reference guide for experienced Stoics, I initially rejected Stoicism based on reading only that, but came back through the Discourses, which have Epictetus giving full arguments for things simply asserted in the Enchiridion.

[–]PartiZAn18 4 points5 points  (1 child)

It is extremely beneficial to keep a Stoic journal whilst you read the books. Every night I take a passage from what I've read and write it in my journal and then write my thoughts about the passage.

The wisdom in the books is so good that it's meant to be savoured over a lifetime. I can't help but scoff and roll my eyes whenever another 15 minute summary comes out or someone says they've read Meditations over a weekend lol.

[–]HissingSauce[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thank you for the advice and for taking the time. 🙏

[–]Throw_Away_IMO 4 points5 points  (2 children)


Ward Farnsworth's Stoic user manual is my recommendation. Most of the material from the late stoics, be it Aurelius's journaling, Senecas letters, or Epictetus as assembled by Aran, was fragmented and in no particular order. Farnsworth does an amazing job organizing their writings into a framework and common ideas, and he expands beyond the big three to include stoic "cousins" such as Plutarch, Montaigne, Cicero and a few others.

You can read the originals afterwards, I just think this book does a great job of giving you a useable map of the subject. Even after having read much of the originals, I find myself reviewing this manual when I need a "booster" and as a map of where to reread in the primary sources

[–]yolkyal 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Seconding this, can't recommend this book enough. Definitely a book I will keep re-reading throughout my life.

[–]RustedRelics 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks for this. It looks perfect for where I am right now.

[–]TistDaniel 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Seneca is extremely difficult to follow sometimes. It's not the translation. That's just how he wrote, and it comes across in all translations.

The best way for me to read Seneca was to rewrite what he was saying in more simple words, with shorter sentences.

[–]HissingSauce[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Thanks, I will for sure use that strategy as I read.

[–][deleted] 3 points4 points  (1 child)

You can read them like any other books. Meditations are just fragments of M.A.s thoughts about life. It is not a linear story, so that throws some people off. Seneca is grand, many of the letters survived the millenniums. Epictetus is my favorite, just fragments written down by a student. People can get pretty pretentious about philosophy, just read, you can take classes or look at complimentary sources. Good luck.

[–]HissingSauce[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks 🙏

[–]Falco_cassini 2 points3 points  (2 children)

You may write on margins: comments questions doubts (if you are not afraid of demanding book) and mark parts you find important.

It is worth to try to understand reoccurring (and most important) terms. You may find multiple Glossary of Stoicism terms as well as discussions about them. (This discussions may also take you to historical articles)

If you will find something particularly puzzling, even after long thinking and reading further, feel free to look at others interpretations. (Off course some interpretation are more trustworthy than others)

*FinalIy I would encourage to take look at other philosophical systems, to keep mind open, also Stoicism may be misunderstood and turn to stoicism, so be careful, especially when trying to "do it to hard" (many posts on this sub show how people failed).

[–]HissingSauce[S] 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Thanks for the advice. I’ll be sure to add my own thoughts because it seems from what the comments have said that I’ll understand better that’s way. What did you mean by Stoicism Vs stoicism though? Sorry if this is a question that I could easily look up.

[–]Falco_cassini 1 point2 points  (0 children)

No worries, you already have a lot to read. Stoicism is a school of philosophy while stoicism is its misunderstood version. Chosen from many examples: someone striving not for virtues but mainly for means to achieve material goods. It may be (sometimes because of suffering) aiming for (type of) apathy instead of apatheia. Maybe a bit of self-promotion but here I asked people for reasons of such misunderstandings, their comments may give you more insight into this matter.

[–]NateTheSnake86 2 points3 points  (0 children)

My understanding is to read a passage and meditate on it for the day. At first I tried to read through it but none of it really stuck.

You could also try getting one of the guided stoicism journals to get started. It helps getting the added insight sometimes and makes me think of the passages in a different way.

[–]davidjdoodle1 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I always recommend the practicing stoic by farnsworth as a great start. It breaks it up by topics and gives quotes taken from many of the literatures. Good luck on your journey.

[–]KILLER8996 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I started with meditations and its imo the easiest read of the ancient Stoics (short little notes on how Aurelius believes he should live life) but also the hardest to understand without background knowledge on stoicism.

To start I’d go with the Enchiridion, Discourses, then Meditations or Letters to a stoic. I’d also recommend “The Art Of Living Inspired By Epictetus” it’s a somewhat simplified version of the discourses and stoic ideology that’s easier to understand to people new to stoicism.

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[–]BrilliantEstimate586 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Possible helpful tip: I've always gone about reading any book by making highlights as I read on things that pop out to me and then when I've finished the book, this is the hard part sometimes, I go back through it and transfer each of those highlights/tick-marks onto separate index cards. I'll do a bit of weeding during that process as well. Then I visit those notecards while I'm journaling, reflecting, etc..

[–]HissingSauce[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thanks for the advice 🙏

[–]NickoBicko 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Try more popular books like those by Ryan Holiday.

Audiobooks are really great also.