Book Notes: "Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness" by Donald J. Robertson

Guillaume Guillon-Lethière's "The Death of Cato of Utica" (1795). Source: Wikimedia.


Teach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of HappinessTeach Yourself Stoicism and the Art of Happiness by Donald J. Robertson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book was recommended by Ryan Holiday at the Daily Stoic. At first, I was dismayed that it read just like a first-year textbook, with little activities in boxes throughout each chapter. Almost all of these have typographical errors so my bullshit radar was running in overdrive. I daresay the author of the activities was late and the editor let it all go through to the keeper. But this is hardly fair. As my reading of the book progressed, and the activities became a little more complex (or at least, reflective), and some of these I will no doubt take up, I was learning. In terms of an overview of Stoicism and Stoic literature, this book provides an easy introduction, though it does tend to over-rely on Pierre Hadot. The author also mentions an ebook that includes an additional chapter on "death", and this annoyed me no end - I hate ebooks - it should have been in the hard copy! Yet there are many references and ideas that are useful, and in this the book is sound. But I must admit that the trend toward not caring about how written work is presented is disturbing. I ask my students that if you cannot spell, why should anyone trust you with something more complex? And in the present work, the typos and textbook tone cheapen what could have been a more substantial work. That said, I will be returning to this book time and again to mine some of the gems hidden amongst the rough.



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