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A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  165 ratings  ·  29 reviews
A brilliant philosopher reimagines Stoicism for our modern age in this thought-provoking guide to a better life.

For more than two thousand years, Stoicism has offered a message of resilience in the face of hardship. Little wonder, then, that it is having such a revival in our own troubled times. But there is no denying how weird it can be: Is it really the case that we sho
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 15th 2020 by Basic Books
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Ryan Boissonneault
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Enchiridion (Handbook) of Epictetus stands as one of the most influential and concise presentations of Stoicism ever published. Written by Epictetus’s student Arrian in 135 CE (Epictetus wrote nothing down himself), the Enchiridion is a succinct summary of Epictetus’s core ethical teachings.

A Field Guide To a Happy Life is modern Stoic philosopher Massimo Pigliucci’s attempt at updating the Enchiridion for the twenty-first century. In addition to translating the text into contemporary langua
Karina Arroyos
Jun 26, 2020 rated it liked it
When I originally picked this book to read, I didn't know what to expect, but A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living did end up teaching me some new concepts I didn't know about. The main thing you should know about this book- if you haven't already done some research on it- is that it is about Stoicism.

Stoicism is a philosophy that is based on living a virtuous life as well as valuing wisdom. Although this book does mention that you can learn about Stoicism without prior kn
Robert Parish
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A contemporary take on The Enchiridion of Epictetus

I like how the author was respectful of the spirit of the ancient text, without being bound by ancient social attitudes or prescientific beliefs about the world. When I read a book, there’s always an inner dialogue between myself and the author. I had the dialogue when reading Epictetus, and came away with a new clarity on what I believed: informed by him, but also informed by my values that I have developed in the last half century of reading
Alejandro Martinez
Very easy to read and digest. Good if you are starting to read about stoicism.
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this useful (if somewhat repetitive) brief guide outlining the basics premises of the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus. The concepts are explained clearly and with gentle humour and, with study and practice, are simple--if not easy--to follow.
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read several versions of Epictetus’ classic Handbook, and this is the first time I’ve been able to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Coincidentally, I was actually writing my own interpretation of this text to use in my personal meditations when I came across this new edition. Maybe I’m just too lazy, but I found Piggliucci’s version met all of my needs and I ended up setting aside my little project. But I digress, the point is that before I found this version, I was stumbling over archaic trans ...more
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A modern take on Epictetus' stoicism. This book summarizes the teachings and ruminations with clear prose and relevant examples. Furthermore, it offers a revision by abstracting away some of the archaic notions like divine foundations, slavery, gender discrimination, emphasis on procreative sex and so on. Epictetus was a product of his time, but despite these flaws, there is a treasure trove of wisdom here.

The central idea is an appeal shifting the focus from externals (the things that we can't
David Dunlap
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
A contemporary philosopher looks at the stoicism of Epictetus and updates it for a contemporary audience. There is much benefit to be derived from these pages (for example, the importance of differentiating between things we can control -- our opinions, our motivations, our desires, etc. -- and those we cannot -- our bodies, our property, our reputation -- and how focusing on the former, rather than the latter, can lead to a happier life), and I enjoyed reading and thinking about the various poi ...more
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I was so disappointed by this book that I had to return it to the seller. In the last year there is an effort to rediscover stoic philosophy and bring it to the modern people who desperately need some spiritual guidance. I have discovered many books that do an excellent job in bringing stoic philosophy closer to the everyday reader, but this book is going one step further and oversimplifies everything to the level that is not readable any more. Every one of the "lessons" is written without refer ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Massimo Pigliucci and his Field guide to a happy life presents Stoicism for modern times. He shows us how to adopt Stoic philosophy as our compass to live a life worth living.

We all know stoics Marcus Aurelius and Seneca, here author mostly focuses on Epictetus's teachings.

First section of the book is meant as general introduction to Stoicism and to Epictetus.
Central and crucial section comprises fifty-three units, each paralleling a similar unit of original manual with relatable examples to o
Kathy Duffy
Sep 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Interesting. Philosophical modern language discussion of Stoicism as it can be applied to modern living. I found some (to me anyway) surprising elements that seemed like Buddhism.... I especially like Pigliucci's metaphors -- comparing it with an animal with Logic as the bones, ethics the flesh and Physics the soul or even better the egg metaphor. Philosophy as a fertile field, logic being the fene, ethics the crop and physics the soil.

