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Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  278 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
A life of books. A life of soul. Professor Karen Swallow Prior poignantly and humorously weaves the two, until you can't tell one life from the other. Booked draws on classics like Great Expectations, delights such as Charlotte's Web, the poetry of Hopkins and Donne, and more. This thoughtful, straight-up memoir will be pure pleasure for book-lovers, teachers, and anyone w ...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published October 20th 2012 by T. S. Poetry Press
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Mike Duran
Aug 03, 2014 Mike Duran rated it it was amazing
I’ve never really wanted to read Jane Eyre. Until now.

Jane Eyre is just one of several pieces of classic literature that Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English at Liberty University, uses to chronicle her own journey of self-discovery — a journey of self-discovery through literature. In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me, Madame Bovary, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Great Expectations, Charlotte’s Web, and Gulliver’s Travels, are more than just musty old “classics” forced upon bored high-schoo
Jan 27, 2013 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A memoir of sorts through the literature read -- oh, so many parallels here to my own reading experiences, from writing feverishly like Harriet, "the Spy" to realizing a sense of self and convictions as depicted by Jane Eyre to our first college major and the book that influenced it to caressing the "tissue thin pages" of our college lit anthologies to living as teachers of the literature we love.

These quotes resonate with me:

God who spoke the world into existence with words is, in fact, the sou
Claudia Lee
Mar 18, 2013 Claudia Lee rated it it was amazing
Once again my Librarian-Super Reader daughter suggested this book to me. Wow! As I read it I felt like I was having coffee and talking with my 'kindred spirit'! Ms. Prior explores the way reading a book and entering into the life of the book is used of God in our spiritual formation and in the spiritual life of our kids. So good!
Intelligent, inspiring, deep, moving. I didn't know what to expect, but after such moving reviews I knew it would be good.
I learned much and my eyes were opened in new and unexpected ways. My favorite chapters had to include Tess of the D'Ubervilles, Madam Bovery (especially this one), and John Donne. She had such insightful truths to share, and I feel like this is one of those books that has definitely made me think differently and see more clearly.
Now I need to read Madam Bovery, John Donne,
Apr 25, 2013 Taylor rated it it was amazing
Having been in Dr. Prior's classroom, I often find myself amazed by her knowledge and unique perspective of literature, and this is no exception. Prior reminds us that literature is still relevant today in an excellent fashion, and I completely relate to how books have changed her life because they have changed mine. Prior is candid, honest, and witty, and her writing shows a wisdom that only experience can provide. Her unique style is captivating with stories that will make you smile as well as ...more
Dianne Oliver
Sep 03, 2013 Dianne Oliver rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-on-books
yes! yes! yes! How grand on a Monday afternoon to come across a writer who loves literature and has lived in the same context as one. She tells truth, with openness and honesty. If devotions or bible study looked like this, I might show up...She truly can find nuggets of Biblical wisdom within the best books on our bookshelves.
Her review of Areopagitica by Milton beautifully shows how truth is found-for children especially, but also as adults. Not by censorship of falsehoods, but in reading, o
Lynn Joshua
Oct 09, 2014 Lynn Joshua rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The first chapter on Milton's Areopagitica sets the stage, encouraging us to read widely and "let truth and falsehood grapple." She says, "...the best way to counteract falsehood is not by suppressing it, but by countering it with truth. Truth is stronger than falsehood; falsehood prevails through the suppression of countering ideas, but truth triumphs in a free and open exchange that allows truth to shine."

