When the end of the year comes near, people evaluate the past year. When you read this, it will already be 2009, but when I write this, we still have a few days left of 2008, so for me it is also the right time to look back. Usually, the end of a year is not the time that I take stock of the past. I think that there are better moments for it. But there is one exception: I always write down the books that I have read and at the end of the year I count how many that were during the past twelve months. On the average, it is for me one book in a week, so about 50 in a year. I know that there are many people who read more, but my “excuse” is that I have other things to do than breaking reading records and moreover that the books that I read are usually long or difficult in the sense that they need much concentration.
What books did I read? Mainly, and that is not surprising in the light of my fields of interest, history (the long books) and philosophy (the difficult books). In the category history, many books have something to do with the First World War. People who know my main website will not be surprised. In the category philosophy you find books about subjects like the free will, violence and nonviolence, Hannah Arendt, and books about Michel de Montaigne. People reading my blogs will not be surprised either.
As for Montaigne, his Essays are not on the list of the past year, for I read them already some time ago. But, it is true, I am rereading them at the moment. What you find in the list now are books about Montaigne and his essays. Actually these books are more about the essays than about the man who has written them, in sofar you can separate that, of course. For Montaigne and his Essays are not two separate things. Montaigne is his essays. He wrote about his life, about his thoughts and thinking, about his society.
Here, I have already written several times about Montaigne and his Essays. They impressed me, since I have written them for the first time. No wonder, the man was far ahead of his time and of many of his contempories. He was moderate and he was a mediator in an age full of conflicts and wars. He discusses all aspects of life. Written 400 years ago, the Essays are still modern and they make you think, not only about the past, his past, but about the present, our present. And that is what makes the essays of Montaigne so interesting and that is what makes that there have been written so many books about the essays: Reading Montaigne’s Essays is not only reading a book, it is thinking a book, it is thinking with Montaigne. His Essays are as a philosophical book needs to be.