Michel de Montaigne examines life using himself as the subject. The essays offer a revealing, fun, direct, and levelheaded view.

Summary

“We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere.”

Michel de Montaigne
The book cover of The Essays of Michel de Montaigne
Book cover of The Essays: A Selection by Michel de Montaigne

This selection of essays takes us on a philosophical journey with the occasional sides step to subjects like cannibals and coaches (the carriages). Even here, Michel de Montaigne reveals a side of the world to us that not many look at. 

He is very frank and open and that is what gives this intimate voyage its profound meaning. Since he is studying himself and exposing his own revelations to us, there is no one to deny that he is not the expert and authority on this matter. 

In his life, he has had many encounters with death, from most of his children at an early age, to his best friend and his father. This last one resulted in him retreating to his chateau and picking up the pen. His famous essay relating to this topic is called: To Philosophize is to learn how to die

Throughout his writing, he shows us that philosophy is not only for the scholars but should be for the common man. He even advises us against reading Plato and gives us some tips on reading and why we should read.

Although it was written in the sixteenth century, a lot of it resonates in our current age. He displays views that are far ahead of his time. His view on the female role in society, for example, although not to where it is now, still quite different from his contemporaries. He also takes a different take on how the explorers described the people they met on their voyages to the Americas.

Portait of Michel de Montaigne
https://snl.no/Michel_de_Montaigne

Review

“For those who want to learn, the obstacle can often be the authority of those who teach.”

Michel de montaigne

This book is as close to a view into someone else’s mind as you can get. There is no topic he shies away from. You can read not only his opinions, but also his struggles with things like the medicine of his age, sexuality, and the different aspects of family and friends. 

It is one of my favorite philosophical books to read, mainly because it is well-written and easy to follow. Of course, there are some essays that I don’t find as appealing, but the others make more than up for that. 

It was through this book that I learned that even I could learn about philosophy and apply it to my life. That’s what Michel de Montaigne emphasized, that it needs to be appliable and practical for everyone.

Recommendation

The Essays by Michel de Montaigne is one of those books that I would highly recommend people to read. Ok, it might not be the top tier of books, but still up there. The reason being is that there are some parts that are not as suitable for everyone’s liking.

“I would rather be an expert on me than on Cicero.”

Michel de montaigne

That being said, it is such a lovely read and it is striking how much of it holds true even now. Michel de Montaigne gives you his mind and life, for you to learn how to make yours better. That alone deserves a recommendation. 

The Tower of Michel de Montaigne
Henry SALOMÉ, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final thoughts

Rating

Although it is one of my favorite books, I will only give it four out of five. That is because there are some essays that are less interesting and some of them go on a bit too long. But it is still a fascinating read and one that should be in the philosophy section on your bookshelf. 

Because how can you go wrong with sentences like these:

“And on the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.”

Michel de montaigne

Learn more about Michel de Montaigne here. Or do you want some inspiration for books to read? Check out my books list.

Michel de Montaigne – The Essays: A Selection
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8 thoughts on “Michel de Montaigne – The Essays: A Selection

  • 10 July 2022 at 16:43
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    We have read Michel de Montaigne before, but we had never considered his writings the way you did. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • 10 July 2022 at 20:53
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      Thank you for your comment. It’s great to see that might post added something to the book.

      Reply
  • 10 July 2022 at 22:39
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    I’d never heard of Michel de Montaigne or heard of the essays he wrote about his life before. It certainly sounds like a more interesting approach than a diary or a biography.

    I’ve read some of Plato’s work, because he’s always mentioned when the topic of classical history, philosophy, culture, and civilisation are brought up. But I’d be interested to find out why Michel de Montaigne recommends that we don’t read such classical philosophy.

    Thanks for reviewing this book, it’s sparked my curiosity

    Reply
    • 14 July 2022 at 12:03
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      Thank you for your comment. What I like about Michel de Montaigne is that he is a different kind of philosopher. He reads more down-to-earth and tells it the way he sees things Even if it goes against contemporary views. In that way, he resembles Epictetus to a certain extent. His views on Plato’s writings are also interesting.

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    • 14 July 2022 at 12:06
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      You’re most welcome. I’m happy that it sparked your interest. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.

      Reply
  • 14 July 2022 at 14:50
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    This loos like an interesting book and man. I can relate to his remark on authority. I’m sure I will give it a go sometime to get more acquainted with his ideas. Thanks for sharing this thoughtful review!

    Reply
    • 14 July 2022 at 16:19
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      Thank you for your comment, Vanessa. It’s an easier read than some but still thought-provoking. Enjoy the read.

      Reply

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