Then the author takes us on a journey through some of her
Feb 15, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it
What a delight! Prior traces her spiritual life through some of her (and coincidentally mine) favorite literature. A true child of the 70's, she seems to find her way with God through literature. I found some parts of it maudlin as when she carries on about her love of animals, but she has a great way of teasing out deep spiritual sensibilities from some of my favorite books and authors: Jane Eyre, Tess, Milton, Hopkins, Donne, and Arnold. She spurs me to reread each of the works for all I have ...more
We love
Sep 12, 2014 We love rated it really liked it
This title was more intense, edgy and personal than many "books about books" that I have read. The author did a good job tying in the books that meant a lot to her as we followed her growing into adulthood. In some ways, this is not a light read...deeper, darker and a lot about how Prior made her faith her own. I wouldn't say I "loved" this's too serious for that, but it really made me think and I appreciated it for that. It challenged some of the ways I look at life. Prior is a beauti ...more
Adam Shields
Nov 01, 2012 Adam Shields rated it really liked it
Short Review: A memoir about books for people that love books. Well worth reading. Prior takes a book each chapter to illustrate or explain her life. This is a grand honor to the books that have made her who she is. I really enjoyed it even though I have read less than half of the books she talks about. I do wish that she had included some 'non-classic' books. But that is a minor quibble. If you love books, check this out.

My longer review is on my blog at
Dec 28, 2012 Marybeth rated it it was amazing
A book for anyone -- lovers of literature or not. Prior uses her history with books to trace the history of her life, explaining how reading shaped her experiences but also provided insight into those experiences. The first chapter (center on Milton's Areopagitica) and the tenth chapter (covering Donne's poetry) are where Prior's at her best, though all the chapters are good. This book helpfully includes discussion questions at the end, making it a good pick for a book club selection.
Dec 30, 2014 Alyssa rated it it was amazing
If you are a lover of literature you will really enjoy this book. I learnt so much from Karen Swallow Prior - more than I probably learnt in some of my literature subjects at university. But if you are a lover of literature and a Christian, you will love this book. Prior so marvellously and naturally weaves her faith, her God, her life and her books into one seamless story. I had just the best time reading it.
Jun 23, 2014 Shelley rated it it was amazing
I've read excerpts of this book to my eleventh and twelfth grade English classes. Karen Swallow. Prior has some very viable analyses of literature selections that give you a sense of her life connections with the authors.
Read this for book club and really enjoyed both the author's style and the subject matter. I had read all the literature she talked about except Madame Bovary so that made it more enjoyable for me, but the principles about life she drew from the literature were fascinating.
Amy Wood
Mar 10, 2013 Amy Wood rated it it was amazing
Great Book!!!! Awesome Read, once started had hard time putting book down. I thought it was very inspirational.
Dorothy Littell
Nov 20, 2013 Dorothy Littell rated it it was amazing
If you are a spiritual person who loves classic literature, this is a great read. One of my favorite books from last year.
Jessica Griffith
Mar 01, 2013 Jessica Griffith rated it really liked it
smart and redemptive. One of those books I felt was written just for me.
I want to be this author's best friend!
Nov 13, 2016 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I so wanted to be delighted by this book but instead I found it pedestrian.
Jun 04, 2013 Lashawn rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
As of late, I've been struggling with the question, "Is God speaking to us today? If so, how?" I know He speaks through the Bible--some would say that it's the only way he speaks. But is that true? Are there other ways he can speak through?

Karen Swallow Prior believes so. In her memoir "Booked", she lists 8 books and several poems that influenced her faith. Most of the books are classics; the most recent are Charlotte's Web (the only book I fully read on her list) and Death of a Salesman. She al
Rick Wilcox
Jul 14, 2016 Rick Wilcox rated it really liked it
Well Mr. Hemingway, there’s blood all over this typewriter so there has to be a writer somewhere. Apparently, she’s a reader too. In her masterful work “Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me”, Karen Swallow Prior delivers an intimate confessional journaling her life through the lens of authors with which she has interacted. Though none of us can appreciate the nuance of these brilliant essays better than she, we nonetheless find ourselves in hushed appreciation of her bold vulnerability.

In his po
Shane Saxon
Sep 02, 2014 Shane Saxon rated it it was amazing
If I had written "Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me", I would have included "Defense of Poetry" by Philip Sidney. It was this short book which unlocked a world of understanding about the nature of Truth and the imagination which ultimately helped me to understand Professor Prior’s wonderful meditations in "Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me".

Sidney, in "Defense of Poetry", makes the compelling argument that imaginative literature is the greatest teacher of virtue. But, in making that argu
The first book I ever read on my own was small and blue. It is strange that I don't remember its contents, but maybe that has something to do with the fact that I was mouthing every word, following my progress with a dirty little finger. I could absolutely not understand how people found any joy in this laborious work, but since my parents were getting increasingly unwilling to read aloud to me, I didn't seem to have any choice.

