How to Live

  • by Sarah Bakewell
  • Narrated by Davina Porter
  • 13 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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?”


What the Critics Say

“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

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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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

how to live ? / how he lived !

all the praise for the book and narration are well deserved
it is much more than a simple review or sample of " the essays "
the book's unique benefit comes from a sly and deeper approach

sarah bakewell tries to answer the question of how to live
to do this she shows us just how michel de montaigne lived
how could 1500's france have given rise to such a modern soul ?

a world of endless religious & political turmoil / concern about a plague
the burden of inherited comfort and position and expectations
a loveless marriage / the death of one's only true male friend

life was clearly too much for montaigne and he retreated
he feared losing his own soul and the essays were his attempt to find it
hello ! / any of this sound familiar to a modern reader ?

how can we find serenity in a world beyond our control ?
can courage and wisdom be found to know where we can make a difference ?
sarah bakewell reaches back 500 years for a very good answer

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- Raleigh

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-05-2011
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio