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Publisher's Summary

National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography, 2011
This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, perhaps the first recognizably modern individual. A nobleman, public official, and winegrower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them essays, meaning “attempts” or “tries.” He put whatever was in his head into them: 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 best seller and, over four hundred years later, Montaigne’s honesty and charm still draw readers to him. They come in search of companionship, wisdom, and entertainment - and in search of themselves.This book, a spirited and singular biography, relates the story of Montaigne’s life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing, his youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet Étienne de La Boétie 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?”
©2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc. (P)2010 Sarah Bakewell
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Critic Reviews

“Lively and fascinating . . . How to Live takes its place as the most enjoyable introduction to Montaigne in the English language.” (Times Literary Supplement)
“Splendidly conceived and exquisitely written . . . enormously absorbing.” (Sunday Times)
“[Bakewell reveals] one of literature’s enduring figures as an idiosyncratic, humane, and surprisingly modern force.” (Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Darwin8u on 05-21-12

Interesting and in parts Inspired.

An interesting and in parts inspired take on Montaigne's essays, life, and times. I liked the Montaigne-inspired structure and the book's many insights, but alas, it still just wasn't Montaigne. I think this would be a good introduction to someone before reading Essays and for me was a good re-visit after I read (it gave me a lot of information about the region and people Montaigne dealt with consistently). But please people, don't read/listen to this to better understand Montaigne, there is a whole book he wrote that helps with that. So, use this book for pre/post Montaigne, but avoid using it as a replacement. Narration was appropriate for book.

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful


By Gary on 12-01-15

Perfect summer beach book

Who amongst us doesn't love books about French thought from the 16th century? This book is not really a biography. The biographical parts are mostly to put Montaigne's writings and thoughts in to the context of the time period so that the contingent meanings for his essays come through in the narrative. Not only does the listener get an incredibly interesting peek into Europe during that time period, the author will relate how other generations re-interrupted Montaigne and his essays for their own time period.

Montaigne has been called the first modern man (by Virginia Woolf's husband) and the 18th century English will refer to Montaigne as the non-philosopher's favorite philosopher.

Many of my previous audible readings and Great Course lectures referred to Montaigne and I almost always related to what he was saying and more importantly how he was saying it, and I wanted to know more about him, but I don't like biographies. This book was a perfect compromise between a biography of a man and the more interesting part about the beliefs of a person, his affect on history and the context of his times.

This book is a nice easy read. It teaches much about stoicism, skepticism and epicureanism and the always fascinating time period of 16th century France. Most of the time the list for summer readings includes Dan Brown or Nicholas Sparks novels, if you want to read something just as fun but more edifying I would recommend this book for your summer beach reading instead.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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