A couple of books later I had learned to swim among the words and ph
Nov 23, 2016 Jeff rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I can relate.
"I admit that my relationship with God has been more intellectual than emotional. I used to think this lack of emotional fervor was a mark of sin or, at the very least some great flaw in my spiritual life. I thought that it must be a great lack in my faith that I am more emotionally moved in reading literary works ...than in reading dramatic passages in the bible or in hearing a moving testimony from the pulpit. But I've come to realize that my emotional re
Harker US Library
Sep 06, 2016 Harker US Library rated it really liked it
If you've ever thought that you could tell the story of your life through the books that you read, you will find a kindred spirit in Karen Swallow Prior. Her Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me is a memoir of her growth from a young child to a professor of literature.

Prior organizes each chapter around a book that proved especially formative to her experience or that shed light on it in hindsight. To give but a sampling: Milton's "Aeropagitica" taught her the virtue of "promiscuous reading," C
Charity Andrews
Mar 23, 2015 Charity Andrews rated it it was amazing
From the very first story to the powerful and final statement , I was enraptured. In Karen’s book, cleverly titled “Booked”, we see her life intertwined with literature and God. What a task to bring them all together. I assure you, she was up for the challenge!!

Each chapter is dedicated to some form of literature that made a huge impact on her life. It may surprise you that I did not grow up reading books like Karen did. In fact, books are a relatively new thing for me! Seeing how she was able t
Ashley  Brooks
May 28, 2014 Ashley Brooks rated it it was ok
I've been plodding my way through this book for months, and I'm finally giving myself permission to put it on the "did not finish" shelf.

Booked had the potential to be something really great. I love the premise: the author walks readers through the books that made a significant impact on her life and the lessons she learned from them. Great idea, not-so-great execution.

My biggest issue with Booked is that it read more like a literature analysis than a cozy conversation with friends. Karen Swall
Mar 27, 2013 Tonya rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-reads
Well, any book that talks ABOUT books is one I want to read. In the beginning was so with the author. Who has a young girl didn't love Charlotte's Web? I wanted to live on a farm after that and that book, along with CS Lewis's books and Little House On the Prairie books ignited my love of reading.

Then with Jane Eyre, I haven't had the pleasure of reading it, but I did get it on my kindle. So I enjoyed that. But beyond that, I got lost in her journey. When it came to the poems, I shut down. I gre
Feb 07, 2013 Malia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian, biography
I loved this book so much that I read it slowly over two years and lingered over the last chapter so it wouldn't end.

If I'm fully honest, I did pause between chapters to read the books she references. It helps to understand her connections although it is not necessary to appreciate the truths she pulls from literature and the applications she offers from her own life.

But of course, I eventually did finish it, and I'm thankful for the process I chose. Now, though, I'll read it quickly through a
Matt Miles
Jun 28, 2015 Matt Miles rated it really liked it
I'm not usually a fan of memoirs or books about books, but in this case the combination was just right. Karen Swallow Prior balances real life narrative with examples from literature to reveal how the latter can illuminate the former, in a conversational tone that reflects a mind fully engaged in the world and faith. Each chapter is worth a read, but Prior's thoughts on Milton, Charlotte's Web, and Madame Bovary in particular are worth the price for valuing the role of literature passionately wi ...more
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Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for The and for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a Research Fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a mem ...more
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“It is no coincidence that the term “voice” has come to mean in modern usage much more than just the sound made by the vocal organs, but also the means by which we make our individual selves known, not only to others but to ourselves. For the connection between the self and language is inseparable: it is through language that the self becomes.” 3 likes
“In so doing, I resisted the descent into what the school counselors called low self-esteem. Self-esteem is the dark, distorted shadow of self-possession. Self-esteem gazes inward and wills the inner eye to like what it sees; self-possession looks inward only long enough to take a measure then looks outward at the world in search of a fitting place—and settles for no less.” 3 likes
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