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The Art of Worldly Wisdom

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The remarkable best-seller -- a long-lost, 300-year-old book of wisdom on how to live successfully yet responsibly in a society governed by self-interest -- as acute as Machiavelli yet as humanistic and scrupulously moral as Marcus Aurelius.


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The remarkable best-seller -- a long-lost, 300-year-old book of wisdom on how to live successfully yet responsibly in a society governed by self-interest -- as acute as Machiavelli yet as humanistic and scrupulously moral as Marcus Aurelius.

30 review for The Art of Worldly Wisdom

  1. 5 out of 5

    7jane

    This book wasn't quite what I expected, yet it was still a good experience. If you have - or will - read Machiavelli's "The Prince", Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War" and/or Castiglione's "The Book Of The Courtier", this is another good book to this type of books. There's is also some certainty that the author read "The Prince" (since it came out earlier than this book, which came out in 1647); the fact that the author of this present book was a Jesuit no doubt helped, since I do know Jesuits have been This book wasn't quite what I expected, yet it was still a good experience. If you have - or will - read Machiavelli's "The Prince", Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War" and/or Castiglione's "The Book Of The Courtier", this is another good book to this type of books. There's is also some certainty that the author read "The Prince" (since it came out earlier than this book, which came out in 1647); the fact that the author of this present book was a Jesuit no doubt helped, since I do know Jesuits have been thought of as cunning, both in positive and negative sense. So: this book is a series of 300 witty, thought-proviking aphorisms (which are nicely shown in the contents list), with some helpful notes at the end - you can't expect everyone to be familiar with Greek/Roman classic texts (including Aesop's tales) and the Bible. The name hints at the size of the first printing of this books - pocket-fitting and densely printed (sometimes hard to read because of this). It is for the 17th Century Baroque Spanish upper society, Spain being then in decline, away from being the world power, with France and Rococo soon taking their place. Some of the text clearly shows that certain aphorisms can be grouped together, and some themes do pop up again as one keeps reading. The style is laconic, which I like since it keeps the message clearly floating. Translation keeps out most world-play and puns, since they don't translate well. The author stresses the importance of taking ever-changing circumstances into account, as aphrosim's tips may not apply on every occasion. In everything, though, prudence is the main key that keep one afloat in the changes and risks of the society. There is more value in difficulty than easy - there is challenge this way. Disillusion is sometimes good, it helps in looking behind appearances, where danger and opportunities may hide. One has to realise that others are playing the game, too. There were a few standout aphorisms for me: 1o1, 110, 183, 249, 273, 297 really felt close to me. Sometimes making me think of the state of the world now, how to know when to fold 'em, not to hold to opinions too stubbornly, remember to already live and not leave living to old age, and the "act as though always on view" sounds interesting. The last aphorism gives the whole lot a nice twist; it might make you read the text again, which may not be hard work since the book is quite slim :) The book is quite easy to read, even if you don't really notice that Christianity still sort of flows underground in the text, most of the time... it might feel like the book's general message veers very close to Machiavelli, yet in the end staying slight apart. A suprisingly good book, with something for everyone, even when not living like they once did.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Shocking! Ok, I dunno why this one is so shocking but it is. It gave me a pause and a lot of starts: most of this stuff is what we see across lots of self-help lit of the modern kind. All these ideas have been packaged and repackaged and resold as some sort of new wisdom even though people could have been benefitting from it since circa 1647. I definitely could visualize it being written in 21st century. And, nope, it seems to be first issued in the 17th one. Huh. In fact, I can't see how it cou Shocking! Ok, I dunno why this one is so shocking but it is. It gave me a pause and a lot of starts: most of this stuff is what we see across lots of self-help lit of the modern kind. All these ideas have been packaged and repackaged and resold as some sort of new wisdom even though people could have been benefitting from it since circa 1647. I definitely could visualize it being written in 21st century. And, nope, it seems to be first issued in the 17th one. Huh. In fact, I can't see how it could've been so, SO darn modern. Of course, part of it is no thanks to my edition. Obviously, this has been linguisically modernised to no end and that is part of the reason why the book comes across as a hoax (which it isn't). Modern edition: 1. Se ha llegado a la mayor complejidad, pero la suprema es formar un buen hombre. Para formar a un sabio de hoy se requiere más inteligencia que para siete de la antigüedad. Y para tratar con un sólo hombre de estos tiempos necesitamos más sapiencia que para tratar todo un pueblo de los pasados. The not so modern edition: http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra-... 1. Todo está ya en su punto, y el ser persona en el mayor. Más se requiere hoi para un sabio que antiguamente para siete; y más es menester para tratar con un solo hombre en estos tiempos que con todo un pueblo en los passados. Different in language. Not so very different in spirit. While reading the 2 books feels like reading an original novel and a fanfiction based upon its world, the ideas are roughly similar. Which does give one a pause: what, have people really been this similar all this time? This similar? Like, having same cognitive and interpersonal issues? Today, we are big on how Generations X, Y, Z (whatever) are different from the ones that came before. But, are they really? Or maybe should we/they/whatever learn to read and improve our focus and work on our skillset and generally improve ourselves without making all these highbrow statements on how scrolling since childhood is having allegedly positive impact on someone's skills with anything? An illuminating read, obviously. Who would've ever guessed that people haven't really changed since 16XXs?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kimber

