As an alternative, the Kindle eBook is available now and can be read on any device with the free Kindle app. Want to listen? Try Audible.
<Embed>
Loading your book clubs
There was a problem loading your book clubs. Please try again.
Not in a club? Learn more
Amazon book clubs early access

Join or create book clubs

Choose books together

Track your books
Bring your club to Amazon Book Clubs, start a new book club and invite your friends to join, or find a club that’s right for you for free.
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more

Follow the Author

Something went wrong. Please try your request again later.


How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Hardcover – October 19, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 591 ratings

Price
New from Used from
Kindle
Hardcover
$19.95
$55.88 $7.99

"The Waiting Room" by Emily Bleeker
From the bestselling author of When I’m Gone and Working Fire comes a gripping novel about a mother, her missing daughter, and the dark secrets that engulf them. | Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
    Apple
  • Android
    Android
  • Windows Phone
    Windows Phone
  • Click here to download from Amazon appstore
    Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

kcpAppSendButton

From the Publisher

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In a wide-ranging intellectual career, Michel de Montaigne found no knowledge so hard to acquire as the knowledge of how to live this life well. By casting her biography of the writer as 20 chapters, each focused on a different answer to the question How to live? Bakewell limns Montaigne’s ceaseless pursuit of this most elusive knowledge. Embedded in the 20 life-knowledge responses, readers will find essential facts—when and where Montaigne was born, how and whom he married, how he became mayor of Bordeaux, how he managed a public life in a time of lethal religious and political passions. But Bakewell keeps the focus on the inner evolution of the acute mind informing Montaigne’s charmingly digressive and tolerantly skeptical essays. Flexible and curious, this was a mind at home contemplating the morality of cannibals, the meaning of his own near-death experience, and the puzzlingly human behavior of animals. And though Montaigne has identified his own personality as his overarching topic, Bakewell marvels at the way Montaigne’s prose has enchanted diverse readers—Hazlitt and Sterne, Woolf and Gide—with their own reflections. Because Montaigne’s capacious mirror still captivates many, this insightful life study will win high praise from both scholars and general readers. --Bryce Christensen

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 

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Other Press; First Edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1590514254
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1590514252
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.4 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.2 x 1.36 x 9.28 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 591 ratings

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
591 global ratings
How are ratings calculated?

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2017
Verified Purchase
63 people found this helpful
Report abuse
Reviewed in the United States on November 13, 2016
Verified Purchase
40 people found this helpful
Report abuse

Top reviews from other countries

Philoctetes
5.0 out of 5 stars Assaying the biography of Montaigne as a guide to life.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 29, 2020
Verified Purchase
4 people found this helpful
Report abuse
Gazza
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Montaigne
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 29, 2019
Verified Purchase
Customer image
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of Montaigne
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 29, 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.

I hope you find my review helpful.
Images in this review
Customer image
Customer image
7 people found this helpful
Report abuse
CloselyObservedEnglish
5.0 out of 5 stars An unorthodox biography perfectly suited to the subject
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 6, 2018
Verified Purchase
8 people found this helpful
Report abuse
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 April 28, 2017
Verified Purchase
5 people found this helpful
Report abuse
Louise Gillett
4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive feat, but complex.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 6, 2015
Verified Purchase
5 people found this helpful
Report abuse