When I got my first set of books from the library, the Complete Essays of Michel de Montaigne caught my eye, mainly because if it had any more pages, it’d be classified as a ball, not a book. This thing is huge. So I started reading a bit every night, thinking to just jump on the largest guy and get it knocked down, right?
What works with say, Robert Jordan, didn’t work with Montaigne. There is a difference between reading different genres. I call it building thought castles. Each book contains stone for the castle that they build, and as you read, the structure is constructed. The more you read, the firmer the castle, and the better it is furnished. The more complete your castle, the more sold, the longer you’re able to recall details. It’s reasons like this that I can chime in on random arguments, with plot elements that people forgot from various Harry Potter books, even though it has been years since that foundation was lain.
Philosophy is a horse of a different color. Don’t think of it like building a castle, think of it like the castle building code inspectors. When you read philosophy, and maybe some poetry, you read a bit, and the small section you read does an examination of all of your castles of thought. This is not a fast process. The best I was able to do was to read a few pages before I had to stop and process.
This is not a quick way to blitz through a book of 1400 pages.
Also, the things I was reading weren’t quite gelling. I think one of the cool things about this book is you could develop a great thought castle on the character and personality of Montaigne. His essays aren’t “This is fact” but rather, “This is my opinion.” So you can build a mental echo of a 1600s French nobleman. The French part, I think, is also a hindrance. I’m not exactly sure where Montaigne is being funny, where he’s being serious, and where things come from the translator. I think if I had a lot of time to study this book, there’s a lot of good things in here, but finding them is not a simple process.
I decided to shelve The Essays, even before the library wanted it back (but not too long before they called for it, which was interesting,) Its just too much to do for a project where my continued interest is going to be based on my progress. This is a book I think I’ll get again, someday. My own copy, that I won’t have a problem making notes and annotations in, that can sit by my bed and get a few pages of progress on the nights I’m feeling receptive, and see if I can build this castle of friendship with a dead French guy over an extended period of time.
I didn’t read enough to form an opinion, but, considering there has been two books from the list where reading a bit was enough to convince me to NOT read them, making Montaigne as LATER on my spreadsheet is a bit of a victory for the guy.