The Art of Living

  • by Epictetus (translated by Sharon Lebell)
  • Narrated by Richard Bolles
  • 1 hrs and 30 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Epictetus, one of the greatest of the ancient thinkers, believed that the primary mission of philosophy is to help ordinary people meet the challenges of daily life and deal with losses, disappointments, and grief. His prescription for the good life: master desires, perform one's duties, and learn to think clearly about oneself and the larger community. This recording includes an interview with philosopher Jacob Needleman on the significance of Epictetus' work.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Invaluable Life Lessons

I love this book and listen to parts of it every day as it has the clearest and most workable philosophy of life that I have ever found.

The basics of Stoicism can be gleaned from the opening lines: "Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not."

This book may not appeal to everyone since the philosophy runs counter to much of the dogma of popular culture.

Stoicism, as explained in this book, is a no-nonsense and straightforward philosophy. In life, there are some things you can control and some things you can’t. You focus on the things you can control, like what you eat and drink, and ignore things you can’t control like civil war in Syria or who is going to win American Idol.

Epictetus also advises against getting caught up in other people's problems or opinions.

"It is a fact of life that other people, even people who love you, will not necessarily agree with your ideas, understand you, or share your enthusiasms. Grow up! Who cares what other people think about you!"

As you can see from these quotes this translation is in understandable conversational English. And the narration here is very good.
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- Richard Seeley

Atrocious reading of a vapid mistranslation

Epictetus's (ca. 55 - ca. 135) profoundly influential "Enchiridion" ("Handbook"/"Manual"), which needs to be understood and fully appreciated in the context of his much longer "Discourses" and the Stoic milieu that produced it, is mangled by "co-author" Sharon Lebell into the most superficial, vapid, and anachronistic "self-help" drivel imaginable: just imagine a "Reader's Digest" or even "Highlights for Children" regurgitation of a bad CliffsNotes precis; better yet, peruse the informative negative reviews of the paper book, at Amazon.com.

It hardly helps that narrator Richard Bolles could pass as "Mr. Quaalude"; do NOT listen to this audiobook while driving! Unless you enjoy mediocre, pseudo-spiritual self-help books, I recommend purchasing the Robert Dobbin (2008) or Robin Hand (1995) translation of Epictetus's "Discourses," both of which also include the "Handbook" upon which Lebell's translation is loosely based. If you're interested solely in the original "Art of Living" sourcebook, though, read Keith Seddon's very accessible yet scholarly rigorous "Epictetus' Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes: Guides to Stoic Living" (2008). It's just a shame that neither this Seddon's book nor Dobbin's (2008) "Discourses and Selected Writings" yet exist in Audiobook format.
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- Joseph M.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-15-1999
  • Publisher: Phoenix Books