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The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User's Manual

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  414 ratings  ·  56 reviews
The great insights of the Stoics are spread over a wide range of ancient sources. This book brings them all together for the first time. It systematically presents what the various Stoic philosophers said on every important topic, accompanied by an eloquent commentary that is clear and concise. The result is a set of philosophy lessons for everyone - the most valuable ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2018 by Davd R. Godine
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Gretchen Rubin
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love reading great works like those of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Cicero, and others, and have always been interested in the thinking of the Stoics. This book lays out the history and philosophy of the Stoics in an absolutely clear and accessible way, without dumbing down the complexity. The body of work is presented in a systematic, thoughtful framework that is rarely seen in this kind of book. I found the answers to questions that I didn't know I had. I'd read much of this material ...more

This, too, was a windfall for me. I was browsing through the labyrinthine bookshelves at Powell's in Portland this past April and noticed this. (There really is something about being able to browse books physically at a bookstore—it allows for more immediate connection/recognition, for fortuitous discoveries.) Unlike other books on Stoicism, this basically collects and organizes the original sources (translated, of course) by theme, in a roughly progressive manner to aid learning. So
Tim O'Neill
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As someone who has been reading the works of the Stoics for many years, the premise of this "manual" struck me as very useful. The book is arranged into topic-based chapters - "Perspective", "Desire", "Adversity", "Death" etc. - with selections of Stoic writers on those subjects arranged with commentary and context. This makes the book something that can be usefully read straight through, as I have just done, but I know it will be one that I will go back to and consult periodically as those ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a synthesis of the writing of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Each chapter covers a topic, such as "Judgement" or "Learning", in which Farnsworth guides the reader through subtopics with the three's works quoted with comment and context.

It could be a handy pocket reference in time of need, or introduction to the original text of the ancient stoic. Sadly, what the book didn't achieve is breathing new life into Stoic teaching by situating them in the many new experiences
Graychin (D. Dalrymple)
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ward Farnsworth announced himself to the general reading public in 2010 with the release of Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric. It was a bold move, that title (I’m reminded of the Incomparable Max’s first book, published at age twenty-four, which he christened The Works of Max Beerbohm). But it’s a very fine book and I’ve been educating myself with it a bit at a time for the past year or so. Likewise, I’ve been working through his equally delightful follow-up, Farnsworth’s Classical English ...more
Ryan Boissonneault
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Of the many available books on Stoicism, three things make Farnsworth’s The Practicing Stoic stand out:

1. The Stoics largely speak for themselves; the book is organized around topics and most of the content comes from the original sources. So, for example, the chapter on “judgment” presents, with commentary, the original writings of Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius—the big three late Stoics—on that topic. This way, you can compare and contrast each authors thoughts on the same topic, which
Two Readers in Love
An excellent thematic compedium of quotes from the suriviving writing of prominent Stoics (primarily Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius) and their intellectual inheritors (a wide selection of quotes from Michel de Montaigne, Adam Smith, Samuel Johnson, and more.)

This is an entirely contemporary book, with an accesible writing style, but it reminds me -- in a good way -- of the type of project an 18th century intellectual might set for themselves. It is on my list of books to revisit at a
Brian D. Avsec
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Practicing Stoic: A Philosophical User’s Manual is exactly that! The author has done a terrific job of putting together Stoic principals into topics that apply to everyday life. It was an easy read but more important now a reference guide always there when I need it. He also introduced several new Stoic writers such as Montaigne that provide a more modern interpretation of Stoic principals.
Vincent Li
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book to read through and keep as reference for good and bad times in life. The title is a good description of the goal of the book, which is to provide practical advice on living. As a result, the focus is on Stoic ethics. The author does a great job of presenting the best version of Stoicism, discussing Stoic ideas with their own words, the author's learned commentary and putting Stoics in conversation and debate. The ideas are helpfully organized into topics, and while most of the Stoics ...more
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book, I think, will come to be recognized as a classic of stoicism. It really should be on the bookshelf—no, on the nightstand(!)—of any modern practitioner of stoicism. It is, essentially, a thematically arranged anthology of passages from both the ancient stoics (Epictetus, Seneca, Aurelius, etc.) and various stoic “sympathizers” (such as Montaigne, Schopenhauer, and Samuel Johnson), through history. But it is not JUST an anthology, inasmuch as Farnsworth provides context and commentary ...more
Jim Cullison
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is so outstanding and enlightening that it must be read at least twice. The first time you'll underline and highlight the deep veins of wisdom and insight in nearly every paragraph, and the second time you'll revisit everything you dogeared and annotated the first time. An intellectual analgesic for this age of chronic psychic inflammation.
Jerry James
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best book on Stoicism. Organizes all the points with great passages from Stoic thinkers.
Jake Watts
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Having read quite a bit of Stoic philosophy, guides, expansions, summaries and the actual source texts themselves, I see this philosophical usebestrs guide, as the author calls it, as pretty near the out there.

