What kinds of books do dads like? Well, according to the displays at Barnes & Noble and Costco, it’s almost exclusively books about war and history. Have you ever wondered why that is? Why did your dad—who maybe didn’t read that much—still manage to get through one or two 500-page biographies each year?
Here’s why: Those books—whether they’re about sports or the Civil War—in the end, all teach about leadership. In the lives of the great figures from history, however distant from our own, we are taught all sorts of lessons about life. You never credited him for it, but your dad was learning how to be a better dad.
Plutarch, whose writings have been popular for nearly 2,000 years, would explain that it wasn’t facts and figures that we pick up from these books. “For neither is it histories we are writing, but lives,” Plutarch would write, “nor is there by any means display of merit or vice in the most outstanding actions, but often a trivial matter as well as a remark and some joke have offered a better illustration of character than clashes with countless casualties and the biggest battalions and sieges of cities.”
So the question for you, today, is what books are you reading? What books are you studying? What biography and history do you have on your nightstand? Whose lives are you studying? The answer reveals what hope of progress your character has, and what kind of example you are setting for your kids.
If it’s not too on the nose, I’d like to tell you about my new book Lives of the Stoics, which went on sale today. We’re still offering some extra preorder bonuses if you pick it up—but the real reason you should read it is because it will help you in your life. Cicero and Cato both had children. Antipater had all sorts of great lessons on marriage and fatherhood. Epictetus adopted a son. Marcus Aurelius, as you know, experienced all sorts of struggles raising his own children. If you want to support this email, please check out Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius.