Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How Proust Can Change Your Life” as Want to Read:
How Proust Can Change Your Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How Proust Can Change Your Life

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  14,679 ratings  ·  1,405 reviews
Alain de Botton combines two unlikely genres--literary biography and self-help manual--in the hilarious and unexpectedly practical How Proust Can Change Your Life.

Who would have thought that Marcel Proust, one of the most important writers of our century, could provide us with such a rich source of insight into how best to live life? Proust understood that the essence and
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 28th 1998 by Vintage (first published April 18th 1997)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How Proust Can Change Your Life, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Megan Walsh Nah, no spoilers! Just some quotes and a look at some plot points. I read this first and I'm still planning on reading In Search of Lost Time!
Nah, no spoilers! Just some quotes and a look at some plot points. I read this first and I'm still planning on reading In Search of Lost Time!

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,679 ratings  ·  1,405 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of How Proust Can Change Your Life
Words Are Your Homeland

One of the most important deficiencies in the philosophy of science (and business, which prides itself as a practical science) is the idea of efficiency of inquiry in scientific method - how to get an answer to a question at hand with the least possible effort. Efficiency is predicated on the idea that it is possible to pare down the world to some essential core - somewhat like finding the right principle in law - such that the matter seems to resolve itself through compel
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Susan Riaz
At the risk of horrifying Proust aficionados I must admit that I did not read this book as a precursor to reading Proust, or even as a pleasurable supplement to his writings, but rather I read it instead of reading Proust. I have tried Proust in the past and I have failed.

Well, this book has come to my rescue, and I loved it. Not only did Alain de Botten explore and celebrate Proust's foibles and philosophies as a writer - he also gave us a fascinating picture of the man. We warm to Proust, we a
Matt Evans
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
With the gentlest possible mockery, de Botton makes a compelling case for celebrating and learning from an unlikely teacher: 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 feelings and attempt
Manuel Antão
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

A Strangely Claustrophobic Experience: “How Proust Can Change Your Life” by Alain de Botton “

"To make [reading] into a discipline is to give too large a role to what is only an incitement. Reading is on the threshold of the spiritual life; it can introduce us to it: it does not constitute it."

Quote from one of Proust’s books, In “How Proust Can Change Your Life” by Alain de Botton
“Even the finest books deserve to be thrown aside.”

In “
Jun 30, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, proust


More about Proust himself than how reading Proust can change your life, Alain de Botton's book was interesting if slight. It would be a great read for someone unfamiliar with Proust prior to reading IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. An interesting read overall.

Lyn Elliott
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I relished every page of de Botton’s short, witty book about Proust’s life and work, written with affection and a keen eye for the ridiculous, as when we first see Proust: ‘a reclusive, moustachioed novelist, not known for his interest in golf, tennis or bridge [though he had once tried draughts, and twice aided in the launching of a kite], a man who had spent the last fourteen years lying in a narrow bed under a pile of thinly woven woollen blankets writing an unusually long novel without an ad ...more
Kaelan Ratcliffe ▪ كايِلان راتكِليف
It Didn't Change My Life, Unfortunately

Forewarning, this is quite a biased review that simply speaks from my experience of reading this novel, it's content very well may not apply to you. I feel I may have gone off the deep end without meaning to (considering this was a book I read on the side of others).

Please still consider picking this book up.


I have to admit, this is the first book I've actually struggled to complete this year due to a
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wryly humorous book, written with tongue firmly in cheek. The author uses a ‘Self-Help’ layout to unveil both a short biography of Proust himself and to incorporate the writer’s thoughts to show us how to appreciate his work and life in general. There are chapters on how to Love Life, Read for Yourself, Take Your Time, Suffer Successfully, Express Your Emotions, Be a Good Friend, Open Your Eyes, Be Happy in Love and Put Books Down.

Along the way we read of Proust’s meeting with James Jo
W.D. Clarke
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Most readers have a "guilty secret" kind of read that they secretly don't feel guilty about reading at all. After finishing a book that's more of a challenge, (say, v5 of ISOLT, which I just finished and loved, perhaps more than any other volume with the possible exception of Swann's Way) they may feel the need of a "palate cleanser", and gravitate to a mystery novel, for example: they may wish to be reading something, but also want to let the experience of the previous, more demanding book perc ...more
Roxana Chirilă
How can Proust change my life? Well, he probably can't.

I read this book with one purpose in mind: to determine whether to start reading Proust at all. You see, I find it difficult to abandon books, and if a book is famous, the problem is even greater: whenever someone mentions it, I'll remember I haven't finished it and maybe I should.

