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How We Are

Book One of the How to Live Trilogy

Vincent Deary

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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ISBN10: 0374535965
ISBN13: 9780374535964

Trade Paperback

272 Pages


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We live in small worlds.

How We Are is an astonishing debut and the first part of the monumental How to Live trilogy, a profound and ambitious work that gets to the heart of what it means to be human: how we are, how we break, and how we mend.

In Book One, How We Are, we explore the power of habit and the difficulty of change. As Vincent Deary shows us, we live most of our lives automatically, in small worlds of comfortable routine--what he calls Act One. Conscious change requires deliberate effort, so for the most part we avoid it. But inevitably, from within or without, something comes along to disturb our small worlds—some News from Elsewhere. And, with reluctance, we begin the work of adjustment: Act Two.

Over decades of psychotherapeutic work, Deary has witnessed the theater of change—how ordinary people get stuck, struggle with new circumstances, and finally transform for the better. He is keenly aware that novelists, poets, philosophers, and theologians have grappled with these experiences for far longer than psychologists. Drawing on his own personal experience and a staggering range of literary, philosophical, and cultural sources, Deary has produced a mesmerizing and universal portrait of the human condition.

Part psychologist, part philosopher, part novelist, Deary helps us to see how we can resist being habit machines and make our acts and our lives more fully our own.


Praise for How We Are

"A series of imaginatively written digressions, detours and tableaux that draw on an impressive range of references—from Maimonides and the desert fathers, to Proust and Primo Levi, to Mad Men and Friends."Financial Times

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Beaten Path

A kind of overture, in which themes from the whole book are touched on. In particular, we focus on the process of making ways of life through acts of repetition. This process is considered...