The shadow of the Roman politician Seneca looms large in Stoic philosophy. His work is among the most well-preserved and quoted Stoic texts throughout history, and countless generations have been influenced by his insights into the human condition.
Perhaps this is best seen in The Letters to Lucilius, where Seneca discusses universal themes with his friend. While the letters contain timeless wisdom, Seneca’s ideas are spread across hundreds of pages, and distilling them down could seem like an intimidating task to some.
Not for David Fideler.
In Breakfast With Seneca: A Stoic Guide To The Art Of Living, Fideler has provided a wonderful overview of Seneca’s ideas, and here are my ten biggest takeaways from the book.
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We all desire something. More money, more security, more love, more friendship. We all imitate each other. Ideas, perspectives, thoughts, processes. This is mimesis, the fuel that powers a system of desire that’s been around since the earliest days of mankind.
Author Luke Burgis is fascinated with mimesis and he breaks down this universal concept in Wanting: The Power Of Mimetic Desire In Everyday Life. In the book, Burgis explains how to identify mimetic desire, when it’s negative and positive and how to develop tactics for promoting healthy desires.
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Philosophy comes in many shapes, forms, roads and paths. All these directions lead to the same direction: the pursuit of wisdom. Of finding ways to be better. Of getting to know yourself and others a little better every day.
It’s this pursuit of wisdom that informs Simon Drew’s The Poet & The Sage, a book that dives deep into the essence of philosophy and invites you to find your own meaning.
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What do we mean by acceptance? Is it the avoidance of conflict? The understanding that some events are simply beyond our control? Is it the resignation that certain things won’t change? These kinds of questions are asked everyday all over the world and every culture has their own take on what acceptance means.
In Japan, ukeireru is a type of acceptance that the Japanese embrace and Scott Haas is interested in peering behind the curtain to see what exactly it means. In Why Be Happy?: The Japanese Way of Acceptance, Haas explores the concept of ukeireru, what it truly means to accept something and how the power of acceptance can help to build a happier and healthier life.
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When it comes to studying the Stoics, Seneca is often cited as one of the most prolific because of the number of works he produced and the sources about his life. A complicated man, Seneca was a proud Stoic who often lived at odds with the philosophy he claimed to love under the corrupt regime of Nero.
Was Seneca a philosopher who sought the simple life? Was he a hypocrite who failed to practice what he preached? Was he a man who found himself in an impossible situation and did the best he could to mitigate the excesses of an emperor? Was he all of these things and more?
Such questions are the topic of Emily Wilson’s Seneca: A Life, which provides a nuanced portrayal of one of antiquity’s most complex figures.
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For people with an interest in Stoicism and philosophy, the Roman power broker and politician Seneca looms large. His writing offers great insight into the mind of someone who was attempting to put the philosophy into practice, while also serving as a will and testament of a man who was guilty of falling short of what he preached at times.
Letters From A Stoic contains all 124 of the letters Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius. The book would benefit anyone who wants to pick up a bit of wisdom or change their perception of the world.
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As the old saying goes, in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. The latter is something we have a choice of whether to pay or not and face the consequences. The former is inevitable, so we might as well do the best we can while we’re alive and look back on a life well lived.
All of this ties into the idea of memento mori, a concept the Romans took to heart and it’s the focus of Memento Mori: What The Romans Can Tell Us About Old Age & Death by Peter Jones.
An informative book filled with quirky and resonant themes about how to accept death with grace, Memento Mori may help change your perspective on life beyond the veil.
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The life of a freelance writer can be an emotional rollercoaster. You’re running a business, you’re juggling responsibilities, you’re trying to lock in new clients, you’re shedding old clients, you’re learning on the job, you’re taking a step back, you’re trying your best to make it work.
As a freelance copywriter myself, stepping on and off this rollercoaster is made a little easier by turning to Stoicism and books like How To Launch A Freelance Copywriting Business: Creative Writing For A Living by Jules Horne.
A must-read book for freelance creatives, Horne shares her own experiences of setting off into the writing wilderness and creating a business that’s sustainable and satisfies the soul.
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Do you consider yourself an epicurean? Do you enjoy fine food and a pleasurable lifestyle? Being an epicurean is different to being an Epicurean, as in following the teachings of Epicurus.
The philosophy of Epicureanism is often misunderstood as a hedonistic worldview and I’ll admit to thinking that too when I first came across it. After reading The Fourfold Remedy: Epicurus and the Art of Happiness by John Sellars I was glad to be proven wrong.
A wonderful book on an introduction to Epicureanism, The Fourfold Remedy sets the record straight.
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A train journey can be a time of reflection, of watching the world go by. For Eric Weiner it’s a time for grappling with life’s most existentialist experiences and questions, which he brings to life aboard The Socrates Express: In Search Of Life Lessons From Dead Philosophers.
In the book, Weiner delves into the lives of 14 of history’s most diverse thinkers and translates their actions into steps to apply to our own lives. From Michel de Montaigne to Simone Weil, Weiner brings the figures within his pages to life in stunning detail.
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