How to Live

How to Live

A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer

Large Print - 2011
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How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love? How to live? This question obsessed Renaissance nobleman Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, whose free-roaming explorations of his own thought and experience were unlike anything written before. Into these essays 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, events in the appalling civil wars raging around him.
Publisher: [Bath] : Windsor/Paragon, 2011, c2010.
Edition: Large print ed.
ISBN: 9781445858715
Characteristics: 485 p. (large print) : ill. ; 25 cm.


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Mar 13, 2016

"Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself."
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was a nobleman, a wine-maker, and a government official, but he is remembered for his series of essays, which explored everything from friendship to cannibalism. In these essays, we see glimmers of a distinctive temperament and a probing intelligence that was interested in just about everything. His approach to subjects--idiosyncratic, curious, un-dogmatic--is pretty much the blueprint for the personal essay. Sarah Bakewell's absorbing book is both a biography and a look at Montaigne's philosophy on life. Montaigne emerges as someone who, in an age of fear, violence, and religious fanaticism, was moderate, rational, and open to everything around him. One could do far worse than to try and emulate Montaigne.

Aug 15, 2015

Michel de Montaigne: Definitely on my list of famous-people-I’d-like-to-have-dinner-with.

I was surprised to learn that Montaigne started writing pretty late in life—not until after he’d reach the ripe old age of 39—completing 107 essays before his death at the end of the 16th century. I first encountered Montaigne’s Essays as a freshman in college. I rarely remember the loftier chapters from him; mostly what I do remember are those lessons on the profoundly basic stuff. Collectively, these jottings coalesced into this matter of fact ethical prescription for living.

I also remember his writing—it had style, it felt far beyond its time. What sets Montaigne apart from other memoirists of his day was how he didn’t drone on about accomplishments. He didn't bray with authority. His work seems like it could be the precursor of the style of essay writing you see today—self-indulgently navel-gazing and personal, while at the same time contemplative and universal. It made Montaigne so ... flawed, funny, deep. He was thoroughly modern and even timeless in that respect.

Sarah Bakewell in How to Live explores how and why Montaigne’s writing has withstood judgment so merrily and endured so much cultural and social transformation and change over the centuries. He has that special skill to seem like he is
Bakewell extracts twenty-one lessons to ponder, weaving a nonlinear biographical history of Montaigne into the core ideas of his collective work. The idea that a pretty ho-hum life could be so inspiring—makes for surprisingly fascinating reading.

M. basically asks ’what is it to be human?’ without asking it outright in a way that would have been pedantic and stiff. He was a student of life, but not in some cold, scientific way but as one who’s simply writing a blog. He’s constantly watching people, colleagues and neighbors, even the animals—his cat, most memorably. He is the patron saint of bloggers and cultural curation. He would have made an amazing podcast guest or documentary filmmaker. He explored things as banal as feelings: What was it like to be pissed off or excited or ashamed? Or to have an out of body experience? To feel bored and lazy? To be completely anxious and accepting of one’s faults and shortcomings?

How to Live is filled with tidbits of wisdom, the kind based on a conviction and faith in human nature, of who we really are.

Apr 08, 2013

I enjoyed this book so much I stopped reading it-and have bought a copy. what else is there to say?

Aug 02, 2012

Excellent. An interesting approach to biography. The book led me to Montaigne's essays and what could be a better recommendation for this book.

ser_library Jan 04, 2012

a wonderful introduction to Montaigne

Dec 15, 2011

I have the paperback copy of this book and the font is so small I read with difficulty even with reading glasses. Can't see if there is a different format at the library.
Sort of spoils the fun of reading, but still a lot of the information is interesting, about Montaigne's life and times.
His own Essays are way more interesting to read, though :-)

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