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How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  5,767 ratings  ·  624 reviews
In the tradition of How to Live and How Proust Can Change Your Life, a philosopher asks how ancient Stoicism can help us flourish today

Whenever we worry about what to eat, how to love, or simply how to be happy, we are worrying about how to lead a good life. No goal is more elusive. In How to Be a Stoic, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers Stoicism, the ancient philosophy
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Basic Books
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May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pigliucci could also have subtitled this book A Journey with Epictetus as much of it is written as a conversation between himself and the Greek philosopher. I suppose those with a sound knowledge of philosophy might think of this book as 'pop philosophy' and I suppose in some ways it is. As someone with only a superficial knowledge, it was perfect for me however.

The book discusses the three Stoic displines of desire, action and assent, and the four Stoic virtues: (practical) wisdom, courage, jus
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
"Men who made these discoveries before us are not our masters, bur our guides. Truth lies open for all; it has not yet been monopolized."
- Seneca quoted in Pigliucci's 'How to Be a Stoic"


For me the book was a bit too superficial on Stoicism and focused too much on the author's personal journey. In some ways, this book reminds me a bit of Robert Wright's Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment -- EXCEPT I think Wright's analysis and wrting were both better
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
It’s taken me a long time to write this review as I hoped to be able to impart some of my own experiences/conclusions about ideas and methods contained within the book. But what i’ve learned is that, while I appreciate the features of Stoicism, i’m so far away from being Stoic that I might as well be an advertisement for how not to do it. The modern idea of stoicism as the endurance of hardship without showing feelings is somewhat applicable, I’m all about that stereotypical English emotional re ...more
Carrie Poppy
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, and found myself reading it in the morning to set my mindset for the day. A great overview of Stoicism, a philosophy I keep accidentally inventing. It's always such a wonderful surprise when you keep having thoughts you can't quite articulate, only to realize someone else has not only given them a fine point, but taken it one step further. There were insights here I will absolutely use in my everyday life, and I reckon I will keep returning to this book. It's pretty ...more
Ross Blocher
May 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life, philosopher Massimo Piggliuci offers a friendly and approachable introduction to (and argument for) the Stoic lifestyle. As with many philosophical terms descending from the Greeks, Stoicism has taken on a colloquial connotation at odds with the original school of thought, with "stoic" connoting suppression of emotions, or having a "stiff upper lip". A Stoic may be mindful of her emotions and reflect on what causes them, but w ...more
Sadly, this wasn't what I'd hoped it'd be. But it's also not a bad book.

Lately I've become interested in Stoicism. As a philosophy student and later grad student I've always steered away of the classics and the Greeks, as far as that's possible (honestly, I can't remember reading anything else besides Plato's "Republic"). When it comes to ethics I've mostly been into modern anglo-heavy ethics a la Consequentalism and Utilitarianism. So when, a few months ago, I stumbled upon an article about St
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn’t read about stoicism before, yet, it puts so well in words many of my life philosophies and practices. Especially those hard for me to explain. Like being ready to lose anything or anyone and caring about them at the same time. Or that I don’t have to be a robot to stay calm if events are out of my control.

The idea that living a good life depends on understanding both how the world and human's reasoning work is severely underrepresented in self-help and philosophy literature, I’ve come t
Skye Cleary
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My interview with Massimo about the book is at 3:AM Mag here! ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.7 stars
It is quite a good book, but with the same breath I want to say "it better be after borrowing so much from its predecessors". I enjoyed particularly the illustrating stories from author's life (although they did not match A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy ) and from lives of modern day Stoics. In terms of clarity of thinking and ability to move beyond just repeating the "wisdom of the ancients", the book definitely lacked compared to A New Stoicism. At last, in term
Mona Akmal
Feb 24, 2018 rated it liked it
The philosophy was interesting, as was the style of writing (philosophy articulation via discourse). I enjoyed learning about the core concepts of Stoicism and will explore them in my personal life. However the religious overtones of many of the stories shared in the book, the “faith” like fervor of it was a little off putting for me
Donald Robertson
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Massimo Pigliucci is an important voice in the modern Stoicism movement. Instead of lecturing readers on academic philosophy he’s chosen to provide them with a practical guide to living like a Stoic in the real world. He shows that Stoicism can provide a philosophy of life consistent with a modern scientific worldview, and with atheism or agnosticism as well as different forms of religion. He provides many vivid examples of everyday situations in which Stoic philosophy was found helpful in his o ...more
Joseph Brigante
So almost all of my reviews are actually of audiobooks, but this one I wanted to make sure I chose the audiobook edition because I think things specific to the audiobook impacted my enjoyment. I honestly found the narrator a bit boring. Like, he detracted from the work.

