This volume and its companion, listed as Discourses Books 3 and 4, are actually what survives of one work written almost 1900 years ago: the historian Arrian's recording of what he learned from his study with the premier Stoic philosopher of antiquity, Epictetus. The Discourses are, quite simply, a collection of some of the most down-to-earth, practical, beneficial teachings ever spoken: understanding what Epictetus said is easy; he is a lucid and forthright instructor: putting his teachings into practice is the difficulty. But the struggle is worthwhile: practicing Stoicism is not "a denial of the self", but rather a freeing of the self from the dictatorship of things beyond our control. Epictetus teaches us how to see the world as it really is; how to see ourselves as we really are; and to understand how we can live at peace within chaos. [More information under my review of the Everyman's Library edition.
reading and understanding the Discourses is not difficult. The points are driven home time after time, with one excellent example after another. There is so much common sense wisdom in these pages that you will find yourself constantly stopping to examine a passage and easily applying it to a situation in your own life.
But as has been said many times, living the Discourses is really tough. As you apply the lessons, if you are anything like me, you will find yourself saying, "Well, there's another way I screw up in life."
But what the hell? You know yourself better as a person and you will also constantly find yourself saying, "That is something that is not in my control, now lets see if I can control the way I respond to what has happened."
I started reading Epictitus shortly after reading "A Man in Full" by Tom Wolfe. I love the notion that we find ourselves in these little prisons, (usually of our own making,) but the door is always open. If we choose to leave, nothing can stop us. But if we choose to stay, well then stop bitching and just get on with it.