His touching on the universal web of cause-effect, which is
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pigliucci is rapidly turning himself into one of the most prominent modern advocates of Stoicism, which has undergone something of a a renaissance over the past decade. This is a rewriting of the Enchridion (Handbook) by Epictetus, interpreting it for a modern audience. If you've already read a straight translation there's not much here that's extra beyond Pigliucci stripping out references to slavery and some of the elements of Stoic metaphysics that aren't compatible with modern scientific und ...more
Sep 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-meditation
I don't usually indulge in meditative books, but I took this audiobook out on a whim to entertain me during the monotony of meal-prepping.

This book felt more like a modern day etiquette book than a "field guide" to happy living. The topics are interrelated, for sure, but this felt really repetitive for such a short book. There were also some lessons (the most hard-hitting example being an almost complete impartiality to the inevitability of family death) that seemed a little militaristic to me.
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it
I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway.

This is a great intro to Stoicism for the 21st century. A brief background, followed by 53 lessons, and concluded by some updated commentary. It’s not a long read, but is meant to be re-read as needed. It’s funny how much I found myself relating to the principles in here, although I never considered myself a Stoic-follower before. The author is honest where his changes or updates happen. There is a list of more resources to follow up on if you want more informa
Dora Okeyo
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Drawing from Epictetus's teachings and insights, the author expounds on living, how we relate to each other and nature and I was mostly fascinated by how we react to things or how our judgement of things affects our lives.
This is not the kind of book you can read in one sitting- it's neither fiction nor fantasy, it's more of the book that you can hope to engage friends or strangers into a conversation on.
Thanks Netgalley for the eARC.
Tom Roth
Dec 30, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this little book, which contains a basic introduction to Epictetus & stoicism, followed by reformulation of Epictetus' most important lessons. However, it did not add a great deal to my knowledge about stoicism, given earlier books I read on the topic. I guess it's a good start for people interested in stoicism. The modern adaptations are interesting, but not huge, as they hardly have any practical impact on practicing stoicism in my opinion. ...more
Nov 13, 2020 rated it liked it
In my opinion, this was not as enjoyable and entertaining as Bill Irvine's book--in fact, while Pigliucci references him and greatly respects him, he disagrees with some of his views--but a good, short introduction to Stoicism. I didn't find it as practical as Irvine's book but Pigliucci's style may appeal to others who are interested. ...more
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy thanks to Goodreads and greatly appreciate that this books delivers on its promise to be a vademecum on stoicism. Spot on, the message is clear and avoids useless anecdotes or inextricable chapters full of arrogant concepts.
Our world needs more serenity and wisdom so I hope this book will find a large audience.
Kevin M. Labadessa
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
A quick read of suggestions based on Stoic philosophy. Not much depth and nothing there that Stoic readers have not read before. Also I could have lived without the rant the author goes on against religious faith and Christianity. Pass on this one serious readers of this philosophy!
Aug 27, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Hard to know which rating to give. It's a good, readable review of Stoicism. However, it's not a philosophy that leads to a happy life or society in my view (sample belief: "Nothing in the world is evil, or for that matter, good.") ...more
Sigrun Hodne
Dec 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Very well written, very entertaining.

But on a personal level I must admit being too irrational for this rather common sense based philosophy of life...
Dec 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting concepts that would be good to put into practice to make day to life easier in some ways.
Alquine Miranda
Jan 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A modern version of the Enchiridion, that is easy to read.
Pranav Pandya
Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wisdom from the great Stoic philosopher Epictetus for the modern world.
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun little philosophy read that my 6yr old asked me to read to her. She says that she “loves that book.”
Antonio C. Montecristo
Dec 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Very easy to read book. Key principles in short sentences.
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfic
An updated look at beliefs of the Stoics.
Mark Edon
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: help
Short and pithy. Modern language and modernised concepts. At first reading this will be worth revisiting regularly. That might well change future ratings. Will let you know.
Jeff Dicken
rated it it was amazing
Nov 08, 2020
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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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