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The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

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Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven't because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven't because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to home-school their children, and that book is now the premier resource for home-schoolers. In this new book, Bauer takes the same elements and techniques and adapts them to the use of adult readers who want both enjoyment and self-improvement from the time they spend reading. The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres—fiction, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry—accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The annotated lists at the end of each chapter—ranging from Cervantes to A. S. Byatt, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich—preview recommended reading and encourage readers to make vital connections between ancient traditions and contemporary writing. The Well-Educated Mind reassures those readers who worry that they read too slowly or with below-average comprehension. If you can understand a daily newspaper, there's no reason you can't read and enjoy Shakespeare's Sonnets or Jane Eyre. But no one should attempt to read the "Great Books" without a guide and a plan. Susan Wise Bauer will show you how to allocate time to your reading on a regular basis; how to master a difficult argument; how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read; how to appreciate the resonant links among texts within a genre—what does Anna Karenina owe to Madame Bovary?—and also between genres. Followed carefully, the advice in The Well-Educated Mind will restore and expand the pleasure of the written word.


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Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven't because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven't because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to home-school their children, and that book is now the premier resource for home-schoolers. In this new book, Bauer takes the same elements and techniques and adapts them to the use of adult readers who want both enjoyment and self-improvement from the time they spend reading. The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres—fiction, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry—accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The annotated lists at the end of each chapter—ranging from Cervantes to A. S. Byatt, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich—preview recommended reading and encourage readers to make vital connections between ancient traditions and contemporary writing. The Well-Educated Mind reassures those readers who worry that they read too slowly or with below-average comprehension. If you can understand a daily newspaper, there's no reason you can't read and enjoy Shakespeare's Sonnets or Jane Eyre. But no one should attempt to read the "Great Books" without a guide and a plan. Susan Wise Bauer will show you how to allocate time to your reading on a regular basis; how to master a difficult argument; how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read; how to appreciate the resonant links among texts within a genre—what does Anna Karenina owe to Madame Bovary?—and also between genres. Followed carefully, the advice in The Well-Educated Mind will restore and expand the pleasure of the written word.

30 review for The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Well, no great surprise, but I was not crazy about this book. I love to read books about books, and Bauer had a number of funny lines about graduate students which I appreciated. I love to read and improve myself. But still this book missed the mark by a long, long way, to me. The day I have to make myself progress through a "grammar stage, logic stage, rhetoric stage" to get meaning from a book is the day I hang up my glasses and take up knitting or something instead. Good grief. The endless Well, no great surprise, but I was not crazy about this book. I love to read books about books, and Bauer had a number of funny lines about graduate students which I appreciated. I love to read and improve myself. But still this book missed the mark by a long, long way, to me. The day I have to make myself progress through a "grammar stage, logic stage, rhetoric stage" to get meaning from a book is the day I hang up my glasses and take up knitting or something instead. Good grief. The endless "do this" assignments would have been funny if the author didn't sound so serious. And how could it possibly open up my mind to focus for YEARS on one topic--say, autobiography--reading nothing else? I'd want to cry. And the booklists--I am familiar with Wise Bauer's homeschooling books but even so, I'm completely befuddled by the book choices. Reading all of these lists, in order as recommended, would do violence to my spirit. Ecce Homo, followed by Mein Kampf? You've got to be kidding. I can form a perfectly good understanding of the area of autobiography without subjecting myself to the entirety of these. I'd need a Prozac lick on the wall to cope with these reading lists. I need nurturing for my mind, body, AND spirit. These books would work great if you wanted a Ph.D. in Despair. Nothing in this book convinced me that my own method of prayerfully selecting books from as varied fields as I can, followed by prayerful, thoughtful reading and journaling, is inferior to the Wise Bauer method. Wise Bauer seems to have fallen into the all too prevalent trap that if it's long, difficult, and very, very depressing, that means it must be High Art and Deeply Significant. I'll stick with what I'm doing. I'd like to continue to be happy to get up every morning. :-)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    I've just finished this on the heels of Mortimer Adler's classic work, "How to Read a Book". Bauer's take on Adler is written for the remedial students who flunked the Adler. For instance, she doesn't casually gloss over the mechanics of reading a book, unlike Adler who assumed that people knew to move your eyes across and down the page. Bauer makes no such assumptions. Bauer makes shockingly few references to Adler (only one comes to mind) which seems disrespectful given that she co-opted his I've just finished this on the heels of Mortimer Adler's classic work, "How to Read a Book". Bauer's take on Adler is written for the remedial students who flunked the Adler. For instance, she doesn't casually gloss over the mechanics of reading a book, unlike Adler who assumed that people knew to move your eyes across and down the page. Bauer makes no such assumptions. Bauer makes shockingly few references to Adler (only one comes to mind) which seems disrespectful given that she co-opted his work but if you don't mind that... And you don't mind corny jokes... It's a good book. In no way does it replace the Adler but, let's face it, most of us are remedial students when it comes to serious reading of substantive materials. There's nothing wrong with letting Bauer hold your hand through the first few books. The directions for outlining are explicit and exhaustive. In fact, they are so exhaustive that I failed in my reading of "Don Quixote" back when I tried to read the Bauer before I'd read the Adler. Big mistake. Where Bauer has you taking notes after each chapter, Adler has you read through once without stopping to do some outlining. That worked for me. However, for the second stage and third stages of reading I liked having Bauer's directives. If you're serious about self-education you should read both of these. If you can only read one and you don't mind a little challenge, read the Adler. If you can only read one and you're not sure you're ready for the big leagues, read the Bauer. Although, if you've already defaulted to the Bauer just forget the whole thing because you aren't really serious about this anyway. Just read both. Seriously. What the hell else are you doing? TV will still be there if it turns out that books just aren't your jam. I promise. Was that rude? That was rude. Sorry. For real, this isn't a bad book but try to read the Adler first. Or also. Otherwise you're just not getting the complete picture. And in all sincerity, if you only read one, read the Adler.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    You can't pay me enough to take this book from me. It is, in the course of a few hundred pages, a replacement for *all* the time wasted in high school English classes. This book is a fantastic introduction to the "classical education" method, a steady-as-she-goes education of the self by dipping into the Great Conversation of books and authors and ideas that has been going since the Epic of Gilgamesh. The first section of the book is entirely dedicated to teaching you the basics of the method, You can't pay me enough to take this book from me. It is, in the course of a few hundred pages, a replacement for *all* the time wasted in high school English classes. This book is a fantastic introduction to the "classical education" method, a steady-as-she-goes education of the self by dipping into the Great Conversation of books and authors and ideas that has been going since the Epic of Gilgamesh. The first section of the book is entirely dedicated to teaching you the basics of the method, which are, in order: grammar, logic, and rhetoric—the trivium. The first stage, grammar, is otherwise known as "surface reading": you ask and answer the question, "What is this book literally saying?" She goes on to provide examples of questions and ideas one should consider at this level of reading. The next stage, "grammar," goes a little deeper still between the lines. Again, Wise-Bauer provides the reader with ample questions to stimulate the mind to peel those layers even further back. The final (but not "last"!) stage, "rhetoric," asks you to ask, "What is this book saying TO ME?" Again with the example questions. The next sections take the reader through a chronological listing of what Wise-Bauer considers the highlights of the Great Conversation, grouped by genre. This half of the book begins with a history of fiction, and provides a groundwork for understanding, basically, how to read fiction, including more questions to ask yourself at each of the three stages of reading. It continues with synopses of 8-10 or so books, each more or less synopted enough to convey the story of the book, but never enough to truly give away the "message." The rest of this half follows this pattern through readings of autobiography & memoirs, history, drama, and poetry. GET THIS BOOK. I found a perfect "used" copy of the book (it hadn't ever been opened, I swear) on Amazon for $14.00. Buy the hardback, too, because you'll probably want it on your shelf for years to come.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Huff

