The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had
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The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,412 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Have you lost the art of reading for pleasure? Are there books you know you should read but haven't because they seem too daunting? In The Well-Educated Mind, Susan Wise Bauer provides a welcome and encouraging antidote to the distractions of our age, electronic and otherwise. In her previous book, The Well-Trained Mind, the author provided a road map of classical educatio...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published August 17th 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michelle
Well, no great surprise, but I was not crazy about this book. I love to read books about books, and Bauer had a number of funny lines about graduate students which I appreciated. I love to read and improve myself. But still this book missed the mark by a long, long way, to me. The day I have to make myself progress through a "grammar stage, logic stage, rhetoric stage" to get meaning from a book is the day I hang up my glasses and take up knitting or something instead. Good grief. The endless "d...more
Jake
You can't pay me enough to take this book from me. It is, in the course of a few hundred pages, a replacement for *all* the time wasted in high school English classes.

This book is a fantastic introduction to the "classical education" method, a steady-as-she-goes education of the self by dipping into the Great Conversation of books and authors and ideas that has been going since the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The first section of the book is entirely dedicated to teaching you the basics of the method, wh...more
C.
A few months ago I was led, through some means or other, to the website of the college Moira attended, St John's. Basically it's this tiny university where they basically just learn everything from books. They read the primary sources and then, I guess, they discuss them, and learn stuff. For four years! Sounds like heaven to me.

The thing about tertiary education in Australia is that it's accessible to the vast majority of people because the fees are heavily subsidised by the government. The res...more
Zelda
May 05, 2013 Zelda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I've just finished this on the heels of Mortimer Adler's classic work, "How to Read a Book". Bauer's take on Adler is written for the remedial students who flunked the Adler. For instance, she doesn't casually gloss over the mechanics of reading a book, unlike Adler who assumed that people knew to move your eyes across and down the page. Bauer makes no such assumptions.

Bauer makes shockingly few references to Adler (only one comes to mind) which seems disrespectful given that she co-opted his w...more
Terri Lynn
I have used Susan Wise Bauer's Well-Trained Mind book (written with her mother Jessie wise) for years as a homeschool mother and in teaching classes of homeschool students of all ages. This book is one that I read to glean ideas about reading classical books as an adult and was somewhat disappointed in that she would have readers essentially read each book three times all while taking notes and doing the same sort of analysis done in grad school.

I don't believe a book requires this much readin...more
Megan Larson
For those of us who are interested in classical education for our children, it's important to educate ourselves first! This book is a guide to achieving that, with tips for reading the five important genres of literature (novels, biographies, dramas, histories, and poetry) and analyzing the works in each category by the three phases of the classical education: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Each genre contains a chronological annotated list of great works to go through, as well as how to analyze...more
Corey Grabar
Jun 17, 2008 Corey Grabar rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents
Recommended to Corey by: sister
What a great read. Indeed, it is the authoritative resource on classical education. I've seen some other reviews that say this book is too ambitious, but the beauty of homeschooling is that you can tailor this style and method to your own circumstances. In fact, any parent who wishes to be involved in their children's education (i.e. all parents, I hope!), would benefit from at least reflecting on the philosophy of this book and incorporating whichever parts work in your particular situation. A...more
Jimyanni
It was difficult to decide how many stars to give this book; three seemed a bit low, but four definitely seemed too high. The best part of this book is the suggested reading lists, complete with thumbnail descriptions: chronologically ordered lists of some of the most influential novels, autobiographies, histories, dramas, and poetry. I fully intend to use these lists to find future reading material.

Less useful, at least to me, was the "instruction" in how to read "serious literature"; I find th...more
Sue
This book was in my library's carousel entitled "Books on Books".

Bauer is a professor of American Literature at the College of William and Mary in my home state of Virginia. This paragraph of the jacket insert intrigued me:
"..offers brief, entertaining histories of five literary genres - fiction, autobiography, history, drama and poetry - accompanied by detailed instructions on how to read each type."

