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How Should We Live?: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life

How Should We Live?: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life

Roman Krznaric


An excellent tour through philosophy and cultural history in search of the good life. There's a lot to like in this book, which is erudite and subtle without being in any way pretentious or a hard read. Starting off discussing the six modes of love recognised by the ancient Greeks, it then proceeds through ideas of travel, belief, work, time, money, and finishes with ways we might improve the ends of our lives (treading a very similar path to that identified by Atul Gawande in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End). On the way it performs a welcome rehabilitation of Adam Smith and visits the thought of Gandhi, Goethe, and a whole range of less famous (but equally important) innovators.

It's impossible to read a book like this without comparing it to The Consolations of Philosophy. In many ways it's a perfect complement to Alain de Botton's work, similarly addressing modern concerns from the perspective of classical authors. I prefer Krznaric's approach mainly because it's more broadly about art and literature rather than strictly about philosophy, which allows him to draw on a wider range of inspirations. It certainly provides a lot of provocations to leading a better, more thoughtful, and richer life.

5/5. Finished 15 December 2015.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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