One of the great fears many of us face is that despite all our effort and striving, we will discover at the end that we have wasted our life. In A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine plumbs the wisdom of Stoic philosophy, one of the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome, and shows how its insight and advice are still remarkably applicable to modern lives. In A Guide to the Good Life, Irvine offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life.
Using the psychological insights and the practical techniques of the Stoics, Irvine offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us. Irvine looks at various Stoic techniques for attaining tranquility and shows how to put these techniques to work in our own life. As he does so, he describes his own experiences practicing Stoicism and offers valuable first-hand advice for anyone wishing to live better by following in the footsteps of these ancient philosophers. Listeners learn how to minimize worry, how to let go of the past and focus our efforts on the things we can control, and how to deal with insults, grief, old age, and the distracting temptations of fame and fortune. We learn from Marcus Aurelius the importance of prizing only things of true value, and from Epictetus we learn how to be more content with what we have.
Finally, A Guide to the Good Life shows listeners how to become thoughtful observers of their own lives. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.
©2009 William B. Irvine (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
I found myself surprisingly liking this book a lot. It demystifies what is commonly and mistakenly identified as a dour philosophy and makes it accessible to everyday, modern life. Equal parts self- help book, stoicism 101 course, and "serenity now!" mantra, Irvine makes a compelling case for adopting the tenets of stoicism as a balm to our hectic, information overloaded, materialistic society. I found myself quite intrigued and taken with the advice in this book and have found myself practicing it daily. It moves along briskly and avoids the self-help book pitfalls of pandering to the reader or being too trite.
This is a great book, and the narrator fits perfectly. I would recommend this title to any thoughtful friend or family member. I started this book at a real low point, and found this profoundly helpful. Also, unlike most books that offer life advice, the author is clearly a smart, logical individual who thinks carefully about what he says and explains what it is like to put his advice into practice.
Great book explaining stoicism in a contemporary way.
It reads very smoothly. Well structured and the author presents the concepts in a way relevant to our days.
I particularly liked the ending when justifies stoicism from an evolutionary point of view. This is a nice contribution of the author.
I also liked the personal experience of the author while practicing stoicism.
Finally it suggests some further reading.
Very interesting book. Accessible. The author makes the points very clear in my opinion.
I like the narrator too. Not too slow (like others I have heard).
Great book. Thanks.
I took a few gems away from the actual content about stoicism (otherwise I would have returned it), but what a trial this book was to get through! The whole first section read like a text book and was super dry and uninspiring. In the end I skipped through to part 2, which was a little better, but the longer I listened, the more annoyed I was (good opportunity to try out my new stoic skills I suppose). The book is full of gross generalisation about what "people do" and "psychologists claim". I don't know which psychologists, he doesn't say, but he loves to smack them down anyway. He did acknowledge the similarities with buddhism and to a lesser degree Christianity and other religions, and yet he goes on and on as if what he's saying is completely revolutionary, when really a lot of these ideas are fundamental in a lot of spiritual traditions, pop-psychology books and self-help manuals. He obviously has a background in philosophy but other than that, it basically seems based on his opinions with not much to back up his points (which would be fine if it was funny, poignant, or even interesting in some other way, but it's not). I found the stoic techniques suggested to be insightful and I hope to put them to use in my life - but I suggest you find a different book on stoicism.
An excellent, readable, understandable, modern story about Stoicism
A great story, understandable quotes, modern life examples and Mr Irvine contrasts old roman life with 21century life problems and how Stoicism fits into modern life
Narrator captured essence of author, very informative and clear. Informative for those who are simply curious and helpful to those actually looking to choose a lifestyle. Great book all around.
A Guide to the Good Life is a really super book, brimming over with good advice and techniques on living a happy, tranquil life. I have really gotten so much out of it, and over the course of these last few days reading the book, I am already amazingly more tranquil myself!
This was a pretty good if brief introduction to the Stoic philosophy. What's notable about it is that the author, William Irvine, is not merely presenting historical information about the Stoics, or a primer on Stoicism for purely educational purposes, but actually advocating Stoicism as a philosophy of life with applicability to modern Westerners. He spends some time talking about the history of the Stoic schools and pointing out that Stoics really did spend time constructing "proofs" that the Stoic philosophy was the most correct one for living a virtuous and fulfilling life. He then elaborates on their beliefs and techniques, and makes a case for being a practicing Stoic in the 21st century.
Was it convincing? Well, while I didn't find this book to be particularly deep or transformational, it was interesting enough that I want to read more, and I do see a lot of appeal in Stoicism.
One of the things the author points out is that Stoicism has a lot in common with Zen Buddhism - they prescribe a lot of the same behaviors and attitudes, though they get there from different directions. Since I've also had an interest in Zen, this clicked with me, and since the author rejected Zen for the same reason I did - he's too analytical and sitting for hours trying to "empty your mind" would be painfully tedious for people like us - the Stoic approach has promise.