    Astonishing how true Gracian's aphorisms remain hundreds of years later and how much the culture of Spain at the time seems so modern....A work to study and be studied again and again. This is timeless in its wisdom--I would add I don't agree with everything he says and that although he can be spiritual at times, this is a guide of "Worldly Wisdom" and something that as a Jesuit priest he was sometimes condemned for this worldlyness... Astonishing how true Gracian's aphorisms remain hundreds of years later and how much the culture of Spain at the time seems so modern....A work to study and be studied again and again. This is timeless in its wisdom--I would add I don't agree with everything he says and that although he can be spiritual at times, this is a guide of "Worldly Wisdom" and something that as a Jesuit priest he was sometimes condemned for this worldlyness...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elisa Kemp

    "Use human means as if there were no divine ones and use divine means as if there were no human ones." "Use human means as if there were no divine ones and use divine means as if there were no human ones."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Justarius

    The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracián is unlike any book you are likely to find on bookshelves today. Self-help books can be helpful, but they are usually focused on what to do after you have encountered certain problems. Business books are often a collection of case studies or “war stories.” The Art of Worldly Wisdom teaches the same sort of lessons (and more) in a much broader context. It is a manual on how to be successful at anything in life. Considering that it is still amazing rele The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracián is unlike any book you are likely to find on bookshelves today. Self-help books can be helpful, but they are usually focused on what to do after you have encountered certain problems. Business books are often a collection of case studies or “war stories.” The Art of Worldly Wisdom teaches the same sort of lessons (and more) in a much broader context. It is a manual on how to be successful at anything in life. Considering that it is still amazing relevant today despite being first published in 1647, it is a classic masterpiece. Certainly there have been other books in the same genre, but I have yet to find another one as penetrating and objective. La Rochefoucauld’s Maxims(1660-80s) is insightful as well, but it is colored by a lifetime of bitter experiences. Though Gracián had his own troubles, perhaps being a priest allowed him to observe clearly without becoming jaded by the excesses and pitfalls of worldly life. Also, The Art of Worldly Wisdom contains only 300 aphorisms, considerably less than the Maxims while packing the same amount of substance or more. Other notable thinkers have been influenced by The Art of Worldly Wisdom. Nietzsche wrote that “Europe has never produced anything finer or more complicated in matters of moral subtlety,” and Schopenhauer considered the book “Absolutely unique… a book made for constant use…a companion for life” for “those who wish to prosper in the great world.” So read The Art of Worldly Wisdom; you will not regret it. I wish that I had many years ago. Perhaps I could have done things better, or perhaps I could have learned some lessons less painfully. In either case, it could only have helped!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Cada uno habla del objeto según su afecto. This little book is one of the most read and translated works of the Spanish Golden Age. It has been surprisingly influential. Schopenhauer was a famous devotee, and even learned Spanish so that he could produce a translation (which went on to commercial success). Two English translations have been best-sellers, the first in 1892 and the second in 1992. Advice typically does not age well, but Gracián’s has stood the temporal test. Yet for the reader o Cada uno habla del objeto según su afecto. This little book is one of the most read and translated works of the Spanish Golden Age. It has been surprisingly influential. Schopenhauer was a famous devotee, and even learned Spanish so that he could produce a translation (which went on to commercial success). Two English translations have been best-sellers, the first in 1892 and the second in 1992. Advice typically does not age well, but Gracián’s has stood the temporal test. Yet for the reader of the original Spanish—especially the non-native reader—the book can be perplexing. Gracián was a major writer in the conceptismo movement: a literary style in which a maximum of meaning was compressed into a minimum of words, using every rhetorical trick of the trivium to achieve a style that seems to curl itself into a ball and then to explode in all directions. This can make the experience of reading Gracián quite akin to that of reading poetry—except here, unlike in poetry, you can be sure that there is a sensible meaning laying concealed underneath. When the antiquity of Gracián’s Castilian is added to the mix, the result is literary dish that is difficult to digest. After a meaning is beaten out of Gracián’s twisted words, however, the result is some surprisingly straightforward advice. “Prudent” is the operative word, for Gracián manages to be idealistic and realistic at once, walking the fine like between cynicism and naïveté. Admittedly, however, the bulk of this advice is directed towards the successful courtier, and so is difficult to apply to less exalted positions. There is, for example, much advice concerned with how to treat inferiors and superiors, but in a world where explicit hierarchies are increasingly frowned upon (or at least tactfully concealed), the poor reader wonders what to make of it. But much of the advice is timeless and universal. Make friends with those you can learn from (but not those who can outshine you!). Don’t let wishful thinking lead you into unrealistic hopes. Never lose your self-respect. The wise man gains more from his enemies than the fool from his friends. Know how to forget. Know how to ask. Look within... As any reader of Don Quixote knows, Spanish is a language exceedingly rich in proverbs; so it perhaps should come as no surprise that this language—so rhythmic and so easy to make rhymes with—is also an excellent vehicle for maxims. Gracián exploits the proverbial potential of Castilian to the maximum, expressing a sly but respectable philosophy in 300 pithy paragraphs. Despite all the wit and wisdom to be found in these pages, however, I found myself wishing for amplification. Montaigne, though short on practical advice, is long on examples; so by the end of his essays the reader has a good idea how to put his ideas into practice. Gracián, by contrast, has no time for examples, and so the reader is left with a rather abstract imperative to work with. Needless to say I will not become a successful courtier anytime soon.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pearce Hansen

