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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original effort that is both insightful and entertaining
First, while I really love this little book, it doesn't quite deliver on the title. Not that the title isn't accurate. Very few fiction writers can actually change one's life, but Proust is one of a very few that can (reading him has very definitely changed mine), but I'm not quite sure that de Botton gets at the reasons why. At least, he didn't get to the specific...
Published on June 26 2003 by Robert Moore

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a collection of smarmy platitudes
It's hard to imagine how Proust can change your life if you don't actually read Proust. Never mind; the author really wants to tell you how Alain de Botton can change your life. If you remember that in the natural course of things change is usually for the worse and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, you'll probably manage to avoid this collection of...
Published on Dec 7 1999


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original effort that is both insightful and entertaining, June 26 2003
By 
Robert Moore (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
First, while I really love this little book, it doesn't quite deliver on the title. Not that the title isn't accurate. Very few fiction writers can actually change one's life, but Proust is one of a very few that can (reading him has very definitely changed mine), but I'm not quite sure that de Botton gets at the reasons why. At least, he didn't get to the specific reasons that Proust has had that effect on my life.
Nonetheless, this remains an amazingly good introduction to Proust, and is a marvelous first-book for anyone contemplating reading Proust's masterpiece. Proust is, of course, the author of what is very widely considered to be the great work of literature of the past century and what is increasingly considered one of the great masterpieces in the history of literature: IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME. de Botton's volume isn't precisely an introduction to Proust so much as a series of reflections on themes that can be illustrated by aspects of Proust's life or by passages in his great novel. Many of these are marvelous at assisting even a veteran reader of Proust to gain new insights into his book.
Is the book worthwhile for someone who does not plan on reading Proust but just wants to read an enjoyable book? Certainly. de Botton is unfailingly witty, almost always interesting, and frequently insightful. None of this relies either upon having read Proust or intending to. The book can certainly stand on its own. Reading this book is fun and easy; reading Proust can be fun at times, but it is also challenging and demanding frequently. But that may be why de Botton's book is unable to show how Proust truly can change your life. Proust has a way of sucking you deep into his book, making you so much a part of it that you feel almost that it is you and not the narrator from whom all these feelings and emotions arise. You almost become a part of the novel, and your life can change because Proust can create a story that becomes a mirror to your own life, instilling a sense of the things we ought to have done but didn't, but providing the revelation that it isn't too late. Proust can also show how all the failures of the past can become the material for future success and accomplishment. de Botton hints at some of this, and even quotes some key passages that in the context of the novel most eloquently display this (cf. the Elstir speech on p. 67, which I believe displays the central theme of the entire novel better than any other passage in Proust).
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wishing either a fun read or a light-hearted intro to Proust. But even more I recommend reading Proust. Only in doing that can one actually discover how Proust can change one's life.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GET THIS BOOK, Oct. 31 2003
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I read all the time, every day, and this book is fantastic. I've read Proust, but it isn't necessary to have read him to love this book. In fact, this book makes a nice introduction to Proust, and if you wanted to fake having read Proust, this would be an enjoyable way to pick up enough information to do just that :-)
This book is simply one of the loveliest meditations on reading and life, and how they intertwine, that I've ever read. It's not a book for people who don't like to read, but for anyone who DOES like to read, I think it would make a lovely gift. I gave it to myself, and I thanked myself for it very much.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ballsy and cheeky at the same time, Feb. 10 2003
By 
A. M. Rosencrants (Moombassa) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
The purpose for reading philosophy is twofold: to understand one's nature and to change it for the better. Modern and post modern philosophy is to choked with metaphysical gibberish that unsuccessfully tries to explain one's nature and has no practical purpose. Usually nothing worthwhile can be gleaned from studying modern and post- modern philosophical material.
This book is excellent in a sly way.
Proust's (pronounced Pruest) writing is notoriously lengthy. I have never read any of his work yet. De Botton shows the worth of reading Proust in a modern age where information is instant and usually incomplete. De Botton's reasons are a mix of Bloom's "How to Read and Why" and the realization that Proust is a little to lengthy for the impact of his philosophy to be maximized. "How Proust Can Change Your Life" is half Cliffs Notes and half simplistic self help books like "All I Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten."
De Botton was probably someone who was turned off by the frequency of educators and authors who sucked the life out of the gist of the material. I like the balls and cheekiness of the subjects tackled, but I honestly doubt that anyone who purchases this book would be disinclined to read a lenghthy tome before reading this book anyways. I doubt De Botton is seeking converts who will become comfortable reading authors like Proust. In fact, I think he is saying that Proust's books are a little to long for their own good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A witty combination, Feb. 9 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I can see where this book might rub some people the wrong way. People with an old fashioned dedication to literature probably won't appreciate Alain de Botton's clever re-contextualizing of Proust within the modern genre of self-help. I might feel similarly if de Botton claimed to be writing a real self-help book or a serious examination of Proust, but he never attempts to perform either feat.