    Only when I started reading this one did I realize that it is in fact a fairly deep reference book, and also a tutorial for how to approach reading the Great Books --- characteristics to look for, how to make outlines, analyze the content, how to work through and assess the book through different levels of depth and understanding ... and MUCH more. While some readers may be put off by these more "mechanical" aspects, they still are helpful tools in approaching this sort of reading. I give it five Only when I started reading this one did I realize that it is in fact a fairly deep reference book, and also a tutorial for how to approach reading the Great Books --- characteristics to look for, how to make outlines, analyze the content, how to work through and assess the book through different levels of depth and understanding ... and MUCH more. While some readers may be put off by these more "mechanical" aspects, they still are helpful tools in approaching this sort of reading. I give it five stars more for the rich essays on understanding the history and development, over the centuries, of different types of writing: Novels, history, poetry, biography, plays, and science. And also for the wealth of short reviews and specific edition recommendations (2-3 pages or so each) that are included for a number of the great books in each of these categories. You will want to use this one more for reference, possibly, than a straight read-through, but the author knows her topic well, and you will learn something new and interesting every time you pick it up!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kazen

    I think a lot of readers, myself included, have a nagging voice running through their heads - you still haven't read War and Peace. You haven't touched any Greek drama since high school. You always meant to study Shakespeare's sonnets... why aren't you doing that? The Well-Educated Mind is a starting point for anyone interesting in tackling the "great books" of the Western canon. Bauer breaks the books into five categories - fiction, plays, history, autobiography, and poetry - and provides a I think a lot of readers, myself included, have a nagging voice running through their heads - you still haven't read War and Peace. You haven't touched any Greek drama since high school. You always meant to study Shakespeare's sonnets... why aren't you doing that? The Well-Educated Mind is a starting point for anyone interesting in tackling the "great books" of the Western canon. Bauer breaks the books into five categories - fiction, plays, history, autobiography, and poetry - and provides a mini-history and study guide for each. Twenty plus works are listed for each category, to be read in chronological order. If you were to sit down and follow her plan to the letter it would take a long time, even for just one of the areas. You would have a notebook filled with timelines and chapter summaries and family trees. And you would know someone, preferably in the flesh, that would be doing the same thing at roughly the same time so you could discuss each work in detail and debate the finer points. Needless to say the thought of all this gave me hives. A list of things I "ought" to read, answering questions a la middle school, the need for a friend just as crazy to join me. Nope, not happening. That being said I learned a lot from this book - how autobiographies evolved over time, questions to keep in mind when evaluating an argument, books I've never heard of that I'm now interested in. But I also felt a lot of guilt, as I've only read a few of the many titles she lists. Does that make me a bad reader? Am I lacking? No, of course not. But it's a hard feeling to shake. I self-justified - This is the sort of thing to tackle once I'm retired. I work in a science-y field so my time would be better spent reading journals than classics. And if I did read classics it would make more sense for me to read from the Eastern tradition because I live in Japan. So on, and so forth. What I need to do is get over myself and own the fact that I will never read most of these books, and that's okay. I will be partly read in the classics and more deeply read in romance, Japanese literature, and medical non-fiction. I will tackle the Russian greats and British poets if, and only if, the mood strikes. And that will be enough.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Terri Lynn

