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  • Published: 1 March 2011
  • ISBN: 9780099485155
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $27.99

How to Live

A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer

Part biography, part self-help, an original, funny and moving portrait of Montaigne, Renaissance nobleman and essayist

How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love? How to live?
This question obsessed Renaissance nobleman Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), who wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. Into these essays 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, events in the appalling civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, readers still come to him in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment – and in search of themselves.
This first full biography of Montaigne in English for nearly fifty years relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored.

  • Published: 1 March 2011
  • ISBN: 9780099485155
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $27.99

About the author

Sarah Bakewell

Sarah Bakewell had a wandering childhood in Europe, Australia and England. After studying at the University of Essex, she wrote fiction and worked in bookshops before becoming Curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Institute Library for the History of Medicine in London. She curated an exhibition with Marina Warner for the Science Museum and catalogues rare book collections for the National Trust. She is the author of The Smart;The English Dane: From King of Iceland to Tasmanian Convict, and the bestselling biography How to Live: A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer. www.sarahbakewell.com

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Praise for How to Live

With this splendidly conceived and exquisitely written double biography - of both Montaigne the man and Montaigne the book - Sarah Bakewell should persuade another generation to fall in love with Montaigne

Sunday Times

How to live is a superb, spirited introduction to the master, and should have its readers rushing straight to the essays themselves.

Adam Thorpe, Guardian

Illuminating and humane book... It's rare to come across a biographer who remains so deliciously fond of her subject...How to Live will delight and illuminate


Sarah Bakewell has written a marvellously confident and clear introduction to Montaigne ... a rare achievement. Sarah Bakewell deserves congratulations for opening Montaigne to new readers so very appealingly.

Evening Standard

A bright, engaging book that can only enthuse you to read the essays themselves ... Try it and you will make a new, most intimate friend

Daily Mail

Bakewell writes with verve. This is an intellectually lively treatment of a Renaissance giant and his world

Daily Telegraph

This welding together of biography and self-help mirrors exactly the project of Montaigne's Essays

Financial Times

This lively biography is so well adapted to Montaigne's sensibility that it succeeds in reviving him for our times

The Times

Lucidly written, vividly detailed ... her fluid structure beautifully reflects the freeform nature of Montaigne's candid meditations on his daily life


Sarah Bakewell has written an entertaining and well-researched book...She clearly loves Montaigne


A lively, well researched account of the man

Literary Review

Sprightly... It is ultimately his [Montaigne's] life-loving vivacity that she succeeds in communicating to her readers

Ruth Scurr, Observer

Cleverly retells [Montaigne's] life.... She not only produces a portrait of a charming, humane man, but she conjures up 16th century France in all its tumultuous glory

Waterstone's Books Quarterly

Bakewell reminds us how fascinating and shockingly original were Montaigne's meditations

The Week

Written with intelligence and an impressive lightness of touch


The most enjoyable introduction to Montaigne in the English language

Timothy Chesters, Times Literary Supplement

Bakewell is one of Montaigne's latest fans, but her considerable achievement in this work is to organise and present him without being exhaustive or reductive. She relishes his anecdotes, yet her biography is solidly grounded in historical and philosophical terms. She echoes the author, often commenting in a chatty tone similar to his...She provides illuminating background material.

Siofra Pierse, Irish Times

This exquisitely written biography explores both Montaigne's life and his famous essays.

The Sunday Times Summer Reading

An instructive journey around Montaigne, exemplifying his charm and the universality of his appeal... Bakewell obviously enjoyed her time with Montaigne...Her enjoyment is sure to lead many readers to Montaigne's text, if they do not already know it. And those who do are certain to appreciate Bakewell's own empathy and eloquence.

AC Grayling, Prospect

A jewel of a book and a perfect introduction to the great renaissance writer.

Orlando Figes, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

It is the best biography of the year

The Times, Christmas round up

How To Live will delight and illuminate

Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Christmas round up

Bakewell voyages round and through him in a delightful, unorthodox book that had me going back to the essays themselves.

Andrew Marr, Financial Times, Christmas round up

Rightly deserves its place on the Costa shortlist.It blurs lines between philosophy, biography and even self-help on occasions, something Montaigne may well have approved of.Bakewell is present as a witty interlocuter between 16th-century France and the modern day

Joy Lo Dico, Independent on Sunday, Christmas round up

This much acclaimed life of Montaigne reminds us that the great essayist's wisdom is as relevant to us now a sit was to those who first read him in the 16th century. ... The sense of wonder - wonder at the behaviour of animals as well as the peccadilloes of humans - is there all the time, and in his hands it's certainly catching

Nicholas Bagnall, Daily Telegraph

An exquisitely written biography

Sunday Times, Summer Reading

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