That said: there are plenty of interesting insights, and things to ponder in here. It's not bad. But it definitely did not speak to me as much as I hoped. No real revelations here.
Even though I agree that there is great wisdom in understanding that worrying about things we cannot control is utterly wasteful, I was left wanting more concrete advice how to avoid it. This book was all over the place, lacking focus, which made it somewhat boring.
Bill Burris
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book may help you live the good life, or it might get you started on reading philosophy, or both.
I agree with Vatsal Khandelwal that the main problem of this book is that its "chatty and disjointed writing style entirely overpowers the richness of content". I also think that the author is getting a few things pretty wrong, such as what depression is, and too easily dismisses others, such as New Atheism or the environmental case for vegetarianism (which he explains with land requirememts for growing vegetables without considering the much larger footprint of growing animal feed). These aren' ...more
Vatsal Khandelwal
It is not too often that one comes across authors whose chatty and disjointed writing style entirely overpowers the richness of content in their books- rendering the entire reading experience a little mediocre. This book could have been much better if the author avoided the parenthetical examples or atleast thought of better ones. Needless to say, some of the excerpts and discussions were very interesting and I did develop an interest in stoicism. This book can be credited for just that.
Neil Browning
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I would compare reading this book to casually conversing with a wise, sincere, extremely well read friend. It’s disorganized and not as brief as it could be, but there are great words of wisdom, explanations and intuitive anecdotes. I especially appreciated the actionable items at the end, and the attempts to interpret ancient teachings into a modern context.
Richard Lawrence
This is a good primer for those interested in Stoicism. There are a number of Stoics, both Greek and Roman, whose writings are available to the modern reader. In this book Pigliucci stresses the writings and thoughts of Epictetus and the reader is introduced to Stoicism through that lens. Had this book been written by, let's say, former President Clinton it would be through the lens of Marcus Aurelius. President Clinton lists "Meditations" as one of his top books to read. As an introduction to S ...more
Michael Huang
Aug 26, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: blinkisted
Since ancient times, people have tried to answer the question of how to live a good life. One philosophy that dealt with it is the Stoicism, so called because its first followers met beneath the Stoa Poikile (painted porch) in ancient Athens. It started in 300BCE and spread to Rome c. 155 BCE. Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius is stoic philosopher.

A central principle of stoicism is dichotomy of control, which means make the most of what we can control and accept what we can’t control. Though widely
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good, to the point, useful.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Had to wait forever for this book, but was intrigued by the title. I had studied the Stoics and Stoicism a bit in school, but it seemed like a refresher and I liked the idea of adapting this to a modern day era instead of relying on translated texts from long-dead philosophers.

The negative reviews are on target. The author is far too chatty, takes too long to make his points and it really felt like this was a book that was about his feelings about Stoicism but not really something that lived up
A profound and well documented read - dealing with topics as the existence/nature of God, morality, suicide, evolutionism and vegetarianism - even though I'm not on the same page with famous philosophers and the author's theory on evil people and evil doings being based on ignorance/poor education.

Maybe I was missing the point on that one but the only occasion in which an act of violence is tolerated(in my opinion at least) would be self-defence in case of an attack like murder, rape etc. Otherw
Laurent Franckx
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I had already read William Irvine's "A guide to the good life" before I started reading this book, so the novelty effect of reading Irvine was absent here. Still, I think both books offer a distinct view on stoicism and can be considered as complements rather than substitutes. Just as Irvine, Pigliucci emphasizes the practical relevance of stoicism for people in this century, and often refers to his personal experience. ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this on my Kindle and found myself highlighting so much of the text because so much is relevant, not a bunch of fluff leading up to points made. It is more clear than William Irvine's A Guide To The Good Life, which is also excellent. This book will be cherished and re-read. Highly recommend. ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really should be called “why you should be a stoic” and unfortunately his ales pitch is ham handed, superficial and boring.
Loan Cookies
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
(Quickbook) Empty and unpractical advice
Stephanie Froebel
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
This book was an excellent introduction to Stoicism. I am very interested in learning more about world philosophies and piecing together the human mind.

As for stoicism specifically, I am highly interested in its unique free-flow approach to virtue and morality. The value range between good and bad is something I find very valuable to understand and the association between evil actions rather than evil souls is also a very valuable lesson to carry with me.

Pigliucci really teaches this philosoph
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a really good introduction to Stoicism and it has me hooked.
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
How to apply ancient Stoic philosophy to modern life. I think I tend to go in this direction naturally anyway, but it’s interesting to read little snippets of Epictetus and others in the context of a self-help book.
Joe Chlapowski
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a great read and a wonderful introduction into stoicism. Highly recommend for anyone interested in the subject or philosophy in general
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Massimo Pigliucci is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. His scholarly interests are in the philosophy of science and the nature of pseudoscience. He studies and practices modern Stoicism.

Pigliucci is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has written for Skeptical Inquirer, Philosophy N

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Oh hey, we're nearly halfway through 2021! We can't really believe it either... Traditionally, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial...
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“One of the first lessons from Stoicism, then, is to focus our attention and efforts where we have the most power and then let the universe run as it will. This will save us both a lot of energy and a lot of worry. Another” 8 likes
“Better to endure pain in an honorable manner than to seek joy in a shameful one.” 6 likes
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