Of course, one problem with the Stoics is their philosophy is predicated on what man's "purpose" is, with that purpose presumably declared by our creator, Zeus. You can easily transfer this to God (Stoicism is pretty compatible with Christianity), but it requires a bit more rationalizing to achieve an evolutionary purpose applicable to Stoicism for us atheists and agnostics.
So what did the Stoics believe and what should you do as a Stoic? Irvine spends a lot of time trying to preemptively rebut misconceptions about the Stoics - e.g., that they were joyless, unemotional, believed in forsaking pleasure and suppressing grief, etc. In fact, the Stoics did believe in enjoying life, and they did not deny emotion. They taught that one should not allow one's emotions to control you, and that the seeking (or enjoyment) of pleasure should not be your primary purpose in life nor your chief objective, only a side benefit of living a virtuous life. And that you might not enjoy any such side benefits - if you lived in a virtuous life, you might wind up miserable because that's fate, and if that happens, you should suck it up and keep going.
The last part may not be particularly encouraging, but I actually liked it because as the author points out, it flies in the face of a lot of modern psychology. Irvine has some particularly harsh criticisms for "grief counseling," claiming that studies have shown that getting counseled for grief actually prolongs one's grief, whereas taking a Stoic approach helps you get over it more quickly.
That can sound kind of cold, since the Stoic message is basically "Yes, it sucks that your child died, but she's dead now and you can't change it, so move on." But really, how does it benefit someone to prolong their grief over unchangeable events? Mastery of Stoicism doesn't mean you don't grieve over a dead child - it means you grieve, accept that it happened, and move on. More importantly, the Stoic philosophy encourages people to appreciate what they have now - e.g., your living child - and take nothing for granted, because you never know when it could be taken from you.
Am I actually convinced that Stoicism is for me? Well, like I said, based on this book, I am willing to give it a try. At the same time, the book was a very cursory introduction and while it talked a little bit about Stoic techniques (such as "negative visualization" - imagining that the things you have have been taken away, or that your life sucks more than it does) it doesn't really provide much in the way of useful instruction. Back in Greco-Roman days, there were actual Stoic schools to teach these things, but Stoic schools today are kind of hard to find. So I guess I will have to look for more books on the subject. But whether you are interested in trying out Stoicism for yourself or not, this book is a decent entry point.
To listen to a great book while I knit is heaven on earth.
This is the history and applications of stoicism. Generally I find that I purchase self-help books when I feel the need. So it is with this one. I am, therefore, generous with the review. Others have complained of the reader. I must add my voice to theirs. Good grief man, lighten up. Just because we are talking about philosophy one doesn't have to make it dry ? A few good chops from an editor would have helped as well. Goodness I don't need that much history. These are minor irritations though I listened with interest and enjoyed and learned. Thank you for this book
"Great follow up to the Antidote by Oliver Burkeman"
Yes, lots of ideas that need to be reiterated in order to fully grasp in a practical way
Narration a little spaced apart or something, kindof like it was read by a computer - you get used to it but could have been a bit more fluid.
It made me think about the way I think and how I perceive life's joys as well as challenges, definitely be implementing some stoic traits
Can't wait until they get more of Irvine's books on audible, just don't seem to like old school reading
Very interesting and very insightful. A great hybrid between philosophy and personal development. Thoroughly recommended.
I have no doubt that the wisdom in this book will help me to live a better life.
"Great content, sadly marred by robotic, stilted reading."
Very much enjoying the content of this book, the stoic philosophy seems to be broadly misunderstood by the general public and has many tools to help with problems of modern life.
Sadly this book suffers from one of the most wooden, robotic narrators I've ever come across. It removes much of the humour of the writing, which can be detected in the words but is delivered as though it was a list of medical side effects. It's a real shame.
"Great just a few irks"
It's one of the best as long as you take action on the advice.
I like the way he blended the anecdotes with the ways to live your life.
My gripe would be with the feminist language this guy uses, it really irked me because listening to it. 'herself' etc. It has a certain agenda pushed behind it which i don't feel it was necessary to put the emphasis on the feminine, i saw some other reviews point this out, and it bugged me.
stories about seneca and marcus aurelius.
Narrator was decent.
"Best non core book on stoicism I have read so far."
This has been a fantastic read. Very practical and applicable to daily life. I recommend this to anyone learning about stoicism.
"Wise, profound, enjoyable, even life changing"
An excellent book on the most important of subjects: our very own lives and happiness. Not merely intelligent, but wise. Deep yet approachable and even practical. Well written, highly enjoyable, certainly thought provoking. A must listen really!
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