A useful resource for highly self-motivated readers.



Humanities home schooling for adults.

Bauer (The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople, 2013, etc.) is a critic of educational institutions: high schools teach students to read to the 10th-grade level, enough to master Stephen King, newspapers, and Time; college graduates often feel “a nagging sense of their own deficiencies.” In graduate school, the author once earned an A for a presentation on Moby-Dick, a novel she hadn’t even finished. What should you do, she asks, “if your mind is hungry, but you feel unprepared, under-educated, intimidated by all those books you know you should have read?” Her prescription: read intensely for half an hour, four days a week, and analyze according to 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.” Bauer offers an overview and specific questions for major literary genres: the novel, autobiography and memoir, history, drama, poetry, and science, along with a chronological list of books she deems important, each with her brief commentary. Although the author claims that no list of “Great Books” is canonical, her own echoes works endorsed by Mortimer Adler, innovator of the Great Books curriculum at the University of Chicago; and Harold Bloom, champion of the Western canon. The third part of Bauer’s trivium is likely to cause the most difficulty: how are readers to know if their opinions are “correct”? She recommends getting a reading partner to discuss ideas, “skimming an essay or two of criticism,” or seeking an appointment with a faculty member at a nearby college, a possibility that seems both unrealistic and frustrating for both parties. Despite her disdain for schools, her book would be most useful in a classroom setting, where discussions, essay writing, and a teacher’s expert guidance could foster the critical thinking that Bauer so passionately exalts.

A useful resource for highly self-motivated readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-08096-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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