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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
Book Savvy
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on November 23, 2013
From BOOK SAVVY to Book Junkie

Clean, concise and fun reading—that’s how I characterized Cynthia Lee Katona’s Book Savvy just nine pages in. After a cover to cover leisurely reading, this overall impression remains. A wealth of knowledge and advice abounds, no more and no less than what it took to get the job done—convince her audience of the art and pleasure of becoming a “book junkie” and how to get there. It is rare to find a resource of this caliber fleshed out in so few pages.

BOOK SAVVY starts with an autobiography that is short, swift and to the point. It is not meant to tell anything about the author other than her direct path to becoming a “book junkie”. The voice behind the words—informative yet personal—seems to want to remain detached. It’s Katona’s "savvy" direction that leads the reader from first to last page, a voice that is personally familiar with each creative work that found its way onto these pages.

BOOK SAVVY is an easy, enjoyable, and informative read. “Key to the Annotated Book List” whetted my appetite for the treasures to come. In that chapter, Katona uses icons, much like international road signage, to quickly inform the reader about the book, to let them know if they want to take that off-ramp or not.

My favorite chapter is the “Annotated Book List” and, like everything I truly savor, I left the best for last, skipping it to read after Part III, “Becoming a Book Junkie”. There, I became excited to find among the bounty a list of masterpieces that I had either read too young to understand or appreciate, or not at all for any number of reasons. LOLITA was one of those masterpieces, and here I quote Katona: “There is no turn of mind that can’t be empathized with as is shown so brilliantly in Nabokov’s Lolita which even makes child abuse explicable…” Wow! I had never read LOLITA, but because of this review and its rating of “5” (meaning a challenging masterwork of literature), my interest quickened and I purchased the book to read. Other titles tickled a faint memory, such as BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA, a book I’d heard about but had not yet had the opportunity to add to my personal queue.

When Katona introduces “Active Reading” she quotes Mortimer J. Adler’s “How to Mark a Book”. “Amen!” I said after reading it. It’s against my nature to read anything without scribbling penciled notes and commentary everywhere. The only section not to resonate entirely with me, however, was Chapter 7, “Developing a Reading Journal”. That would amount to teaching this ‘old dog’—already a veteran reader and writer—a new trick. But for those who aren’t yet there, a reading journal could be a sure fire way to develop and nurture the book junkie in them.

As well, I was particularly interested in Appendix A, “Book Lists and Awards”, a useful ‘inset’ of the greater map of how to become a lover of books. A plethora of quotes brings up the rear.

BOOK SAVVY is importantly accessible to its target market—those who need encouragement to read (as well as those who already know the value). It abounds with truths, insights, and discoveries—something for everybody. In other words, in a snappy no nonsense style, Katona has covered the bases.

I recommend BOOK SAVVY as a textbook to teachers/professors of literature and creative writing, and as a resource to anyone wishing to enhance their enjoyment of perhaps the greatest of all past-times—reading. BOOK SAVVY is a must-read for anyone who loves to write creatively, such as myself, because reading is writing.
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on May 15, 2015
"[Reading is like] the sex act--done privately, and often in bed," according to Daniel J. Boorstin.
For someone who loves to read before I go to sleep and one of the second things I do after I awake and linger in bed, I agree with him. Mason Cooley is quoted as saying: "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." These are two of my favorite thoughts out of 125 quotes about books and reading that Professor Katona shares at the end her book. It feels like the grand finale.... after appreciating such great minds in favor of books, how could I not read!
Of course, I personally am an avid reader as sharing the adventures and thoughts of others makes me more who I am. What is most delicious about Book Savvy is what it all contains. It is a cornucopia of golden nuggets. I would call it the ultimate "crib notes" of reading. What a genius idea of elegance and creativity to contain so much richness of information, scope of genre, compelling synopsis of what the books contain and even awesome quotes which help me sense if I want to read this book or not. Other reviews have covered the details of the book's format so read them as they are so thorough.
Personally, for me, it is a keeper and I intend to mark it up and even decide which movies I will watch that match the books presented. Now,
I have a new track to run on. What is interesting to me is to come across book selections that I have already read and savored. And now I
am exposed to a smorgasbord of new choices that I would not have imagined. How sweet a find! Tis a gem. I would give it a 10.
I'll bet anyone 29 cents to find anything half as comparable and awesome. I won't live long enough to even read all these possible choices.
I know where to start though. How refreshing Professor Katona that your gift for loving books over several decades can be shared in one small volume to enhance our lives. Thank you.
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on June 13, 2015
Katona aims to convince America to pick up a book and read. She climbs up on the podium from page one of this book and lectures to us about why we need to read (she claims there are eleven good reasons) and what we could be reading. Then she provides an eighty page book list of books we might try, books that range from a 5 level of challenge (masterworks, with demanding ideas and vocabulary) to a 1 level of challenge (books written for children, but with appeal to adults). Lots of books on the list are mainstays of lists like these, but there are enough surprises to justify my purchase at Half Price Books.
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on August 26, 2006
This summer I promised myself some long over-due quality book reading time, but I wasn't sure where to start. I needed a good reading list. I found much more in Book Savvy. I loved the delightful subject matter categories; the succinct, clever synopses; the listing of other books by the same author, even movie references. I'm intrigued by the book journal idea, too, since I have taken notes about wine and cigars! Best of all, Ms Katona's book, especially the riveting autobiographical part, re-inspired me about how wonderful the written word is in this day and age of TV and cell phones, and how it is never too late to self-educate. My nephew will soon be receiving a copy of Book Savvy.
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on July 24, 2005
To confess it up front, I am a lapsed reader of books. Oh, my grounding isn't bad, if Great Works didn't especially enter in, but I'm as much a perpetrator/victim of the closed cycle of the pressures and urgencies of current life as the next person. Let's face it. Time is precious, things compete--yet it may be the rare person who doesn't believe they can rise above. ...Even if the current situation is one they themselves are responsible for. I am not an educator, not technically a student, but I know that I have not run out of things to learn.

