Montaigne on books


“… I take pleasure from the fact that I can enjoy [books] when it pleases me to do so; my soul is satisfied merely with possession. I never travel without books, neither in peace nor in war.  Sometimes whole days go by, even months, without my looking at them. But it might be at any moment now, or tomorrow; or whenever the mood takes me. . . . Books are, I find, the best provisions a man can take with him on life’s journey.” — Michel de Montaigne



Exactly my sentiments!

Except ….

I have learned from experience not to take books with me on actual trips. (Note Montaigne’s reference to “life’s journey,” which is something entirely different.) Extra baggage. And, I am in such an excited state mentally when traveling that I never read them (during a trip).

I do return lugging hard to find books (e.g., Juan Ramón Jiménez in Spain), increasing by a large measure the weight of my baggage.


— Roger W. Smith

  August 2017

2 thoughts on “Montaigne on books

  1. Tom Riggio

    Good model in M. He didn’t seem to much of a reader, however, going months at a time without reading one. I guess writing one is more important than reading many.

  2. Roger W. Smith

    Thanks for the comment, Tom. I am reading a book on Montaigne by Stefan Zweig. Apparently, Montaigne’s education was unique for its time in that he was treated self indulgently and allowed to follow his own interests, rather than having schooling crammed own his own throat. He developed such inclinations and followed them throughout his life. What struck me most about the quote was what Montaigne says about the pleasurable feeling that comes with knowing one has books on hand should one feel like reading them. It appears from what I know about Montaigne that he actually read a lot and widely but that he never felt compelled to continue reading if he found that a book did not interest him.

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