More specifically, the chapter called "Keeping the Journal: A Written Record of New Ideas" is wh...more
Stephanie
Basically, a how-to book for reading books, including concise introductions to several major literary movements and suggesting a handful of titles and accompanying summaries that will help you be a well-rounded reader.

Yes, I am a huge nerd for reading it.
Meg
I enjoyed this book so much. Bauer calls for adopting the trivium approach to reading championed by classical education: the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage. Or rather, memorization and familiarization > critical thinking and analysis > forming and expressing personal opinions about the accumulated facts. Her approach is thorough, and introduces readers to five different literary forms and how to read them: novels, memoirs, history and politics, drama, and poetry. Ea...more
Jacob
This is a helpful book about how to read classic English & American Literature to educate yourself, as well as lists and descriptions of representative classic works that are suggested reading. The writing is a bit dry and textbook-ish, but not hard to understand. Susan Wise Bauer starts with a few chapters on technique for understanding and evaluating literature. The technique is basically to focus first on understanding what you are reading, then on understand the arguments or points of wh...more
Rei Helkamire
A very friendly and informative guide to reading "great works" of Western literature. I admire the author for managing to sketch out the history of each genre (fiction, historical writing, autobiographies, plays, poetry) in a concise manner that still captures the main themes and developments over the course of history. Only for English literature, mind, which she points out early on. (To study French, German, Russian traditions, etc, both author and reader would need to be fluent in the languag...more
Leah
In the Well-Educated Mind, Mrs. Bauer discusses the importance of learning by reading for study not only entertainment. In the introductory chapters (1-4), she advises scheduling a regular reading time, practicing the mechanics of reading, keeping a reading journal and how to read a book using this method. In the chapters that follow (5-9), Mrs. Bauer covers the different ways to read the genre of literature as well as providing a list of recommended reading.

Chapters 5-9 are set up in the same...more
Annette
I'm really enjoying this book, it has taken me awhile to pick it up, requires a fresh mind, which seems to only happen at 6 AM. Currently I'm learning about different reading approaches, how to speed read, scan a page for a general sense of information, and then about understanding-analysis-evaluation.

Normally this would seem very dry but the author has a great sense of humour which she weaves into this tutorial on learning to read, understand, analyze and evaluate. She also gives lists of clas...more
Stephen
I was somewhat prepared not to like this book since the subtitle "A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had" struck me as rather stuffy and elitist. Classical education proponents tend to be too full of the past to value the present. Such, however, is not the case for this author and this work. She is a clear and gifted writer with a well-educated mind. The breakdown of the tasks involved in reading different genres of literature and her three-stage approach to reading well are very helpf...more
Loren
Dear Susan Wise Bauer,
Can I call you Mom? Because like a mother who gently and lovingly guides you over the potholes of city streets, pulls you from the hot stove and shows your hands how to form those ubiquitous bunny ears onto your shoelaces, you are teaching me an essential skill of which in today's society of high literacy masquerading for intelligent analytical thinking is just as necessary as speech itself. Now I can revel in new challenges you mother, friend and fellow student of literat...more
Nikki
To continue one's education throughout life, not just while acquiring a degree, is a worthwhile and beneficial endeavor. The title of this book suggests you need to read this book if you haven't acquired a classical education, but I say it's a fun guide to continue on with what you've already learned.... Continue the learning. I've started reading this book, which acts as an educational guide, in a study group with my sisters and my mother. It is so much fun! We are currently reading our first a...more
Bri Zabriskie
Not too bad. She makes a decent book list and gives general how to read/ analyze tactics for types of literature. A decent starting point for people who have no idea where to begin (if not a little condescending). She's funny at parts. I disagree with some of her ideas about the study of literature / how to study literature. I don't think I would have finished if I wasn't reading for a study group but I did tho some parts were repetitive and wordy enough that I skimmed. Overall a descent what /...more
Andrea
How can you get more out of the books you read -- in part so that you remember what you read and in part so that you understand the ideas and whether you agree with them? Susan Bauer has some ideas that she sets forth in this book and then she gives specific tips for each genre. Her ideas are well thought out and are helping me to benefit more from what I read and not just graze the surface. Even if the only book you want to get more out of is a book of scripture this book will give you more ide...more
Danny
Nice book. Great list of books and some great recs. But Bauer's overemphasis on the Western Canon limits her notion of what it means to be a "well-educated" person. She never even mentions Naguib Mahfouz, Kenzaburo Oe, Yasunari Kawabata, V.S. Naipaul, or Gao Xingjian. Even if Western lit influenced some of these guys, they still matter.
Michael Lundie
I am only just exiting the introductory chapters of this autodidact's guide to classical education, but I am pleased with what I see thus far.