    I have used Susan Wise Bauer's Well-Trained Mind book (written with her mother Jessie wise) for years as a homeschool mother and in teaching classes of homeschool students of all ages. This book is one that I read to glean ideas about reading classical books as an adult and was somewhat disappointed in that she would have readers essentially read each book three times all while taking notes and doing the same sort of analysis done in grad school. I don't believe a book requires this much I have used Susan Wise Bauer's Well-Trained Mind book (written with her mother Jessie wise) for years as a homeschool mother and in teaching classes of homeschool students of all ages. This book is one that I read to glean ideas about reading classical books as an adult and was somewhat disappointed in that she would have readers essentially read each book three times all while taking notes and doing the same sort of analysis done in grad school. I don't believe a book requires this much reading and writing. In our family's homeschool and in my classes, we have very thoroughly covered books with one deep reading followed by long, detailed discussions. This form of interaction has proven to be more than enough to delve deeply into both the surface elements and the deeper meanings. The reading list also tends to be heavy on Christian books and viewpoint which leaves something to be desired for those like us who are Atheists who like a balance and for those of other religious traditions or those who would just like a much more secular approach. I like to use books to be educated and enlightened, not to wallow in Christian mythology. I use this as an interesting discussion of various books I am including in student reading but only as a springboard. This is no where near as useful as THE WELL-TRAINED MIND by a longshot.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    I'm a big fan of Susan Wise Bauer's comprehensive 6,000-page history of the human race (in fact, this is a coming reading challenge to myself, to make it through the entire four-book series in a row without stopping); so when the Chicago Public Library recently acquired an ebook copy of this older book of hers, I went ahead and checked it out just out of curiosity. It's essentially a how-to guide for reading books like an academic scholar would, outlining the multiple steps of going through a I'm a big fan of Susan Wise Bauer's comprehensive 6,000-page history of the human race (in fact, this is a coming reading challenge to myself, to make it through the entire four-book series in a row without stopping); so when the Chicago Public Library recently acquired an ebook copy of this older book of hers, I went ahead and checked it out just out of curiosity. It's essentially a how-to guide for reading books like an academic scholar would, outlining the multiple steps of going through a manuscript several times that a person should to glean the most information out of it, and includes long lists of recommended texts in five categories (novels, autobiography, history, drama and poetry). As always with Bauer, it's an interesting and informative read, even if you're not in a position to make the jump into multi-scan scholarly reading of historical texts like she advocates here.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    A lengthy, jam-packed resource for any layman created by an extremely well-read scholar. This guide could have gone in a very bad direction -- could have been cheesy, shallow, or pretentious -- if written by the wrong person. But I was continually surprised by Bauer's depth of knowledge and genuine attitude. I mean, really, just read her bio -- she seems brilliant. Bauer has even convinced me to start a reading journal someday, which I never have seriously considered before reading this book. I A lengthy, jam-packed resource for any layman created by an extremely well-read scholar. This guide could have gone in a very bad direction -- could have been cheesy, shallow, or pretentious -- if written by the wrong person. But I was continually surprised by Bauer's depth of knowledge and genuine attitude. I mean, really, just read her bio -- she seems brilliant. Bauer has even convinced me to start a reading journal someday, which I never have seriously considered before reading this book. I must get my hands on a hardcopy of this book someday, so I can revisit her words and start my own systematic and customized journey through the classics. Another awesome nonfiction book from W. W. Norton & Company.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ardyth

    Good choice if you're looking to read with more rigor. Totally impractical process for an adult with a job. Susan Wise Bauer says one needs only 30 minutes a few days a week to get through her list of readings - each book three times. Never gonna happen! I mostly liked it anyway. Great survey of the history of different types of writing in the Western canon. Interesting (albeit Euro- and Ameri-centric) lists of must-reads... though, to be fair, SWB's is broader minded than almost every "great Good choice if you're looking to read with more rigor. Totally impractical process for an adult with a job. Susan Wise Bauer says one needs only 30 minutes a few days a week to get through her list of readings - each book three times. Never gonna happen! I mostly liked it anyway. Great survey of the history of different types of writing in the Western canon. Interesting (albeit Euro- and Ameri-centric) lists of must-reads... though, to be fair, SWB's is broader minded than almost every "great books" list I've seen. She, at least, makes some effort to include African Americans and Latin Americans. I'd give it four stars if she'd included at least one or two literature readings from China and India. Those tales are often excluded in these kinds of "guide to the best" books because they are Eastern, but the reality is that they have influenced the West. Cultural exchange does go both ways, after all.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lekeshua

    Long winded but thorough. Wish I had this book growing up. Susan Wise Bauer puts pen to paper to expose adults to what Learning looks like and gives hope that one can gain the education they felt they never had. That is why I picked up this book and why many others do too. Bauer does a great job going through history, literature, plays, and poetry in a way that many of us have never been exposed to before. She takes us by the hand and helps us dig deep into the subjects by applying the Classical Long winded but thorough. Wish I had this book growing up. Susan Wise Bauer puts pen to paper to expose adults to what Learning looks like and gives hope that one can gain the education they felt they never had. That is why I picked up this book and why many others do too. Bauer does a great job going through history, literature, plays, and poetry in a way that many of us have never been exposed to before. She takes us by the hand and helps us dig deep into the subjects by applying the Classical Model of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Many of us never make or made it past the Grammar stage but Bauer does a great job explaining how one can move forward from the initial stage in a way that isn’t too frightening. Bauer also did the hard work for us and provided a book list to apply her recommendations too. If you want to re-educate yourself or freshen up, I recommend this book to you.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Curses! Goodreads ate my review and I do not want to write another. Short version: Most of us are "chaos readers" and tend to forget to read with intent. Bauer sings the merits of doing so (and) provides a fantastic, self-study method to being a more serious reader. Great resource for teachers, home schoolers, and those looking to brush up on their critical thinking skills.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jimyanni

