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

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

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by Roman Krznaric
     
 

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There are many ways to try to improve our lives—we can turn to the wisdom of philosophers, the teachings of spiritual guides, or the latest experiments of psychologists. But we rarely look to history for inspiration—and when we do, it can be surprisingly powerful. In How Should We Live? the cultural historian Roman Krznaric explores twelveSee more details below

Overview


There are many ways to try to improve our lives—we can turn to the wisdom of philosophers, the teachings of spiritual guides, or the latest experiments of psychologists. But we rarely look to history for inspiration—and when we do, it can be surprisingly powerful. In How Should We Live? the cultural historian Roman Krznaric explores twelve universal topics—including love, family, and empathy; work, time, and money—by illuminating the past and revealing the wisdom we have been missing. There is much to be learned from the ancient Greeks about the different varieties of love, for example, from medieval and Renaissance Europeans about living with passion and facing the realities of death, from various indigenous cultures on bringing up our children, and from Japanese pilgrims on the art of travel. Whether it is the different uses of the senses or nature across time, or changing attitudes to belief and creativity, How Should We Live? is full of ideas and stories from the past. A wonderful work of “practical history,” it sheds invaluable light on the decisions we make every day and shows what history can teach us about the art of living.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
The question of how we should live has been a perennial challenge for thinkers across millennia. British “lifestyle philosopher” Krznaric (How to Find Fulfilling Work) argues that the secret to understanding our lives today is to look at examples from history. His work spans from Ancient Greece (with thoughts on love by Aristotle) to the Industrial Revolution (Henry Ford and mass production) to the consumerism of the present day and the creation of companies like Coca-Cola in order to showcase the thoughts of great men and women as well as the collective insights of distinct cultures. Rich with examples, the book is divided into four sections, each one covering a different big topic: “Nurturing Relationships,” “Making a Living,” “Discovering the World,” and “Breaking Conventions.” The text jumps around in both time and location throughout the sub-headings, however, and the result is a lack of depth while addressing each of the individual subjects. Krznaric has simply tried to cover too much, which is a pity, as his observations lead to what could have been more interesting and engaging discussions of each topic. The book as it stands is more suitable for a general-interest reader or those looking for a basic introduction to self-help or philosophy. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“A fascinating rattlebag of intelligent, stimulating essays on everything from work to love, time to empathy . . . densely researched but readable, wise, and witty. By taking the long view to debunk some myths of modern life . . . Krznaric frees us from passing trends to answer the fundamental question: how should we live now?”  —Financial Times

“This modern guide to living a good life by nurturing relationships, giving more to others, and resisting the self-imposed tyrannies of work, time, ambition, and achievement, is entertaining and instructive.”  —Times

“An intriguing upmarket self-help guide. . . . The virtue of this book is that it takes a number of ideas that we might regard as givens of the natural order of things . . . and makes clear how historically contingent they are.”  —Guardian

“Human history provides examples of almost every possible lifestyle or philosophical position; Krznaric selects some of the most telling. . . . Our responsibility, he argues, is not just to take inspiration from the past; we also need to recognize where we have inherited damaging or limiting attitudes.”  —Independent

Library Journal
01/01/2014
Cultural thinker Krznaric (founding faculty, Sch. of Life, London) uses the thoughts of past philosophers, artists, and authors to answer the age-old question: "How should we live?" For him, this inquiry reaches every facet of our lives, including jobs, relationships, and beliefs. Krznaric's reasoning for looking back through history and to writers such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leo Tolstoy, and Helen Keller is to "open us to new ways of exploring both the world and ourselves." While there are present-day norms regarding how we should live, the past shows that there are many more possibilities when determining the purpose of a life and what we should believe. In examining the things that came before, we might find ways to add meaning to our lives that go beyond the technology fads and commercialism that clog our daily lives. VERDICT Krznaric's goal of considering how to live isn't a novel idea, but he does a wonderful job of explaining the connection between philosophers of the past and our modern world. General readers will find this accessible yet engaging book an interesting read.—Scott Duimstra, Capital Area Dist. Lib., Lansing, MI
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-18
The title of this potent lifestyle guide poses a valid question--and, after more than three millennia, still a good one. In a dozen cogent discourses, writer, social scientist, "cultural thinker" and London's The School of Life founder Krznaric (How to Find Fulfilling Work, 2012, etc.) delivers the back story to the art of living. Drawing on history to demonstrate how we once lived and selecting some of the accumulated wisdom of the ages, the author presents a sophisticated pep talk for the achievement of truly better living. The school of Socrates and the story of the founding of French department store Le Bon Marché are marshaled to the cause, as are the works of totemic teachers like the ancient Romans, John Stuart Mill, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Schweitzer, Adam Smith, Helen Keller and Kaspar Hauser, as well as lesser-known instructors. Krznaric considers human concerns like the varieties of love (currently a "cultural calamity") and the importance of eccentricity and slowing down (time is not actually money). We have more than five senses, and not everything meets the eye. Krznaric also offers travel as a pilgrim, tourist, nomad or explorer as a path to a more rewarding life, or maybe a higher regard for nature could be the way. In addition, widely held beliefs should be reconsidered. (The author, for example, is dubious about the antiquity of the House of Windsor's royal traditions.) Finally, the author calls upon readers to consider appropriate methods of dealing with death. Founded on thoughtful, accessible history, Krznaric's message on approaches to a well-lived life is several notches above commonplace self-helpers. He offers a compendium of interesting miscellany; if it fails to improve the way we live, we will, at least, have learned a good bit. Based on human experience, helpful hints on transforming the way we live.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933346847
Publisher:
BlueBridge
Publication date:
12/01/2013
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
383,031
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.40(d)

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