It does its best work by using the primary Stoic works, and including later writers influenced by the philosophy (Schopenhauer, Smith, Johnson), and of organizing the teachings by the key categories: Judgment, Externals, Perspective, Death, Desire, Wealth & Pleasure, What others
Sarah Chogsom
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has laid a solid foundation of what Stoicism is and wraps the gems and highlights of the philosophy in an intuitive structure. The title and the subject seem vast and daunting, yet does not feel too deep or complex. Insights from this book can be easily integrated to life and living if one wishes to do so and agrees that the Stoic principles might be of use to improving the quality of life.
As a lay-person to Stoicism, I found the reading as an enjoyable experience and one that I could
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
My first introduction to Stoicism was through The School of Life YouTube channel. I loved their take on it and became since very interested in the philosophy. I decided not to start by reading the stoics’ books but to read someone’s take on it so it would give me a better understanding of the stoic philosophers’ works and teachings. This book is exactly what I needed. I loved the way the author explained in very concise manner the arguments that the stoics meant to convey, although it would have ...more
Michael Baranowski
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Not bad, but more for someone who either knows nothing of Stoicism or who hasn't read many of the Big Three Stoics - Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. But I still found it both inspirational and useful, in that it introduced me to some authors who, while not exactly Stoics themselves, discussed Stoic themes in ways that I found very worthwhile.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Accessible, insightful and scholarly--

First, the format deserves attention. The text is well organized. Every chapter highlights a specific topic and its relation to Stoicism. Because the ancient Stoics did not write systematically, this book eases the reader into Stoic philosophy. (Try organizing Epictetus’s take on fear in his messy essays and letters, for instance.)

Yet the author does not compromise good scholarship for convenience. The passages are directly from the source. And this is not
Sean Lynn
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, I wanted to learn more about the philosophy that guided him. With a little confused research, I found The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth. This is a basic guide to the tenets of philosophical Stoicism, and for those interested in learning, it is a wonderful introduction. First, it organizes the concepts into themes, pulling from multiple sources. Second, it updates translation when needed, and gives context to quotes. Last, it it considers and ...more
David R. Godine
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As befits a good Stoic, Farnsworth’s expository prose exhibits both clarity and an unflappable calm… Throughout The Practicing Stoic, Farnsworth beautifully integrates his own observations with scores of quotations from Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne and others. As a result, this isn’t just a book to read—it’s a book to return to, a book that will provide perspective and consolation at times of heartbreak or calamity. — Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

This sturdy and engaging
Jude Thaddeus
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stoicism
The original works of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca are amazing, and will always be classics worth reading by themselves, but Ward Farnsworth has done something truly awesome with this book that makes me put it almost in same class as the original works.

As someone who tries to practice Stoic Philosophy, I often find myself needing to reflect on some emotion or event I'm trying to get a handle on, and this book almost always helps me do it in a very efficient manner.

Each chapter covers
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As Ward Farnsworth reminds us, there is only ONE example in the history of the world when the most powerful person was also the wisest. That was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Most of this book consists of quotes from him, Seneca, Epictetus, and their fans such as Adam Smith and Montaigne. The author fills in useful background information and explains how Stoicism is frequently misperceived.