    It was difficult to decide how many stars to give this book; three seemed a bit low, but four definitely seemed too high. The best part of this book is the suggested reading lists, complete with thumbnail descriptions: chronologically ordered lists of some of the most influential novels, autobiographies, histories, dramas, and poetry. I fully intend to use these lists to find future reading material. Less useful, at least to me, was the "instruction" in how to read "serious literature"; I find It was difficult to decide how many stars to give this book; three seemed a bit low, but four definitely seemed too high. The best part of this book is the suggested reading lists, complete with thumbnail descriptions: chronologically ordered lists of some of the most influential novels, autobiographies, histories, dramas, and poetry. I fully intend to use these lists to find future reading material. Less useful, at least to me, was the "instruction" in how to read "serious literature"; I find the suggestion that one cannot perform "logic-stage" and "rhetoric-stage" reading at the same time as "grammar-stage" reading, that one must take physical notes in a journal, and/or mark and dog-ear the pages of the book, in order to have truly read and understood it, to be somewhat patronizing and excessive. Yes, if a book is proving heavy going, these techniques might prove useful, but they are hardly universally essential when reading anything that somebody might consider "literature". Still, I suppose that it was necessary for the author to have something of the sort included, or all she would have had would have been a collection of suggested reading lists, which probably couldn't have been published. There was a lot of useful historical background here, as well, and the book was definitely worth the read. Still, I doubt that I'll be re-reading it any time soon, although I WILL be using the reading lists as reference material.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This is a helpful book about how to read classic English & American Literature to educate yourself, as well as lists and descriptions of representative classic works that are suggested reading. The writing is a bit dry and textbook-ish, but not hard to understand. Susan Wise Bauer starts with a few chapters on technique for understanding and evaluating literature. The technique is basically to focus first on understanding what you are reading, then on understand the arguments or points of This is a helpful book about how to read classic English & American Literature to educate yourself, as well as lists and descriptions of representative classic works that are suggested reading. The writing is a bit dry and textbook-ish, but not hard to understand. Susan Wise Bauer starts with a few chapters on technique for understanding and evaluating literature. The technique is basically to focus first on understanding what you are reading, then on understand the arguments or points of what you read (using a journal), and finally to evaluate whether you agree with those points and why (using discussion with a partner). While the method sounds pretty good, I suspect I will not fully appreciate it until I try it, which I will do some time in the future. The bulk of the book is five chapters, each devoted to a style of literature: novel, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry. Each chapter presents a short history of the style, how the style tends to be used, and how to read and analyze the style. Each chapter finishes with a representative list of the classic literature in that style in chronological order. Not only does the author tell you the basic idea of each work, but she provides suggestions for the best editions to read, which I will find quite helpful when I get around to picking some up. For the poetry, there are cases where she recommends two or three editions, and quotes samples of the same section from each edition so you can get an idea of which edition you would prefer. There is also some of the author's signature wry humor ("No one but Milton scholars tackle Paradise Regained"), although more would have helped lighten the mood of the reading. In addition to the excerpts that help you decide on an edition to read, the author spends more time discussing those forms which most of us don't understand as well -- drama and poetry, specifically. This was helpful because those are less familiar to me. The drama section also contained a list of films that have been made from the plays, which is helpful to get you the intended experience of a play. There were a couple of things I wished the book had covered. Most important is enjoyment: how do you learn to enjoy classic literature? The book is intended for someone who wants to read classics on their own, and yet I suspect anyone in that position could also use help learning how to enjoy them or their attempts at self education will be short-lived. What do other people get out of these works that is so fulfilling? The other thing I wish were included is the short story style of literature. Not only am I a fan of short stories, but the author suggests that you read each piece of literature multiple times: once for understanding and at least once for analyzing. This is difficult for longer material such as novels, autobiographies, and histories, but it's a great technique to practice on short stories. I would like to know the author's take on short stories and what they express differently than novels. Before reading this book, I would recommend trying The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature, which is shorter and more fun to read. It also addresses the issue of how you can find enjoyment in reading classics, and has its own lists of classic literature to read. However, it's not as helpful in picking editions and translations, nor does it help you understand what different styles of literature are about and how to analyze them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Boykie

    A very well written book. It covers a lot of the same ground Mortimer Adler covers in "How To Read A Book", however where Ms. Bauer excels is linking reading to the trivium. Breaking the process down to grammar, logic and rhetoric should have been obvious and common sense, but it isn't really. For me that was my 'fulcrum' point, the biggest takeaway. It's adjusted the way I shall read books from now on. Definitely well worth a read for anyone wanting to sharpen their critical thinking skills. PS: I A very well written book. It covers a lot of the same ground Mortimer Adler covers in "How To Read A Book", however where Ms. Bauer excels is linking reading to the trivium. Breaking the process down to grammar, logic and rhetoric should have been obvious and common sense, but it isn't really. For me that was my 'fulcrum' point, the biggest takeaway. It's adjusted the way I shall read books from now on. Definitely well worth a read for anyone wanting to sharpen their critical thinking skills. PS: I have opted out of the reading lists she supplies to continue with my own lists.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ginger

