One of the most influential books I read is Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to The Classical Education You Never Had.* It’s been about 10 years since I read the first edition, and now there’s a slightly updated and expanded version.** I decided to revisit this newer version and will post some lists from it in conjunction with the 2017 Reading Challenge.
As you might imagine, the path to a well-educated mind involves quite a bit of reading. But, it is reading in a certain mode. To explain, Bauer takes 4 introductory chapters just going over preparations one needs to make in order to succeed. It is here that she presents 4 steps to a well-educated mind. They are:
- Schedule regular reading and self-study time
- Practice the mechanics of reading
- Practice taking notes as you write and then summarizing
- Practice grammar-stage reading skills
It is worth noting that these are the same steps you need to take with reading for a Ph.D program. I’ve got the first two steps down, but habitually struggle with step 3. When it comes to step 4, I do about half of the six principles of grammar stage reading. I bet you were curious what that entailed, right? In order to read well at the grammar stage, you should (54-55):
- Plan on returning to each book more than once to reread sections and chapters.
- Underline or mark passages that you find interesting or confusing. Turn down the corners of difficult sections; jot your questions in the margin.
- Before you begin, read the title page, the copy on the back, and the table of contents.
- At the end of each chapter or section, write down a sentence or two that summarizes the content. Remember not to include details (this will come later)
- As you read, use your journal to jot down questions that come to your mind.
- Assemble your summary sentences into an informal outline, and then give the book a brief title and an extensive subtitle.
These steps could be applied to any books you seriously read. If you apply them to the books in the 2017 Reading Challenge, you’ll definitely read less books, but probably have a richer experience in your reading. It’s honestly what I would recommend, as well as keeping an eye out for my next post that will have her list of recommend novels that you can plug into the challenge.
*You owe it to yourself to check out her three volume (hopefully soon to be four!) history of the world:
- The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
- The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to The First Crusade
- The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople
**Because I hope you’re curious, the main expansion has to do with adding a list of science books. These come primarily from her other most recent book, The Story of Western Science: From the Writings of Aristotle to the Big Bang Theory. Much of the rest of the material is more or less the same. I went page by page through it for comparison and since page numbers track very closely, there is little there is new other than the science section.