It holds promise for those readers, like me, who tend toward dabbling, whether that serious commitment to reflecting on the criteria for evaluating a book, let alone an entire genre, during leisurely hours. I also see myself benefitting from the set time regiment for reading (e.g. set a manageable reading schedule, maybe four times per week, to maintain a...more
Tanya
I am reviewing this book. I really like most of what she says, but it is flawed with the same thing that flaws almost all of classical education. It focuses on the mind at the exclusion of the heart.
Jason
I have been going through the lists in this book for the last couple of years. I am through approximately half of them. There are a few amazing gems on this list that really made me think and enriched my life. Unfortunately the vast majority of the 'classics' are painfully boring, cliched crap that are nothing but 'purple prose' IMO. Literary snobs will love most of these classics but for us unwashed masses, these books will be only suitable for putting us to sleep. I will finish the literature...more
Heather
I wish I had read this a long time ago. Especially before Les Mis! Will be reading and rereading it often, I imagine.
Joann Bloxsom
I have to be honest. I actually got this book confused with The Well Trained Mind, which she also wrote. The Well Trained Mind is supposed to be a kind homeschool "cult" classic.
I read this book, took notes, and then realized halfway through that I was reading the wrong book. It was still wildly informative, and I liked the reading lists she provided. It was kind of one of those books in which you sort of already know, practice, and realize many of the key things she suggests, but make you feel...more
Juliana Lyon
Great lists, great advice, great reference book.
Melanie
Jul 20, 2014 Melanie is currently reading it
This is a book about what to read and how.
At the risk of being a buzzkill, I'm not going to fixate on one genre or type of book from antiquity to the present, forsaking all others in the meantime. While I see the value in that, and while I've largely given up reading tabloids and blogs, I could never see myself saying "I'm gonna read PLAYS or MEMOIRS exclusively for the next 50 weeks."
She details how to read with use of the Trivium; reading, taking notes and making summaries, which is great adv...more
Adrian Alvarez
I read this book as the organizing preamble to a meetup book group. In that capacity, it was a pretty useful guide. After all, how many book groups have you been to that devolve into gab fests for people who eventually don't even bother to read the book and focus solely on the pot luck portion of the occasion? So, stars for the idea behind the book and for encouraging people to focus on the tools necessary for reading a text closely and studying without a professional guide.

That's where the star...more
Michelle
I am finally done reading this book. That is not to imply this has been a long and arduous read. This book has simply been a journey of self-education taken in small steps. I fail to recall much in the way of education in the classics from my youth. I am attempting to remedy that.

I believe this will be a life-long journey. I intend to follow some of Bauer's suggestions, as laid down in TWEM. But not all of them. For instance, I intend to read in a chronological fashion, rather than focus on gen...more
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From the author's website:

Publications
Susan’s most recent book for Norton, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (2010) is the second in a four-volume series providing a narrative world history; the first volume, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, was published in 2007. Her previous books include th...more
More about Susan Wise Bauer...
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 2: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

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