    This is possibly the most oft-referenced book in my library, but I finally sat down and read the whole thing cover to cover. (I refer to it so much, that I have purchased two copies at full price -- one hardback, and one Kindle version so I have access to it electronically on my iPad at all times.) I will slowly, over a life-time likely, read all her recommended classics, but in the meantime, this was a great education in and of itself. I learn so much from Susan Wise Bauer (or SWB, as I like to This is possibly the most oft-referenced book in my library, but I finally sat down and read the whole thing cover to cover. (I refer to it so much, that I have purchased two copies at full price -- one hardback, and one Kindle version so I have access to it electronically on my iPad at all times.) I will slowly, over a life-time likely, read all her recommended classics, but in the meantime, this was a great education in and of itself. I learn so much from Susan Wise Bauer (or SWB, as I like to call her in my fangirl mind). If you enjoyed Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book, I think of this as a simplified version of his methods, combined with an annotated list that guides you through reading so many of those classics that you skimmed too quickly in high school and university. I do suggest reading fantastic The Well-Trained Mind (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63...) beforehand even if you have no plans to home educate your children. I learned so much about the process of cognition and the value of classical learning.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kenia Sedler

    I've been at a place where I wanted to take my reading to the next level, but I had no idea how. I was completely unfamiliar with the classical/trivium 3-step process (grammar, logic, rhetoric), and had never known how to approach the journaling process to really get the most out of books. Susan Wise Bauer opened up that door for me, and so perhaps I'm feeling extra excited because of the "newness" of the approach.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I enjoyed this book so much. Bauer calls for adopting the trivium approach to reading championed by classical education: the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage. Or rather, memorization and familiarization > critical thinking and analysis > forming and expressing personal opinions about the accumulated facts. Her approach is thorough, and introduces readers to five different literary forms and how to read them: novels, memoirs, history and politics, drama, and poetry. I enjoyed this book so much. Bauer calls for adopting the trivium approach to reading championed by classical education: the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage. Or rather, memorization and familiarization > critical thinking and analysis > forming and expressing personal opinions about the accumulated facts. Her approach is thorough, and introduces readers to five different literary forms and how to read them: novels, memoirs, history and politics, drama, and poetry. Each medium gets its own chapter and includes an annotated reading list, amounting to a (very) long to-read list of books from the Western tradition, in chronological order. My favorite chapters were those dedicated to novels, history, and drama. I expected to like the sections on novels and history, as this is most of the reading I do. Memoirs ain’t my thing, but Bauer does make the art of the autobiography interesting when she puts its development into historical context (hey St. Augustine, thanks for Kris Jenner . . . And All Things Kardashian). I ended up skimming through the poetry section – I’ve never enjoyed poetry much, and felt like Bauer might convince me to like it, or at least make me want to like it, and I don’t want to, nor do I have the time to add the Western poetry canon to my to-read shelf. Skimming seemed like the wisest thing to do here, though I did take notes on her suggested collections and poets in case I change my mind in the future (unlikely). Anyway, this speaks to how engaging her history of literature is. For instance, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading about the development of drama, from its earliest recorded roots in the Greek world to the modern day stage. Bauer even makes morality plays and Everyman fascinating. My major takeaway from this section is her remark that plays (at least ones before the 20th century, I guess) are place-bound, as they were written to be performed in front of a local audience with its own needs and demands. Reformation drama was written for the aristocracy, and these plays were produced in theaters that seated at most 500 people, whereas Shakespeare aimed to amuse poorer classes and his theaters often seated 1500 or more people. These demands obviously shifted the content and goals of the plays. Bauer strongly encourages note-taking throughout the reading process. She says, rightly so, that the goal of education is not to amass facts, but to incorporate them into your mental framework. She believes that reflecting on what you read with a journal will help this process along. While I really appreciate this point, I doubt I’ll be able to adopt her intensive journaling approach to reading. Chapter outlines, regular note-taking on characters and action, rewriting titles so they better describe the events of the book – in the end I don’t have the time for this. I wish I did, and it makes me feel mildly guilty that I don’t. But seriously. I took notes throughout this book, and not only was it time-consuming, but it took away some of the book's pleasure. Warning: Bauer has a cheesy sense of humor. (I happened to get a kick out of this.) Also, there are several spoilers throughout the book – that’s really not okay :( For instance, now I know that Emma Bovary (view spoiler)[totally kills herself (hide spoiler)] . Actually I knew that already, as someone else ruined it for me, but there were a few other books spoiled for me, and that’s unforgivable. Beware of spoilers in her annotated to-read lists, as well, as she thoroughly summarizes each book she recommends. I skipped the summaries of novels I haven't yet read, but read most of the others - it's hard to spoil nonfiction. Bauer's enthusiasm for reading is hard not to share. Her belief that the experience of reading, and engaging with the books you read, can shape the person you become, is a lovely one. She quotes Genesis to this end: “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (32:34). Bauer adds: “When day breaks, the man touches Jacob’s hip and throws it out of joint, leaving him with a limp….Wrestling with truth, as the story of Jacob warns us, is a time-consuming process that marks us forever.” As does reading, of course.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    My senior year of college when I had smaller, discussion based classes, I remember talking with my professor about how I was struggling with truly grasping our readings. She told me most of her current students only scratch the surface of philosophy because we haven’t been ‘classically educated.’ Having the same feeling this year as I started to read through a list of classics, I stumbled across this book. What I appreciated and found most helpful was Bauer’s brief history of each genre and step My senior year of college when I had smaller, discussion based classes, I remember talking with my professor about how I was struggling with truly grasping our readings. She told me most of her current students only scratch the surface of philosophy because we haven’t been ‘classically educated.’ Having the same feeling this year as I started to read through a list of classics, I stumbled across this book. What I appreciated and found most helpful was Bauer’s brief history of each genre and step by step instruction on questions to ask and things to have in mind as you read through books in each category. A different approach is required with each genre and she treats this kind of reading as a practiced skill. Also helpful were the book lists and will use these to guide me, but she makes sure the reader knows not to feel bound to them. Many of the criticisms surrounding Well Educated Mind can be explained by how you approach the topic. If you come to this book with a desire to learn and simply skip over the parts of her philosophy which you already understand, you won’t feel she’s condescending. Yes, she borrows heavily from Adler’s How to Read a Book, but I feel like if you were looking for more of a challenge, you would have read that one in the first place. I was looking for something that really spelled out critical thinking and got exactly what I expected.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I was somewhat prepared not to like this book since the subtitle "A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had" struck me as rather stuffy and elitist. Classical education proponents tend to be too full of the past to value the present. Such, however, is not the case for this author and this work. She is a clear and gifted writer with a well-educated mind. The breakdown of the tasks involved in reading different genres of literature and her three-stage approach to reading well are very I was somewhat prepared not to like this book since the subtitle "A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had" struck me as rather stuffy and elitist. Classical education proponents tend to be too full of the past to value the present. Such, however, is not the case for this author and this work. She is a clear and gifted writer with a well-educated mind. The breakdown of the tasks involved in reading different genres of literature and her three-stage approach to reading well are very helpful to whoever seeks to read and educate themselves through their reading in a serious way. The historical analysis of the developments in each genre are insightful and informative. A lifelong reader myself, I found myself drawn to her explanations. Some will quibble with her lists of proposed readings, but that is always the case with "this is what you should read" lists. Hers include modern and lesser known works as well as the standard literary canon.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Megan Larson

