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How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Paperback – 20 September 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 505 ratings

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Review

"This charming biography shuffles incidents from Montaigne's life and essays into twenty thematic chapters...Bakewell clearly relishes the anthropological anecdotes that enliven Montaigne's work, but she handles equally well both his philosophical influences and the readers and interpreters who have guided the reception of the essays." --The New Yorker

"Serious, engaging, and so infectiously in love with its subject that I found myself racing to finish so I could start rereading the Essays themselves...It is hard to imagine a better introduction--or reintroduction--to Montaigne than Bakewell's book." --Lorin Stein, Harper's Magazine

"Ms. Bakewell's new book, How to Live, is a biography, but in the form of a delightful conversation across the centuries." --The New York Times

"So artful is Bakewell's account of [Montaigne] that even skeptical readers may well come to share her admiration." --The New York Times Book Review

"Extraordinary...a miracle of complex, revelatory organization, for as Bakewell moves along she provides a brilliant demonstration of the alchemy of historical viewpoint." --Boston Globe

"Well, How to Live is a superb book, original, engaging, thorough, ambitious, and wise." --Nick Hornby, in the November/December 2010 issue of The Believer

"In How to Live, an affectionate introduction to the author, Bakewell argues that, far from being a dusty old philosopher, Montaigne has never been more relevant--a 16th-century blogger, as she would have it--and so must be read, quite simply, 'in order to live'...Bakewell is a wry and intelligent guide." --The Daily Beast

"Witty, unorthodox...How to Live is a history of ideas told entirely on the ground, never divorced from the people thinking them. It hews close to Montaigne's own preoccupations, especially his playful uncertainty - Bakewell is a stickler for what we can't know. ...How to Live is a delight..." --The Plain Dealer

"This book will have new readers excited to be acquainted to Montaigne's life and ideas, and may even stir their curiosity to read more about the ancient Greek philosophers who influenced his writing. How to Live is a great companion to Montaigne's essays, and even a great stand-alone." --San Francisco Book Review

"A bright, genial, and generous introduction to the master's methods." --Kirkus Reviews

"[Bakewell reveals] one of literature's enduring figures as an idiosyncratic, humane, and surprisingly modern force." --Publisher's Weekly (starred)

"As described by Sarah Bakewell in her suavely enlightening How to Live, or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Montaigne is, with Walt Whitman, among the most congenial of literary giants, inclined to shrug over the inevitability of human failings and the last man to accuse anyone of self-absorption. His great subject, after all, was himself." --Laura Miller, Salon.com

"Lively and fascinating . . . How To Live takes its place as the most enjoyable introduction to Montaigne in the English language." --The Times Literary Supplement

"Splendidly conceived and exquisitely written . . . enormously absorbing." --Sunday Times

"How to Live will delight and illuminate." --The Independent

"It is ultimately [Montaigne's] life-loving vivacity that Bakewell succeeds in communicating to her readers." --The Observer

"This subtle and surprising book manages the trick of conversing in a frank and friendly manner with its centuries-old literary giant, as with a contemporary, while helpfully placing Montaigne in a historical context. The affection of the author for her subject is palpable and infectious." --Phillip Lopate, author of The Art of the Personal Essay

"An intellectually lively treatment of a Renaissance giant and his world." --Saturday Telegraph

"Like recent books on Proust, Joyce, and Austen, How to Live skillfully plucks a life-guide from the incessant flux of Montaigne's prose . . . A superb, spirited introduction to the master." --The Guardian

"[How to Live] is written in the form of a delightful conversation across the ages with one of the most appealing, likeable writers who ever lived." --Independent Mail

More than just a straightforward biography of Michel de Montaigne, Sarah Bakewell cleverly breaks away from chronology to explore the fundamental questions of living through the philosophy, beliefs, essays and experiences of the French master we often reference as the "father" of "essay."--Cerise Press

[A] must-read in its entirety. --Brainpickings

Bakewell's writing style is equal parts fluid and fascinating. --The Flâneur's Turtle

About the Author

Sarah Bakewell was a curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library before becoming a full-time writer, publishing her highly acclaimed biographies The Smart and The English Dane. She lives in London, where she teaches creative writing at City University and catalogs rare book collections for the National Trust.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Other Press (NY); Reprint edition (20 September 2011)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 399 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1590514831
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1590514832
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.97 x 2.54 x 20.83 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 505 ratings

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Philoctetes
5.0 out of 5 stars Assaying the biography of Montaigne as a guide to life.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 May 2020
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Gazza
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Montaigne
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 March 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Montaigne
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 March 2019
How to Live by Sarah Bakewell is a wonderful account of the life of Montaigne. I read it in just over a few days, finding it hard to put the book down. I learned a great deal about Montaigne, whose name, before reading this biography, was only a passing reference I’d come across in Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. In short, this book is very well written and highly informative throughout. I believe Bakewell’s account will remain the standard work on Montaigne for a very long time. Highly recommended.

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7 people found this helpful
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CloselyObservedEnglish
5.0 out of 5 stars An unorthodox biography perfectly suited to the subject
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 6 May 2018
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8 people found this helpful
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Jezza
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long for a short introduction, and more detail than I needed as a general reader!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 April 2017
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5 people found this helpful
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Louise Gillett
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive feat, but complex.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 October 2015
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5 people found this helpful
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