    I have friends who read The Prince like a bible, and its true that Machiavelli is worthy of repeated study, both as a period piece and window into the Renaissance Italian soul, and as possibly the most notorious treatise on Realpolitik ever written. Machiavelli, like Nietzsche, has been misused by the unscrupulous and decried by the ignorant; also, IMHO, both writers were actually better historians and analysts than they were philosophers per se. Baltasar Gracian, in the Pocket Oracle, has accomp I have friends who read The Prince like a bible, and its true that Machiavelli is worthy of repeated study, both as a period piece and window into the Renaissance Italian soul, and as possibly the most notorious treatise on Realpolitik ever written. Machiavelli, like Nietzsche, has been misused by the unscrupulous and decried by the ignorant; also, IMHO, both writers were actually better historians and analysts than they were philosophers per se. Baltasar Gracian, in the Pocket Oracle, has accomplished what Niccolo never could, nor would have wanted to: a day to day primer of sage advice from a trained Jesuit mind who walked and worked in the highest halls of power in his time. The lessons are pithy and epigrammatic, both simple yet deserving of deep reflection and consideration and, most importantly, are eminently USEFUL in almost every interpersonal interaction in your day to day life, whether you are a dish washer or a senator -- his teachings are that universal. Robert Greene strip-mined Gracian for 48 Laws of Power, but again IMHO, it's always best to refer back to the seminal source even after being presented with as good a digest as Greene presented. This is the Penguin edition, so you of course have the value added of their wonderful introductions, with historical references anchoring Gracian's life and the impact of the Oracle itself. Also, this translation is, I feel, much better than those I've seen marketed under the variant title Art of Worldly Wisdom. I read this book everyday. I recommend it to every man woman or child that wants to live their very best. Gracian was one of the wisest men who ever lived, and this is the free distillation of his wisdom.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Lada

    I'm a little surprised by some ratings of this book. I understand that this isn't a book that you exactly "critique" because it's a renown oracle from the 17th century. However, I took the wisdom in this book less as HOW to be and more as HOW to watch out for people like this. I'll agree that it's all wisdom, but it's more something to UNDERSTAND rather than something to BE. A lot of the advice gears toward deception, vanity, and greed: "Let someone else take the hit. You will shield yourself fro I'm a little surprised by some ratings of this book. I understand that this isn't a book that you exactly "critique" because it's a renown oracle from the 17th century. However, I took the wisdom in this book less as HOW to be and more as HOW to watch out for people like this. I'll agree that it's all wisdom, but it's more something to UNDERSTAND rather than something to BE. A lot of the advice gears toward deception, vanity, and greed: "Let someone else take the hit. You will shield yourself from malevolence: sound policy in those who govern. Having someone else take the blame for failure and be the butt of gossip does not spring from a lack of ability, as malice thinks, but from superior skill. Not everything can turn out well, and you can't please everyone. So look for a scapegoat, someone whose own ambition will make him a good target." In my opinion, a wise person may not get into such a situation where they must blame someone else. And a wise person understands that mistakes are made and that they, themselves, are not perfect. I'd rather be wary of a person who would put blame on me rather than be the blamer. "Do, but also seem. Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. To excel and to know how to show it is to excel twice. What is invisible might as well not exist. Reason itself is not venerated when it does not wear a reasonable face. Those easily duped outnumber the prudent. Deceit reigns, and things are judged from without, and are seldom what they seem. A fine exterior is the best recommendation of inner perfection." There are many more "aphorisms" throughout this book that encourage the reader to not only be aware of the deceit that is out there, but to also play the same game. And the focus is merely on aesthetic rather than essence. Seem this way, even if you're not that way. This oracle is street-wise and takes the definition of "wisdom" to a place that seems wise, but in essence, is not very "virtuous" in my opinion. Also, understand that this has been translated by many different people. I own Martin Fischer's translation and when I opened it up to read it, it made no sense to me grammatically or syntactically. Martin Fischer, I presume, is a literalist translator, for Gracian did have that difficult-to-understand writing style where sentences were incomplete and there was a severe lack in verbs. So, if you want to get someone's more understandable translation, Christopher Maurer is the translator you want.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Philippe Malzieu

