I'm giving Plutarch 5 stars, though I would probably only give the book 4. The problem is that this is the only selection of Plutarch's moral essays currently in print, that is also affordable. There are, of course, the complete Moralia (essays) in Loeb Classic editions, but these are more expensive and often hard to get. Also not all of Plutarch's essays are of equal interest. Some are historical, some are speculative, some are mere annecdotes, some are ethical writings (which, to my mind, are the most interesting and timeless). Unfortunately, this compilation by Penguin is rather sparse. It includes a couple of essays that aren't very good, for ex. one on animal intelligence, while failing to include such gems as "On Garrulousness," "On Being a Busybody," "On Envy and Hate,", etc. There's too much padding on the part of the editor, Ian Kidd (a frequent flaw of modern Penguin editions). I would have preferred more Plutarch! Still, this is the best short compilation around, and think it well worth the price.
Plutarch (50-120 BC?) has been called the greatest essayist of the Greco-Roman world. Perhaps this is true; but more truth may lie in the statement that he is the greatest moralizer of the Greco-Roman world. Nevertheless, his voluminous collection of essays, dealing with moral philosophy, are deeply rooted in the Platonic tradition, with occasional seasonings of the school of Aristotle. Plutarch draws from his encyclopedic knowledge of the mythological and philosophical lore of his time, along with his own personal experiences, in order to present and convey a moral through his straightforward prose and use of both Aristotelian and Platonic dialogue form. These essays, much like Cicero's dialogues, are an attempt to layout a practical code of ethics for the aspiring student or sage. Although, Plutarch differs from Cicero in the fact that nothing suggests that these essays were directed for popular use by the masses. Already, only after a hundred years or so following the Republic's collapse, learning was being pulled away from public use and was being dragged into the schoolroom to be savored only by the well to do of the Empire. Anyway, these essays make for an entertaining and edifying read. Also the editor, Ian Kidd, furnishes comprehensive introductions, which throw significant light on the text. The only drawback to this work is the absence of the greater part of Plutarch's essays; barely a third are given here. These works should not be ignored; they are constantly overshadowed by his "Parallel Lives" but renewed interest in his moral writings are bringing these essays back to the fore of classical education. They are a definite read for anyone interested in philosophy or classical literature.