It is rare that an author write an entire novel about himself the way that Michel de Montaigne wrote "The Essays: A Selection." This is quite different from other typical autobiographies. In this book, Montaigne exposes readers to elements of his life ranging from personal thoughts to bodily functions. Montaigne's purpose in writing these essays is not to tell the reader about himself, but rather to instill awareness in the reader. He opens the novel by telling the reader, "I myself am the subject of my book"(Montaigne, 3), exposing part of his life like he exposes part of his philosophy. The purpose of revealing every aspect of his personal life is to set an example for others. Montaigne writes that he believes that one must find a still center with in one's self, or in other words, self-awareness will only result in personal betterment. This is the "defining feature of Montaigne's philosophy.".
To attain this ultimate goal of self-discovery, Montaigne provides many recommendations and also many examples. One of his first proposals is for one to be content with the self via solitude. Montaigne states, "The greatest thing in the world is to know how to live yourself," (Montaigne, 102). This belief comes from Montaigne's essay on solitude. In this passage he gives examples of how life can become overwhelming at times. By pulling examples from his own life, Montaigne shows the reader that he too is an average man who often deals with daily stresses. When I was reading this section the following question arose in my mind: Why should one worry about the problems of others when our own affairs have caused us worthy enough? To escape tension of such a situation, Montaigne advocates that one create an internal balance. To become truly content deep in one's self one must avoid extremes. "We must retain just enough occupation and pursuits to keep ourselves fit and to protect ourselves fro the unpleasantness which comes in the train of that other extremes: slack and inert idleness," (Montaigne, 106).