    "The contempt is the most subtle form of revenge" Gracian was Jesuit. It did not respect many thing. He had the arrogance of those which know their talent. He published his books without authorizations. His visions sour and cynical terrified his superiors. I was very mechant with Macchiavel by advising you to substitute Gracian to him. The form will undoubtedly appear less formal to you, more futile. But at the bottom it is a fine analysis of the social reports and way to evolve in society. It is t "The contempt is the most subtle form of revenge" Gracian was Jesuit. It did not respect many thing. He had the arrogance of those which know their talent. He published his books without authorizations. His visions sour and cynical terrified his superiors. I was very mechant with Macchiavel by advising you to substitute Gracian to him. The form will undoubtedly appear less formal to you, more futile. But at the bottom it is a fine analysis of the social reports and way to evolve in society. It is the book of someone which mixed with the power without practising it (like Macchiavel) and which knew to keep cold blood.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This is one of the great books of wisdom, dispensed in brief paragraphs with headings like "better to be intensive than extensive," and "reserve is the seal of talent." Gracian might best be described as an honorable politician; he advocates dealing with the world with rectitude, but keeping a close eye on how the world responds. You need to be ready for it to throw something unfair, unexpected, or unpleasant back at you. It's perhaps comforting to know that the book was written 300 years ago, a This is one of the great books of wisdom, dispensed in brief paragraphs with headings like "better to be intensive than extensive," and "reserve is the seal of talent." Gracian might best be described as an honorable politician; he advocates dealing with the world with rectitude, but keeping a close eye on how the world responds. You need to be ready for it to throw something unfair, unexpected, or unpleasant back at you. It's perhaps comforting to know that the book was written 300 years ago, and the world is still pretty much the same now as it was then.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    300 rules on how to handle other people. Surprisingly modern, because a-moral, unchristian, and cynical. Ment for an audience of courtiers, senior officers and politicians. Gracian is also called the Machiavelli of human relations. In general he preaches a strong defensive attitude: caution takes precedence over everything. (2.5 stars)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shyam

    "Know a little more and live a little less. Others argue the opposite. Well-spent leisure is worth more than work. We have nothing of our own but time . . . "(245) One of the first books I remember adding to my "to-read" list many years ago, this was one of the few works that thoroughly exceeded any expectations I may have had. Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 300 maxims containing excellent, practical advice; very Senecan, and, at times, Machiavellian in sentiment (but much more "Know a little more and live a little less. Others argue the opposite. Well-spent leisure is worth more than work. We have nothing of our own but time . . . "(245) One of the first books I remember adding to my "to-read" list many years ago, this was one of the few works that thoroughly exceeded any expectations I may have had. Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom is a collection of 300 maxims containing excellent, practical advice; very Senecan, and, at times, Machiavellian in sentiment (but much more applicable than The Prince.) Personally, I noted around 50 which I would consider essential to read in their entirety, as well as many, many more containing nuggets of gold; for a collection of 300, there is an impressive amount of quality. __________ . . . when culture is lacking, perfection remains incomplete. (12) There's much to know and life is short, and a life without knowledge is not a life. (15) And if he gives up on people, this is not because he is fickle, but because they have given up on truth. (29) Never sin against your own good taste. (33) Truth is for the few; deception is as common as it is vulgar. (43) To be able to choose, and to choose the best. (51) Time and I against any other two. (55) A truly deep mind achieves eternity. (57) Self-knowledge is the start of self-correction. (69) Fun must have its place, but seriousness must dominate. (76) Let your manner be lofty, endeavour to make it sublime. (88) People with only one concern and only one subject are usually boring. (105) A good exterior is the best recommendation of a perfect interior. (130) If one universally accomplished friend is enough to make Rome and the rest of the universe, then be that friend to yourself, and you will be able to live completely on your own. (137) Whom will you need, if there's no opinion or taste greater than your own? (137) Deformity of the mind is uglier than that of the body because it goes against divine beauty. (168) Moderation is necessary even in our desire for knowledge so as not to know things badly. (174) Take enjoyment slowly and tasks quickly. (174) Either know, or listen to someone who does. (176) Stupidity's faults are incurable, for since the ignorant don't know what they are, they don't search for what they lack. (176) Recognise faults, whatever the approval they enjoy. (186) Vices might be ennobled, but they are never noble. (186) Others make it a policy to praise today's mediocrities more than yesterday's marvels. (188) You should see and hear, but remain silent. (192) A person has everything who cares nothing about what matters little. (192) Everyone has too high an opinion of themselves, especially those with least reason to. (194) To be truly wise, its not enough just to appear to be so, far less to appear so to yourself. (201) There have been few Senecas . . . (203) What seems a throwaway comment to the person making it can seem deeply significant to the person who catches and ponders it. (207) Know how to divide your life wisely, not as things arise, but with foresight and discrimination. (229) Spend the first part of a fine life in communication with the dead. We are born to know and to know ourselves, and books reliably turn us into people . . . Let the third stage be spent entirely with yourself: the ultimate happiness, to philosophise. (229) But what is essential must come first and only later, if there's time, what is incidental. (249) In acquiring knowledge, some start with what is least important, leaving the honourable and useful subjects for when life is at an end. (249) For knowledge and life, method is essential. (249) . . . everything should be great and majestic, so that all their actions, and even their words, may be clothes in a transcendent, grandiose majesty. (296) But good taste flavours everything in life. (298)

