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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… (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Sarah Bakewell (Author)

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1,447648,337 (4.17)87
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)
Title:How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer
Authors:Sarah Bakewell (Author)
Info:Other Press (2011), Edition: Reprint, 416 pages
Collections:Your library, EBooks
Tags:Ebooks, American Writer, American Nonfiction, Nonfiction, Biography

Work details

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell (2010)

  1. 00
    Chaucer's Tale: 1386 and the Road to Canterbury 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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» See also 87 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Almost as good as reading the "Essays" themselves. ( )
  ValeStrasse | Aug 31, 2019 |
This book is a wonderful introduction to Michel Eyquem de Montaigne. It is a biography that takes excerpts from his work, the Essays, and a number of other sources to form a picture of his philosophy. Using these works and other sources that examine his life, it attempts to answer the age-old question of how to live. Montaigne had a fascinating life in some cases, and in others he was quite ordinary for his time. Through it all his wisdom shines through, though perhaps he would not have said it like that.

In any case, I would certainly read this book again, but I might be too busy tackling his actual Essays. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
The first couple of times I saw this book, I walked past it because I assumed it was an abridgement of the Essays, which I could just read for myself. Once waiting around the bookstore I had the good fortune to actually pick up the book.

I'm not sure how to describe the book exactly, it's a biography of Montaigne but written in the style of the essays, digressive and tangential. Much of the book is about the historical circumstances surrounding Montaigne's life as well as the reactions of later writers, critics and thinkers to the Essays. The level of detail is impressive, and there's a deep awareness of Montaigne scholarship. For casual readers like myself that can be a bit wearisome. I found myself a bit bored by the scholarly debate between the 1594 edition and the bordeaux edition. Additionally, Bakewell's depiction of the classic hellenic schools of thought paints with very broad strokes. Generally, the book's strength is the literary history and analysis not in the philosophical realm.

Regardless, it's an enjoyable read for any Montaigne lover, and a good introduction for future Montaigne lovers (the only two types of people there are). Bakewell captures a lot of what readers love about the Essays while imposing some structure on the main ideas. It was also fascinating to see how many household names have conversed with the Essays, from Pascal, Shakespeare, Woolf to Descartes and Rousseau. The book captures how most of all, the Essays have always been a dialogue that's managed to bridge generations and strike every age as "modern." ( )
  vhl219 | Jun 1, 2019 |
I was concerned early with the tome's survey approach. I recall the reviews of The Rest Is Noise where critics touted it as containing an entire university education within its covers: I thought, well, not much of one.

Ms. Bakewell shines when she is able to eschew the fundamental and devote attention to the elusive, supple thoughts of the Maestro. I was touched by this book. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Magnificent in the way it gives the background to the life of Montaigne the man, his epoch and his best friend, Etienne de la Boétie (the author of [b:The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude|998024|The Politics of Obedience The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude|Étienne de La Boétie|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1180103621s/998024.jpg|983517]) who died at a tragically early age. I suggest you savor it slowly, over a couple of weeks, or even a month, it in conjunction with a good translation of the essays so that you can flip back and forth between the two books and see how well she presents and gives her angle on this brilliant but humble man, Montaigne. ( )
  JohnJGaynard | Dec 31, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (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, 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.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Bakewellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cárdenas, Yvonne E.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gall, JohnCover designersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porter, DavinaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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