What We Are Reading Today: Montaigne: A Life by Philippe Desan

Updated 11 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Montaigne: A Life by Philippe Desan

  • Montaigne always considered himself a political figure

One of the most important writers and thinkers of the Renaissance, Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) helped invent a literary genre that seemed more modern than anything that had come before. But did he do it, as he suggests in his Essays, by retreating to his chateau, turning his back on the world, and stoically detaching himself from his violent times? 

In this definitive biography, Philippe Desan, one of the world’s leading authorities on Montaigne, overturns this longstanding myth by showing that Montaigne was constantly concerned with realizing his political ambitions — and that the literary and philosophical character of the Essays largely depends on them, according to a review on the Princeton University Press website. The most comprehensive and authoritative biography of Montaigne yet written, this sweeping narrative offers a fascinating new picture of his life and work. As Desan shows, Montaigne always considered himself a political figure and he conceived of each edition of the Essays as an indispensable prerequisite to the next stage of his public career. 


What We Are Reading Today: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Updated 20 June 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

  • Noah’s memoir “is extraordinary . . . essential reading on every level

Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. 

“It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother — his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life,” said a review in goodreads.com. 

The 18 personal essays are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting, it added. 

Noah’s memoir “is extraordinary . . . essential reading on every level. It’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a finer job of it,” said a review in The Seattle Times.

Critic Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times said Born a Crime “is not just an unnerving account of growing up in South Africa under apartheid, but a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”

Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host and actor.  He is known for hosting The Daily Show, an American satirical news program.