105 of 115 people found the following review helpful
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.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2007
Many, many years out of college I felt my mind atrophying and decided to start a "serious" reading program, similar to the old "summer reading" that used to be done by high-school and college students. I picked up this book to use as a I guide.
Yes, many of the techniques Susan Wise Bauer talks about in the opening chapters are ones that many readers will have picked up along the way. But even experienced readers may find her suggestions of keeping a "commonplace book" or reading journal helpful and brief background explanations of the various literary genres helpful.
The very structured approach to notekeeping and journaling will probably not sit well with every reader. (I don't plan to follow all of her suggestions myself.) And many people will surely debate about the choices included on the reading lists. But Bauer is very firm about taking a book and making it your own, so disregard suggestions that don't work for you. And as she admits, no one reading list will be considered canonical by everyone. In fact, Bauer encourages the reader to use her lists as a "jumping off" point.
All in all, I think any reader who is serious about reading the great "classics" can find something in this book to help with that process.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
"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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2009
Susan Bauer has done a superb job in compiling a magnificent list of books that one should read throughout their lifetime. Excellent summaries were given with a sprinkling of commentary. I find this to be an excellent introductory text for those especially in their mid-lives who are seeking to be better apprised of the great works written in the past. Works that read carefully and discussed will enlighten those of us who are trying to make some sense of our postmodern society.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to The Classical Education You Never Had", by Susan Wise Bauer is a must read for the avid reader, and for anyone who would like to broaden their scope of literary knowledge.
The best aspects of this book:
1) The very best thing about this book is the comprehensive lists of suggested reading in the categories of novels, autobiography, history, drama, and poetry. The suggested editions are given with a brief summary of the work.
2) In the poetry section, the author includes information useful to the newly interested as well as those well read in poetry. She includes a description of the different forms of poetry and explains things like meter and accented syllables.
3) The book gives the reader a new way of looking at literature, both ancient works and modern pieces, with an appreciation for and explanation of the changes in form through time.
I do need to mention a couple things I wasn't as fond of. The poetry section totally left out Maya Angelou and I just don't see how a comprehensive list of modern poets could omit a woman of her accomplishments, especially since she is probably the most famous living poet of our time. Also the author sometimes presents her opinions as if they were facts, slanted to her religious beliefs, which I hope won't cost her any readers. For example, she makes the following statement about poetry on page 311: "All poetry is about God, love, or depression." I don't agree with that, as some poets use the subject of happiness, history, nature, etc. Examples would Carl Sandburg's "Fog" which in no way touches on God, love, or depression, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride".
Overall, I would highly recommend "The Well-Educated Mind". It encourages people to look at all forms of literature in more depth, and may very well encourage people to read plays and historical accounts for the first time. Kudos to the author for compiling those excellent lists of suggested reading, which alone would be well worth the price of this book.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2004
I thought, after loving Well-Trained Mind, that this would be a sort of re-education for me. I would read through some timeline-style history book, review some science in an orderly fashion, get some guidelines on foreign language study, get a great books list, get some tips on math improvement. This is what I thought.
This is more an annotated great books list than an education replacement plan. I enjoy the book and am attempting to start at the beginning of the list (Don Quixote) and work through. I am excited about going through the books and using the note-taking and rhetoric techniques she suggests. I just wish the book would have covered more aspects.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2008
Helpful and very well organized. The author takes a very daunting task (to become "well read" and classically educated) and truly encourages and motivates the reader.
She offers her lists which, she explains, are just a starting point and not exhaustive. They are set up chronologically and she encourages the reader to make the lists their own by adding to or subtracting from the list.
She also offers her perspective and insight on how to accomplish the task at hand. For instance, she doesn't read her email prior to starting a serious reading. Her analysis of the issue hit the nail on the head.
I also appreciated the fact the author didn't re-write history by removing the Christian writings from her lists. Brava!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a good guide for anyone who is interested in reading the classics. Bauer does to things to help the neophyte: 1) she gives good advice on how to read each type of work - fiction, history, memoirs, plays and poetry. Specifically she gives questions to ask as you read as well as a history of each genre. 2) She provides a list of recommended readings. Her lists are admittedly not comprehensive but they are a good starting point. Her framework for her advice is the classical learning method of the trivium, or the use of grammar, logic and rhetoric. I am not an expert in the trivium, but it seems to me that she is somewhat misapplying that learning method to her recommended reading scheme. I think she could have left that analogy out and achieved the same purpose. Also, I found her recommendation to get a reading partner for your reading project very unrealistic: for me, reading is an intensely personal experience, one that I would not necessarily want to share as I am engaged in it. I don't want my thinking influenced by a reading partner. I prefer to come to my own conclusions as I read and then let them be affected after the fact. Also, I think it is presumptuous to think that there is someone out there willing to set the same time and effort required for such an undertaking; perhaps this is possible for singles or people with few responsibilities. Bauer places too much weight on a partner to achieve success. Nevertheless, this book is a great introduction to classic literature and should also be a good motivator for anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of these works, and also growing and learning by doing so.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2013
This was a gift for my son, who is disappointed in the education he was getting, and wanted to better understand what should be important to read to be well rounded and socially conversant. It's a starting point not the end result. Our predecessors had a different view on life and no access to the internet to look up things immediately. We lost something in terms of understanding when we just look up the quote and don't know the context.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2007
I feel more educated after reading many of these books that SWB recommends. I know I have many more to read that were not included, but I'm on a good path. I think she put a lot of thought into her work, and I've read many books that she has suggested that I'd probably not read otherwise. Some have been terrific, some I could do without, but I thank her for the suggestions.