  13. 4 out of 5

    J.W.D. Nicolello

    300 aphorisms over 300 years old by Spanish writer Gracian, born four years after the release of Quixote, vol 1. The slim Penguin volume is beautifully put together and if I can get even ten of these guidelines to being a better person straight this year it will be success. As it stands, the end of 2013 ended on a pretty turbulent note for me and only in the past day or two have I been piecing myself together to saner grounds. This is a great meditation on how to live simply, wisely. Something i 300 aphorisms over 300 years old by Spanish writer Gracian, born four years after the release of Quixote, vol 1. The slim Penguin volume is beautifully put together and if I can get even ten of these guidelines to being a better person straight this year it will be success. As it stands, the end of 2013 ended on a pretty turbulent note for me and only in the past day or two have I been piecing myself together to saner grounds. This is a great meditation on how to live simply, wisely. Something in here for everyone, from saintly grandmothers to the most outrageous nihilist, probably a little more for the latter. Yet the struggle for the down and out herein to believe in the wisdom would make it the more worthwhile text. These days would be one of millions of Self-Help books, Gracian writing before a time for that kind of Market. Here is just some great, condensed advice, from what I've read spot-on. Great translation by one Jeremy Robbins, a master on Spanish Baroque culture. One which would be on my Currently Reading shelf for a long, long time, if I didn't plan to tuck it away and just read a passage or two every so often. Reading ten, slowly, in a row started to remind me of my lesser qualities, the voluminous nature of them. Will pick up again when feeling a little better about myself. Update: Glad to have caught a mint condition copy out of the corner of my eye at the bookstore today. A necessity.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melina

    This book can not be over-estimated. I use this book the way others refer to the bible. (I DO also read the Bible, The Qu'ran and other religous books as well) However, the advice in this little book is invaluable. There are days when I am troubled and I will meditate on the problem, run my thumb over the pages and pick a random spot and it never fails to deliver some sage and relevant advice. EVERYONE should have a copy. This book can not be over-estimated. I use this book the way others refer to the bible. (I DO also read the Bible, The Qu'ran and other religous books as well) However, the advice in this little book is invaluable. There are days when I am troubled and I will meditate on the problem, run my thumb over the pages and pick a random spot and it never fails to deliver some sage and relevant advice. EVERYONE should have a copy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Henrik Haapala

