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How Proust Can Change Your Life
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How Proust Can Change Your Life

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3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  6,010 ratings  ·  533 reviews
As relevant today as they were at the turn of the century, Proust's life and work are transformed here into a no-nonsense guide to, among other things, enjoying your vacation, reviving a relationship, achieving original and uncliched articulation, being a good host, recognizing love, and understanding why you should never sleep with someone on a first date. It took de Bott ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 28th 1998 by Vintage Books USA (first published 1997)
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Matt Evans
My wife and I fell in love reading this book together (way back in September/October 2002). I don't know what anyone else will think of this book, but I'll never enjoy reading a book more. B and I left a note on Proust's grave when we visited Paris on our honeymoon. He is the (gay) patron saint of our marital union. Here's my best advice: read this book with a loved one.
Daniel
A few years ago someone pointed out to me that the words "envy" and "jealousy" mean slightly different things; in the first case, the word implies only that you want something someone else has, whereas the second also includes the idea that you have a just claim to the desired object. Having said that, I would say that I am jealous of Alain de Botton rather than envying him; I mean, does this guy say anything deeper than what I spout off after a few glasses of wine? This little book contains suc ...more
Jon
Written by Alain de Botton, How Proust Can Change Your Life is something of a conundrum. The book is at once a piece of literary criticism and a self-help book, and at the same time neither of those. That is, it analyzes the literature and life of Marcel Proust and is structured in the regular "how to" fashion of self-help manuals (with chapter titles such as "How to Suffer Successfully" and "How to Be a Good Friend"), but unlike most contemporary literary criticism it is written for a public au ...more
Zanna
With the gentlest and kindest mockery possible, de Botton makes a very strong case for celebrating and learning from the unlikeliest of teachers: Marcel Proust. Here is some of his advice

Live passionately because we might die any time

Look for the familiar in art; be sensitised by it and improve your ability to notice and describe, and thus be at home everywhere; expand understanding of people's emotional depths

Learn from suffering, relish the insight it offers, use it to grow

Be honest about your
...more
Edward
I just read that Oscar Wilde, when asked to provide a list of the “100 greatest books”, divided the list into three categories: books to be read, books to be reread, and books (overly praised) to be avoided at all costs. After 15 years I just REREAD de Botton’s book, and I can report that it’s definitely worth putting in the second category.

As expected, I had forgotten much of my first reading, and now I’m trying to decide if de Botton’s nine chapter headings, each beginning with “How to” is a
...more
Marius van Blerck
An interesting book, with a misleading title. It is NOT about how Proust will change your life. Rather, it is a book exploring various themes in Proust's life and writings, some of which may parallel your own experiences, and some of which might explain some types of behavior. The book is often insightful and clever, but ultimately I was a little disappointed, as the author often opted for superficiality to make his point. This book could have been so much better if it had not been hampered by t ...more
Evanston Public  Library
If you think that a lazy, hypochondriacal, long-winded 19th Century French fancy man can have no relevance to your everyday life, then this book may just change your mind. No prior knowledge of Proust or his epic, seven volume novel In Search of Lost Time is necessary in order to read and enjoy this book, which falls somewhere between the realms of biography, lit crit, and self-help manual. In between sprinklings of delightfully odd facts from Proust’s life, De Botton analyzes the man’s notoriou ...more
Vale
Alain de Botton interpreta Proust per offrirci una chiave di lettura originale del mondo attraverso gli occhi dello scrittore francese.
La lettura di questo saggio mi ha permesso di scoprire molti dettagli della vita di Proust, come l'incontro con Joyce e i timori reverenziali della Woolf nei confronti dell'opera Alla ricerca del tempo perduto .
Al di là delle curiosità, il saggio coglie un aspetto importante della narrativa di Proust: l'uso delle parole per esprimere una visione originale e ver
...more
R.
Aug 16, 2007 R. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: violently miserable writers
Shelves: 2007
Sometimes it's the book you grab at the last second--not the books you came to the library for--that you end up sitting up with all night long.

Afterwards, sat outside with Mickey and reminisced about our childhood and what we expected from the future.

Also, that what we really wanted at 2 a.m. was a truckstop-black, piping hot coffee..."Yeah, me too! Why is that?"

We both...we both get that craving at 2 a.m.

