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on 5 September 2017
This book will change your life if you let it.
I can't remember why I started reading the Stoics; I think it was after I'd read a bit about the Romans in Mary Beard's SPQR. I started with Marcus Aurelius and moved on to Seneca and Epictetus. I don't do them cover to cover, but I dip in and out alot.
Irvine's book is an excellent precis of the main elements of their message. I never was one for crying much, and I've tried to keep the stuff that really bothers me to myself. I'd describe myself as an "inner coward" - dreading the aging process and the deterioration that seems to be coming with it. I've looked into plenty of philosophies - religion, buddhism - to see if there was a fit for me and never quite found it.
And then I ran into these guys.
Want what you have; live a good life; prepare for the end, but don't waste the now; suck it up and remember there are those worse off than you.... the list just goes on. It may not suit you if you enjoy wearing your heart on your sleeve and burdening everyone around you with your problems, but for anyone who even remotely advocates a bit of a "stiff upper lip" this may just be for you.
It's apparent that having studied philosophy for most of his life, Irvine has only just had the revelation I've had. These ancients weren't just talking about it, they were practising a way of life that deals with most of life's ills; and they'd come up with solutions over 2000 years ago!
Irvine steps you through those solutions and guided this fifty year old agnostic coward into a new way of thinking. I just hope I haven't left it too late!
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on 11 July 2013
This is a superb book - in fact, it is inspirational. It is not only an introduction to Stoicism, but is also a clear, engaging and well written translation of Stoic ethics into a 21st century context. Some critics argue that Irvine leaves out Stoic logic, simplifies ideas etc, but that misses the point entirely. This is not an academic text - if it was, it would not be able to achieve what it sets out to achieve. If you are looking for 'tranquility', if you are searching for a 'philosophy for life', then this is a place to start. I, for one, found it life-changing.
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on 16 May 2018
A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine is probably the most thorough and up to date book on stoicism that I’ve come across. It is beautifully written and easy to read, with hardly anything too difficult to understand in the text, as Irvine guides the reader through the main concepts of this fascinating philosophy. I must admit that I’m not a convert to stoicism (or any philosophy or religion for that matter) but I did feel that Irvine put the case for stoicism well and was very convincing, especially in addressing many of the criticisms aimed at stoicism. In short, I found the book a highly informative read and I will be seeking out further works by this author.

I hope you find my review helpful.
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on 28 August 2015
This is a terrific book, a self-help book as good as any that I have read. The author summarises succinctly the many lessons we can learn from the principal Roman Stoic philosophers. He writes well, and does not fall into the trap of coming across as preachy or overly evangelistic. The author has been very brave to also speak about some of his own personal experiences, and these aspects of the book bring the ideas to life vividly. I wish I had read a book like this 20 years ago. I am now reading Seneca and Epictetus, but I know I shall return to this book again and again.
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on 17 September 2014
Irvine has put together a fine introduction and reference to Stoic ideas and practice with a modern spin that makes this timeless school of philosophical thought applicable by us today.

Having only really read some Seneca and bit of Aurelius' Meditations before, Stoic Joy tied together the central concepts of Stoicism for me and provided a jumping off point to the original sources, i.e. Seneca, Aurelius and Epictetus (with some Musonius Rufus thrown in for good measure).

There is also some nice contrasting of what the other Hellenistic schools such as the Cynics and Epicureans thought on matters relating to desire, control, luxury and power. The insights on anger, pleasure are all highly relevant today given the consumerism we're fed and buy into in modern society.

One criticism I have with Irvine's interpretation of Stoicism is his treatment of Epictetus' teachings that we ought focus our energies and attention on those things we can control while being indifferent to those we cannot. In diverging from what Epictetus taught, Irvine tends to muddy the waters by adding a third scenario: things that are partially under our control. The third category is unnecessary, because, to use Irvine's example, placing a tennis game in this newly created category of things we have some control over actually offers no insight to us. When you analyse the game of tennis itself it follows that there are aspects of a game we either can or cannot control. No need for a third category.

Despite that wrinkle, the book is a good primer and reference for Stoicism. Be aware, however, that "A Guide to the Good Life" is very much a starting point for further study, as some of Irvine's interpretations of Stoic philosophy diverge from what the ancients conceived and taught.
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on 24 April 2016
This is a wonderful book which is a pleasure to read - and it may change your life for the better! Much recommended. Author's style is clear and friendly, and shows that he is approaching the subject both as an accomplished philosopher but also as a fellow human being. I enjoyed reading it and will try to use the insight in my daily life. Do yourself a favour and read it.
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on 9 January 2014
Prof. Irvine is attempting to convince us to try a modern day version of the ancient practice of stoicism. The heart of the pratice are 2 very simple praticial procedures that are easy to follow. The text gives is a basic grounding in the ancient pratice with the author's personal experinces layered over as examples for modern times. Though the writing style did appear to me at times laboured, the message is loud and clear. If you have a soft spot for stoicism, or seeking tranquility, thie book is highly recommended.

I do however note an omission that I believe would have supported the author's case; the stoic philosophers directly influenced the development of modern day cognitive therapies, yet Prof. Irvine does not mention this. Surely this is one of the biggest recommendations one can make for the stoic philosophy.
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on 8 June 2012
Easy to read. Not a long book. It is has short chapters and sections that can be read easily..put down then pick it up. this is a good book for an intelligent and informed introductioin. Written by a philospher who is living the stoic life, and recognises the benefits and its limitations. comparisons made with religion and eastern philosphies. An enjoyable read. It is a good introduction for the ordinairy person or even an academic because of its emphasis on the pragmatic individual use.
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on 27 March 2018
This is the first book I've read regarding Stoicism and it was an interesting read. Some of the principles and advice are well worth read and many of us, I think, would benefit from putting much of what is contained within this book into daily practice. I have, at 48 years old, been practising some Stoic principles without knowing it and having read this, it has encouraged me to move further down that route. It is a very accessible text and a good starting place for anyone interested in this subject area. Buy it, read it and practice the techniques. I hardly ever write a review for a product but this book is worth it. Highly recommended.
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on 20 July 2015
My first introduction to Stoicism, and a great read. This book, more than any other so far, presents Stoicism in a way that is practical and an attractive way of life. Robertson's book goes much deeper into what Stoicism really was, and takes issue with some of Irvine's interpretation (eg, that 'negative' meditation isn't really negative, since these things are 'indifferent' in Stoic philosophy). However, this book gets you going along that path better than any other.
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