Customer Reviews: The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had
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Showing 1-10 of 51 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
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.
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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.
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on January 24, 2005
I have two graduate degrees, but despite that I've always felt undereducated. I've read quite a few "important books," but they never fit together in my mind into any sort of logical progression. This book has finally made sense of the pattern! Bauer begins with a brief examination of the reading process, and then explains, clearly and intelligently, how five different genres developed, from ancient times up until the present. She also shows how the genres relate to each other. She starts with the novel, from Don Quixote to magic realism, and follows that up with autobiography because (like novelists) autobiographists are telling a story; she then goes on to history (because historians also tell a story, but have a different relationship to the "facts") and finishes up with plays and poetry. Along the way, she defines all the important literary terms you've heard floating around, and slots them neatly into their place. One of the best guides to self education I've read, and one that finally got me back on the path to serious reading. (Incidentally, what is the reviewer talking about below, when he says "the author admits she hasn't read the books"? Totally untrue--no such statement. Ms. Bauer says that she has always had trouble getting through Moby Dick, but apart from that demonstrates a great mastery of the material, and the annotations are amazingly helpful--they highlight the themes of the books and show, briefly, how the terms and developments covered in the "history of the genre" sections play into each.)

Highly recommended for any serious reader.
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on January 9, 2004
I ordered this book for two reasons: First, because I use "The Well-Trained Mind" in homeschooling my children. Second, because I have always harboured the nagging suspicion that I was not as well-read as I thought I was.
Upon reading the book, I came away with the realization that while I was well-read, I was not well-educated. My reading has always been voracious and varied. That is not disputable. However, my approach to books has changed from that of a wino (consuming books) to that of an oenophile (savouring books.)
Along with a couple of willing discussion partners, I am about to embark upon a rhetorical review of many Great Books and I am thrilled. I've read many of these several times over, but I am about to understand them for the first time.
Many people make the "fit body" resolution at the start of the New Year, but how many make the "fit mind" resolution? I challenge you to purchase this book and make a "fit mind" resolution this year! You won't be sorry.
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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.
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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."
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on November 9, 2006
This book introduced me to a happy medium between how I usually studied a literary text for my undergraduate course work (in painstaking detail that sucked much of the enjoyment out of the book) and the way I used to read the classics for pleasure (haphazardly and without deep understanding). Wise Bauer makes a great case for keeping a reading journal, and gives you great pointers on how to get the most out of that tool. Her approach has proven realistic for me, and so far the reading list has really helped me make sense of what was once a scattered smattering of texts. I particularly enjoy the way she annotates the listings.

This book would be useful for any adult who feels he doesn't read enough. I am getting my masters in teaching English Language Arts to secondary students, and I think it will be helpful to show my students that the careful study of literature is meaningful in the adult world. As a teacher, I would like to add that any parent should look at Wise Bauer's other books on educating your own child. Even parents who don't home school should consider themselves the first and best teachers of their children, and nothing will benefit a student more than having a parent who consistently reinforces the value of education. Learning to read and enjoy important books is the best path to a lifetime of learning beyond school.
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on May 24, 2005
Quite Simply this book makes understanding Literature in all its forms a little bit more easier. It teaches basic techniques on how to "analyze" what ever work your reading. I especially liked the poetry section. For each type of genre there is a brief "How To" on getting the most out of the play, short story, poem, what have you. It teaches the different levels of reading for comprehension, meaning, subtleties, symbols, et al. After reading this book I found myself going back to books I didn't "Get" (Like Ezra Pound) and re-reading them and finding something a little different then my previous attempt.
So if you have a child, sibling, friend, coworker in college taking Lit classes run, don't walk, and get this for them. If you're out of college and still wondering what in the heck you were supposed to get out of English 470 "American Poetry Long Form" this book will help. Better yet, check it out of your local library that probably has copies of ALL the books Bauer is talking about!
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on December 29, 2006
This books is teaches the kind of logic that I thought was lost in educational theory; finally some common sense! I was a teacher and am now planning to homeschool my grandchildren. My daughter and I have been more and more concerned about the state test-oriented text books that my grandson has been studying. This book and The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home bring order and sense to the purpose of education. Both books echo the direction and focus of the education I received in parochial school and treat the subject with logic and clarity. They both deal with an orderly development of the mind and leave me feeling confident in the program we are developing for my grandchildren based on these books. The author has a sound and orderly approach to education whether it is for a grandmother like me who never wants to stop learning or the developing mind of a child.
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on November 9, 2006
As a graduate student at one of Boston's major universities I am appalled at the level of intellectual muddle that passes for discourse in the classroom. I ran across this book and had to buy it just to begin to understand what we did right in the 1800s that did not happen with my generation in the 1980s and this book really provided that answer. I am so looking forward to re-educating myself with this book. It's a great resource.
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