On Reading Well
Reading great literature well has the power to cultivate virtue. Great literature increases knowledge of and desire for the good life by showing readers what virtue looks like and where vice leads. It is not just what one reads but how one reads that cultivates virtue. Reading good literature well requires one to practice numerous virtues, such as patience, diligence, and prudence. And learning to judge wisely a character in a book, in turn, forms the reader's own character.Acclaimed author Karen Swallow Prior takes readers on a guided tour through works of great literature both ancient and modern, exploring twelve virtues that philosophers and theologians throughout history have identified as most essential for good character and the good life. In reintroducing ancient virtues that are as relevant and essential today as ever, Prior draws on the best classical and Christian thinkers, including Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine. Covering authors from Henry Fielding to Cormac McCarthy, Jane Austen to George Saunders, and Flannery O'Connor to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Prior explores some of the most compelling universal themes found in the pages of classic books, helping readers learn to love life, literature, and God through their encounter with great writing.In examining works by these authors and more, Prior shows why virtues such as prudence, temperance, humility, and patience are still necessary for human flourishing and civil society. The book includes end-of-chapter reflection questions geared toward book club discussions, features original artwork throughout, and includes a foreword from Leland Ryken.

On Reading Well Details

TitleOn Reading Well
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 4th, 2018
PublisherBrazos Press
ISBN-139781587433962
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Books About Books

