The Well-Educated Mind

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A book review of The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer

A book review of The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer

Stars: ****

W.W. Norton & Company (2015)
Classical Education
512 pages

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Summary: The enduring and engaging guide to educating yourself in the classical tradition.

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.

Newly expanded and updated to include standout works from the twenty-first century as well as essential readings in science (from the earliest works of Hippocrates to the discovery of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs), The Well-Educated Mind offers brief, entertaining histories of six literary genres―fiction, autobiography, history, drama, poetry, and science―accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type. The annotated lists at the end of each chapter―ranging from Cervantes to Cormac McCarthy, Herodotus to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Aristotle to Stephen Hawking―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. Bauer will show you how to allocate time to reading on a regular basis; how to master difficult arguments; 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.

In her best-selling work on home education, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical education for parents wishing to home-school their children; that book is now the premier resource for home-schoolers. In The Well-Educated Mind, 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. Followed carefully, her advice will restore and expand the pleasure of the written word.

The Well-Educated Mind

When I checked this book out of the library, I actually thought I was getting Well-Trained Mind by the same author. Oops! While it wasn’t what I though it was, it was interesting.

A Classical education is the way education was in the Greek and Roman times. The idea behind THIS book is for the adult who was not classically trained, to learn how it works and apply it to some great books of the past. This isn’t about just reading a book once and moving on. Classical education values reading less books more thoroughly. It recommends reading it through at least 3 times and gleaning different things from it each time.

I’m not necessarily a follower of Classical Education but we are eclectic homeschoolers so I like to learn about all different types of education and learning and use what works for us.

What I Liked

I found the book helpful for a different reason. In the book, the author goes over different types of books such as historical fiction, autobiography/memoir, historical nonfiction, drama, poetry and science. In each section she explains the history of said type. I’m talking pages and pages of history, not just a paragraph. It was very interesting as a book lover.

After that is recommendations on how to read that type. Finally a list of recommended books in that genre is given from oldest to newest. (Most of them are really old though.) For each book, the title and author are given along with the year of publication. The best editions recommended are given and then a few paragraph description of the book follows.

If you are looking for a better way to study old books, what classical education is, the history of the genres mentioned or recommendations for books to read that are from the past, you will get something out of this book.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.