How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer

Sarah Bakewell

Book cover

Borrowed this copy from the Castillo house. Reading this book made me glad that Montaigne’s “Essays” is one of the few books that made the cut when we culled our books before moving to California. I read parts of it in one of my Core classes at Columbia, and I remember enjoying it, but I wasn’t as taken with it at the time as I know Elise was. Bakewell’s book was a great reminder that it is absolutely worth picking up again.

Having just read a book about Stoicism, and also having been reading a Zen-influenced blog, it’s impressive how many of Montaigne’s characteristics resemble practices from these traditions: cultivating mindfulness and attention; cultivating acceptance of the world and gaining comfort with relinquishing control; seeing yourself as someone you need to build a relationship with just like anyone else.

One of the threads running through Bakewell’s book is that people of different eras and different persuasions have seen in Montaigne the things that they want to see–and I guess I am no different from any of them!

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars