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

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

Hardback

By (author) Sarah Bakewell

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  • Publisher: Other Press (NY)
  • Format: Hardback | 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 229mm x 43mm | 635g
  • Publication date: 1 December 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 1590514254
  • ISBN 13: 9781590514252
  • Edition statement: New ed.
  • Sales rank: 50,378

Product description

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?"

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Author information

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 catalogues rare book collections for the National Trust.

Review quote

"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 "