    “Weigh matters carefully, and think hardest about those that matter most.” /Baltasar Gracian 256: “Be prepared. For the rude, the stubborn, the vain, and for all sorts of fools.” (Prepare for tomorrow today) 125: “Don’t be a blacklist of others faults.” (Don’t be a hater) 282: Use absence to win respect or esteem. Prescence diminishes fame, absence enlarges it. The absent person who was thought a lion turns into a mouse - ridiculous offspring of the mountain - when present. Gifts lose their sheen “Weigh matters carefully, and think hardest about those that matter most.” /Baltasar Gracian 256: “Be prepared. For the rude, the stubborn, the vain, and for all sorts of fools.” (Prepare for tomorrow today) 125: “Don’t be a blacklist of others faults.” (Don’t be a hater) 282: Use absence to win respect or esteem. Prescence diminishes fame, absence enlarges it. The absent person who was thought a lion turns into a mouse - ridiculous offspring of the mountain - when present. Gifts lose their sheen when they are handled: one sees the outer bark and not the spiritual pith. Imagination travels faster than sight. Deceit comes in through the ears, but usually leaves through the eyes. The person who retires into himself, into the center of his reputation, preserves his good name. Even the Phoenix used absence to preserve its dignity and to turn desire into esteem. 229: Parcel out your life wisely. Not confusedly, in the rush of events, but with foresight and judgment. Life is painful without a rest, like a long day's journey without an inn. What makes life pleasant is a variety of learning. For a beautiful life, spend the first act in conversation with the dead: we are born to know and to know ourselves, and books turn us faithfully into people. Spend the second act with the living: behold all that is good in the world. Not all things are found in one region. In distributing the dowry, the universal Father sometimes gave wealth to his ugliest daughter. The third act belongs entirely to you: to philosophize is the highest delight of all. 75: Choose a heroic model, and emulate rather than imitate. There are examples of greatness, living texts of renown. Let each person choose the first in his field, not so much to follow him as to surpass them. Alexander cried at the tomb of Achilles, not for Achilles but for himself, for unlike Achilles, he had not yet been born to fame. Nothing makes the spirit so ambitious as the trumpet of someone else's fame. It frightens away envy and encourages noble deeds. 1: All has reached perfection, and becoming a true person is the greatest perfection of all. It takes more to make one sage today than it did to make the seven of Greece. And you need more resources to deal with a single person these days than with an entire nation in times past. 111: Have friends. They are a second being. To a friend, all friends are good and wise. When you are with them, all turns out well. You are worth as much as others want you to be and say you are, and the way to their mouths lies through their hearts. Nothing bewitches like service to others, and the best way to win friends is to act like one. The most and best we have depends on others. You must live either with friends or with enemies. Win one each day, if not as a confidant, at least as a follower. Choose well and some will remain whom you can trust. 242: Follow through on your victories. Some people do everything to begin and nothing to end. Fickle characters, they start but don't persist. They never win praise because they carry on but don't carry through. To them everything is over before it ends. The Spaniard is known for his impatience, as the Belgian for his patience. The latter finishes things, the former finishes them off; he sweats until he has conquered difficulty, is content to conquer, but doesn't know how to carry through on his victory. He proves that he can but doesn't want to. This is always a defect: it shows either inconstancy or having rashly attempted the impossible. What is worth doing is worth finishing. If it isn't worth finishing, why begin at all? The wise don't merely stalk their prey, the make the kill. 113: Plan for bad fortune while your fortune is good. In the summer it is wise to provide for winter, and it is easier to do so. Favors are less expensive, and friendships abound. It is good to save up for a rainy day: adversity is expensive and all is lacking. Keep a following of friends and grateful people; someday you will value what now seems unimportant. Villainy has no friends in prosperity because it refuses to recognize them. In adversity it is the other way around. 4 “Knowledge and courage. These are the elements of greatness. Because they are immortal they bestow immortality. Each is as much as he knows, and the wise can do anything. A person without knowledge is in a world without light. Wisdom and strength are the eyes and hands. Knowledge without courage is sterile.” 134 “Double your resources. You thereby double your life. One must not depend on one thing or trust to only one resource, however preeminent. Everything should be kept double, especially the causes of success, of favor, or of esteem. The moon’s mutability transcends everything and gives a limit to all existence, especially of things dependent on human will – the most brittle of all things. To guard against this inconstancy should be the sage’s care, and for this the chief rule of life is to keep a double store of good and useful qualities. Thus as nature gives us in duplicate the most important of our limbs and those most exposed to risk, so art should deal with the qualities on which we depend for success.” 7 “Avoid outshining your superiors. All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal.”

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    ‎"Life for Dummies" The missing manual on how to lead a happy, successful life. I wish I would have had this book in high school! I think it should be on everyone's essential reading list. Although these condensed insights and suggestions come down to us from almost 400 years ago, their relevance to our experience today is striking and proves the depth of these maxims. The famous philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer translated this about 200 years ago and called it "a book made for constant use" and re ‎"Life for Dummies" The missing manual on how to lead a happy, successful life. I wish I would have had this book in high school! I think it should be on everyone's essential reading list. Although these condensed insights and suggestions come down to us from almost 400 years ago, their relevance to our experience today is striking and proves the depth of these maxims. The famous philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer translated this about 200 years ago and called it "a book made for constant use" and recommended it as "a companion for life." I've read it almost every day for 4 years and haven't found a reason to stop or finish yet.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tg

