From The Telegraph:
In the third quarter of the 16th century, on the border of Bordeaux and Périgord, a provincial nobleman invented a literary form. Michel de Montaigne took refuge from a difficult mother and wife in the library tower of his family chateau, overlooking an estate which, then as now, was devoted chiefly to producing wine. In his Essays, first published to instant acclaim in 1580 and in print ever since, Montaigne asked a number of questions concerning life and how we live it. He also digressed on an impressive scale. Most of all, unabashed, he contradicted himself.
His contradictions supply the format for Sarah Bakewell’s account of Montaigne. Her book explores 20 different, occasionally contradictory, answers to the question of how to live, all inspired by Montaigne’s life and work, to arrive at an overview of the essayist. The answers are as diverse as “use little tricks” and “be ordinary and imperfect”. Bakewell also unravels aspects of Montaigne’s personal history and his flexible philosophy, alongside centuries of readers’ responses to that philosophy.