    For those of us who are interested in classical education for our children, it's important to educate ourselves first! This book is a guide to achieving that, with tips for reading the five important genres of literature (novels, biographies, dramas, histories, and poetry) and analyzing the works in each category by the three phases of the classical education: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Each genre contains a chronological annotated list of great works to go through, as well as how to analyze For those of us who are interested in classical education for our children, it's important to educate ourselves first! This book is a guide to achieving that, with tips for reading the five important genres of literature (novels, biographies, dramas, histories, and poetry) and analyzing the works in each category by the three phases of the classical education: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Each genre contains a chronological annotated list of great works to go through, as well as how to analyze on each level for that particular genre. Going through this book fully is really a life's work, so I speak from the perspective of one who has benefited greatly from these tips for literary analysis (I feel like I'm internalizing and interacting with the books so much more than before), but has not yet analyzed all there is to analyze. This is a great resource!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Corey Grabar

    What a great read. Indeed, it is the authoritative resource on classical education. I've seen some other reviews that say this book is too ambitious, but the beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor this style and method to your own circumstances. In fact, any parent who wishes to be involved in their children's education (i.e. all parents, I hope!), would benefit from at least reflecting on the philosophy of this book and incorporating whichever parts work in your particular situation. A What a great read. Indeed, it is the authoritative resource on classical education. I've seen some other reviews that say this book is too ambitious, but the beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor this style and method to your own circumstances. In fact, any parent who wishes to be involved in their children's education (i.e. all parents, I hope!), would benefit from at least reflecting on the philosophy of this book and incorporating whichever parts work in your particular situation. A wonderful resource. I can't say enough good things!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    Anyone can become an autodidact. It’s harder today because we don’t always know where to start. Bauer gives good advice. The Act of Reading If you’ve read Adler’s How to read a Book then there isn’t much new here. Good stuff, but I didn’t spend too much time on it. Keeping a Journal I used to, but when I saw the awesome power of google docs, I moved everything there. Simply no comparison. However, her suggestions on how to reflect on literature are good. The goal is to understand, evaluate, and Anyone can become an autodidact. It’s harder today because we don’t always know where to start. Bauer gives good advice. The Act of Reading If you’ve read Adler’s How to read a Book then there isn’t much new here. Good stuff, but I didn’t spend too much time on it. Keeping a Journal I used to, but when I saw the awesome power of google docs, I moved everything there. Simply no comparison. However, her suggestions on how to reflect on literature are good. The goal is to understand, evaluate, and react to ideas. Interact with ideas. This is why the further you move along the Great Books track, the more you can interact and the more critical your thinking becomes. A basic beginning: * Write the title of the chapter on the first page (or google doc). Skim it first and get your mind acquainted with main ideas. * After the end of the first real reading, write down your reactions. Understand the structure. Evaluate the assertions. Form an opinion. Starting to Read: Final Preparations The following obtain if you own the book. Don’t do this if you don’t. And some won’t like my (and Bauer’s suggestions). I understand. But you need to understand that I am right on this one. She structures the art of reading around the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric). The grammar stage: Underline in pencil. And dog-ear the pages where key arguments are developed. Post it notes are good, too. Pay attention to the table of contents and the structure of the book. The mind works from part to whole to part. You take notes to create a broad outline, not an in-margin essay. The Logic Stage (evaluation) Reread the difficult sections. Do they make sense now? Sometimes they won’t. The author might just be incompetent. Does the book’s structure make sense? Is the author’s thesis/aim established? How so? The Rhetoric Stage What does the author want me to do? Believe? Experience? Bauer suggests a reading partner. She takes these three stages and applies them to novels, histories, memoirs, drama, and poetry. Here is how you should read them Novels Grammar–keep list of characters, summary. Main event of each chapter. Logic–what does the character(s) want? Rhetoric–what is author’s take on human condition? Is novel self-reflective? Histories Grammar–what are the challenges the main people group face? Who/what causes challenge? Logic–what are the historian’s assertions? What questions is he asking? What and how does he use sources? Does evidence support connections between questions and answers? Rhetoric–Does the story have forward motion? Are men free or determined? Memoirs/autobiography Grammar–what are central events in writer’s life? Logic–what is the theme that holds things together? God, the self, or no unity? Is there a conversion moment? Rhetoric–what are the three time frames (time of the events, the time remembered, the time the book is read)? Drama Grammar–pay attention to surface-level details; what holds play together? Logic–what gives the play unity: plot? Characters? ideas? Rhetoric–how would you direct this play? Poetry Grammar–read 10-30 pages of poetry. What is your initial reaction? Logic–what is the poem’s form? Syntax? Rhetoric–is there moment of choice or change? Where is the self? The Good She gives several remarkably lucid summaries of rather dense texts. Her take on Bede and Augustine is quite good. Critical It’s probably not fair of me to criticize her for leaving out the poets/authors I like. Nevertheless, she failed to mention Alexander Pope, whose poems are like feasting on beams of light, yet gave attention to the 20th century. I would rather suck on a gas hose than read 20th century poetry. Here are the lists: http://www.read52booksin52weeks.com/p... I understand that grad students need to read deeply into the essence of despair, namely 20th century literature. But for those who want their soul cleansed, substitute Pope, Samuel Johnson, and Edmund Spenser instead.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dorotea

