How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton is a book that combines two unlikely genres – literary biography and self-help manual. It explores the works of Marcel Proust, one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, and how his writings can be applied to our lives today.
The book reveals Proust’s thoughts on how to revive a relationship, choose a good doctor, enjoy a holiday, make friends and respond to insult.
The main theme of the book is that suffering can lead to a better and fuller life. Proust argues that only in suffering can we learn to appreciate what is around us and to understand it better.
He also offers portraits of varied social classes that are psychologically resonant in ways other authors can’t even begin to replicate.
The book is written in a witty and wonderful package, making it an enjoyable read. It is full of useful insights and advice that can be applied to our daily lives. Some of the useful takeaways from the book include:
- Suffering can lead to knowledge and a better understanding of the world.
- Appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
- Understand the importance of relationships and how to nurture them.
- Learn how to make friends and respond to insults.
- Choose a good doctor and enjoy a holiday.
What I Liked
I love that this book exists – it’s super-meta since de Botton knows that exactly none of his readers are actually going to read In Search of Lost Time since it’s a novel that is…checks notes… 4,211 pages.
And yet, he knows that all of his readers imagine themselves as someone who might would read Proust’s In Search of Lost Time**
**ok, this book title had to be a pun of the part of Proust since I’d definitely be in search of lost time if I read a 4,211 page novel…no matter how life changing.
Either way, I liked that de Botton did read it, take notes, and then write a very readable, approachable book with the takeaways from an (apparently?) fabulous novel.
What I Did Not Like
Not a whole lot – it’s a fast, solid read. De Botton is a bit contemplative and melancholic, but he’s an amazing writer and clear thinker.