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The Complete Works

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  854 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Describing his collection of Essays as ‘a book consubstantial with its author’, Montaigne identified both the power and the charm of a work which introduces us to one of the most attractive figures in European literature. A humanist, a sceptic, an acute observer of himself and others, he reflects the great themes of existence through the prism of his own self-consciousness ...more
Hardcover, 1336 pages
Published April 2003 by Everyman's Library (first published 1592)
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4.44  · 
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 ·  854 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, aere-perennius
For me the greatest approbation for a book I've just read is a simple declaration that this is a book I'll read again, and perhaps one that I'll read regularly. This is a desert island work for sure. It (for me) fits into the same mental shelf space as Aurelius Marcus' Meditations or Herodotus' The Histories or Adams' The Education of Henry Adams. Some pieces of nonfiction should probably be considered a type of humanist sacred-text. One more book I've got to grab if the house is on fire. One mo ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody with pretensions to being educated.
If you haven't read (at least some of ) this, I'm afraid you are a bit of an ignoramus. Montaigne invented the word and the form we know as an 'essay' and his philosophical writings are about everything: kidney stones, religion, reality, melons, knowledge, death, shapely calves. He will shock those of you who are obsessed with the modern world with the piquancy of his observations. Read it!
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Montaigne is timeless. His essays are the very definition of timeless classics. Though he was more well known as a statesman than an author, his essays laced with personal anecdotes, quotes from Greek classics and offered an every man's perspective to those subjects that have been classically complicated. His subject of interests vary from education of children to smelly people; from solitude to problems with popularity. He isn't being ironic when he calls out noteworthy philosophers. Instead he ...more
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Highly referential, but thrillingly timeless. Meandering thoughts on human nature at large. Where you might begin to fear his digressions will leave you lost, there is suddenly stunning insight, and refreshing, even evocative summation. Perhaps it is an attempt to enumerate some grand philosophy on human behavior, yet it weaves historical and personal anecdotes of tragedy and comedy, providing a kind of in depth exploration of the human psyche, but for the layman. Funny, sincere, and palatable f ...more
Joe Hunt
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those people

we should be ashamed, if we haven't read _at least the tiniest bit of_ him.

The Father of the Essay, right?

I teach college composition, and always make it a point to have the children read:

a. On Laziness.

b. Of a Monstrous Child

(p.s. I guess the keeper of that website, quotidiana, is slightly famous--

teaches at BYU.)

Anyhow...I first picked up the book in LA, circa 2001.

I was working at Goodwi
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is permanently next to my bed. I consider Montaigne as my most important mentor and soulmate. So much to learn from this philosopher with a love and empathy for all life, an understanding in the psyche of politics and business and a sense of humour that puts everything in perspective and makens him even more sympathetic. Wonderful man. No wonder Shakespeare admired him...
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This volume contains not only Montaigne’s essays, the only writings that he intended for publication, but also his travel writings and letters, these last being of lesser importance than the essays themselves and taking up but a small portion of the entire volume. The essays are of most interest, and I shall devote my brief remarks to them alone.

Montaigne lived during the last half of the sixteen century in Bordeaux and the Dordogne valley of southwestern France. A landowner and sometime governm
I'd read many of the essays before, and found them to be remarkably iconoclastic and forward-thinking. Here was a guy, alone in his tower in the Périgord, who faced modern life straight on, and suggested that we shouldn't impose our own value system on other societies, that too many schools reward pedantry at the cost of independent thought, and that the highest value should be placed on skepticism, reflection, honesty, and empathy, while his neighbors were busy slaughtering each other for payin ...more
Richard Freeman
Dec 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Montaigne is the model of that ingredient built into all of us that could be called honesty and integrity. He has few fixed dogmas or preoccupations (although he does believe in the value of prayer and the presence of a diety). His view of humankind is a picture of an inconsistent and delightful species and is as interesting and compelling drunk or sober (see his essay "On Drunkeness"). All that one should read and learnn is in these pages and if it isn't then follow Montaigne's advice and read ...more
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
always a pleasure to dip into this one.
the man is a treasure trove of insight, incident and literary/historical anecdote.
love love
this book... but i'm in no rush to 'finish' it.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Good Reading: 100 Significant Books
Montaigne is known as the father of the essay for good reason--he coined the very word for them. An essai is french for attempt--which gives you a sense of Montaigne's style and intent. They're very conversational, as if he's thinking out loud. A little rambling, yes, in the way the conversation with a friend can be, jumping from subject to subject. Some reviewers complained he's vain--well, he is a bit of a know-it-all, including a great deal of quotes from classical sources: Homer, Aesop, Euri ...more
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
A series of contemplations on various aspects of life. It is dated (duh!) by a low regard for women and applying the technology of the day to philosphical problems. The essays are strongest in their discussions of the merits of ancient Roman and Greek writers -- Seneca, Plutarch, Livy, Caesar, Socrates, Tacitus. He recommends Tacitus, Seneca and Caesar.

