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How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
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How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  1,153 ratings  ·  135 reviews

"This book is a wonderful introduction to one of history's greatest figures: Marcus Aurelius. His life and this book are a clear guide for those facing adversity, seeking tranquility and pursuing excellence." —Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Obstacle is the Way and The Daily Stoic

The life-changing principles of Stoicism taught through the story of its most famous

Kindle Edition, 292 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by St. Martin's Press
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Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2019, non-fiction
I was lucky to get a free copy via NetGalley for my true and honest opinion.

Donald Robertson, a cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist looks at how the writing in the mediations and how it can be seen as pre-modern version of psychological strategy.

Specifically, he looks at how stoic philosophy provided Marcus Aurelius as a coping strategy for his role as the emperor. Marcus Aurelius is one of the few good heroic Roman emperors, especially in comparison with Caligula or Nero. The author looks at
Ryan Boissonneault
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Stoicism is a practical philosophy that emphasizes rationality and virtue as the only true goods. Unlike other religious or spiritual practices, Stoicism does not require that you abandon reason or strain your grip on reality; rather, it provides an ethical orientation to life that is fully consistent with our nature as rational, social beings.

Stoicism therefore embraces the original Greek conception of philosophy as a way of life, a subject matter to be practiced rather than simply studied.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems stoicism has been enjoying a resurgence of late and being intrigued by different schools of philosophical thought and educating myself on each of them I simply couldn't resist nabbing a copy of this. The ideas central to stoicism are woven into the biographical account of one of the most important writers and Stoic philosophers of his time. What I found most impressive about the book was its accessibility - even those who know little about philosophy, in general, should be able to read ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes a historical account of the life of Marcus Aurelius as well as passages from Aurelius' The Meditations and shows how to apply the lessons learned from these sources in a modern context, using a framework that is largely derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The author is trained in both Stoic philosophy and CBT, which are closely related. As the author notes in the introduction, Aaron Beck (one of the founders of CBT) has acknowledged that "[t]he philosophical origins ...more
John S.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a sort of mashup between history, historical fiction, self-help and philosophy manual. That may sound funny, but it works! and the different genre like aspects are blended seamlessly, artfully, and beautifully. Some first person narratives are quite poignant (i.e. yeah, I cried!).

Mr. Robertson stays as close to the history (as we know it) as possible, and even has a few unique ideas about what could have been happening (especially between the ears) which may have escaped prior historians,
Jonathan Donihue
Take an exposition of Stoic philosophy, add some psychotherapeutic practices, some mindfulness meditation techniques, and bundle it all up with a biography of one of the greatest emperors ever to oversee Rome and this is the book you'll get.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor is a very well written compilation of philosophy, spiritual practice, and biography. I listened to this one as a library audiobook. The narration was good but there is so much richness and depth here that I decided I'm going
Steve Eubank
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle is ironic & an important clarification as certainly not every Roman emperor’s thought process is worth emulating; indeed, Marcus Aurelius is the exception because he “viewed himself as a Stoic 1st & an emperor 2nd.” This book is particularly instructive when read in conjunction with Massimo Pigliucci’s 2017 “How to Be a Stoic,” which is an imaginary dialogue between a modern-day student & the Stoic philosopher Epictetus. Marcus Aurelius was most influenced by Epictetus. ...more
Benjamin (The Maniac)
I think I know what I want for Christmas...
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book a lot, mostly because of the comparison between stoicism and the cognitive behavioral therapy. I am a long time fan of Marco Aurelio, even before the movie "Gladiator" or the book of Marguerite Yourcenar made him a well known Emperor between all the others, but I still think he was one of the best and Everybody should read his Meditations.

Questo libro mi é piaciuto molto, fondamentalmente grazie ai paragoni che l'autore faceva costantemente trai principi stoici e quelli che
May 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius" is a new work by Donald Robertson on Stoicism through the lens of Marcus Aurelius. As a change of pace, I listened to the audiobook of it, as it was read by the author and I often enjoy hearing authors read their own works. In this I was not disappointed.

Robertson is a well known modern Stoic proponent, being involved in many of the organized activities online and off to promote Stoicism and an understanding of it. I've
Noah Goats
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've noticed that over the past few years books about Stoicism have really been proliferating. As traditional religion seems to ebb, I think people are looking for guidance to morality and the good life, and a surprising number of them are finding it in an ancient philosophy that was highly popular in classical Rome. The Stoics give modern people a moral code that doesn't look too different from the one they grew up with, but it bases its ethics on reason rather than revelation and dogma.

Jeremy Raby
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Donald Robertson knocked it out of the park with this book. All at once it’s a primer on Stoicism, a case study for how Stoicism can be beneficial to a real person, and a self-help book using modern psychotherapy techniques.

Drawing from multiple Roman histories, and writings from Marcus Aurelius himself, Robertson has written a brief biography of the last “good” Roman emperor while interweaving lessons on Stoicism and modern cognitive behavioral therapy anyone can put into practice, just as
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to give this book 3 stars because I mostly enjoyed it, but some of the CBT-ish parts were boring to read (probably because I'm a therapist and none of the things mentioned are really new to me).....HOWEVER...the last chapter alone ("Death and the View From Above") absolutely blew me away...very poetic, deep, profound, and the most stunningly beautiful philosophy I've ever read. I'm not ashamed to say reading it brought tears to my eyes. My guess is the chapter was an excerpt from ...more
Franzen Vive
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very relevant in a world where a lot of people tend to use their emotions more than their reason. The work also proves that philosophy is needed more than ever.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
The last chapter was one of the most moving chapters I've read in a while. Marcus Aurelius. What a man.
Hugo Ahlberg
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclosure: I received a pre-release copy from the publisher.

This book is a great introduction to both Marcus Aurelius and Stoic philosophy. It blends the biography of the roman emperor with the philosophy and history of stoicism, and the author ties it all together in a great way. In fact, having already read Meditations I found the biography and the stories about Marcus and the people around him to be the most interesting parts of this book. It gives the philosophy a lot more texture than
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one! It was well written and very straight forward for someone who isn’t working towards a PhD or some type of degree! LOL.

I enjoy reading about all Things Roman, most especially the Emperor world. Having the philosophical attitude, mindset towards our mortality does allow you to feel more “free”,

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about Rome, emperor’s and even simple philosophy.
Rosemary Ward
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rosemary by: 62
Do not act as if you will live 10,000 years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good

I really didn't want this book to end - and it was work ; not a beach read. The wisdom that poured from each chapter had a hypnotic effect, which felt like so much relief from life's storms. I think it actually lowered my blood pressure every time I picked it up and read.

Donald Robertson took an old topic and breathed new life into it creating a truly unique brew - kind of a
Nishit Chauhan
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was my introduction to the Stoic philosophy and I must say that I couldn't have asked for anything better.

After starting Meditations multiple times and putting it down, never finishing by getting discouraged by the writing style, How to Think takes all the principles from Meditations and puts them in an easy to comprehend manner.

The author gets into the origins of the philosophy and also how it has evolved over centuries makes the book very easy to read, interesting and relatable. This
Michael Beaudoin
I have been practicing Stoicism for about 4 years. I attended the 2017 Toronto Stoicon. It was great to meet some of the people I have been learning from, through various forms of media. I feel that I have learned a lot about Stoicism. I also feel that I can still learn more. When I received my copy of "How to Think Like a Roman Emperor", I immediately began to read it. It's a great book. What I like most about the book is that Donald Robertson's style of story telling makes you feel as if you ...more
Stefan Andrei
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably one of the most “digestible” books on stoic philosophy. The entire work is consisted of biographical passages of Marcus Aurelius and follows his life from his younger years and his teachers to his last years and deathbed; analysis of passages from his written work “Meditations” and parallels with modern psychotherapy and practical applications.

Highly enjoyable read, recommended to newcomers and veteran readers on the topic.

I listened to this on Audible and the narration was perfect.

Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robertson is uniquely suited to talk about Stoicism and its therapeutic applications. I found this to be a strong compliment to Pigliuccis How to Be a Stoic, although written less like a philosophical treatise and more like a psychological guide.

If you admire Marcus Aurelius and want to fold his life into stoic teachings, this is a terrific book for you.
Йордан Цалов
I was amazed with the depth and regard to accuracy of the book. Many have written on the positive aspects of the book I want to stress on what distinguishes it from the majority of recent "Modern Stoicism" literature.

1. Most new Stoicism books tend to be quasi-historic at best and pseudohistoric at worst, presenting dubious interpretation of selective facts only to suit their personal understanding of Stoicism. Since Donald Robertson was a psychotherapist I was genuinely worried that this is
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
I received an advance copy of this book several months ago and began reading, wanting to quickly turn it around as a thank you for the honor of being an advance reader. But the darn book kept making me think! I would read, re-read, apply, go in research tangents.

I strongly recommend this to new students of Stoicism. And by that, I mean anyone seeking a practical philosophy of life that cuts through the mystical and finds meaning in the daily struggle to be proud of what you did and who you
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Donald Robertson’s book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, is a wonderfully written introduction to Stoic philosophy and the life of Marcus Aurelius. The list of concepts illustrated in this book that I found personally invaluable is impressive; the concept of voluntary hardship for the development of one’s character, the discarding of value judgments and meeting external events with indifference, the idea that difficult people in one’s life should be viewed as a “prescription” for personal ...more
Bob Mooney
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed ‘how to’ manual on implementing the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius in one’s daily life which is a must read companion to the his Meditations. I found the final chapter to be moving and most powerful capturing all the elements of Marcus’ philosophy.

Reading the book isn’t enough, one must work hard to practice the techniques discussed and not be concerned with failure, rather utilize those failures to leverage progress and change in how one views their life and place in today’s world.

Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this for the parts about Marcus' life, and how he practiced his philosophy. It's important to keep in mind that this is not a historical book as much as a sophisticated self-help book with examples from history. I especially enjoyed the final passages, where Robertson imagines Marcus' final thoughts as he embraced death. Stoicism has its limitations, because I think we should mistrust our value judgments much more rigorously. Robertson also mentioned virtue as a good to strive for, but ...more
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if one isn’t especially interested in Stoicism, I recommend this book to read. I love that Robertson connected these Stoic ideals to our modern times, and made connections between how the Stoics dealt with things, and how therapists and psychologists recommend their patients to in this day and age. It was incredibly eye-opening, and I loved learning things I hadn’t an inkling of beforehand about Marcus Aurelius. That’s another thing! If you like/love Marcus Aurelius, I think you’ll like ...more
Wally Bock
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you’re already familiar with stoicism, buy this book and read it. You’ll learn new thing about Marcus Aurelius and how to apply stoic principles. Robertson puts stoicism in a modern context. He gives you helpful ways to connect stoic philosophy with everyday life.

If you’re relatively new to stoicism, read Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way first. It will give you a good practical overview of stoicism before you go a little deeper with Robertson’s book.

See my full review at:

Kevin Murray
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have listened to the audiobook four times and will listen again and again. Simply amazing and wonderful. The reading of Marcus Aurelius' thoughts about death, at the time he was actually dying, was so moving I had to stop my gym workout and compose myself. "Welcome to the gates of my imagination," Marcus said to death as he pondered how death impacted his life. Love hearing Robertson's Scottish voice as he reads. Outstanding writing, great storytelling, a must-read and listen. Thank you, Mr. ...more
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Author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. I'm a philosopher and psychotherapist with a special interest in Stoicism and CBT.
“From the moment we’re born we’re constantly dying, not only with each stage of life but also one day at a time. Our bodies are no longer the ones to which our mothers gave birth, as Marcus put it. Nobody is the same person he was yesterday. Realizing this makes it easier to let go: we can no more hold on to life than grasp the waters of a rushing stream.” 4 likes
“The Stoics adopted the Socratic division of cardinal virtues into wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.” 3 likes
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