How to Be: Lessons from the Early Greeks by Adam Nicolson review – ancient wisdom for today’s world

A self-help book of sorts, this distillation of pre-Socratic philosophy succeeds in being both populist and profound.

There was a wonderful, revelatory moment in Adam Nicolson’s last book, Life Between the Tides, where he suddenly telescoped out from the Scottish rock pool he was describing in order to meditate on the work of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, demonstrating how much we can still learn about our present-day world by turning to the great minds of the past. This dazzling passage of writing argued that engagement with the environment is always a philosophical act, and that the close looking of the naturalist is more similar than we might think to the work of the philosopher. As with his 2019 book about a year in the lives of the Romantic poets, The Making of Poetry, this chapter about Heraclitus showed Nicolson at his illuminating, energetic best – scholarly without being schoolbookish, aware of the role that brilliant minds, well harnessed, can play in enlarging and enriching our appreciation of life.

Read more from Alex Preston in The Guardian here.