Book Summaries

A Calendar of Wisdom Summary

A Calendar of Wisdom – Leo Tolstoy Summary

This book by Tolstoy is a list of 365 thoughts to meditate on, with supporting quotes from great teachers, such as Seneca, Buddha, and Jesus. Each page has a handful of quotes around a theme. I found some of these ideas to be helpful and original, others too familiar, and others not very helpful.

There is a wedge between the present and the past, and this is hard to reconcile. What was relevant before, is not always going to be relevant, but when you find ideas that are just as relevant today as they ever were, it is a good sign that you should stop and take note. This is what I have tried to do for this book.

The ideas do not revolve around 365 different topics but around 10-20 general ideas. These include the importance of spirituality, seeking truth, discipline and work, controlling pleasure, seeking God, being humble, living simply, anticipating and accepting hardship, focusing on the present, and being wary of the quality of knowledge you expose yourself to.

I found that there is a clear connection between these ideas and those of the stoics, indeed, many of the quotes throughout the book were by the stoics (Epictetus, Seneca, Aurelius).

Below is a list of quotes from the book that are worth thinking about.

Real Knowledge

There are too many mediocre books which exist just to entertain your mind. Therefore, read only those books which are accepted without doubt as good.

—Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Only when we forget what we were taught do we start to have real knowledge.

—Henry David Thoreau

Your will is not good until you have changed the habits of your intellect, and they will improve only when they follow the eternal laws of life.

—Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Finding Wisdom

A wise man seeks wisdom; a madman thinks that he has found it.

Persian proverb

You can achieve wisdom in three ways. The first way is the way of meditation. This is the most noble way. The second way is the way of imitation. This is the easiest and least satisfying way. Thirdly, there is the way of experience.This is the most difficult way.


Wise people cannot be sufficiently educated, and educated people cannot be sufficiently wise.



Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.

—Publius Syrus

Self-perfection should be one’s primary motivation. If you are truthful to yourself, you will never be satisfied
with yourself.

– Tolstoy


Work all the time. Do not think that work is a disaster for you, and do not seek praise or reward for your work.

—Marcus Aurelius

The most outstanding gifts can be destroyed by idleness.

—Michel de Montaigne

There are thousands of ways which lead to deception, and there is only one way which leads to the truth.

—Jean Jacques Rousseau

Do not be concerned too much with what will happen. Everything which happens will be good and useful for you.



Do not seek pleasure everywhere, but always be ready find it.

—John Ruskin

The best way to live joyfully is to believe that life was given for joy. When joy disappears, look for your mistake.

—Marcus Aurelius

Full Text

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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