on August 25, 2003
I typically buy 75-100 books a year through Amazon[.com] and spend hours and hours reading reviews before I ultimately make my purchase. When I [got]Bauer's book, I just couldn't put it down. Not only does she lay out in detail the necessary steps in developing an appreciation and understanding for the "Great Books of Civilization" she actually shows you how to do it and gives you an abundant of resources to aid you if you need more help. Not since Mortimer Adler's book "How to Read a Book" have I ever come across such a lucid approach to raising one's awareness of the world's greatest writers.
In addition to laying out the groundwork for setting up a self-study program, Bauer provides a detailed approach to each of her recommended readings, from "The Epic of Gilgamesh, c. 2000 B.C. to Elie Wiesel's "All Rivers Run to the Sea", 1995.
A warning however for the "undisciplined mind". Unless you are prepared to commit the necessary time (Bauer recommends 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week) to do some "really serious reading" using a personalized "commonplace book" (which she describes in detail) to record your learnings and critiques -- you are wasting your time. It's akin to losing 25 pounds through disciplined dieting or getting out of debt in 12 months through focused efforts. You either commit yourself to a life-long learning plan to raise your consciousness and self-awarness or simply go back and waste away by watching T.V. and munching on your doritos. The choice is yours.
on July 6, 2004
The goal of this book is to show how the Great Books can be engaged by applying the methods of classical education to enable more effective reading, analysis, and criticism. I think Bauer did a great job in meeting this task by providing detailed guidelines for tackling five different literary genres (novels, autobiographies, history, drama, and poetry). In addition, she backs up the use of these guidelines by providing short histories that describe the development of each genre and which, as a result, show readers what they should be looking for in each type of work. Finally, reading lists for each genre are provided to enable readers to practice their new skills in grammatical, logical, and rhetorical reading.
Although this book is publicized as being for the "adult reader", I think that Bauer may have attempted to include the homeschooling crowd as well, especially considering that her previous books were aimed toward this latter audience. Consequently, an "adult reader" may find the first four chapters to be a bit patronizing as various issues are discussed, including how to make your own notebook, how to increase your vocabulary, how to set up a time for reading, etc. However, once readers progress into the heart of the book (i.e. the discussion of the five literary genres), I think that they will be willing to forget their previous misgivings and find this to be a very useful guidebook (I did at least).
I believe that the suggestions presented in this book fit very nicely within the solid framework provided by Adler and Van Doren's "How to Read a Book". Adler and Van Doren do an excellent job of explaining why and how one should go about reading the Great Books for understanding. However, their discussion primarily focused on reading nonfictional works, and I felt that the suggestions they provided for reading fiction were a bit insufficient. Consequently, I believe "The Well-Educated Mind" complements Adler and Van Doren very nicely and would heartily recommend that these two books be read in conjunction.
on December 8, 2003
"A guide to the classical education you never had." This is the perfect tool for anyone who wants to challenge their reading level, improve comprehension and increase powers of critical judgment. Bauer has written a thorough and informative guide, wherein he tackles various disciplines, outlining techniques for adults who wish to improve their deductive reasoning.
Within the histories of five genres- fiction, autobiography, history, drama and poetry, the author suggests techniques for improvement in critical thinking as well as interpreting the intent of the author. For example, under the chapter on autobiography, a first read-through, or grammar-stage reading, is followed by the second level, logic-stage reading and finally, the third level, rhetoric-stage reading. The reader's levels of perception are increased with each stage of reading. Each section is followed by a selection of specific annotated works, such as "The Confession" of Augustine and "The Meditations" of Rene Descartes.
I consider these annotated examples after each chapter one of the premier attractions of The Well-Educated Mind. Specifically applicable to each genre, the selections provide important insights into the nature of each discipline. The sources are wide-ranging, including many notable authors, from Machiavelli to Emily Dickinson. For instance, in Chapter Eight, "Reading Through History with Drama", sub-topic "The Triumph of Ideas", Bauer discusses the Romantics and their revolt against the Age of Enlightenment, replacing humans as thinking machines with emotional perception and creativity. In this manner, playwrights are perceived as artists uninhibited by the rules of convention, shaking off Aristotelian ideals and becoming freer in expression, albeit angst-ridden.
Like many avid readers, I have a stack of books on my nightstand, "must read" novels and non-fiction titles. The Well-Educated Mind is a book that has a special place in my intended-reading stack and every few evenings it offers a few hours of enlightenment, as I delve into chapters on history, autobiography or poetry. Any such venture into the world of literature offers an opportunity to broaden my ideas and indulge my curiosity.
Using the same technique as in her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, now a staple of parents that home school their children, Bauer introduces readers to the pleasures of classical education. Erudite and accessible, Bauer's effort is exceptionally appealing in manner of presentation and choice of annotated works. The author misses nothing, including inconsistencies in translation and divergent historical perspectives. The Well-Educated Mind is a welcome addition to any personal library. Luan Gaines/2003.
on August 21, 2003
Being a student of the public school system while growing up, I always thought that when you were told to read a book, you read the words on the pages, grasped the gist of the story, and that was that. I got the shock of my life when I hit high school and suddenly the teachers were discussing the symbolism and messages behind what the author wrote. But no one bothered to explain to me HOW to do that. College was a disaster because I had no idea how to do the things my literature professors required.