Earlier, I picked up my copy of the new John Vanderslice album from Barnes & Noble (t
...more
Laura
"Proust said the great momments - like when he ate the madeleine dipped in tea - are those when we escape time. We do what we do in the present but we experience the same action in the past. Thus we are nowhere, neither in past nor present, the miracle of an analogy has freed us from the lockstep of time. He does not explain why this freedom should be so desireable, but presumably it is because time moves in only one direction, toward weakness and death. We embrace the things that allow us to tr ...more
Cheryl
Suppose we could call up Marcel Proust and ask for advice on love, work, friendship and reading books. Alain de Botton provides his 1900 number: tel. 29205. With that an impossibility, lets settle in for HOW PROUST CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE, a two hundred pager that defies catagorization. The title suggests a self-help treatise, but de Botton's has effectively mined the master's written word for reveals of nine questions that effect all readers.

What is the importance of paying attention? How can we f
...more
D.E. Meredith
I never wanted to read anything by Alain de Botton on principle, giving into my deeply held, class driven prejdices thinking he was the epitome of the well heeled, Oxbridge/Havard (?) "Intellectual Snob", telling us how to live our lives - like what the hell does he know, from his Ivory Tower? How wrong could I be? I loved this book. Wry, laugh out loud funny in places and deeply touching. I take my hat off to you, Mr de Botton.

My University education - posh Cambridge college, sure but I was fro
...more
مروان البلوشي

تكمن جاذبية كتاب "كيف يستطيع مارسيل بروست ان يغير حياتك" في كونه يخلط الفكر العميق بأدق تفاصيل مشاعرنا مع تحرر الكاتب من أي رهبة أو زيف يجبره على التمثيل بأنه مثقف نخبوي يترفع عن النزول لمستوى الناس العاديين. أو ادعاء أنه مصلح تنويري أو اجتماعي او إداري يحمل في جعبته خير البشرية .. وهذه في الحقيقة، ميزة الكاتب آلان دي بوتون.

اشتهر آلان دو بوتون في أوروبا الغربية بكونه أحد نجوم الجيل الجديد من الكتاب الذين استطاعوا إرجاع الشباب هناك (جيل MTV والماكدونالدز.....الخ) إلى القراءة الجادة، مستلهمين في
...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I recently had the chance to hear philosopher Alain de Botton talk on the "On Being" podcast, and found him to be really fascinating; much like the Existentialists of Mid-Century Modernism, he's a "spiritual atheist" who has dedicated his career towards the pursuit of meaningful ritual and ethical code-bu
...more
David
How Proust Can Change Your Life is advertised as "a self-help manual for the intelligent person," at least according to the New York Times Book Review. Alain de Botton digs deep into the writings and life of Marcel Proust as a frame to meditate on nine topics:

How to love life today
How to read for yourself
How to take your time
How to suffer successfully
How to express your emotions
How to be a good friend
How to open your eyes
How to be happy in love
How to put books down

This all boils down to two esse
...more
Kirsten
I remember when everyone was excited about this book and can see why--I think there was something that felt new then in Alain de Botton's project of writing about Proust as a guide to life. By now it feels like every other book falls into this general category (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little), so I didn't feel the kind of excitement I remember it inspired in people when it came out. Still found it a charming introduction to Proust's world, if plodding at times (kind of like Geoff Dyer at ...more
Shirley
Brimming with de Botton's delightful witty style. Note that I haven't read any Proust so far (and, as alluded to in another book I read recently, the fact that I still intend to read Proust some day means I am not quite middle aged yet).
Yulia
No, reading this delightful lit-crit-meets-self-help didn't help me make progress in "Swann's Way," but it was an enormously pleasant peek into the tormented life of Proust and the challenging layers of his prose. I recommend this enjoyable read to those who never dare to attempt the actual work of Proust. In fact, I imagine those who have read Proust are likely to be offended by this personable and unpretentious appraisal of the unreadable must-read.
Shannon
Apr 12, 2013 Shannon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Proust
Shelves: philosophy
I really liked this little book about Proust. It was filled with interesting little facts about him and it helped me see his work in a different way. Could I have enjoyed In Search of Lost Time without knowing that Proust suffered from constipation, or that he masturbated furiously at the age of 16? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Who knows! I think most people could read this and get something out of it.
Janet
Both hilarious and genuinely useful in a deeply humanistic sense.
Jonathan Chuang
a book that like all other books of its kind, starts out promising in its earnestness, then fails to reveal to us any meaning other than by a trope or a superficial idea. Books like this make me wonder why these fucks are writing books when they don't even have an intellectual integrity to themselves, if at least their readers. However, while its messages about life were mostly vapid or truisms, it did provide some interesting background information on Proust, which while painting Proust as a fo ...more
Catherine  Mustread
Aug 12, 2010 Catherine Mustread rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those thinking of reading Proust or who have already
Shelves: non-fiction
This book about Marcel Proust is a much easier read (than Proust himself) and makes him seem more human and less of a super-neurotic obsessive author who can write 25 pages about going to bed and can make a dinner party last for 200 pages. Recommended for those thinking of reading Proust or who have already.

