Books About Proust's Novel

  • Alexander, Patrick. Marcel Proust's Search for Lost Time: A Reader's Guide to The Remembrance of Things Past. New York: Vintage, 2009.
    • It's true, Proust's novel can be a daunting read. This guide is all a reader needs to get a solid handle on "what happens in Proust," "who's who" in the novel, and to understand the relevant socio-historical and biographical contexts.
  • Bowie, Malcolm. Proust Among the Stars. New York: Columbia UP, 1998.
    • Who ever thought thematic criticism could ever be so intellectually satisfying, delightful, insightful, and so damn well-written.  Bowie writes with poise and passion. One of the best of recent Proust studies for any reader.
  • de Botton, Alain. How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel. New York: Pantheon, 1997.
    • Part literary biography, part self-help manual, this book draws maxims for living from Proust's fiction, essays, and correspondence. Chapters include "How to Suffer Successfully," "How to Be Happy in Love," and "How to Put Books Down." While this might initially sound reductive--a novelty act riding the recent wave of interest in Proust--de Botton is finely attuned to the subtlety of Proust's thought. This is a sophisticated and intimate little volume that can well serve as an introduction to Proust, and my hope is that it does, in fact, lead readers to experience Proust's novel directly. My favorite passage is: "It should not be Illiers-Combray that we visit: a genuine homage to Proust would be to look at our world though his eyes, not to look at his world through our eyes" (196).

  • Karpeles, Eric. Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time. London: Thames & Hudson, 2008.
    • I like to think that this project was inspired by the The Novel & the Visual Arts pages of this site. What a beautiful book! The dust jacket says it as good as I could: "Karpele's lavishly illustrated guide offers a feast for the eyes as it celebrates the close relationship between the visual and literary arts in Proust's masterpiece. Karpeles has identified and located all of the paintings to which Proust makes exact reference. Where only a painter's name is mentioned to indicate a certain mood or appearance, he has chosen a representative work to illustrate the impression that Proust sought to evoke." This is a volume any serious reader of Proust's novel would be happy to have at hand; the visual dimension of the work can now be appreciated in full.

  • Shattuck, Roger. Proust's Way: A Field Guild to In Search of Lost Time. New York: Norton, 2000.
    • Shattuck's guide is at times brilliant, at others, pedantic.  The opening chapters about Proust's life and ways to approach the novel are surprisingly the best--an excellent resource for beginning Proust readers, and I recommended them.  The middle chapters reprint Shattuck's work from over thirty years ago, and are not that interesting.  Chapter VIII, "Continuing Disputes," contains some useful information for scholars about the current state of Proust studies.
      Online review at:
      The New York Times on the Web.
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Page last updated: June 6, 2009