Now, FINALLY, thanks to this book, I am learning how to read a book and analyze it using the 3 stages of the Trivium (grammar stage, logic stage, rhetoric stage) -- Classical Education. My friend and I are having a ball learing how to do this, taking notes, analyzing things logically, asking questions and discussing the finer points that the author makes.
For anyone who is homeschooling (as my friend and I are), or for anyone who feels like their understanding of fine literature is lacking, this book is wonderful!! I highly recommend it! It has an easily readable style, (not dry as wood chips like some books I have attempted), has a sprinkling of humor here and there, and best of all, it respects that fact that the majority of people who would be reading it are busy adults with PLENTY to do each day, and is therefore not demanding; it only requires 30 min. of reading a day 4 times a week, thus making an allowance for those days that "life" happens to you.
Side note: between my friend and I, the oldest homeschool child we have is approximately 7th grade. Therefore, we did not begin by reading the books that the author recommends. We chose classical literature that was closer to the level that the oldest child was reading and books that we knew we would have our children read on their own at some point. We both plan to use what we learn from this book to help show our own children how to read and evaluate good literature.
on August 10, 2004
It's about time someone came out with this book. I've been looking for this type of thing for years. After spending exhausting searches and volumes of money on encyclopedias (think the Great Books series) I decided that something more concise was needed. Enter THE WELL-EDUCATED MIND. This is an amazing blueprint for what you need to be informed in the classics. A great starting place for those who don't have a clue and a great picking up place for those who do but want to know more.
Also recommended: McCrae's THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD (not a book on classical education but an excellent read with myriad references to Latin names, bits of history, and a great story.)
I have some of Susan Wise Bauer histories on the shelf. However have not gotten around to reading them. Yep distracted by the internet and T,V.
I have read better books on the art of reading. I have found better books on lists to read and what makes a classic a classic. However I found this book more interesting for the many other subjects brought up. I have to confess most of my reading is technical as systems change on an hourly basis. About as soon as you read about them, they are obsolete. Have you ever push started a car? Have you used a CPM operating system? I could go on and on.
Some time you Will have to slow down and "...read to know that we are not alone" C. S. Lewis. There are some truths in classic that can apply today. Also it was fun to discuss "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" Tom Stoppard's play, with someone who read it.
The author makes some good suggestions and observations. Just have to get over her religious insinuations. Never heard of the Trivium (not in the spell checker), until 18 pages in. Not sure I am that interested.
I chose works that I was already familiar with to be sure I was not reading from someone with a weird outlook. The descriptions are generic and fairly decent. We are not totally in sync and I suspect she has it in for Stephen King.
on July 9, 2004
I thought I was educated before, but this wonderful book taught me new reading skills and whetted my appetite for the classics. Though I went to a good high school and college, I spent most of my time hearing about how "great" the Great Books were, without being much encouraged to sit down and crack one open. The Well-Educated Mind has helped to change that, which is why I disagree with the negative review posted earlier on this page. Maybe we "should" have learned how, why, and what to read in our schools, but many of us were not taught, and the Well-Educated mind aims to fill that gap. For this reason, I would highly recommend it for high-school students or for those about to start college.
The opening section alone, on getting the most out of reading, should be handed out in every local library. Don't miss the chapters on drama and poetry, either: too many people ignore these genres because of their seeming inaccessibility, but here Susan Wise Bauer provides superb keys and useful skills.
Knowledgeable without being a show-off, friendly without dumbing-down, Bauer makes an excellent guide for those who want to enter the "great conversation."
on October 25, 2003
When I found out the Susan Bauer had put this book together for adults, I purchased it immediately. I am quite a fan of her texts for children and of the educational plan she co-write with her mother for homeschoolers. Because of this, I think I expected it "The Well-Educated Mind" to be organized along the same chronological framework.
However, this new reading plan for adults breaks literature into categories: novels, autobiography, history, plays, poetry, etc. and then approaches each category with an annotated list of suggested works to read. While I have no serious complaints about the works chosen (no list will be perfect), I really miss the integration of literature, biography, history, science, etc. as proposed in "The Well-Trained Mind". I have begun reading from the first list of novels in "The Well-Educated Mind", but I am considering delving into the reading lists from the last four years of "The Well-Trained Mind".
If I had to purchase only one of the books, it would definately be the first - the curriculum text for homeschoolers. This book could be tailored for adult reading and is an great curriculum for homeschooling, or as we do, a supplement for a public education.
on April 10, 2004
Organizes homeschooling into How to.
Her expectations are HIGH!
Hope you are not afraid of hard work!
She covers everything and is very knowledgeable. If you homeschool based on her curriculum guidelines, you will be doing an absolutely tremendous job! If you fall short, your still doing great. Great ideas. Great guidelines. Great coverage. For starters, combine this with "What Every Kindergardener Needs to Know" and "Cultural Literacy" both by ED Hirsch.
on October 11, 2003
The great classic are for everyone and a book like this one shows how everyone, from whatever background originally, can come to learn to appreciate the great classics that we have all come to know and love. You too can appreciate great literature - you don't need a Harvard degree to love Jane Austen or the novel Moby Dick. Greatness is within your grasp - get out there and change your life today! Christopher Catherwood, author of CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS AND ISLAMIC RAGE (Zondervan, 2003)