Instead, de Botton accomplishes several things. He parodies self-help books, he undertakes a humorous and highly personal exploration of Proust, and he makes a witty argument about how literature can aid us in our daily lives. The heart of de Botton's message is actually paradoxical. From one perspective he is saying, "don't take literature too seriously" and from another he is saying, "literature is a critical tool in everyone's life".
I believe that all of us essentially reinvent what we read and use it to interpret our lives and the world around us. De Botton simply provides a humorous and intelligent blue print of this natural process.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a collection of smarmy platitudes, Dec 7 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
It's hard to imagine how Proust can change your life if you don't actually read Proust. Never mind; the author really wants to tell you how Alain de Botton can change your life. If you remember that in the natural course of things change is usually for the worse and that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, you'll probably manage to avoid this collection of smarmy platitudes. Why didn't I? The title intrigued me. (This book deserves one star for its title, however disingenuous.)
But how did I come to hear of the title? An acquaintance recommended this author to me. The acquaintance and I are both fans of another author: Milan Kundera. So instead of "Not Proust" I recommend to you in turn the works of Milan Kundera, particularly his, yes, a novel, "The Joke".
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very informative character analysis, Feb. 15 2003
By 
This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
This book was a very interesting treatise on human characters, not to mention Proust himself. Makes a good companion for the novel that it references, In Search of Lost Time if I'm not mistaken. Though not an easy reading at times, it certainly is worth digesting. I do sympathize with Proust on how sick one can become from listening to other people speak in cliches. Even better was Alan's The Consolations of Philosophy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Worthwhile, Nov. 17 2002
By 
Conor O'Sullivan (Somerville, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I just finished reading Swann's Way, and was sure that that would be the beginning and the end of my reading of Proust, at least for now. But then I found this book. It's written in a tone half-serious and half-tongue in cheek, and manages to be both reverent to Proust and damning of his "reputation" as difficult, dense, overlong, and too damn philosophical to be entertaining. Its breaking up of Proust's great (and his trivial) themes into easy-to-handle morsels and "morals" is frequently hilarious and always pointed and accurate. (The last sentence in particular made sense to me, having just spent 2 hours struggling to read the last 40 pages of Swann's Way...)
But the greatest praise I can give this book is that, because of it, I am going to buy In a Budding Grove this weekend. Great stuff, highly recommended, especially for those unsure if they wish to read more than one volume of Proust. (It may be a little less appreciated by those who have never read any Proust, but it is still entertaining and may convince you to pick up the book itself.)
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2.0 out of 5 stars Deceiving Title, Nov. 11 2002
By 
W. Rashed (Jabriya, KUWAIT) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
I bought this book because of its title. I have always wanted to read "In Search of Lost Time" , but got discouraged because of its length.I thought this little volume would sort of distill the wisdom of the original work. I was wrong! The book contains bits and pieces about Proust's life and book.I found it somewhat boring and not helpful at all, but perhaps my dissappointment stems from having a different expectation from this book, that is emplied from a deceiving title.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Successfully Responding to the World..., Oct. 24 2002
By 
C. Middleton (Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Paperback)
A specific theme is explored from a variety of perspectives in many of de Botton's books, including ~Proust~, and that is, how to successfully respond to the vagaries of life. These vagaries and pre-occupations include the pursuit of love, happiness and, most importantly, how to make use of suffering, how to learn from the inevitable pain that this life will bring to some. However, what is it that makes de Botton's advice more palatable than the common spewing from your garden-variety self-help manual? Apart from his user-friendly writing style, it's his approach, his unique way of interpreting great works of philosophy and literature, and re-moulding age-old notions into workable methods of application to the personal and everyday.
The key, I believe, to fully appreciating what this particular text has to offer, is to understand Proust's various responses to the world - what I like to call his inner-worldliness. It is well known, of course, that Proust was not a 'worldly' man in the common sense of the term, but worldly in that vast terrain known as the imagination. In fact, this gentle and fragile writer, most of his short life, rarely stepped out of his bedroom, let alone transverse the expanses of Europe. Proust's gift was the uncanny ability to observe something as apparently mundane as a pocket watch or a scrap of bed linen, and through a mental process of rich association, create new and meaningful experiences. What Proust taught us through his voluminous works, which de Botton points out, is what we all too often take for granted, ironically, has the potential to give us what we need.
~How Proust can Change your Life~ is one of those texts that you can pick up after lunch and finish before dinner, yet the contents and practical wisdom should remain with you for a long time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cute to listen to..., Oct. 16 2002
By 
A fun little audio-book, provides insight into Proust's life and writings. It did leave me pleased but a little disappointed. Perhaps the printed edition would have been better.
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How Proust Can Change Your Life
How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain De Botton (Paperback - April 28 1998)
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