15 Must-Read Philosophy Books for Building a Meaningful Life

Looking for the best philosophy books? I’ve got you covered.

The list below contains books on Stoic philosophy and the art of living a good, meaningful life.

Best Philosophy Books for Beginners

1. The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday | Philosophy books

The Obstacle Is the Way is inspired by Stoicism—the ancient Greek philosophy of bearing adversity with resilience and perseverance.

Stoics pay attention to things within their control, relinquish everything else, and convert obstacles into opportunities to improve themselves and strengthen their characters.

In the book, Ryan Holiday narrates the stories of some of the most successful people in history who have used Stoicism to overcome obstacles in their lives. 

What’s in it for you:

  • Timeless principles for overcoming difficult situations

2. Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday makes a compelling argument that our most common enemy lies not in the outside world but within us: our ego.

Ego holds back our learning and talent development early in our careers. 

It blinds us to our errors when we succeed and magnifies each blow when we fail.

This philosophy book narrates the stories of captivating figures—like Jackie Robinson and Eleanor Roosevelt—who defeated their own egos on their path to success and power.

What’s in it for you:

  • Tactics and strategies for succeeding by conquering your ego

3. Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

This philosophy book defines stillness as the ability to remain calm, focused, and steady in a relentlessly busy world.

Distilling insights from the greatest thinkers in history, the book shows us the importance of stillness and how we can benefit from it to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

What’s in it for you:

  • The key to self-mastery, discipline, and focus

4. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in Nazi death camps between 1942 and 1945.

Drawing on his experience and that of others, Frankl asserts that we cannot escape suffering, but we can choose how to deal with it, move forward, and find renewed meaning and purpose in our lives.

Frankl bases his assertions on his own theory, logotherapy, which states that our main drive is the desire to find meaning in our lives.

What’s in it for you:

  • A philosophy book about finding meaning and purpose amid life’s inevitable suffering

5. Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

For most of his adult life, Seneca was a prominent stoic who guided the Roman Empire according to his Stoic principles.

This book contains a series of Seneca’s letters on the ideals of Stoicism, which deals with mastering one’s emotions amid life’s setbacks.

What’s in it for you:

  • An inspiring, moving interpretation of Stoicism

6. The Art of Living by Epictetus & Sharon Lebell 

The Art of Living by Epictetus

Born into slavery around 55 ce, Epictetus went on to achieve freedom and establish a prestigious Stoic philosophy school. 

Epictetus stressed that we cannot control life, but we can control our responses to it.

This philosophy book contains 93 guidelines for dealing with life’s challenges and bearing its inevitable losses with grace.

What’s in it for you:

  • A modern manual for finding personal peace and moral direction 

7. The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth

The Practicing Stoic contains the greatest insights from Stoics like Seneca, Montaigne, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. 

Ward Farnsworth presents quotations, alongside his own commentary, for bearing life’s burdens with greater ease.

What’s in it for you:

  • Indispensable wisdom for living a good life

8. Courage Is Calling by Ryan Holiday

Courage Is Calling by Ryan Holiday

Almost every person, religion, and philosophy grapples with fear.

“Be not afraid” is the most echoed phrase in the Bible. 

In this philosophy book, Ryan Holiday explores courage—the ability to do what’s right and needed to rise above fear.

Drawing on the stories of historic leaders, Holiday shows you how to overcome fear and walk the courageous path in your life.

What’s in it for you:

  • How to find courage in a world where people sit on the sidelines, go along with convention, and turn a blind eye to injustice 

9. Lessons in Stoicism by John Sellars

In Lessons in Stoicism, John Sellars shows you how to lead a more enjoyable life by adopting the key philosophies of three prominent Stoics: Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.

Fundamentally, the works of these Stoics centered on how to manage your emotions, how to understand your place in the world, how to behave toward others, and how to survive when things don’t go well. 

What’s in it for you:

  • A thoughtful guide to living a good life

10. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a deeply insightful book for anyone looking to build a more meaningful life.

Marcus Aurelius offers profound advice on diverse areas of life, like interacting with others and coping with adversity. 

What’s in it for you:

  • The insightful thoughts of one of the most enlightened Stoics of the past

Best Philosophy Books for Successful Daily Living

11. The Intellectual Life by Sertillanges

This philosophy book discusses how an intellectual worker can organize their time, their materials, and their life.

It covers several topics, like the discipline of memory, taking notes, reading, and general knowledge and specialization.

What’s in it for you:

  • A practical book about leading an effective intellectual life

12. The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthazar Gracian

The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar

The Art of Worldly Wisdom contains 300 maxims with commentary for successful living.

What’s in it for you:

  • Wisdom for succeeding in daily life

13. Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle

This book discusses ethics and how we, as human beings, should best live our lives. 

What’s in it for you:

  • Aristotle’s best-known work on ethics

14. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

The Daily Stoic contains 366 days of Stoic wisdom from the greats like Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. 

Every day of the year, it offers powerful quotations, anecdotes, and commentary for living your life according to Stoic values. 

What’s in it for you:

  • The wisdom to find the resilience, serenity, and self-knowledge to live well

15. The Daily Laws by Robert Greene

The Daily Laws offers concise wisdom for every day of the year, revolving around power, strategy, seduction, human nature, self-control, adversity, and mastery.

What’s in it for you:

  • A perfect introduction to Robert Greene’s writings on power and strategy 

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