The reason Montaigne is still read today is due to his witticisms and observations about life. "... nothing annoys me so much in the stupid as t
I don’t believe I will ever get tired of returning to these essays. Oh how I adore Monsieur de Montaigne and his peccadilloes!

Although I agree with those who consider Donald Frame’s translation of Montaigne to be the superior one, I nonetheless found it helpful to supplement my reading with M.A. Screech’s edition in tandem. The two together provided better clarity on some of the obscurer passages, and Screech’s footnotes and explanations—especially his exegesis of ‘An Apology for Raymond Sebond’
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can't really describe how much I enjoyed reading this book. Montaigne reads like a mentor giving you advice and insight on everything from sex, marriage, and aesthetics (great focus on the face and calves) to death, war, and kidney stones.

Though some of the essays weren't super interesting there were always nuggets of wisdom hidden throughout. This might be the best book I've read in more than a year.
Hadrian J.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One never reads this book as much as pick it up from time to time to reflect on any of the amazing essays. I started highlighting any interest abstract but ended up with a book full of notes! Ever a faithful companion.
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
These essays are entertaining as well as interesting and profound. I recommend just starting with one, and if you don't like that one, jump to another. Here is a man who said, "All man's difficulties stem from an inability to be alone."
Thomas Moore
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I can't say enough good about this man. He is just about the wisest and most humble guy I've had the pleasure to meet. He ranks with Shakespeare and Cervantes as one of the Gods. A book to read anytime, anywhere, just pick a subject and see what he has to say. It can make you a better person.
"I may contradict myself, but truth I never contradict." Montaigne's attempts (essais) show us how to navigate a world of multiplicity, difference, and becoming. A beautiful, mellow read.
Gert de Cooman
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've read these works a number of times, both in Dutch and in French. They have taught me humility, and that there is a lot to love about life. Being able to read these, for one thing.
Nov 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
worth it just for the titles of the essays. i expect i'll be reading this book for the next decade or so.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Frame translations. Simply the best -- one of the great 20th century translations from French into English.
Chris Via
How could I not love Montaigne? He lived the life I wish I could live: locked away in a far turret within the fortified walls of his family's château, Montaigne spent his later years basically cloistered in his library, reading and writing, and eventually spawning the form known as the essay. One looks at pictures of the famous tower and dreams.

Having only known Latin until the age of 6, Montaigne's influences are to be expected, especially in light of the historical era of the Renaissance: Virg
Steven Pautz
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gift, physical, favorites
This massive tome of essays is one of the most interesting things I've ever read -- and probably the longest as well. It's interesting, varied, and fascinating, and although it has its awkward parts I'd rank it as literally life-changing.

The majority of this work is Montaigne's actual Essays: he published three books filled with writings on various topics and thoughts -- from philosophy to history to random musings to 16th century events -- in a new-at-the-time style: somewhere between stream-of
Eric Norris
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first read Montaigne's selected essays in my early 20s, in Boston, in a used bookstore Penguin edition, translated by J.M. Cohen. I’d like to give Montaigne the Milky Way--instead of a measly five stars--considering how profoundly he changed my life. In a peculiar way, he taught me how to be myself simply by being so much himself, kidney stones and all. He taught me how to look at myself inwardly. And outwardly. In a word, how to live.

