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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,540 Ratings  ·  286 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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Sep 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-books
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
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
David Huff
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Only when I started reading this one did I realize that it is in fact a fairly deep reference book, and also a tutorial for how to approach reading the Great Books --- characteristics to look for, how to make outlines, analyze the content, how to work through and assess the book through different levels of depth and understanding ... and MUCH more. While some readers may be put off by these more "mechanical" aspects, they still are helpful tools in approaching this sort of reading.

I give it five
Jason Pettus
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm a big fan of Susan Wise Bauer's comprehensive 6,000-page history of the human race (in fact, this is a coming reading challenge to myself, to make it through the entire four-book series in a row without stopping); so when the Chicago Public Library recently acquired an ebook copy of this older book of hers, I went ahead and checked it out just out of curiosity. It's essentially a how-to guide for reading books like an academic scholar would, outlining the multiple steps of going through a ma ...more
Terri Lynn
Jul 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: format_kindle
Good choice if you're looking to read with more rigor.

Totally impractical process for an adult with a job. Susan Wise Bauer says one needs only 30 minutes a few days a week to get through her list of readings - each book three times.

Never gonna happen!

I mostly liked it anyway. Great survey of the history of different types of writing in the Western canon. Interesting (albeit Euro- and Ameri-centric) lists of must-reads... though, to be fair, SWB's is broader minded than almost every "great boo
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
Curses! Goodreads ate my review and I do not want to write another.

Short version:
Most of us are "chaos readers" and tend to forget to read with intent. Bauer sings the merits of doing so (and) provides a fantastic, self-study method to being a more serious reader. Great resource for teachers, home schoolers, and those looking to brush up on their critical thinking skills.
Dec 31, 2015 rated it liked it
I think a lot of readers, myself included, have a nagging voice running through their heads - you still haven't read War and Peace. You haven't touched any Greek drama since high school. You always meant to study Shakespeare's sonnets... why aren't you doing that?

The Well-Educated Mind is a starting point for anyone interesting in tackling the "great books" of the Western canon. Bauer breaks the books into five categories - fiction, plays, history, autobiography, and poetry - and provides a mini
May 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: textbooks
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
Kenia Sedler
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for how to glean wisdom & enlightenment from books.
I've been at a place where I wanted to take my reading to the next level, but I had no idea how. I was completely unfamiliar with the classical/trivium 3-step process (grammar, logic, rhetoric), and had never known how to approach the journaling process to really get the most out of books. Susan Wise Bauer opened up that door for me, and so perhaps I'm feeling extra excited because of the "newness" of the approach.
Feb 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is possibly the most oft-referenced book in my library, but I finally sat down and read the whole thing cover to cover. (I refer to it so much, that I have purchased two copies at full price -- one hardback, and one Kindle version so I have access to it electronically on my iPad at all times.) I will slowly, over a life-time likely, read all her recommended classics, but in the meantime, this was a great education in and of itself. I learn so much from Susan Wise Bauer (or SWB, as I like to ...more
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
My senior year of college when I had smaller, discussion based classes, I remember talking with my professor about how I was struggling with truly grasping our readings. She told me most of her current students only scratch the surface of philosophy because we haven’t been ‘classically educated.’ Having the same feeling this year as I started to read through a list of classics, I stumbled across this book.

What I appreciated and found most helpful was Bauer’s brief history of each genre and step
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Megan Larson
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My friend Betsy is the one who told me about this book a while back because a book club she was in was using it. I bought it a few months ago and just read it in December as I was preparing for the upcoming year's book club. This is the first I have ever read from Susan Wise Bauer who seems to be a very accomplished super woman of sorts. This book is about applying the methods of classical education to reading, in particular ways in particular genres. This book had me at page one and held me thr ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jessica Manuel
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is basically my undergraduate education in literature without the theory and criticism, and obviously without reading the literature itself. Bauer teaches a great deal about each genre and a gives general overviews of most authors. Especially helpful is the application of the trivium from classical education on novels, autobiographies, plays, and poems. I intend to use this as a resource for the next twenty years.
Stephanie Graves
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
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. I feel that it focuses on the mind at the exclusion of the heart.
Lydia Feliciano
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
I was enjoying this book until the author started listing books with spoilers! I didn't finish it. This is the first edition. I hope the second one is better!
Great Book Study
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Inspired me to start reading the classics.
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Admittedly, I skipped over much of the "how to read" chapters, but loved the history sections and annotated reading lists. I've already started downloading some classics on my kindle. Her suggestion that we read the classics in literature, history, drama, poetry and natural sciences in chronological order seems sensible, even though at this point in my life I probably won't. Excellent.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't read it cover to cover - but it is great as a resource book. Will definitely be coming back to it for reading inspiration!
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From the author's website:

Susan’s newest book for Norton, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory, was published in May 2015. The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople (2013), is the third in a multi-volume series providing a narrative world history; the first volume, The History
More about Susan Wise Bauer...
“The initial small step is simple: Rather than making a sweeping determination to tackle the Great Books (all of them), decide to begin on one of the reading lists in Part II. As you read each book, you’ll follow the pattern of the trivium. First you’ll try to understand the book’s basic structure and argument; next, you’ll evaluate the book’s assertions; finally, you’ll form an opinion about the book’s ideas. You’ll have to exercise these three skills of reading—understanding, analysis, and evaluation—differently for each kind of book.” 2 likes
“This is a book. Only make-believe. Remember?” 0 likes
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