"This is a beautiful book, full of ideas that could help restore America’s genius for freedom and promise.” 

— Thomas Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Care of the Soul 

A lifelong Emerson lover, teacher, and spiritual seeker reveals how American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson’s twelve essential teachings hold the answer to living an authentic and fulfilling life, one that is in harmony with our souls.

In this wise, illuminating book, award-winning author Mark Matousek reveals how Emerson’s timeless wisdom can help us with the problems we’re facing today. America’s ‘original Stoic’ confronted many of the issues before us, from polarization to fake news, from crooked politicians and rampant materialism, to the scourge of racism.

Matousek explains that Emerson’s path of self-reliance can radically improve your quality of life. The mentor and friend of Henry David Thoreau, Emerson (aka the Oracle of Concord) was America’s first self-help author, and his nation’s conscience for half a century. Like the Stoics before him, he emphasized self-knowledge and mindfulness as paths to happiness; also, self-reliance, cooperation, non-conformity, originality, adaptability, and receptiveness.

As Americans are once again discovering the power of Stoicism, Matousek shows why Emerson’s vision is precisely the medicine we need today. The principles of Waldo’s philosophy are universal and require no spiritual faith to put into practice.

  • Each person creates her own reality
  • Obstacles are teachers in disguise
  • Your character is your destiny
  • Wonder and awe are the keys to the kingdom
  • Nonconformity is the greatest virtue
  • Nature is the doorway to God
  • Life without self-knowledge is not worth living

Emerson encourages us to throw-off conventions and platitudes, explore ourselves in depth, tell the truth about what we find there, and awaken to our greatest potential. 

About the author(s)

Mark Matousek is a bestselling author, teacher, and speaker whose work focuses on personal awakening and creative excellence through transformational writing and self-inquiry. His books include Sex Death Enlightenment: A True Story, The Boy He Left Behind, When You’re Falling, Dive, Ethical Wisdom: The Search for a Moral Life, Ethical Wisdom for Friends, Mother of the Unseen World, and Writing to Awaken: A Journey of Truth, Transformation, and Self-Discovery. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and publications, including The New Yorker, O: The Oprah Magazine, Details, Tricycle, Good Housekeeping, and Harper’s Bazaar. He has blogged for Psychology Today and offers courses in creativity and spiritual growth around the world. In 2013, Mark founded The Seekers Forum, a global online community for non-sectarian spiritual dialogue. He is on the faculty of The New York Open Center, The Omega Institute, 1440, Esalen, The Rowe Center, Hollyhock, and Omega Blue Spirit, Costa Rica. He lives with his partner in Springs, New York.


“Matousek’s book resurrects an Emerson who was writing to be heard.” — Wall Street Journal

"This beautifully written book on Emerson offers great principles and notions for living through these difficult times. It restored my enthusiasm, confidence, compassion, and willingness to resist authority. It made me braver to be myself, to embrace paradox and be proud all the ways I have refused to conform. It’s a guide for living outside binaries. It's a book of great vitality, vision and liberation."
V (formerly Eve Ensler) author of Reckoning

If Ralph Waldo Emerson were alive today, he'd be exactly the man for our times - spiritually independent, psychologically savvy, and full of the common sense we need to infuse our culture with wisdom and moral courage. I am so grateful to Mark Matousek for this user-friendly book and for diving deep into Emerson's works. I keep the book on my bedside table and dip into it whenever my heart needs a lift.” — Elizabeth Lesser, author of the New York Times bestseller, Broken Open

“It is a filial love story, a profound appreciation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s great mind and spirit. This is not only a touching account of the work of a great man by whom too many people today are intimidated, but also a narrative of achieving intimacy with ideas, thoughts, and feelings that had been absent from Matousek’s lived experience."  — Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far From the Tree 

"In this compelling exploration applying deep wisdom to everyday life, Matsousek has masterfully curated a way to live with more freedom, connection, and meaning in our lives. Weaving fascinating stories about Ralph Waldo Emerson, personal accounts, and the ancient perspective of Stoicism, this journey will invite you to get to know three individuals in a powerful way--Waldo, Matousek, and yourself--opening your mind to helpful insights and new ways of living in our challenging world. A fascinating and helpful historical review as current today as it is universal in its applications across time." — Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of IntracConnected, Mindsight, and Aware

"In Lessons from an American Stoic, Matousek is more than an outstanding biographer of the legendary Emerson. He joins the lineage of Emerson by adding his own hard-earned wisdom and care. In translating Emerson’s insights to our modern world, Mark has done a great service for the soul of America. This is a great book. It will open your heart, expand your mind, and help you live more truly, more fully, and more lovingly."
Mark Nepo, author of The Half-Life of Angels and Falling Down and Getting Up

“Emerson's spirit is exactly what we need to recognize now in our broken country community. I will sing the praises of him, and this book, to everyone I know.”  — Marie Howe, author of What the Living Do

"Through the crystalline clarity of his writing, Matousek has managed to make Emerson utterly accessible to all of us. This is must-reading for Emerson lovers and anyone looking for deep rooted wisdom to accompany their life journey."  — Gail Straub, author of Women and Water

"This book is a master class in Emerson, and Mark Matousek is your ideal companion to the timeless and transformative insights of America’s premier thinker. Lessons from an American Stoic showed me a new way of looking at my life, and how I might live it more profoundly if I allowed the wisdom of Emerson to guide me."  — Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Holy Rascals: Advice for Spiritual Revolutionaries

"I have been guided by Emerson’s essays and journals for decades, and I’m always astonished by his fresh way of imagining human life and his original way of putting his ideas into words. Mark Matousek's soft and fluid language is perfect for introducing you to Emerson or reminding you to read him again. This is a beautiful book, full of ideas that could help restore America’s genius for freedom and promise.”  — Thomas Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Care of the Soul

“In this insightful exploration of Emerson's teachings, Matousek gracefully navigates the intricate pathways of transcendental wisdom, offering readers a luminous guide to the essence of American spirituality."  — Rupert Spira, author of You Are the Happiness You Seek

"Those looking for commonsense guidance to a more self-directed life will find it here." — Publishers Weekly

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