    "Many would be something great if they could fix something little" Gracian "The Truth is seldom heard and most often seen " Gracian Sage advice--Kind of like an art of war for the workplace, and inter-personal relationships "Many would be something great if they could fix something little" Gracian "The Truth is seldom heard and most often seen " Gracian Sage advice--Kind of like an art of war for the workplace, and inter-personal relationships

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fee Scott-Bolden

    I found this book by way of [the author of 48 Laws of Power] Robert Greene's Twitter account. I always believe if you want to truly know, find the inspirations and mentors of the wise. I truly love this book, could be s challengings if you're not into classic literature, but for me, one of the best books I've ever read. Very applicable and timeless wisdom. I found this book by way of [the author of 48 Laws of Power] Robert Greene's Twitter account. I always believe if you want to truly know, find the inspirations and mentors of the wise. I truly love this book, could be s challengings if you're not into classic literature, but for me, one of the best books I've ever read. Very applicable and timeless wisdom.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gregorycox

    Excellent series of lessons that people from all walk's of life can enjoy and learn from. Very insightful and thought provoking. Very easy read. Excellent series of lessons that people from all walk's of life can enjoy and learn from. Very insightful and thought provoking. Very easy read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erdogan Cicek

    The book is like a social version of "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and it advises to approach to all events and preventing from human-relational problems by wisdom and intelligence.. The book is like a social version of "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and it advises to approach to all events and preventing from human-relational problems by wisdom and intelligence..

  21. 4 out of 5

    Quang Nguyen

    Something is probably wrong with the translation (current Kindle edition on Amazon.com) but the book does offer some great pearls of wisdom on how to live lovable and die memorable. Edit: Turned out I bought the one with the worst translation. Geez...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I wanted very much to read Gracián’s El Criticón, but the only English translation is a dreadfully archaic one from the 17th century. So I decided on this small handbook of 300 paragraph-long aphorisms. Very soon, my disappointment turned to distaste as I found myself assaulted by an alternation between vapid one-liners -- in some cases, old clichés -- and cynical musings couched in the cheerful and self-indulgent language of virtue. Each paragraph contained a string of one-sentence aphorisms th I wanted very much to read Gracián’s El Criticón, but the only English translation is a dreadfully archaic one from the 17th century. So I decided on this small handbook of 300 paragraph-long aphorisms. Very soon, my disappointment turned to distaste as I found myself assaulted by an alternation between vapid one-liners -- in some cases, old clichés -- and cynical musings couched in the cheerful and self-indulgent language of virtue. Each paragraph contained a string of one-sentence aphorisms that give the appearance of world-weary wisdom to mask their overgeneralization. Some were so astonishingly manipulative that I felt I were reading a handbook for sociopaths. I struggled through to the end, reading a few per day. Normally I read books of aphorisms slowly in order to savor each one. I read this book slowly because it was such a painful experience. Although I also picked up Gracián’s A Pocket Mirror for Heroes at the library, I feel like cleansing my mind by reading something else before moving on to that one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The aphorisms aren't all that interesting-- pretty standard stuff, really, never play all your cards up front, keep your allies close, the sort of thing that the Don Drapers of the world hold onto. I have no doubt that in the religiously and politically tumultuous world of Golden Age Spain, it was shockingly original and uniquely pragmatic. I know both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer expressed great admiration for Gracían y Morales, but at the end of the day, I find their aphoristic writings far more The aphorisms aren't all that interesting-- pretty standard stuff, really, never play all your cards up front, keep your allies close, the sort of thing that the Don Drapers of the world hold onto. I have no doubt that in the religiously and politically tumultuous world of Golden Age Spain, it was shockingly original and uniquely pragmatic. I know both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer expressed great admiration for Gracían y Morales, but at the end of the day, I find their aphoristic writings far more compelling.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lanko

    One of the best books about, for lack of a better expression, how life and the world work, the importance of image and perception and being smart in general. Centuries later we see people, society and their perception and judgment didn't really change that much at all. Better yet it's written, how can I say, positively, without the cynicism of say, The Prince or other books who try to do the same. One of the best books about, for lack of a better expression, how life and the world work, the importance of image and perception and being smart in general. Centuries later we see people, society and their perception and judgment didn't really change that much at all. Better yet it's written, how can I say, positively, without the cynicism of say, The Prince or other books who try to do the same.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Walton

    I thought this was a very good book. It helped me learn a lot about my self this summer. I recommend this book highly. I changed into a wiser person through this book. A quote that I remember that stuck out to me was that if you hurt your finger it will hit things more than the others. Protect the ones that need care.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Scriptor Ignotus

