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What are the five best novels about Stoicism?

Books where the characters discuss Stoic Philosophy

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil.

Steinbeck, East of Eden

One of the most commonly asked questions about Stoicism is whether there are any novels dealing with this philosophy. The question often get quite varied responses, including many references to poker-faced or unemotional characters. There’s a big difference between Batman, let’s say, or Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”, one the one hand, and Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, on the other. All over the Internet, people tend to confuse “stoicism” (lowercase), the unemotional personality trait or coping style, with “Stoicism” (capitalized), the ancient Greek philosophy — two quite different things.

This can be very misleading if you’re looking not merely for cold-blooded stoic characters but for stories featuring some of the wisdom from genuine Stoic philosophy. Fortunately, there are a handful of interesting novels, in which characters explicitly discuss the ancient philosophy, or which at least help us to understand the lives of genuine Stoics. These books vary enormously in style and content and will probably appeal to different types of readers. However, they can all contribute something of value to our appreciation of ancient Stoicism.

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