I’m no expert in philosophy, but I feel any intelligent person can benefit from this wisdom—it’s a
Paul H Aube
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very easy readable companion for the one who is curious to know and seeks to improve.

The author provided a thematic view of Stoicism by summarizing them through the writings of influential Stoic philosophers and other writers. It is not a story telling, but a compendium of quotes on a variety of Stoic subjects.

It is a good book for the unfamiliar in Stoic studies and a practical one to review the sayings of our forefathers. It can be read as a daily exercise and is an adequate
Patrick Billings
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The combat is great, the achievement divine; for empire, for freedom, for happiness, for peace.”

It is a good book for introduction of Stoicism. Well laid out with great examples and quotes.

The very last chapter was a bit dry in defending Stoic principles.

Should of been post notes and let the reader decide if the principles need defending in the first place.

Great wisdom from great thinkers.

Learning how to live takes a lifetime, and–what may surprise you more–it takes a lifetime to learn how
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Farnsworth compiled the works of stoic philosophers by topic, thus allowing the modern practicing stoic to compare what was said in the various sources and provides a concise commentary too.

Why I started this book: Needed something grounded after the emotional Battle Cry.

Why I finished it: Fascinating but I'm not sure that audio was the best format for this book... as it made it hard to go back, jump around or take the time to ponder that this work deserves.
Don Putnam
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on Audible and it was tough to concentrate on all the quotes. The book is, essentially, the author's collection of quotes from various philosophers, organized by topic. It can be read sequentially or by topic.

The chapter which I benefited the most, was the last one (Stoicism and its Critics).

I plan to read the hard copy of the book, during my leisure in the coming months. I think this book is best consumed when one has time to think about the quotes.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book basically collects quotes from stoics and categorizes them in different themes. If someone is seeking to gain insight into the stoic philosophy, I don't see how this book can offer any deeper analysis. The book I am using as benchmark is the " The Inner Citadel" by Hadot, which has the best insight of stoic philosophy I have seen. The book of Farnsworth is standing on the opposite side of this spectrum, by just repeating the quotes of philosophers in different words.
Drew Lichtenstein
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this more than I did -- I appreciate Stoic philosophy and have enjoyed Ward Farnsworth's writing. However, while the conceit of organizing the book by topics and then connecting it with quotes from famous Stoics makes sense, it ended up just feeling somewhat repetitive. The best part was the last chapter where Ward Farnsworth himself defended Stoics from their critics; I think more of Ward's commentary throughout would have been good.
Andrew A. Mac-Gregor
Excellent read and addition to your library for transition from beginner to intermediate stoicism level.

Excellent read and addition to your library for transition from beginner to intermediate stoicism level. Lots of valuable analysis. Would not recommend this book as a "starter kit" for beginners.
Jeremy Arbour
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stoic Bible

This is now my "Every Day Carry" book. Narration is flawless. The content is very well laid out and organized. I have read all of the modern stoic books and this is by far the best of the best. I would rate it as an intermediate book as it relates to the philosophy but could also serve as an in depth foundation for beginners. Highly recommend.
Henry Manampiring
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the best contemporary book on Stoicism. I recommend this people who have read some introductory book on the subject and want to deepend their understanding for real life application.

What I love about the book is the author groups the subject based on life themes, making it easier for future reference.
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Ward Farnsworth is Dean and John Jeffers Research Chair at the University of Texas School of Law. He formerly was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at the Boston University Law School. He has served as a law clerk to Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court and to Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and worked as a ...more
“The first principle of practical Stoicism is this: we don’t react to events; we react to our judgments about them, and the judgments are up to us.” 1 likes
“They are all matters of opinion, and taken up voluntarily because it seems right to do so. This error, as the root of all evils, philosophy promises to eradicate utterly. Let us therefore devote ourselves to its cultivation and submit to being cured; for so long as these evils possess us, not only can we not be happy, we cannot even be right in our minds.” 0 likes
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