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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 3 October 2004
I like this book very much and have read it several times. It's not really about Proust, it is about looking at the world like Proust. It is a simple reminder of the sort things we miss in life when we are immersed in the hurry-scurry of the rat-race. So if I'm a bit fed-up, I take up this book and learn to take a breath, while seeing the world afresh. I find the section on the portayal of everyday things in art, particularly inspiring and up-lifting. Its about appreciating the things that were always there but we fail to see. I recommend it highly.
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on 23 December 1998
Let me start by saying that I sleep well at night and don't pretend to have the vaguest clue about some of the great writers of literature. Now that I've established my honesty and credibility, maybe I can say a few words about this book. Personally, I think the author wouldn't be such a bad fellow to know. I like the way he segmented the book and described relevant portions of Proust. I am a soldier and spend a lot of time in the field; currently in a part of the world which is undergoing an uneasy truce. I read whatever I can get my hands on and am tired of the muscle and skin magazines, car magazines, etc., which is the normal fare. When a book like this comes along, which is fairly easy to read and digest and more importantly, makes me want to attempt the real thing, then I don't think it's such a bad book and certainly not deserving of one or two stars. As for re-evaluating life's experiences, I hope that I can sit back one day and use a "Proustian" view to re-examine my current experiences; something which I have not been able to do as I've only been able to react. That is probably the biggest lesson and the irony of the whole Proust phenomenon, that is, from his bed, he observes with the utmost clarity, the most minute activities of a day, while the rest of us are busy living and missing out on these subtleties and insights into ourselves.
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on 9 August 2007
Reading anything by de Botton I feel a serenity descend upon me. His writing seems to have a soothing effect and this book was no different.

In "How Proust can change your life" he takes the wisdom to be found in the novels of Proust and shows how they can help us to live better lives. Or perhaps to make us aware that we live better lives than we think.

There are sections on how to love life, read for yourself, take your time, suffer succesfully, express your emotions, be a good friend, open your eyes, be happy in love and put books down.

I loved this book and it has made me feel I can read Proust and appreciate it properly. Swann's Way is next for me and I am looking forward to it with anticipation. But whether you intend to read Proust or not this book is well worth reading.
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on 26 December 2000
I am a mixed de Botton fan (some books I love, some I loathe) and I didn't enjoy this because I read it after 'Consolations of Philosophy', which is much, much better. I have to say that de Botton does write well and with a great deal of charm but is this book really saying anything. For example: De botton spends a fair number of pages in Chapter 1 discussing how we see people we love in characters in books. He does this amusingly, including photos of his girlfriend, but at the end of the day, it is hardly a staggering point, or one of much relevance to anything, really. This is the case with much of the book. It all sounds very clever, but when you strip away the fancy words and distill the essence of the points, they are essentially quite shallow. In this respect, the book does perform a feat, in that it gives the illusion of saying very many profound things, when in fact it doesn't at all. It's the sort of book that literary snobs / upper class readers will therefore love - and who will be so won over by his writing style and the fact that he makes Proust accessible, they will fail to notice this error.
The other problem is that this book isn't really about Proust, it's about de Botton. Like 'THe Romantic Movement', it's a very narcisstic book, where de botton is more interested in his own ideas than his subject's. It's as if de Botton has laid out his own life philosophy and used Proust to prop him up. Proof of this is shown in the chapter on love, which echoes many of de Botton's theories in his earlier novels. Only this time round he manages to make it look as though they are really Proust's ideas, and he just happens to agree.
I just found this book far too pretentious for its own good. However, 'Consolations of Philosophy' is much better - somehow it is written with a great deal of humanity, and you sense de Botton really wishes to help people, but this one reads as though he is just showing off.
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on 25 September 2001
The author gives you Proust boiled down to its richest essence (and rich it is!) but without the usual idolising of the mere words that Proust wrote. Once you've read this book you'll have an understanding of how to see life like Proust without letting the trees get in the way of seeing the forest.
This book also has the most perfect last line I've ever read...
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on 28 January 2008
Are you tired of self-help manuals? Is that because the authors often seem to need help themselves? Or they all spout the same buzzwords and clichés? Or they are banal and boring? It sounds as if you are all self-help-manualed-out. Perhaps you need something different. Try Marcel Proust, revered master of exquisite expression and luminous prose. In Search of Lost Time, also called Remembrance of Things Past, Proust's one-and-a-quarter-million-word magnum opus, does not contain a trite sentence or conventional thought. You can learn much about living from such a profound genius, including how to spend your time, how to see and feel things, and why, sometimes, it is best just to stay in bed. Alain de Botton is your witty, often hilarious guide, providing valuable life lessons from Proust's writings and thoughts. getAbstract finds this ingenious, utterly original treatment thoroughly enjoyable. Wishing you the same.
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on 21 June 2007
There is a section in this fantastic, unique work in which de Botton describes Proust's fanatical devotion to John Ruskin, the English art critic, an admiration which verged on infatuation. This book reveals that de Botton feels much the same way about Proust. Happily, the reader is left in absolutely no doubt as to why the author feels that way so insightful are the observations and so pertinent are the excerpts from "In Search of Lost Time". In fact, those without the time to read Proust's masterpiece (that is, almost everyone) will find no better synthesis of that great novel, and no more persuasive illustration of Proust's brilliance.

The whole experience is truly life-changing and, whilst the title does not reveal this, de Botton himself deserves some of the credit for that too.
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on 9 May 2001
There's been a rush of Proust books of late, all claiming to lay bare the real secrets of the great author. To my mind, this is the only one that really matters, because it's the only that seems to have been written out of genuine love and passion, rather than some academic need to impress or get a better post at a university. It's a look at the philosophy and outlook on life of a truly profound writer.
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on 18 January 2000
A sublime book, short and exceptionally easy to read. Yet despite that, de Botton's commentary on Proust's observations on life is well-observed, funny and true. Proust snobs may sniffily suggest this book has no insights to offer that you wouldn't be better getting from In Search Of Lost Time itself, but I would have never found the perseverance to get through the first volume of Proust's novel had I not read this book first. It prepares you for what to expect (the long, rambling sentences with innumerable subordinate clauses) and signals points of interest to watch out for along the way (for instance, the madeleine). After completing volume 1, I was still unsure about whether I wanted to persevere with the other 5 volumes, but re-reading de Botton's gem rekindled my enthusiasm and I'm now half-way through volume 2.
If you ever wanted to read Proust but have never been able to summon up the courage (or if you wondered where the plot for the movie 'Last Night' came from), read this. You'll love it.
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on 4 July 2011
This book is a tasty appetiser for anyone considering reading a bit of (or a lot of) Proust. Teasing out several themes representative of Proust's refections, De Botton elegantly combines novel excerpts, vignettes from Proust's life, and a perceptive and amusing commentary on both.

We're told how Proust said he would spend his final weeks if given notice of impending doom; how rich, deep, complex and worth savouring he found life; how strongly he advocated continually learning from misfortune.

We learn how vividly he identified fictional characters with real ones; how alert he was to the artistic skill of highlighting what the audience knew but had never articulated; and how passionate he was for originality, hence authenticity, versus imitation and cliché.

De Botton describes Proust's emphatic distinction between the amount of truth to be found in books and the amount to be found in relationships; and his delight in the edification of books in combination with continuing to think for ourselves.

He goes on to illustrate the ways Proust emphasised the importance of appreciating what you have, rather than what you might have; the value of the humble compared to the exalted; the greater reward we find in things we have had to yearn for; and how readily familiarity breeds contempt.

We are left in no doubt that Proust can change our life for the better.
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