    I pretty much agree with everything she writes (I think, I actually skimmed through this), but overall I didn’t find the book very useful, because at the end of the day, I did have had a classical education and I do know how to read. Here’s a list of books on her list that are also on my to-read list: • Greek Lyricists • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura • Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems (ed. Lathem) • Christina Rossetti, Rossetti: Poems • Emily Dickinson, Dickinson: Poems • I pretty much agree with everything she writes (I think, I actually skimmed through this), but overall I didn’t find the book very useful, because at the end of the day, I did have had a classical education and I do know how to read. Here’s a list of books on her list that are also on my to-read list: • Greek Lyricists • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura • Robert Frost, The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems (ed. Lathem) • Christina Rossetti, Rossetti: Poems • Emily Dickinson, Dickinson: Poems • John Keats, John Keats: The Complete Poems • John Milton, Paradise Lost • Geiffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales • Miguel De Cervantes, Don Quixote (tr. Edith Grossman) • Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment • Michel De Montaigne, Essays (tr. M.A. Screech) • Renè Descartes, Meditations • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography • Henry David Thoreau, Walden • Friedrich Nietzche, Ecce Homo • Herodotus, The Histories (tr. Robin Waterfield) • Plato, The Republic • Plutarch, Lives • Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince • Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream • Shakespeare, Hamlet • Molière, Tartuffe • Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anna Mussmann

    Note: I read only parts of this book. I appreciate Bauer's goal but found her summaries and directives a bit simplistic and overly prescriptive. Someday I may try it again, but with a paper copy instead of a Kindle version. I did find her explanation for why "the novel" was originally received with such suspicion and condescension to be interesting. My personal take-away: Like Thomas Jefferson, Bauer is a big believer in a systematic, disciplined system of reading. She urges readers to peruse Note: I read only parts of this book. I appreciate Bauer's goal but found her summaries and directives a bit simplistic and overly prescriptive. Someday I may try it again, but with a paper copy instead of a Kindle version. I did find her explanation for why "the novel" was originally received with such suspicion and condescension to be interesting. My personal take-away: Like Thomas Jefferson, Bauer is a big believer in a systematic, disciplined system of reading. She urges readers to peruse great books in only one category at a time (poetry, fiction, science, etc.) and to do so in strict chronological order so as to fully grasp the context. I don't think I'm quite up to that task--I like having multiple books going at once--but I can't help wondering if perhaps I would learn more if I submitted to greater system and structure. Still pondering.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gini

    Again, I need that 3.5 star rating. I have retired this book and have called it read. Given it's nature, a reader can choose the areas that she feels are deficient in her educational experience and focus on them. That is what I have done. This is not the same as a DNF, at least in my opinion. Bauer reviews an area and recommends readings to her readers. The areas I chose to work through did indeed help fill some gaps and I feel the mission of her work has been achieved in my particular instance. Again, I need that 3.5 star rating. I have retired this book and have called it read. Given it's nature, a reader can choose the areas that she feels are deficient in her educational experience and focus on them. That is what I have done. This is not the same as a DNF, at least in my opinion. Bauer reviews an area and recommends readings to her readers. The areas I chose to work through did indeed help fill some gaps and I feel the mission of her work has been achieved in my particular instance. For now. I suspect I will revisit this book in the future to pick up some more of her suggested readings. The strength of this book for me was the introductory material that helped tie it together with the idea of classic literature in general. I would recommend this to any of you who believe your educational experience is incomplete in that area.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    In the Well-Educated Mind, Mrs. Bauer discusses the importance of learning by reading for study not only entertainment. In the introductory chapters (1-4), she advises scheduling a regular reading time, practicing the mechanics of reading, keeping a reading journal and how to read a book using this method. In the chapters that follow (5-9), Mrs. Bauer covers the different ways to read the genre of literature as well as providing a list of recommended reading. Chapters 5-9 are set up in the same In the Well-Educated Mind, Mrs. Bauer discusses the importance of learning by reading for study not only entertainment. In the introductory chapters (1-4), she advises scheduling a regular reading time, practicing the mechanics of reading, keeping a reading journal and how to read a book using this method. In the chapters that follow (5-9), Mrs. Bauer covers the different ways to read the genre of literature as well as providing a list of recommended reading. Chapters 5-9 are set up in the same basic format: the history of the particular genre (novel, autobiography/memoir, history, drama, poetry), the grammar stage of reading, the logic stage, rhetoric stage, annotated list and recommended resources (if any). The grammar stage covers the same basic who/what/when/where/why/how questions, as well as some genre specific variations, that we learned to ask of reading in (you guess it) grammar school. The logic stage involves digging deeper into the work and reviewing difficult sections of the book. To paraphrase Mrs. Bauer, the procedure of logic stage reading remains the same for each genre but the types of questions vary “wildly”. In the final stage, the reader evaluates the personal effect of the book. During this stage, Mrs. Bauer recommends a reading partner; someone who will read and discuss the books with you in order to help your formulate and articulate your ideas. My opinion: chapters 1-4 are great to read straight through; chapters 5-9 are best kept on hand as a resource. All in all, this is a great addition to the home library of any serious reader.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lia

