Book Notes: "Maxims" by François de La Rochefoucauld

MaximsMaxims by François de La Rochefoucauld

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will be adding this book of more than 500 maxims to my daily reflections, along with The Daily Stoic and James Allen's As A Man Thinketh. I had to read each maxim at least twice, as there is nothing in this book that should be overlooked. Unlike a novel, where the virtue or vice considered as part of an overarching theme builds over time, each maxim in this book is straight to the point, causing one to pause and reflect on each occasion. There are too many favourite maxims to list, but this one resonates deeply: "239. To whatever we may ascribe our misfortunes, they are generally the results of selfishness and of vanity". La Rochefoucauld uses wit and humour to address life lessons that mirror life itself. What I mean by this is that if one were to read this book sans humour, one would want to end it all - the reality would be too much. Likewise, sans seriousness, this would not be remotely funny. But by moving between old and young, male and female (inherently sexist in a seventeenth-century way), humorous and foreboding, witty and caustic, and so on, the maxims paint a picture of wisdom that can only come from one who has had the mask of self-deception torn from his face. If fools learn by their mistakes, then this is one book where the wise might learn from the mistakes of fools. But don't get too cocky: "214. A man (sic) who is never foolish is not as wise as he thinks".

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