A very small book of three-hundred maxims, covering practically all of the wisdom one needs to go through life. Each maxim covering less than a page, often only half or a quarter.
Originally written in Spanish in 1637 by a Jesuit scholar, it has been translated into eight European languages. Among the best of which is the one by another scholar and literary critic named Joseph Jacobs, who also collected folklores (including English and Celtic fairy tales, as well as the fables of Aesop); this, too, is a good one, albeit not preserving as much of Gracian's epigrammatic style, including his word plays and puns.
In contrast to Machiavelli, who put CRUDE REALITY into words, Gracian is more on the side of a little IDEALISM and NOBILITY in
living one's life. Which is not to say he aims for ASPHYXIA; much is given to living a happy life, part of which is giving oneself a break and a breather.
[NEGATIVE] A few maxims are of limited use for its obviousness--in essence, "sometimes go left, sometimes go right". (Uhm, aren't those ALL of the very choices from which one must pick? And doesn't EVERYBODY ALREADY know that.) The wisdom of everything else in the book in nonetheless undiminished.
The brevity (not concise; some maxims are translated rather long-windedly) of the maxims does not mean that they are to be read as many in one stretch. After all, the benefits only start when wisdom is absorbed and lived out. Best to read through a dozen at most at a time; re-read and re-read, giving each time to sink into the heart and mind; only then move onto the next dozen or two.
Quite ENLIGHTENING. Worth keeping one copy of. Or perhaps two--a hardcover edition, too, in one's library, work desk, coffee table or reception room . . . for anyone who might walk in or anyone being made to wait, and who could use the time literally wisely.