How to Live: Or, a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

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How to Live: Or, a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

Format:  Hardcover,

389 pages

Publisher: Random House Inc

Publish Date: Oct 2010

ISBN-13: 9781590514252

ISBN-10: 1590514254

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Book Information

The following content was provided by the publisher.
Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love--such questions arise in most people's lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honorable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy?
This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Monatigne, 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 people to him. Readers come in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment--and in search of themselves.
This book, a spirited and singular biography, relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing, youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet etienne de La Boetie and with his adopted "daughter," Marie de Gournay. And we also meet his readers--who for centuries have found in Montaigne an inexhaustible source of answers to the haunting question, "how to live?"

Specifications

Publisher: Random House Inc
Publish Date: Oct 2010
ISBN-13: 9781590514252
ISBN-10: 1590514254
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 389
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 1.45
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 6.25 x 9.25 x 1.75

Reviews

Review by Library Journal (2010-09-01)

At the beginning of this delightful book about Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), British author Bakewell (The English Dane) notes that Montaigne's essays "rarely offer to explain or teach anything". There's no moralizing. He wrote about how to live, not how one should live, unlike, for example, Francis Bacon, whose essays are from the same period. Using the question "How to live" as her framework, Bakewell gives us not only a biography of Montaigne but an exploration of the themes of his essays, a history of reaction to them both negative (e.g., Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal, T.S. Eliot) and positive (e.g., Denis Diderot, Stefan Zweig, Virginia Woolf), and their implications and value for us today.

Verdict: This is a rich book, both because of its subject and because Bakewell has a wondrous way with words. It's an exceptionally readable explication of serious ideas, drawn from a man whom we could all benefit from knowing better. Readers who have appreciated Alain de Botton's popular excursions into philosophy, e.g., How Proust Can Change Your Life, will love this book as well.

-David Keymer, Modesto, CA

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Awards and Recognitions

  • Library Journal Best Books of the Year, 2010 (United States)
  • Marsh Biography Award, 2011 (United Kingdom)
  • Costa Book Awards, 2010 (United Kingdom)
  • National Book Critics Circle Awards, 2010 (United States)

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