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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Alternative to the Self-Help Book, 13 July 2012
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This review is from: The Wonderbox: Curious histories of how to live (Kindle Edition)
This is a book about the history of ideas about how to live - ideas put into practice. Krznaric divides the book into innovatively themed chapters on topics such as Deathstyle, Empathy, Money and Time, within larger divisions on Nurturing Relationships, Making a Living, Discovering the World, and Breaking Conventions. I've never been to a book club, but I can imagine this would be an excellent choice to stimulate conversation beyond the banal recantations of plot and character.

Like its shelf companion, How to Find Fulfilling Work: The School of Life, it is an alternative to the self-help book: rather than telling you how you should live your life, it offers stories of how others have lived theirs, some of which may inspire you to rethink how and why you live, work and love.

Amongst its lasting insights are a picking apart of our fragile word "love", which ambiguously means so many things; and of the loaded, mercantile language we use when talking about time - "time well spent", "time to give", "a waste of time" and so on.

The concept of "deathstyle" - a mischievous invitation to refamiliarize ourselves with death and the process of dying - is one of the things I will take away from the book. My attitude to death is somewhat flippant, but in recent years I've come to notice my parents' mortality. When they die, I want to celebrate rather than mourn their lives.

Krnzaric has a brilliant way of illustrating his points with potted biographies from exemplary lives in history - be they Goethe, the Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire in protest (familiar from that infamous photograph), or the similarly radical lifestyles of his grandmother and Mary Wollstonecraft.

The book has a pleasingly tight structure - each chapter with neat introductions that give you a curious sniff of what's to come. You could, I suppose, dip into this book, picking whichever chapter intrigues you the most, but you'd miss out on the satisfying roundness of the whole - a roundness which nevertheless bounces your excited brain off into new pools of thought.
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Location: Oxford, UK

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