    Baltasar Gracián’s Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence, a collection of three hundred coolly genteel and intricately written aphorisms on the navigation of personal and professional life, is a product of the literarily brilliant but socially precarious world of the late Spanish baroque. Gracián’s secular writings, despite being widely popular, were denounced by the leadership of his own Jesuit order, and much of Gracián’s life was spent straddling the line between personal authenticity and social Baltasar Gracián’s Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence, a collection of three hundred coolly genteel and intricately written aphorisms on the navigation of personal and professional life, is a product of the literarily brilliant but socially precarious world of the late Spanish baroque. Gracián’s secular writings, despite being widely popular, were denounced by the leadership of his own Jesuit order, and much of Gracián’s life was spent straddling the line between personal authenticity and social propriety within a culture in which so much of one’s status—indeed, one’s survival—depended on personal and institutional patronage, which in turn demanded personal reservation and doctrinal orthodoxy. The divide between appearance and reality, between persona and personality, is a recurrent theme in the Oracle. In maxim 43, Gracián advises us to “think with the few and speak with the many”; to avoid openly contradicting popular opinion and to keep our true thoughts private. “Truth is for the few, error is both common and vulgar”, and since swimming against the tides of popular consensus is dangerous and alienating, “the wise person retires into silence”. In maxim 99, he warns us that “things pass for what they seem, not for what they are”, and that “It is not enough to be right if your actions look false and ill.” Maxim 177 appears to instruct us to avoid becoming too close to anyone, as familiarity breeds contempt by exposing our weaknesses and giving others a false sense of our reliance upon them. The public self is a shield for the private one, which must never be compromised by the vulgarity of the herd. Even as we cultivate an appearance of docility and moderation, we must cling ruthlessly to our integrity and our moral and intellectual development. We must avoid the faults of our societies (9), be common in nothing—especially taste (28), and use the best and brightest of our age as our models for conduct (44) (203). Gracián’s watchword is to appear common while not being so, gaining the attention and respect of others by revealing ourselves only in increments and keeping our deepest wisdoms hidden from full view. The distance of the stars gives them their majesty. Though we are certainly removed from the mannerly world of seventeenth-century Spain, and though our culture celebrates unreserved, unmediated self-expression, Gracián’s appeals for emotional reticence and the prudential guardianship of the private mind may serve as a valuable corrective for our age of mutual disrespect through oversharing.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ira Therebel

    This is basically one of the first self help books that teaches you to be successful. While it would apply to today, people don't change much, they weren't anything extraordinary. Maybe back then it was some new found wisdom, but now it is obvious. It is extremely repetitive and sometimes contradictory. But being repetitive is what made it more tedious. I guess in such a book one would like it because of clever maxisms. But this wasn't the case here. Maybe it is because of translation but while I This is basically one of the first self help books that teaches you to be successful. While it would apply to today, people don't change much, they weren't anything extraordinary. Maybe back then it was some new found wisdom, but now it is obvious. It is extremely repetitive and sometimes contradictory. But being repetitive is what made it more tedious. I guess in such a book one would like it because of clever maxisms. But this wasn't the case here. Maybe it is because of translation but while I found some nice quotes here and there for the most part it was incredibly boring and bland. A bunch of dribble pretending to be a wisdom. I give it 2 stars just because it is so old. Thinking, "wow, this is from the 17th century!", is the only thing that was enjoyable in this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I rarely leave a bad review for a book because I normally assume the book was just not for me but others might still like it. This book, however, was full of bad and harmful advice. “Find a scapegoat to blame your failures on.” “Don’t hang out with successful or smart people because they make you look bad.” “Don’t open up to other people because they’ll make fun of you.” “Find work that gets you praise.” “Please others and make sure they like you.” “Use your friends to your advantage.” There was I rarely leave a bad review for a book because I normally assume the book was just not for me but others might still like it. This book, however, was full of bad and harmful advice. “Find a scapegoat to blame your failures on.” “Don’t hang out with successful or smart people because they make you look bad.” “Don’t open up to other people because they’ll make fun of you.” “Find work that gets you praise.” “Please others and make sure they like you.” “Use your friends to your advantage.” There was barely any good advice to make up for the bad. Worst yet was, “use other people’s disadvantages to manipulate them.” I would say this book was full of backwards advice, and I can’t imagine any of it being considered wisdom. It encourages you to lie, misguide, use, and manipulate people. If I could give it minus five stars I would.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alexandru Somesan

    This book is a collection of 300 aphorisms, some of which will make you question your priorities, beliefs and actions. Written in 1647, and later praised by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, most of the author's ideas remain accessible, interesting and relevant today. This book is a collection of 300 aphorisms, some of which will make you question your priorities, beliefs and actions. Written in 1647, and later praised by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, most of the author's ideas remain accessible, interesting and relevant today.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Walter Sylesh

    Words of wisdom with moral undertones written by a cunning Jesuit. The sooner one reads, the better placed he is to take on the world.

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