How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain De Bottom

How Proust can Change Your Life is an exploration of some of the lessons Proust can teach us. De Bottom gleans these lessons from Proust’s life, quotes, letters, the words of those who knew him, and his seven-volume novel In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s novel is about how to stop wasting time and start appreciating life. That’s what this book is about too.

The book is broken into eight chapters/lessons and I’ll highlight what grabbed me most from each:

  1. How to Read For Yourself – When we read we find ourselves in the book. We find people we know and places familiar to us. We pay attention to these things about ourselves and life that the author highlights to us and it can delight, comfort, and teach us.
  2. How to Take Your Time – To look at the news differently because they condense stories into snippets and we miss out on understanding them. So, in turn, take the time to look at all things and see the things you miss when you’re busy.
  3. How to Suffer Successfully – Value pain because it is often pain that turns into the most insightful thoughts. There is wisdom to be found in the sufferings we experience.
  4. How to Express Your Emotions – To not see things through cliches and be limited by language. Instead, really see things and find your own words to describe this reality.
  5. How to Be a Good Friend – Implies that there is a level of insincerity in friendship because people are susceptible to rejecting us for our honesty. So we gush over a friend’s baby to be a friend. So friendship is about ‘playful exchanges’ rather than a place for revealing the total truth about ourselves.
  6. How to Open Your Eyes – To see the beauty in the things around us rather than the superficial beauty of what we imagine.
  7. How to Be Happy in Love – We tend to appreciate something only when it isn’t physically present. There is a dulling effect that comes from visual contact.
  8. How to Put Books Down – The benefit of reading is that we find someone expresses what we couldn’t express. The danger is that we don’t express anything ourselves. Don’t turn authors into oracles or their works into idols. Instead, learn from their ideas and apply them to your own life.

My rating: 3.7/5

Loved the practical insights and content. I found the writing style easier to read than Religion for Atheists hence slightly higher rating.

What did you think of How Proust Can Change Your Life?


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