Pursuing the art of living

 The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, by Roman Krznaric, Profile, RRP£14.99, 368 pages

“He who cannot draw on 3,000 years is living from hand to mouth,” wrote the German writer Johann Goethe. It is this concept of “applied history” on which Roman Krznaric draws in The Wonderbox.

Taking as his model the traditional Renaissance curiosity cabinets stuffed with interesting objects – what the Germans call a Wunderkammer – Krznaric tackles “the great quandary of our age”: “how to pursue the art of living”. The result is a fascinating rattlebag of intelligent, stimulating essays on everything from work to love, time to empathy.

Krznaric is a faculty member at Alain de Botton’s School of Life and The Wonderbox is very much in the mould of the latter’s bestsellers: densely researched but readable, wise and witty. By taking the long view to debunk some myths of modern life (house husbands are not such a new invention; family meals were never golden times of civilised conversation), Krznaric frees us from passing trends to answer the fundamental question: how should we live now?

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