Sarah Bakewell borrows Montaigne’s own personable, anecdotal approach for her sparkling treatise on the master essayist’s life and work. HOW TO LIVE (Other Press, $25) is the matter under investigation and Bakewell, author of two previous biographies and former curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library, examines it from 20 different perspectives (or 21, given the nearly 60 illustrations), each one integral to Montaigne’s thought and experience. Starting with how to survive the death of a loved one, Montaigne determined that “death is only a few bad moments at the end of life,” and set about the greater challenge of living.  Combining elements from the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics, Montaigne developed a free-ranging philosophy based not on abstractions and ideals but on daily life and fallible humanity. Always curious, open to any and all perspectives, affable, and eager for conversation, Montaigne in his essays conveys to the reader “the feeling of meeting a real person across the centuries”; Bakewell, in this vivid profile, does the same.

How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590514252
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Other Press (NY) - October 19th, 2010

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590514832
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Other Press - September 20th, 2011

One of the most down-to-earth poets writing today (even her poem “Metaphysics” comes with “a side of fries”), the 1996 Nobel winner, Wislawa Szymborska has a warm affection for everything HERE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22). Now nearly 90, Szymborska, writes frequently about time: the time left is short, but the times stored in memory are rich. Memory, like other abstractions, becomes immediate and concrete in this poet’s hands. Confronting her long-gone teenage self, a girl she finds “strange to me, and distant,” Szymborska recognizes that both wear the scarf “crocheted for her/by our mother.” In other poems she imagines Ella Fitzgerald in heaven; interviews Atropos, the cutter of life’s thread; charts the disintegration of a Greek sculpture; and offers a post-Apocalyptic scenario in which the weather inherits the Earth. These multi-faceted views of the afterlife complement her celebration of the stuff of everyday life where there’s always the possibility of finding “fortune in misfortune.” Szymborska’s long-time translators, Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, have turned the original Polish (printed here) into superbly natural English poems.

Here Cover Image
By Wislawa Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh (Translated by), Stanislaw Baranczak (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780547592091
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Mariner Books - August 7th, 2012

Seamus Heaney’s poetry is loved for many reasons. “Like a nest/of cross hatched grass blades,” it offers the textures of nature, down to the soil and roots; it explores history, with special attention to the past as encapsulated in words’ etymologies; it endows the everyday with touches of myth and magic; and it coaxes some amazing rhythms and sounds from English. HUMAN CHAIN (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24), the Nobel laureate’s twelfth collection, features all this and more. Opening and closing with a wind blowing, the book recognizes that time passes and things change, but at its core, this work honors what lasts. Solid objects—farm machines, books, pens—abound here, and “everywhere plants/flourish among graves.” The volume’s many elegies stand less as testimonials to loss than as vivid portraits of vital individuals, each forming a link in the “human chain” of sustaining friendships that’s as solid and beautiful a handicraft as any of the material artifacts.

Human Chain: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374533007
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - August 30th, 2011