So with some Mighty Sam McClain spinning soft and deep on the CD player, I started reading my copy of Book Savvy. Some truth: at the end of the first chapter, Ms. Katona's short autobiography, my eyes were a bit past misting. And I kept turning pages. During the second chapter, "Introduction to the State of Reading in America", it was difficult not to see bits and pieces of myself scattered throughout. If I can count as an example, reading in this country has sloughed off. The reasons found in the chapter are more than accurate. Following that chapter, things increasingly build towards the weightiest portion of the book, the "Annotated Book List." Although the back jacket of the book puts the book in the categories of "Literature" and "Education", certainly fitting, it might be worth considering these categories outside of some rather narrow definition. After all, even if a person is not a student, learning something you don't already know is a good thing. In my case, recovering something that has long been set aside isn't so bad either. So we come to the "Annotated Book List"...

The "Annotated Book List", contains such things as title, author, genre, synopsis, quotations, things to look out for and think about while reading, other things written by the same author and, maybe as a bonus, information about any movie versions. There are eighty-eight works in the "Annotated Book List" (I counted)...covering a great span of interests. I came across books that I now know I will have to pick up.

After the list are chapters covering how to become an "active" reader and how to develop a reading journal. Finally, there are two appendices devoted to "Book Lists and Awards" and quotations about books and reading.

Now I have to say that the chapter on becoming an active reader gives me a slight amount of pause. After a brief introduction, the chapter reprints "How to Mark a Book", by Mortimer J. Adler. To be honest, marking a book worries me. The chapter, through the writing of Mr. Adler, makes some very good points about marking a book and why there is value in doing that. What is said makes sense. But I have never once marked a book, dog-eared a page...nothing. Maybe because the bulk of my early reading was with library books, I don't know, but after I've read a book it looks pretty much the same as it did sitting in the book store--and I kind of like that. Now, I do think getting much more out of books than I have gleaned is not a bad idea., but I might have to try things out on a few practice books.

I don't have any such qualms about keeping a reading journal, though I've never done that either. When I've read a book, I've just read it. Anything that sticks becomes part of my psyche, but I've very aware that there is a lot that doesn't stick. Maybe in my reading journals I can also keep the marks I don't want to put in books.

I found the books lists and awards very interesting, and the same thing was true for the quotes. I was curious to see how many science fiction lists and awards were covered (kind of a secret litmus test), and there were several--not bad. It was just fun for me to read all the lists, and clearly the award lists give many more books that will be worthwhile for me to pick up and read.

It was no less fun to read all the quotes. Though there were quite a few of them, let me pass on two: "The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read." -Abraham Lincoln; and, "People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book." -Malcolm X. It's hard to beat the two for a summation of why reading is worthwhile, even valuable.

I believe that I have been missing out on a lot while I've been paying attention to other things. Book Savvy? Yes, highly recommended. I got a lot of enjoyment out of even reading it. But it didn't only give me a single book...I just might have been taught how to fish.
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on July 11, 2005
Book Savvy is an excellent guide for those with reading addictions but not a lot of time to scour the shelves for just that right book. Katona has done it for us so that we can spend our time reading the books, not finding them.

I am already a lover of books and reading, but it was interesting to read Katona's thoughts on the importance of reading. She makes some excellent points about how reading can transport and transform the reader.