Read this for the second time – first time (1999) was after I gave up on reading Proust and hoped it might motivate me, which it did but took a few years and a blog, The Cork-Lined Room, and
...more
Mr.
Disappointing self-help/literary guidebook that came utterly lavished with positive reviews; The New Yorker said of the book "Curious, humorous, didactic and dazzling...It contains more human interest and play of fancy than most fiction." Maybe I'm missing something or was just looking for something else, but it seems to me that Alain de Botton's book is nothing more than a banal self-help book that is more eloquently written than the other works in this dubious genre. Botton doesn't offer the r ...more
Dennis
I was only very generally familiar with Marcel Proust, so this was educational insofar as it explained Proust's philosophy through vignettes and excerpts from that author's opus, In Search of Lost Time. Thankfully, I was privy to a digest version of his ideas rather than having to slog through 4,000+ pages of his seven-part novel.

Among Proust's more salutary ideas, and one that I find rather useful, is that becoming an expert on the writings of one's favorite author, as did Proust by digesting E
...more
Damaskcat
I have never read Proust and this is the first book I’ve read by Alain De Botton. I am now intrigued by Proust as it seems he had some interesting things to say about everyday life and the problems which beset us all. Falling in love, friendship and putting books down among other subjects are covered in this interesting little book.

As well as receiving some useful life advice such as listening to your friends rather than insisting on telling them about yourself and your concerns; I formed a vivi
...more
Mike
Proust - long before Louis C.K. did his brilliant bit in Hilarious about American ingratitude for technological marvels - complained about how quickly the French population complained about busy signals and dropped calls a mere months after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. I mention this only to say that, more often than not, wisdom is more timeless than we would like to believe. Americans especially like to "tear down [their past] and put a car park here" (according to Eddie Izzard ...more
Nick Cooper
This is a good precursor to In Search of Lost Time. The book is set up into ten or so chapters, each corresponding to an area of experience—suffering, perception, relationships, and so forth. It sounds predictable and banal, and, in places, it is, but it's also clever and full of brilliantly shining quotes from Proust's oeuvre—quotes from Proust the author, Proust the columnist, and Proust, the man of letters. And, really, it's these aptly chosen, well arranged, trenchant-little-nuggets of wisdo ...more
Michael
À la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust is probably the one book all bookish people are afraid to tackle. It is only a few pretentious people that have actually read it, and I plan to be one of them. Alain de Bottom has put together a collection of essays on what Proust can offer to today’s readers.

In my reading slump, which I’m debating whether it was real or not, I only felt like reading non-fiction. I picked this book because I felt like this would be a quick
...more
Dan
Upon picking up this book I noticed the back cover was labeled Literature/Self-Help. I laughed. I couldn't imagine someone who reads self-help books picking up a book on Proust. At the same time I can't imagine a person who would read Proust or something about him to pick up a self-help book.

Now that I have read it I must say it wasn't what I expected. I expected it to be a book about how reading Proust would change my life or maybe how the experience of reading Proust would do so. Instead it i
...more
Herbie
I had seen this book at stores many times, and always assumed it wasn't actually about Proust. I guess I assumed no one would publish or purchase a book about an author who is considered unreadable by 100% of regular, non-eggheaded people I have ever talked to. (I recognize how ridiculous this assumption is now, considering that bookstores also successfully stock Proust's books themselves).

Delightfully for me, this is actually a very nerdy book that's concerned with the details of Proust's chara
...more
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via www.alaindebotton.com

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
...more
More about Alain de Botton...
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“We don't really learn anything properly until there is a problem, until we are in pain, until something fails to go as we had hoped ... We suffer, therefore we think.” 29 likes
“Because the rhythm of conversation makes no allowance for dead periods, because the presence of others calls for continuous responses, we are left to regret the inanity of what we say, and the missed opportunity of what we do not. ” 22 likes
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