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Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  44 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
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
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
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
Lynn Joshua
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
Claudia Lee
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!
Dianne Oliver
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
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
Shane Saxon
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
Adam Shields
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
I want to be this author's best friend!
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.
Dorothy Greco
If you are a spiritual person who loves classic literature, this is a great read. One of my favorite books from last year.
Amy Wood
Great Book!!!! Awesome Read, once started had hard time putting book down. I thought it was very inspirational.
Jessica Griffith
smart and redemptive. One of those books I felt was written just for me.
This was an easy book for me to enjoy because I love books about reading.

I wish I had known to skip Chapter 2. I don't like to read about animals being harmed in fiction and much less non-fiction. I almost did not finish the book because of it, but thankfully I didn't stop and nothing so horrible happened after this chapter.

Books was my comfort read during a long and very cold winter. I would read it while sitting in my car and warming it up, so it was a slow progression. However, it made endur
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
Jul 08, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2014-reads
Learned but not academic. What began like another The Child That Books Built and suggested a direction similar to Laura Miller's The Magician's Book turned into a collection of extremely personal essays chronicling the author's childhood, school days, adventures with love-relationships and marriage, and her never-faltering relationship with God. Specific books and writers - and Milton's "promiscuous reading" - play supporting roles in each life event, but this is really the story of Karen Swallo ...more
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
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
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
I don't think I've ever abandoned a book 25 pages in. I usually give it a chance. I had an inkling that this English professor was going to be pretentious when I saw the book list on which she based her chapter themes (Great Expectations, Gulliver's Travels, Madame Bovary). But then she said (and I quote): "I do suspect that Milton's reaction to modern day anxieties over the likes of Harry Potter and Twilight might be along the lines of a deep, resigned sigh.... In my day we had Stephen King, an ...more
Ryan Murdock
I thoroughly enjoyed the author's memoir of her life with literature, and I found her comments and insights into the books she discussed tremendously insightful. But I found the religious angle in the book off-putting. She brings each chapter back to god and her own religious views, and for me that took away from my enjoyment of the story.
I loved this book. Prior and I did not have identical upbringings, but there were several times I felt she was writing down my life too. Some of our formative reading was different, but the result was the same. And oh, the joy to find someone else understands the need to not just "ask Jesus into her heart" but also her mind.

Any Christian who loves books and reading will probably love this memoir.
Janet Maxwell
This book reminds me to stop and smell the literary roses. Often I rush through books or "analyze" them for the sake of teaching them. Not since my English classes have I stopped to really ponder the impact upon my life and connections with my spirit that the words are making. My favorite chapter is Madame Bovary because there was a time in my own life that I completely understood her desire for more excitement. Thank goodness maturity brought me to a greater understanding that life is to be sav ...more
Some books take awhile for me to process. Sections that struck me will come to mind randomly throughout the day, and I realize that the book had more of an impact on me than I realized. There were many observations in this book that did just that. I relished her words and life lessons, even if I wasn't sure if I agreed with all of them. In one chapter she states that "... reading--that is, really reading, interpreting--literature is practice for reading and interpreting life." This activity of i ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed especially her last line where she states that God met her where she was--in books. The chapters that included literary works that I love, I want to reread--so perhaps I may buy. Plenty to think about especially with the works I teach. I did skip a chapter or two if it discussed works that I don't particularly enjoy or never read because I couldn't wait to read what she wrote about in the next chapter! I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting. I didn't agree with he ...more
I was excited by the concept of this book, remembering how God used literature in my own life to draw me to Himself. Novels like Crime and Punishment and A Tale of Two Cities have a place in my personal testimony. Still, this book just didn't touch me in the way I had hoped. Although I enjoyed the literary analysis, especially of particular favorites like Jane Eyre, I just didn't feel a connection with the author's personal narrative. The writing was beautiful and eloquent, so I'm not sure what ...more
I used this book as a devotional, because I, too, believe that words are God's creation and they belong to God for His use. I fully believe that He has given me a desire to read, explicate, and understand literature and to know Him through it. Because of BOOKED: LITERATURE IN THE SOUL OF ME, I now know that I have His blessing to continue.

Thank you, Dr. Swallow Prior for your message, affirming that God is in His creation: words.
"I have carried this book and many, many others, all these years. Andy they have made me who I am." It's wonderful to journey with Prior through her life with books - Charlotte's Web, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Madame Bovary, and more. There are many of us who have been made by books and all the worlds they contain. It's a great way to get to know someone. What books have made you?
An interesting look at how different books helped shape the authors faith and life and values. She doesn't hold back the mistakes she has made through life, but sees in various books the light that helped her learn life principles. In the book she affirms her faith in God in an unapologetic but natural way.
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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.” 2 likes
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