Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Get ready for a thoroughly Perry-esque journey through philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s worldview, focusing on everything from sex and faith to aesthetics and death. For those who can’t get enough Montaigne, this volume is a welcome unique addition to the canon, through the lens of a roughneck Phillip Lopate. And if you’re a Perry fan already, you’ll not only love the book (it’s still laugh-out-loud funny), but you’ll be driven to dip into the original Essays. The truth is that the coasts have been making assumptions about who Michael Perry is since his very first book, Population 485, and it is probably time for them to rethink that after reading Montaigne in Barn Boots. But don’t expect Perry to let it go to his head—he’ll probably throw you off by mentioning his chicken coop and deer rifle.

— Daniel Goldin

In his latest book, Wisconsin raconteur Michael Perry turns to philosophy. During a period of suffering with a kidney stone, he studied the essays of French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. With the exception of a class as a college freshman, my experience with philosophy is limited. I have read a great many books by Michael Perry. I enjoy his humorous storytelling style, and this offering is no exception. There is a little something for everyone as Perry and Montaigne cover such diverse subjects as marriage, sex, Twitter, and meditation.

— Sharon K Nagel

November 2017 Indie Next List

“Michel de Montaigne may have created the essay form, but Michael Perry has perfected it. Readers will enjoy Perry's astute meditations on life as he contemplates subjects as diverse as chickens, marriage, and kidney stones. Known for his trademark Midwestern wit and wisdom, Perry will have readers laughing out loud and then commenting on how profound he is. Well done!”
— Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN


The beloved memoirist and bestselling author of Population: 485 reflects on the lessons he’s learned from his unlikely alter ego, French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne.

"The journey began on a gurney," writes Michael Perry, describing the debilitating kidney stone that led him to discover the essays of Michel de Montaigne. Reading the philosopher in a manner he equates to chickens pecking at scraps—including those eye-blinking moments when the bird gobbles something too big to swallow—Perry attempts to learn what he can (good and bad) about himself as compared to a long-dead French nobleman who began speaking Latin at the age of two, went to college instead of kindergarten, worked for kings, and once had an audience with the Pope. Perry "matriculated as a barn-booted bumpkin who still marks a second-place finish in the sixth-grade spelling bee as an intellectual pinnacle . . . and once said hello to Merle Haggard on a golf cart."

Written in a spirit of exploration rather than declaration, Montaigne in Barn Boots is a down-to-earth (how do you pronounce that last name?) look into the ideas of a philosopher "ensconced in a castle tower overlooking his vineyard," channeled by a midwestern American writing "in a room above the garage overlooking a disused pig pen." Whether grabbing an electrified fence, fighting fires, failing to fix a truck, or feeding chickens, Perry draws on each experience to explore subjects as diverse as faith, race, sex, aromatherapy, and Prince. But he also champions academics and aesthetics, in a book that ultimately emerges as a sincere, unflinching look at the vital need to be a better person and citizen.

About the Author

Michael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Population: 485, as well as a novel, The Jesus Cow. He lives in northern Wisconsin with his family and can be found online at

Praise For…

“Of the recent books extolling and commending French essayist Michel de Montaigne, Michael Perry’s new one might be the Montaignest.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Readers will laugh out loud frequently while taking in this very funny memoir, as this reviewer did, yet it’s a profound laughter, the kind that gets you thinking…. One couldn’t hope for a better introduction to the work of Perry or Montaigne.”
Library Journal, starred review

“Perry’s poignant, balanced, achingly funny prose is more than an ode to or critique of Michel De Montaigne. Instead, Perry uses the original essays to better understand his own life and bring a bit more humanity to an increasingly divisive world.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Perry’s refreshing candor, the essence of the personal essay, serves him well…. ‘You read Montaigne, you feel like you have a friend,’ writes the author, and so readers are likely to feel about Perry.”
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062230560
ISBN-10: 0062230565
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017
Pages: 240
Language: English