A Guide to the Good Life

The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
Length: 8 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (3,476 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Featured Article: 20 Best Philosophy Audiobooks for Getting Lost in Thought


Philosophy asks and analyzes the questions that have pressed on humankind for centuries: What does it mean to be human? Why are we here? How should we relate to each other? From ancient to contemporary times, these questions have been answered with varying, and sometimes contradictory, schools of thought. Draw parallels across time to dive deep into questions about the fundamental nature of our reality on macro and micro levels alike.

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Excellent contemporary view of stoicism

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.

35 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

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.

36 people found this helpful

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Finding your inner stoic

What did you love best about A Guide to the Good Life?

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.

40 people found this helpful

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Informative and blunt!

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.

6 people found this helpful

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a positive shift in perception

a great guide to help appreciate all the things we have in life. this book helped alleviate stress and let go of ego.

6 people found this helpful

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A very readable introduction, needs more meat

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.

37 people found this helpful

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5th read in 3 months. Masterful!!!

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

11 people found this helpful

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Where's the editor ?

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

16 people found this helpful

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Well crafted.

Irvine and Cronin give a clear, conversational but not breezy treatment of applied Stoicism. There are many personal guides to Stoicism cropping up these days (Holiday, Robertson, Pigliucci, etc.). Along with Becker's theoretical book A New Stoicism, this is the one modern practical guide I return to.

2 people found this helpful

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Stoic

Good book for me at 50 yrs of age. Younger people may have some hard time absorbing this nuggets.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-20-20

To the non-stoic reviewers...

I find it rather amusing how so many people are complaining about the narrator, many seemingly very frustrated by it.
Let’s take an example from the book itself to point out the irony of such a statement:

‘Not only will a stoic appreciate that his glass is half-full rather than completely empty, but he may then go on to express his delight that he even has a glass. It could after all, have been broken or stolen. And, if he is atop his stoic game, he might go on to comment on what an astonishing thing glass vessels are; they are cheap and fairly durable, impart no taste to what we put in them, and, miracle of miracles, allow us to see what they contain.’

Rather than marvel at the miracle that you can listen to invaluable content and life-changing advice with ultimate ease and convenience, you become so irritated by the view that the narrator could have
been better and therefore the book is ruined....

A must read/listen, but only if you really are willing to at least attempt to change your thought processes.

Brilliant.

19 people found this helpful

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  • KarlK
  • 09-10-14

Great follow up to the Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

Would you listen to A Guide to the Good Life again? Why?

Yes, lots of ideas that need to be reiterated in order to fully grasp in a practical way

What about James Patrick Cronin’s performance did you like?

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.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

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

Any additional comments?

Can't wait until they get more of Irvine's books on audible, just don't seem to like old school reading

22 people found this helpful

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  • Mr. Owen Ashby
  • 11-24-16

Highly enjoyable, practical and actionable.

Would you consider the audio edition of A Guide to the Good Life to be better than the print version?

I liked it so much, I bought the hard copy too.

Any additional comments?

I didn't find the narration stilted (as others have). I much prefer this kind of delivery for non-fiction books, in fact, I really hate it when "actors" try to dramatise non-fiction work. Really easy to listen to and digest. I'm off to buy more of his books too. Frankly anyone who is a mentor to Ryan Holiday has to be a legend...

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  • JASON
  • 01-10-14

Suberb

Where does A Guide to the Good Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very interesting and very insightful. A great hybrid between philosophy and personal development. Thoroughly recommended.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Ahmed Karim Lameer
  • 08-18-17

engaging and practical

I've been dipping in and out of this book for years and finally finished it. It always had an attraction because of it's practicality.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Moby Richards
  • 11-25-15

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.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Ufuk
  • 10-26-16

changed my life. well composed, solid arguments

i loved it. it chanhed mt life. wel written, researched, solid arguments makes the book easy to ready. chapters cover a modern apprpach into stoic practises, and guide ordinary reader with ease.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Rob
  • 04-19-16

Loved it

I have no doubt that the wisdom in this book will help me to live a better life.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 07-14-16

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.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonimo Nonlodico
  • 06-21-16

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!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-15-16

Really good introduction

This book provided a thorough overview into the philosophy and (importantly) the actual practice of stoicism. Irvine fills in a few gaps and modernises this at times though acknowledges this clearly. All round a great listen!

6 people found this helpful

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  • Mikhail
  • 03-14-16

Perfect introduction to stoicism

I loved the way this book is structured. The flow from one chapter to the other seems perfect. This book have enough information to understand the basics of stoicism and how and why you should practice it. In addition to that, the book creates an interest to further read on the topic. I would suggest this book to anyone that has always felt different to others, and feel like they are waking up from a dream to learn the truth. I rated this book 5/5 because it was worth my time.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-17-18

How to Live

An excellent introduction to the Stoic philosophy of life. Recommended for people who are concerned they may not be living their life.

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  • Hannah
  • 08-27-19

I wish I’d read this years ago.

Sometimes I need to be told uncomfortable truths. This book told me in a way that made me want to listen, and made me want to change. More than that, though, it made me think that I can.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-31-20

Computer narrator causes me to not finish for the

Super struggled with the narrator. Honestly didn't know if it was a robot for a while.

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  • Michael Hayward
  • 05-27-20

Stoicism FTW

I've read alot of books on woo woo motivational bs. This is the most practical model of thought I've come across.

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  • Roderick Bain
  • 11-17-19

Required reading

All English speaking adults should be required to read this book in order to complete their education

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  • Diego M.
  • 04-16-18

Great introduction to this philosophy of life.

The author tells his journey in practicing stoicism to obtain tranquility. It includes: History of stoicism, how to practice it, how the author put it into practice himself, and recommended stoic reading.

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  • Mohd Haniff
  • 04-15-18

life changing

lots of wisdom in this book. i loved the evolutionary programming part. can't recommend enough.

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  • Brenton
  • 01-18-18

Superb for the beginner

Would you listen to A Guide to the Good Life again? Why?

100% great principles and as it says its a guide to be used and reflected upon. Used to refresh ideas!!!