The heart of this book though is the roadmap it provides for a journey through time,lands,people,and perspectives via books. The author has developed a series of icons that among other things, tell us if a book helps us understand ourselves, understand others, takes us to new geographic places, or is primarily for fun. She also rates the reading level of the book as well as provides a synopsis of it. Armed with this information, I can then decide what book to pick up for my next transpacific flight, where I want to be engrossed for 15 hours but don't necessarily want to ponder deep thoughts. I can then also pick out a book for that rainy day by the fire or the one that takes me to a genre that I haven't spent much time with.

Book Savvy can be used by the teacher that needs a guide to pick out literature for class, or the book club that needs a very useful resource for future choices, or by the reader that wants to focus on reading and needs to narrow down the choices instead of being lost in the aisles of the bookstore.

In addition, this book will provide value over the long run. The books Katona reviews run from current to classics and so the guide will be helpful to me for a very long time. And I might even have the courage to start a book journal, based on the blueprint the author gives at the end of the book.
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on January 4, 2007
I am watching my mailbox for my copy of Book Savvy, but am positive that this book will be well worth the wait. Professor Cynthia Lee Katona was by far my favorite professor in college - intriguing and inspiring with every sentence.

I grew up in a family consumed by books; bookshelves in every room, two-story tall book shelves, family trading and recommending books, and I could find my mother asleep under her latest read every night...but I just wasn't a "reader". Until, that is, I took my first course with Professor Katona.

I learned not to skip the introduction, which I had always passed by, because so much can be learned within that first section. I learned to "mark up" my books, which I resisted at first; but after marking up "Lolita" and going back to read my margin notes, I realized themes and answers, and came to conclusions that astounded professors as well as myself. I learned to keep a dictionary and The Bible within reach, and soon I expanded to include a dictionary printed around 1920-1930 (or the time frame in which the book takes place or was written) and an encyclopedia; because one word (especially reoccuring) looked up and understood can unlock the whole book and bring forth a new understanding.

Professor Katona's lectures and the twinkle in her eye made her students feel like they had been "let in" on a secret, and her passion for her work is obvious and greatly appreciated. The literature and surrounding research rounded me as a person, and I think that this book will open the door to self-enlightenment and self-empowerment for readers as her courses did for me.
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on July 5, 2005
reading the authors introduction gave me a wonderful walk down

memory lane, recalling how fortunate I was to be brought up by parents who encouraged and supported reading

The author outlines her own childhood, and how she developed a craving and appreciation for literature. From the first few pages, reading the authors intro, I was immediately drawn in, wanting to read more.

Katona outlines the state of reading in america in her preface to the book lists, and states the case for why it is essential to encourage and develop an appreciation for literature. For the novice, she provides a synopsis for a wide variety of reading material: traditional, research related, avant garde, contemporary, and books for for pure enjoyment. Katona provides the film counterpart for the books if one exists. In this media driven culture, often young readers forget that there was a book that inspired their favorite film. The author provides clear and informative notes on each book, key quotations, and other works by the author.

At the end of Book Savvy, the author discusses methods for creating a reading journal, books that have won literary awards, and at the end a full section of quotations from well known individuals as to their thoughts on books and reading.

Katona's book provides those new to reading with an invaluable resource for selecting books to read and enspiring a love of reading, In addition, her skills as an educator provide useful insights for instructors to use in the classroom. I will use this as a reference source in my own teaching, to quickly find books that will enhance my curriculum. I know that this will point me in some new directions for supplimental readings in the classroom. Thank you for providing a much needed resource.
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on November 10, 2016
Had this book on wish list for some time.Was worth the wait and expense. Good resource in any home. Thank you for your terrific work.What a find.
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on February 22, 2007
This is a fantastic book. I love the elegance and gentle humor in Katona's writing, the whole savvy idea and the incredible inspiration on every single page. I love the cultural perspective -- reading as an unnatural act in America! --and all the practical, technical help she gives the reader -- the whole TEACHING part without any didactic turn-offs. And the amusing list of quotes, like separating people into those who read to remember and those who read to forget.

Really, it's a treat to read not just Katona's assembly of books, but to savor what she says about each of them, and how little (admirably little!) she needs to say to make them hot. I was fascinated by her choice of quotes from the books she mentions, especially when I knew the book. And of course, I loved to find so many of my own old favorites among them, and to discover some new ones as well. Page after page I went: Ah, maybe I should have read this book, after all...Darn, I really ought to read that one, too.... Okay, I will read it NOW!!!

It's like a pleasure walk through one's book life, with surprises and suspense all along the way.

Katona's students are lucky, lucky to have her as their prof.
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