An enthusiastic and engaging—but somewhat narrow—argument in favor of teaching beloved books.



An instructor and avid reader shares lessons from years spent introducing children to classic literature.

In this education book, Pathan (Raman and Sunny: Middle School Blues, 2015, etc.) combines three previously published works into a single volume. The first presents arguments in favor of encouraging young people to read the canon of Western literature; the second offers strategies Pathan has used to develop enthusiasm for the classics among her students; and the third details the author’s experiences teaching and learning about books. Pathan’s own love of literature is evident from the first animated pages (“Classics therefore are like bound movie scripts for our brain production house”). The rationale for teaching the classics is a familiar one—improving writing skills, providing moral lessons, understanding the human condition—but also emphasizes the opportunities for fostering a love of reading among even the youngest pupils. Pathan’s strategies for turning students into fans of the classics are wide-ranging and constitute the most useful elements of the work, addressing ways of encouraging reluctant readers and students whose interests lie in other subjects while advocating the cross-generational sharing of books. The memoir elements are often charming, like Pathan’s account of how Frankenstein helped her “cope with” science when her teachers did not, her gratitude to Oscar Wilde for giving her a broader understanding of sexuality, and the letters of appreciation she writes to former students. While the volume’s focus is on classic literature, Pathan avoids demonizing more contemporary books and discusses her admiration of those works as well. The account overreaches at times (as in the suggestion that “tribal culture” is something students can learn about from Robinson Crusoe ) and never addresses the lack of diversity inherent in a canon drawn almost entirely from European and American novelists writing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By eliding entirely the debate over which works should be considered classics, the book avoids a crucial question teachers must wrestle with, thus limiting the effectiveness of an otherwise comprehensive and appealing discussion of literary education.

An enthusiastic and engaging—but somewhat narrow—argument in favor of teaching beloved books.

Pub Date: March 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-8-19-329060-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Fiza Pathan Publishing OPC Private Limited

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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