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How to live, or A life of Montaigne in one…

How to live, or A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at… (2010)

by Sarah Bakewell

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940449,268 (4.14)65
Recently added byedbulmer, billga, pleigh20, private library, AnnetteH, cherobula, Roseredlee, aron124, bookmountain
  1. 00
    The Poet's Tale: Chaucer and the year that made The Canterbury Tales by Paul Strohm (dajashby)
    dajashby: A similar technique of using biography to shed light on the subject's literature.
  2. 00
    Instead of a Letter: A Memoir by Diana Athill (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Other memoirs by Athill also recommended - as she puts into practice the honest self-examination as recommended by Montaigne and Bakewell.

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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Amazing book. Maybe the best book I have ever read, perhaps because I am of an age to be thinking about my life and how to live, how I have lived. Spending some time with Montaigne's mind, and perhaps also Ms. Bakewell's, was a stimulating, intimate, comfortable affair. My father taught Intellectual History and that has always been an interest, but in this book I found the sense of philosophizing that is connected to daily living, to living in the world around you, to living with real people, to facing all the myriad troubles of daily life to be so refreshing. I sometimes despair of our world today and the chapters on the civil wars of Montaigne's times reminded me that even now we do have a corner on barbarity or stupidity--it is always the stuff of life.

For some reason Montaigne made me want to read (some rereading) Shakespeare. I like talking and thinking across the ages. ( )
  jdukuray | Dec 31, 2014 |
Apparently, Montaigne is hard to write about, because he is hard to read. I don't know how to evaluate Bakewell's success or lack of it in her book. It is certainly as meandering as Montaigne. Somehow, she does move forward -- if not in a straight line. I did like the way she included a history of the times and how Montaigne fit in, or didn't. I especially liked how she followed Montaigne's influence on other thinkers (Pascal, Rousseau, Nitzsche, many others) right up to the 21st century. She pays attention to the literary and even textual scholarship on Montaigne's Essays.

It was not her intention, but the result of reading her book for me was to make me much less interested in reading Montaigne himself. Although Montaigne may speak to everyone, she claims, what she cited and described left me gasping for intellectual breath, as in, no oxygen.

But I should probably get around to reading Montaigne. Or maybe not. Montaigne would say, "Whatever." ( )
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
Must read Montaigne's essays on living first. How to Live: Life of Montaigne acts as a companion book, backgrounds, contexts, depth, and anecdotes. ( )
  Suzannagram | Feb 1, 2014 |
Ich mochte es, das trifft es ganz gut. Es ist unlangweilig, es ist unterhaltsam, ohne sich auf Albernes zu beschränken und selbstredend will ich jetzt Montaigne lesen. Großes Plus: die Autorin sieht extremst sympathisch aus. ( )
  Wolfseule | Oct 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
It is hard to imagine a better introduction-or reintroduction- to Montaigne than Bakewell's book. It is easy to imagine small improvements, however.
added by Shortride | editHarper's Magazine, Loren Stein (pay site) (Jan 3, 2011)
Bakewell manages to glide gracefully across current editorial ranklings over his texts without taking sides. Central as the essays are to her own approach to his life, it is ultimately his life-loving ­vivacity that she succeeds in communicating to her readers: "What he left behind was all the better for being imperfect, ­ambiguous, inadequate and vulnerable to distortion. 'Oh Lord,' one might imagine Montaigne exclaiming, 'by all means let me be misunderstood.'"
added by peterbrown | editThe Observer, Ruth Scurr (Jan 24, 2010)
Bakewell, cleverly, has nonetheless managed to tap into the booming modern market for such “quick boosts” of wisdom (not all of them by any means as harmless as tips on eyebrow shaping), while actually writing a serious biography of a serious thinker from an age less like our own that we might solipsistically think. She’s not the first to take on such a task, of course. Superior literary lessons for life have become an established sub-genre of the self-help boom: How to Win Friends and Influence Readers of the Paris Review. Thus books such as Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life or John Armstrong’s Love, Life, Goethe have explored this territory in their different ways. Bakewell’s life of Montaigne combines some of the merits of de Botton’s knowing, entertaining intellectual squib and Armstrong’s thorough and absorbing biographical study. If her work enjoys a popular resonance greater than theirs—and I think it may—it’s most likely a tribute to its subject, Montaigne.
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How does one live? How does one do the good or honorable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy? This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Montaigne, perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them "essays," meaning "attempts" or "tries." Into them, he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller and, over four hundred years later, Montaigne's honesty and charm still draw readers. This spirited biography relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored.--From publisher description.… (more)

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