Luckily, Alain de Botton saved me: I vaguely remembered him as being a "famous philosopher" or something of the sort, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone
Marius van Blerck
May 02, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Marcel Proust was not built for speed. His health was poor due in large part to a severe asthmatic condition he developed as a child and struggled with throughout his maturity. While this did not prevent him from serving a year in the French army and, later, pursuing an active social life among a wide circle of friends, his physical exertions were few and his constitution so fearfully unreliable that he judged himself unable to engage in the practice of a standard profession. A brilliant mind, h ...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
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
“It might be a Proustian slogan: n’allez pas trop vite. And an advantage of not going by too fast is that the world has a chance of becoming more interesting in the process.”

“In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have experienced in himself. And the recognition by the reader in his own self of what
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
A nice petite primer on Proust. It travels similar ground as Bakewell's How to Live: A Life of Montaigne, Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage, and even Wright's The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are. These books are not quite biography, not quite self help, but books that use the respective author's life/work/time as a peep stone into our own world.

Don't be distracted by De Botton's hyperbolic title. Neither he nor Proust is claiming any special power to change your life, but what th
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, philosophy
During my visits to Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I noticed this paperback on display in various bookstores, thinking its title quite interesting but I had never known Alain de Botton or read him before. So I kept postponing finding a copy to read till I came across a second-hand, dog-eared copy in a now forgotten bookshop or a mobile one in Bangkok.

As an overview, this book looks at practical philosophy from which its readers can wisely apply in daily life. It's definitely one of
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: living-now
A night
On the roof
My head is thinking laboriously
Brambles and thickets of triviality
Orange figures dance merrily
In the bitter cold
Seeing it ceaselessly
Gratitude enters
Imprinting a mark

Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 (the r
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Nov 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
I am disappointed. I give de Boton credit for for being so much a genius and talented as a writer but his writing style is enormously disorienting for me and I can't keep up with him. I can't help but sense a nihilistic, atheistic spirit reeking from every page penned by him, thus feeling empty. Having read thirty pages or so in the book, I just could not keep going. I still can't see any practical value to what he was writing even though the book is supposed to be about "changing" my life. If a ...more
I’ve not read any Proust beyond what’s excerpted in this book, and I don’t expect I ever will, but that didn’t stop me from finding this utterly delightful. Proust is perhaps an unlikely role model: a snobbish, indolent hypochondriac who rarely followed through on his big ideas. Yet de Botton draws many useful lessons from his published work as well as his letters, as expressed in the chapter titles, e.g. “How to Take Your Time,” “How to Suffer Successfully,” “How to Be a Good Friend” and “How t ...more
Basia Korzeniowska
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Many years ago I read La Recherche du Temps Perdu and it didn’t change my life. I did feel a sense of achievement because I read it in French, but I think I missed the point. This amusing book, however, gave lots of admirable insights into how to look at and appreciate one’s world. De Botton is quietly witty - his detached humour makes you look at things from a sideways angle, and you have to almost wink to see what he’s getting at. And then you giggle and acknowledge he is right. Iconoclastic - ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Having had In Search of Lost Time on my to read list for a while, but not wanting to dive into the deep, very unknown depths, I read this for guidance. And Botton as usual makes some very interesting insights while covering many of the themes, so served well as guide.
Thing is, after dipping the toe in, I no longer want to read Proust's seminal work.

I think Botton was able to condense what I would likely find an excruciating reading experience.
Ai Nhi
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I would sincerely recommend the chapter "How to be a good friend" of this book to those troubled by the feelings of lacking in authentic soulmate type of friendships in life.

First, the author wittily structured the book's title and table of contents in the cliche fashion of self-help book to make jokes of the bad quality of many superficial self-help books with “How to” and “Changing life” promises on the market. Obviously, I think Alan does not believe in reading a book to change one's course o
Beth Bonini
I’ve listed this book as ‘self-help’ more in jest than seriousness. Although the contemporary cultural philosopher Alain de Botton does make some salient points about human nature, drawing on Marcel Proust’s writing, I don’t think you can really expect this book to teach you ‘how to be happy in love’ or even ‘how to read for yourself’. There’s an underlying humour and irony in even using Proust as any kind of role model, much less lifestyle guru - and probably the most memorable bits of the book ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Globe Tuesday Boo...: How Proust Can Change Your Life 1 9 Oct 09, 2018 04:55PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Wrong cover? 3 26 Apr 13, 2016 12:51PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower
  • Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Swann's Way
  • The Guermantes Way
  • Time Regained
  • Marcel Proust
  • La Prisonnière
  • في جو من النَّدَم الفكريّ
  • La fugitiva
  • The Captive & The Fugitive (In Search of Lost Time, #5-6)
  • الوجود والعزاء
  • On Confidence
  • In Search of Lost Time (6 Volumes)
  • At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails
  • The School of Life: An Emotional Education
  • من نبحث عنه بعيداً، يقطن قربنا
  • Pleasures and Days
See similar books…
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

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 li

Related Articles

Adolescents who can't get a date are in a uniquely privileged position: They will have the perfect chance to get grounding in world literature....
36 likes · 4 comments
“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.” 129 likes
“There may be significant things to learn about people by looking at what annoys them most.” 78 likes
More quotes…