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

How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Audiobook, by Sarah Bakewell Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Sarah Bakewell Narrator: Davina Porter Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2011 ISBN: 9781455815500
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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 bestseller 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 audiobook, 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?”

“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 (starred)

“A bright, genial, and generous introduction to the master’s methods.” —Kirkus Reviews

“It is ultimately [Montaigne’s] life-loving vivacity that Bakewell succeeds in communicating to her readers.” —The Observer

How to Live will delight and illuminate.” —The Independent

“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...Superb.” —The Guardian

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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

  • “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.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “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 sixteenth-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.”

    Daily Beast

  • “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

  • “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.”

    Harper’s

  • “So artful is Bakewell’s account of [Montaigne] that even skeptical readers may well come to share her admiration.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Packed with useful information…How to Live touches on every aspect of Montaigne’s thought, life, and influence, and culminates in a fascinating chapter on the complicated textual history of the Essays.”

    Washington Post

  • How to Live will delight and illuminate.”

    Independent (London)

  • “Splendidly conceived and exquisitely written…Enormously absorbing.”

    Sunday Times (London)

  • “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.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “Lively and fascinating…How to Live takes its place as the most enjoyable introduction to Montaigne in the English language.”

    Times Literary Supplement (London)

  • “[Bakewell reveals] one of literature’s enduring figures as an idiosyncratic, humane, and surprisingly modern force.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A bright, genial, and generous introduction to the master’s methods.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
  • Selected for the December 2010 Indie Next List
  • Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

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About the Author

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 catalogs rare book collections for the National Trust.

About the Narrator

Davina Porter has been enthralling listeners for over twenty-five years with her ability to mine the psychological depths of the characters she reads and bring them convincingly to life. In 2006, she won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Female Narration and in 2004 for Best Inspirational Literature Narration. She has been honored as an AudioFile Golden Voice and has won nineteen AudioFile Earphones Awards. As an actress, she has appeared on stage at the Vineyard Playhouse and the Square One Theater, among others.