I just wish I could remember how I picked up Montaigne orig
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Montaigne, in his Essays, tends more towards engaging than profound, but his early skeptical humanism and revealing self portrait is a very worthy read. His classical scholarship is quite impressive, although his veneration of the Romans and Greeks does occasionally get out of hand. In many ways, his ideas are of his time as well as ahead of it, but that makes him all the more human and interesting.

The major takeaway from his travel journal that I got was that I am very glad that kidney stones a
Andrew Davis
A truly desert island book, considered by some to be the last one to be read in one’s life, made me think I still have a few more books to read before returning to it.
Quotes from Montaigne:
• This book is not an elementary manual for apprentices: it is the masters’ Koran, the quintessence of philosophy: a work not for tasting but for digesting and chilifying, the last book one should take up and the last one should put down.
• A soul anxious about the future is most vulnerable (Seneca)
• A man led
Dallin Bruun
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Highly quotable guy, but I'm slightly disappointed. I was excited to get this for Christmas. I read his two most celebrated essays, and I thought, "Gee, this guy really loves the classics. So do I."

I say that knowing I'm the stupid one, the same way you think people are stupid who criticize Shakespeare. It's like a thousand pages, so I think I'll never read the entire thing, but I'm sure one lazy Sunday I'll read one of his essays and everything will suddenly click.

Let's just mark this review as
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'm slowly working my way through Montaigne's complete works. A reference in another book inspired me to go back to this author, whom I hadn't read since college. His essays are alternating fascinating (when it's a topic that still has resonance today) and tedious (when it's something that we no longer think much about). For its time (the 1500s), the work is extraordinary, because it's personal, 'modern' in tone, and relatively broad-minded. The piece on spending seemed timely, given our financi ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, so I haven't read this in its entirety, but I recently pulled if off the shelf after misplacing The Two-Income trap for well over a week (just found it today - thanks movers, who shoved it into a random box). I first read a number of essays from this book my sophomore year in college, in Professor Ray's fantastic Hum 210 class. Thumbing through it over the past week made me want to sit down and dedicate some time to the essays vs. skim them.
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed all 1,045 pages of the Complete Essays but I think they got better towards the end. I admire his amiable writing style and his profound tolerance. I wish it were easier to mark and find passages for return reading since the titles of chapters are not too helpful. The translation is clear and maintains a gentle flow throughout the essays.
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Michel Eyquem de Montaigne was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Montaigne is known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. He became famous for his effortless ability to merge serious intellectual speculation with casual anecdotes and autobiography—and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as "Attempts") contains, to this day, some of the most widely ...more
“Democritus and Heraclitus were two philosophers, of whom the first, finding the condition of man vain and ridiculous, never went out in public but with a mocking and laughing face; whereas Heraclitus, having pity and compassion on this same condition of ours, wore a face perpetually sad, and eyes filled with tears.

I prefer the first humor; not because it is pleasanter to laugh than to weep, but because it is more disdainful, and condemns us more than the other; and it seems to me that we can never be despised as much as we deserve. Pity and commiseration are mingled with some esteem for the thing we pity; the things we laugh at we consider worthless. I do not think there is as much unhappiness in us as vanity, nor as much malice as stupidity. We are not so full of evil as of inanity; we are not as wretched as we are worthless.

Thus Diogenes, who pottered about by himself, rolling his tub and turning up his nose at the great Alexander, considering us as flies or bags of wind, was really a sharper and more stinging judge, to my taste, than Timon, who was surnamed the hater of men. For what we hate we take seriously. Timon wished us ill, passionately desired our ruin, shunned association with us as dangerous, as with wicked men depraved by nature. Diogenes esteemed us so little that contact with us could neither disturb him nor affect him, and avoided our company, not through fear of association with us, but through disdain of it; he considered us incapable of doing either good or evil....

Our own peculiar condition is that we are as fit to be laughed at as able to laugh.”
“The soul in which philosophy dwells should by its health make even the body healthy. It should make its tranquillity and gladness shine out from within; should form in its own mold the outward demeanor, and consequently arm it with a graceful pride, an active and joyous bearing, and a contented and good-natured countenance. The surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness.” 18 likes
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