Reading Time: 2 minutes

(Post 4 of 33 in my 16-hour shift for the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon.)

9:30 am EDT

montaigneI can’t believe it’s been almost five years since I last mentioned my favorite blog: “The Essays of Montaigne.”

Don’t Google it. This blog was created in the 16th century when French nobleman Michel de Montaigne decided to write down his thoughts on whatever popped into his head. If that isn’t a blog, I don’t know what is.

Fortunately a lot of worthwhile things popped into that head, like the nature of greatness, human vanity, lies, laziness, thumbs, birth defects, the passing of gas (and the closely-related topic of smells), anger, cruelty, cannibals, laughter, solitude, drunkenness, and how it could be that children resemble their fathers. And death. He wrote a lot about death.

But these weren’t abstract essays. Montaigne’s goal was to describe human life with absolute honesty, and he ties each Essay into his own life and the lives of those around him in a way that makes the reader bolt upright in recognition again and again. There’s something so unique and incredible about hearing 400-year-old thoughts so close to my own. The most common reader reaction seems to be, “OMG, he’s talking about my life. It seems like it was written yesterday.”

If you haven’t read Montaigne, get a good translation — the Penguin edition is good — then pick an essay and go. If it doesn’t grab you in a page, pick a different one. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

Currently reading, and also hugely recommended:
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.