Monday, July 13, 2009

The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Fun Note: Bauer was my "Bible as Literature" professor at William & Mary!

Books Mentioned: How to Read & Why by H. Bloom, How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler

Quote: "The good reader bases his opinion on intelligent analysis, not mere unthinking reaction." (p. 46)

Notes, mostly from Ch. 4:
There are three steps to reading books:
  1. Understanding
  2. Analysis
  3. Evaluation
Part One - When reading a book, worry about getting thru it rather than analyzing every detail as you go. Bauer strongly recommends buying very cheap paperback versions of classics and other "heavy" books and writing in the margins as you go. Use a journal to summarize chapter content, record questions, reflections, etc. Then start a second reading to further evaluate - reread difficult sections and your notes. Cite key paragraphs, ask why the book was written, and if it suceeds in the author's purpose. How does the writer influence you? Finally, discuss the book with someone else who's read it - Bauer recommends doing this through writing letters or emails.
Part Two - Don't worry about "correctly" evaluating a book - rather, use it as a tool for thinking intelligently and expanding your mind. To keep from being way off base, try looking thru published criticisms of the book.
Part Three - Several lists of classic books to read through to educate yourself - she recommends doing so in order of publishing date so you can see the genre develop: biography (first comes St. Augustine), fiction, poetry, history, etc.

Evaluation: This book would be good for anyone trying to give themselves a course in classics. The lists are helpful and her recommendations for how to go about this kind of deep reading are doable.

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