How Proust Can Change Your Life: Favourite Quotes


Usually, it’s the books that I really really love that get these ‘Favourite Quotes’ posts dedicated to them, but this book is packed full of life-lessons, and I have extracted these lessons through quotes that spoke to me. Often, these would come at the end of a chapter, just in case none of what you just read got through to you. de Botton writes, ‘the moral?’ and then proceed to reveal it.

I underlined quite a few passages, but what I’ve avoided is quoting Proust. de Botton quotes him often enough, so here all my quotes are from the author himself. If you don’t know what this book is, or what it’s about then read my full review first.

Enjoy, and feel free to return anytime you want to remind yourself of how Proust can change your life…

“…the experiences of fictional characters afford us a hugely expanded picture of human behaviour, and thereby a confirmation of the essential normality of thoughts or feelings unmentioned in our immediate environment.”

Page 27

“…everything is potentially a fertile subject for art and that we can make discoveries as valuable in an advertisment for soup as in Pascal’s Pensées.”

Page 43

“…read the newspaper as though it were only the tip of a tragic or comic novel.”

Page 51

“Perhaps the greatest claim one can therefore make for suffering is that it opens up possibilities for intelligent, imaginative enquiry – possibilities which may quite easily be, and most often are, overlooked or refused.”

Page 78

“Though we sometimes suspect that people are hiding things from us, it is not until we are in love that we feel an urgency to push our enquiries, and in seeking answers we are apt to discover the extent to which people disguise and conceal their real lives.”

Page 90

“The problem with clichés is not that they contain false ideas, but rather that they are superficial articulations of very good ones.”

Page 97

“Clichés are detrimental in so far as they inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while merely grazing its surface.”

Page 97

“…friends afford us a chance to express our deepest selves, and that the conversations we have with them are a privileged forum in which to say what we really think, and, by extension and with no mystical allusion, who we really are.”

Page 119

“Friendship (…) provides us with a chance to communicate our most intimate, honest thoughts on people, and for once, reveal exactly what is on our minds.”

Page 128

“There seems a gap between what others need to hear from us in order to trust that we like them, and the extent of the negative thoughts we know we can feel towards them and still like them.”

Page 138

“…we shouldn’t deny the bread on the sideboard a place in our conception of beauty.”

Page 171

“Presence may in fact be the very element that encourages us to ignore or neglect it, because we feel we have done all the work simply in securing visual contact.”

Page 179

“We seek to hold and savour not just a mouth but an entire beloved person. With the kiss we hope to achieve a higher form of possession; the longing a beloved inspires in us promises to come to an end once our lips are allowed to roam freely over theirs.”

Page 184

“…what all books might do for their readers, namely bring back to life, from the deadness caused by habit and inattention, valuable yet neglected aspects of inexperience.”

Page 193

“We should read other people’s books in order to learn what we feel, it is our own thoughts we should be developing even if it is another writer’s thoughts which help us do so.”

Page 195

“…a good book might also stop us from thinking ourselves, because it would strike us as so perfect, as so inherently superior to anything our own minds could come up with.”

Page 202

“…one person’s achievements did not have to invalidate another’s.”

Page 205

If any of these quotes resonated with you, then I recommend reading the book. These only scratch the surface of ideas the book explores. I guarantee it’ll get you thinking.

Read my other posts in the ‘Favourite Quotes’ series:

A Little Life: Favourite Quotes
How to Stop Time: Favourite Quotes



  1. I loved this book. Sometimes I feel like Alain de Botton throws empty verbage at his readers in the guise of philosophy and cultural criticism, but in this book his language and thought were both so fresh and exciting. Not only did he make me love Proust, he made me want to love the word in the same way that Proust did. Some wonderful quotes here too!


    • I’ve not read enough of Alain de Botton’s books to be able to comment as you’ve done on his writing – but I thought this book was a true achievement! And yes, Proust was a good subject for exploring the world and life. Thanks for your comment!


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