Monthly Archives: August 2018

Monthly book roundup – 2018 July

Books finished in July:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (2013) by William B. Irvine. Introductory book about stoicism and its value as a philosophy of life. The book serves both as an elementary history of stoicism and an introduction and guide to stoic practice (or at any rate the author’s versions of these). Irvine repeatedly battles the supposed negative connotations of the word “stoic,” which I do not recognize, but I guess that is his experience. To me it was good that the he also spends quite some time marking out the differences between the stoics and the cynics. E.g., I learnt that the cynics placed a much heavier emphasis on asceticism. The concrete advice on various stoic techniques for a good life I found the most valuable:
-Negative visualization the most important tool. Visualize loss of relatives, friends, material goods etc. Makes us appreciate what we have more.
-Things that happen to us are relatively insignificant- realize by imagining our reaction if that had happened to others.
-Think about that an experience might be the last – enjoy and concentrate on it more.
-Sometimes actually lived as we had lost various things. Both prepares us specifically and for deprivations in general.
-Wait for need to arise before satisfying it. E.g. thirst.
The suggestion that we should set as goals as that what we already have, I find somewhat problematic. Being happy with what we have is often good, but may deter improvements and good developments. The counter-argument that a stoic should still strive and has a duty to be useful and not seek fame and fortune, but maybe gain it as a side effect, is somewhat unsatisfying. Recommended. (H/t: Marc Andreessen.)

The Wild Shore: The Three Californias Triptych, Book 1 (1984) by Kim Stanley Robinson. Life in a small fishing village in 2047 in an isolated US which has been the target of a nuclear attack. A realistic if somewhat boring portrait of life in such a village, which would presumably resemble life in similar villages 100 years ago, and getting in contact with the wider world. Not recommended.

Ratings and previous books are in the library.