What’s It About: A comprehensive biography of the founder of modern essay and the most chill philosopher ever, Michel de Montaigne, loosely disguised as a self-help book.
Why: I first encountered Montaigne in a French class in high school and I immediately fell in love with his friendly, meandering style, as well as his philosophical ideas. This read has been a long time coming.
Thoughts: I love love loved this book. I’m generally not one for nonfiction, much less biographies, but this book felt like a wonderful companion and friend, much like Montaigne himself. The “self-help” disguise is quite misleading. There’s no doctrine or maxims in here (Montaigne would never have wanted that for his readers in the first place). Rather, each chapter discusses an approach to living found in Montaigne’s works, and shows how, perhaps, Montaigne arrived to his conclusions using biographical evidence.
For those who are unfamiliar with Montaigne, this is a great introduction. To those already acquainted with Montaigne, this is an amazing supplement. I’ve come to learn so much about his philosophy and style. I particularly love Montaigne’s upholding of experience and variability over logic and consistency. It’s a far cry from many of his contemporaries and what we’ve come to understand as a philosophical argument. His essays are personal, funny, sincere, and genuine. He does not privilege his experiences over others, rather he advocates for a far vaster, comprehensive, and humble view of subjective experience– which is just that– subjective.
Go Forth and Read.