    A friend told me about this book and asked for comments/ opinions, so I got one from the library and read through it in two days. I have some anxieties about what social media is doing to my reading habits and attention span. I can get behind this kind of “self-help” for readers in troubles. But I’ve also read a lot of books and essays (JSTOR, Project MUSE, CUP, OUP, PUP, Routledge) about literature — Bloom, Kermode, Frye, Kenner, Rorty, Cleanth Brooks, Perloff, TS Eliot, JS Brooker... and this A friend told me about this book and asked for comments/ opinions, so I got one from the library and read through it in two days. I have some anxieties about what social media is doing to my reading habits and attention span. I can get behind this kind of “self-help” for readers in troubles. But I’ve also read a lot of books and essays (JSTOR, Project MUSE, CUP, OUP, PUP, Routledge) about literature — Bloom, Kermode, Frye, Kenner, Rorty, Cleanth Brooks, Perloff, TS Eliot, JS Brooker... and this one just doesn’t work for me. I think most books about books are reductive to some degree, I expect that. But some of the extremely brief “summaries” or commentaries offered in this book raised eyebrows for me. There are a number of novels and poems listed here that I’ve studied, I really think Bauer missed the mark. I think it’s fine if it’s an example of what a reading journal could look like. Those are perfectly reasonable personal reaction based on the text alone. If I look at her briefings as a sample of private common place book, then I like it a lot. But she presented this in a teacherly manner, as if to say this is the definitive theme and argument and significance of this book/ play/ poem. I think she needs to be more aware of the context and scholarship on some of these literary movements and pieces to write in that tone.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    My friend Betsy is the one who told me about this book a while back because a book club she was in was using it. I bought it a few months ago and just read it in December as I was preparing for the upcoming year's book club. This is the first I have ever read from Susan Wise Bauer who seems to be a very accomplished super woman of sorts. This book is about applying the methods of classical education to reading, in particular ways in particular genres. This book had me at page one and held me My friend Betsy is the one who told me about this book a while back because a book club she was in was using it. I bought it a few months ago and just read it in December as I was preparing for the upcoming year's book club. This is the first I have ever read from Susan Wise Bauer who seems to be a very accomplished super woman of sorts. This book is about applying the methods of classical education to reading, in particular ways in particular genres. This book had me at page one and held me throughout. Wise Bauer is an excellent writer and teacher and I devoured and enjoyed all that she teaches about reading in this book. In part one she talks about classical education, the art of reading, and keeping a reading journal. Part two is dedicated specifically to the reading of novels, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry with an appropriate annotated reading list in each chapter. I learned so much in this book and especially enjoyed the short histories she gave on each genre. I also came away feeling confident to try some works I have previously assumed too hard for me to read. If you love to read, love to read about reading, and want to become a better reader overall this book is a must!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This book was in my library's carousel entitled "Books on Books". Bauer is a professor of American Literature at the College of William and Mary in my home state of Virginia. This paragraph of the jacket insert intrigued me: "..offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres - fiction, autobiography, history, drama and poetry - accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type." More specifically, the chapter called "Keeping the Journal: A Written Record of New Ideas" is This book was in my library's carousel entitled "Books on Books". Bauer is a professor of American Literature at the College of William and Mary in my home state of Virginia. This paragraph of the jacket insert intrigued me: "..offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres - fiction, autobiography, history, drama and poetry - accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type." More specifically, the chapter called "Keeping the Journal: A Written Record of New Ideas" is what prompted me to check out the book. After listening to The Art of Reading in which Professor Spurgin encourages taking notes while reading, I wanted to get a bit more direction. And this book delivered. I read the book (and journaled through it) while on the plane for a business trip to San Diego. I was itching to dog-ear and write in the book and have determined that it is one that I must have. For a more detailed review, see blog post: http://grieftoreadingjourney.blogspot...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I have been going through the lists in this book for the last couple of years. I am through approximately half of them. There are a few amazing gems on this list that really made me think and enriched my life. Unfortunately the vast majority of the 'classics' are painfully boring, cliched crap that are nothing but 'purple prose' IMO. Literary snobs will love most of these classics but for us unwashed masses, these books will be only suitable for putting us to sleep. I will finish the literature I have been going through the lists in this book for the last couple of years. I am through approximately half of them. There are a few amazing gems on this list that really made me think and enriched my life. Unfortunately the vast majority of the 'classics' are painfully boring, cliched crap that are nothing but 'purple prose' IMO. Literary snobs will love most of these classics but for us unwashed masses, these books will be only suitable for putting us to sleep. I will finish the literature listed, which will give me the supposed 'Well educated Mind'. At least it will give me the ammo to shoot down the literary snobs self serving arrogance.

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