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

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

3.7 15
by Susan Wise Bauer

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An engaging, accessible guide to educating yourself in the classical tradition.


An engaging, accessible guide to educating yourself in the classical tradition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind (which she co-wrote with Jessie Wise) taught parents how to educate kids; her latest is designed for adults seeking self-education in the classical tradition. Reading-sustained, disciplined and structured-is her core methodology, so she starts with tips on improving reading skills and setting up a reading schedule (start with half-hour sessions four mornings a week, with daily journal writing). Reading is a discipline, like meditating or running, she says, and it needs regular exercise. To grow through reading-to reach the "Great Conversation" of ideas-Bauer outlines the three stages of the classical tradition: first, read for facts; then evaluate them; finally, form your own opinions. After explaining the mechanics of each stage (e.g., what type of notes to take in the book itself, or in the journal), Bauer begins the list section of the book, with separate chapters for her five major genres: fiction, autobiography/memoir, history/politics, drama and poetry. She introduces each category with a concise discussion of its historical development and the major scholarly debates, clearly defining all important terms (e.g., postmodernism, metafiction). And then, the piece de resistance: lists, in chronological order, of some 30 major works in each genre, complete with advice on choosing the edition and a one-page synopsis. Bauer has crafted a timeless, intelligent book. (Aug.) Forecast: Bauer's book has a large potential readership. For serious self-educators, it's a well-balanced, long-lasting reading program. For book-clubbers, it's a brilliant guide on to how to analyze any given literary work-even if it's not on Bauer's list. And for college students in trouble, it's a quick gloss of books there wasn't time to read, plus sound advice on spotting critical fallacies. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Bauer (American literature, Coll. of William & Mary) provides a clear guide to educating oneself in the liberal arts through disciplined, critical reading of literary classics. After distinguishing reading for learning from reading for pleasure, she discusses techniques for rapid and critical reading, rereading, and journaling of the texts. Each chapter discusses how to explore different types of writing, from novels to autobiography, historiography, drama, and poetry. The lengthy annotated bibliography of inexpensive recommended editions range from classical Greek writing to contemporary literature and provides brief summaries that highlight important themes in each text. Recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.-Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Written in a straightforward style accessible to most students, this readable book provides solid, step-by-step advice on how to read some of the world's great books with discipline and comprehension. The first four chapters explain the author's well-thought-out three-step program, how and why it works, and how to prepare to use it. The remainder of the volume devotes a chapter each to analysis of novels, autobiography/memoirs, history, drama, and poetry. The system involves reading each book three times: once for the facts, once for analysis, and once for an informed evaluation of the author's ideas. Readers are encouraged during this process to mark up their books with comments and questions in the margins (or use Post-Its), and to keep a journal of quotes, summaries, questions, and ruminations. The genre chapters include some history, a discussion of important terms used, questions about the books that readers will want to ask themselves, a thoughtful pr cis of 25 or so important titles presented chronologically (with discussion of the changes in the genre over the centuries), and recommendations for the best and cheapest editions of each title. Works range from the Greeks to Francis Fukuyama, from Cervantes to Don Delillo, from Homer to Rita Dove. Some Web sites are also mentioned as sources for understanding. While few teens will want or have time to read a book three times, most will find much of value in helping them to understand their reading assignments.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Humanities home schooling for adults. Bauer (The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople, 2013, etc.) is a critic of educational institutions: high schools teach students to read to the 10th-grade level, enough to master Stephen King, newspapers, and Time; college graduates often feel "a nagging sense of their own deficiencies." In graduate school, the author once earned an A for a presentation on Moby-Dick, a novel she hadn't even finished. What should you do, she asks, "if your mind is hungry, but you feel unprepared, under-educated, intimidated by all those books you know you should have read?" Her prescription: read intensely for half an hour, four days a week, and analyze according to the trivium: "First, you'll try to understand the book's basic structure and argument; next, you'll evaluate the book's assertions; finally, you'll form an opinion about the book's ideas." Bauer offers an overview and specific questions for major literary genres: the novel, autobiography and memoir, history, drama, poetry, and science, along with a chronological list of books she deems important, each with her brief commentary. Although the author claims that no list of "Great Books" is canonical, her own echoes works endorsed by Mortimer Adler, innovator of the Great Books curriculum at the University of Chicago; and Harold Bloom, champion of the Western canon. The third part of Bauer's trivium is likely to cause the most difficulty: how are readers to know if their opinions are "correct"? She recommends getting a reading partner to discuss ideas, "skimming an essay or two of criticism," or seeking an appointment with a faculty member at a nearby college, a possibility that seems both unrealistic and frustrating for both parties. Despite her disdain for schools, her book would be most useful in a classroom setting, where discussions, essay writing, and a teacher's expert guidance could foster the critical thinking that Bauer so passionately exalts. A useful resource for highly self-motivated readers.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Susan Wise Bauer is the best-selling author of the Story of the World series, The History of the World series, The Well-Trained Mind, and The Well-Educated Mind, among other works. She lives in Virginia.

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Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is simply outstanding - dramatically improved my understanding and enjoyment of literature.
puffkat More than 1 year ago
I noticed a bad review from an anon reviewer on this book and it strikes me as very peculiar being that this person admits to only sitting thru a few pages, not even purchasing the book. What a crock. That review then is quite invalid...also this person complains of not wishing to read all those books...Um EXCUSE ME...it's about a 'classical' education as stated in it's title. Idiocy abounds. I think it's a great idea and I intend to try the book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read through the first half of the book and was raring to go- ready to purchase my first book from the 'great list'. I couldn't decide whether to go with the Novel list or the History list, so decided to check them out in person first before making my decision. Much to my dismay the first selections (Bauer insists you read them in order) within either of these genres (Don Quixote and The Histories by Heroditus) are HUGE!! My heart sank almost immediately, but I was detemined to try it. I sat down with both in the store and read the first few pages. Then, a light went off. It dawned on me that I had no desire whatsoever to A - spend the money on these books B - read them. My life has progressed such that I am no longer in school and forced to read what I am not inclined to. That's one of the great things about growing up - I can read whatever I want to. For me, the time I would have spent on these books would be more enjoyable reading about a new hobby or learning about world religions or learning a foreign language, or pretty much anything else. Even, G-d forbid, a Tom Clancy novel (which Bauer conveys are beneath her). This is an interesting concept, but the idea of limiting what you read and what order you read them is suffocating. There were some good tips on retaining what you read and she encourages to keep learning even if you are out of school. I advocate that, certainly, but I'm an adult and my time is so crunched, the time I spend reading should be fulfilling and enjoyable, not something to dread.