I love to read books about books, and Bauer had a number of funny lines about graduate students which I appreciated. And how could it possibly open up my mind to focus for YEARS on one topic--say, autobiography--reading nothing else? These books would work great if you wanted a Ph.D. in Despair. Nothing in this book convinced me that my own method of prayerfully selecting books from as varied fields as I can, followed by prayerful, thoughtful reading and journaling, is inferior to the Wise Bauer method.
I've just finished this on the heels of Mortimer Adler's classic work, "How to Read a Book". Bauer makes shockingly few references to Adler (only one comes to mind) which seems disrespectful given that she co-opted his work but if you don't mind that... In no way does it replace the Adler but, let's face it, most of us are remedial students when it comes to serious reading of substantive materials. Where Bauer has you taking notes after each chapter, Adler has you read through once without stopping to do some outlining. If you can only read one and you're not sure you're ready for the big leagues, read the Bauer. For real, this isn't a bad book but try to read the Adler first.
The first stage, grammar, is otherwise known as "surface reading": you ask and answer the question, "What is this book literally saying?" She goes on to provide examples of questions and ideas one should consider at this level of reading. This half of the book begins with a history of fiction, and provides a groundwork for understanding, basically, how to read fiction, including more questions to ask yourself at each of the three stages of reading.
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 ...
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-history and study guide for each. Twenty plus works are listed for each category, to be read in chronological order. A list of things I "ought" to read, answering questions a la middle school, the need for a friend just as crazy to join me. I work in a science-y field so my time would be better spent reading journals than classics.
I use this as an interesting discussion of various books I am including in student reading but only as a springboard.
Bauer has even convinced me to start a reading journal someday, which I never have seriously considered before reading this book.
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. though, to be fair, SWB's is broader minded than almost every "great books" list I've seen.
Bauer also did the hard work for us and provided a book list to apply her recommendations too.
Her previous books include the academic title The Art of the Public Grovel: Sexual Sin and Confession in America (2008), published by Princeton University Press, and The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had , a guide to reading the classic works of fiction, poetry, history, autobiography, and drama (Norton, 2003). Education Susans parents taught her at home for most of elementary and middle school, and all of high school; she entered college at seventeen as a Presidential Scholar and National Merit finalist, and finished her B.A. in five semesters with a major in English, a minor in Greek and a summer spent studying twentieth century theology as a Visiting Student at Oxford. In 1994, she also completed the M.A. in English language and literature at the College of William and Mary in Virginia; her concentrations were in translation theory, seventeenth-century devotional poetry, and Psalm paraphrase in the Tudor period.