On Reading Well Review

  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC paperback and read the forward and introduction on June 17–18, 2018. Promotional video here.Forward (Ryken) (pp. 9–11)Contexttradition of appreciating the moral dimensions of literatureAristotle and Sidney ("winning the mind")Enlightenment/modernity: decline in moral unityLeavis's The Great TraditionContentliterary criticism: example theory (return to the great tradition) <— this is only one way of reading a textAchievementgoal: enhance literary appreciation and moral life o I received an ARC paperback and read the forward and introduction on June 17–18, 2018. Promotional video here.Forward (Ryken) (pp. 9–11)Contexttradition of appreciating the moral dimensions of literatureAristotle and Sidney ("winning the mind")Enlightenment/modernity: decline in moral unityLeavis's The Great TraditionContentliterary criticism: example theory (return to the great tradition) <— this is only one way of reading a textAchievementgoal: enhance literary appreciation and moral life of the readerPrior includes Bible verses at the beginning of each chapter.IntroductionBooked: love of reading led to love of God; Milton's Areopagitica: virtue is choosing; read books "promiscuously"definition of virtue (excellence)literature embodies virtue: offering both images and vicarious practicereading virtuously: close attention —> patience ; interpretation/evaluation —> prudence ; making time to read —> temperanceshortened attention spanTo Read Well, Enjoy (16)"pleasure makes practice more likely""one can't read well without enjoying reading""On the other hand, the greatest pleasures are those born of labor and investment"read slowlytake notes; Billy Collins's "Marginalia"Great Books Teach Us How (Not What) to Think (18)positive and negative examplesCSL on the danger of "use" (vs. "reception")—don't go searching (only) for the moral (that's utilitarian)Reading as Aesthetic Experience (19)aesthetics is concerned with how something is saidAristotle on catharsis and plot"the act of judging the character of a character shapes the reader's own character"reading is formative (Smith endnotes)Sidney's Defense: lit. teaches by example, not precept (like philosophy and history)Reading "After Virtue" (23)Aristotle: living well = happinessEnlightenment/modernity robbed Western civ. of a unified telos, glorifying God (McIntyre's After Virtue); emotivism: being driven by emotions (not just having them)The Virtues of Literary Language (24)understanding figurative language such as satire and allegory makes us better thinkers and interpretersimagining virtuous action —> virtuous action; "good books . . . provide us with desires" (Proust)"Certainly, reading great books is not the only way to cultivate virtue and achieve the good life. (Plenty of virtuous people I know and love don't love books.) But literature has a particular power in forming our visions of the good life" (27)."actions follow affective response""There is no one right reading of a literary text—but there are certainly erroneous readings, good readings, and excellent readings"Aristotle's NE and the virtuous meancardinal (prudence, justice, temperance, courage), theological (faith, hope, love), and heavenly virtues (chastity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility)The great books that Prior looks at are Fielding's Tom Jones (prudence), Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby (temperance), Dickens's Tale of Two Cities (justice), Twain's Huck Finn (courage), Endo's Silence (faith), McCarthy's The Road (hope), Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilych (love), Wharton's Ethan Frome (chastity), Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (diligence), Austen's Persuasion (patience), Saunders's "Tenth of December" (kindness), and O'Connor's "Revelation" and "Everything that Rises Must Converge" (humility)
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  • Samuel James
    January 1, 1970
    On the one hand are rote worldview tests that strip stories and art down to their "good vs bad" parts. On the other hand is a cottage industry of "engaging culture" that usually translates into consuming whatever we like indiscriminately and calling it a Christian exercise. What I love most about this book is how Prior offers a roadmap for something better: Truly seeing reality along the light beams of great books with the aim of attaining Christian virtue. The sections that discuss virtue itsel On the one hand are rote worldview tests that strip stories and art down to their "good vs bad" parts. On the other hand is a cottage industry of "engaging culture" that usually translates into consuming whatever we like indiscriminately and calling it a Christian exercise. What I love most about this book is how Prior offers a roadmap for something better: Truly seeing reality along the light beams of great books with the aim of attaining Christian virtue. The sections that discuss virtue itself are not quite as strong as the literary analyses, and there's a disappointing lack of theological reasoning in some parts of the book. But those are mild critiques, because this book is genuinely insightful and empowering for Christians who love great stories.
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  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior discusses twelve literary works in light of Christian virtues portrayed in each. She utilizes other literature, theological and Biblical studies works, philosophy, and classics to reach her conclusions. The work is divided into sections for the cardinal virtues, theological virtues, and heavenly virtues. Contents include:Prudence: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry FieldingTemperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldJustice: A T Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior discusses twelve literary works in light of Christian virtues portrayed in each. She utilizes other literature, theological and Biblical studies works, philosophy, and classics to reach her conclusions. The work is divided into sections for the cardinal virtues, theological virtues, and heavenly virtues. Contents include:Prudence: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry FieldingTemperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldJustice: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensCourage: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFaith: Silence by Shusaku EndoHope: The Road by Cormac McCarthyLove: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo TolstoyChastity: Ethan Frome by Edith WhartonDiligence: Pilgrim's Progress by John BunyanPatience: Persuasion by Jane AustenHumility: "Revelation" and "Everything that Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'ConnorThese essays would create great discussions in classes covering those works, particularly in Christian liberal arts universities. They could also serve as models for writing essays on literary works. This review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an unbiased review.
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  • Clara
    January 1, 1970
    "But it is not enough to read widely. One must also read well. One must read virtuously".This book is a thesis on why reading goes beyond entertainment, but feeding the soul.Of course literature review book might seem an obvious choice for a bookworm, but it's not. To pic up a book of someone who actually understand the art that is writing and reading is refreshing, as if, paraphrasing C.S Lewis, a friendship can be formed because you come to that moment where you say "oh, you too?".
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  • Emily Schultz
    January 1, 1970
    I think this is my favorite of all of the books I read in 2018. On Reading Well shows the reader how to find virtue in fiction works. You can read my full review here: https://wp.me/p9XsVt-uI was provided with an advanced electronic copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Daniel Coughlin
    January 1, 1970
    FYI: I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher (and a poster) with no strings attached except I can't share direct quotes. On Reading Well is an excellent encouragement for reading great books. Honestly, reading through the chapters I was taken back to the discussions in my college's literatures courses. Except I have the benefit of an additional 20 years of living, marriage, career, and children that I bring with my eyes on the books. It's also a bit like sitting down with a friend FYI: I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher (and a poster) with no strings attached except I can't share direct quotes. On Reading Well is an excellent encouragement for reading great books. Honestly, reading through the chapters I was taken back to the discussions in my college's literatures courses. Except I have the benefit of an additional 20 years of living, marriage, career, and children that I bring with my eyes on the books. It's also a bit like sitting down with a friend -- an intelligent, thoughtful friend -- and having a book discussion. But more than a book discussion, the treatment of the virtues themselves are riveting. What is prudence? What is temperance? Those are words that don't even come in to our modern vocabulary -- at least not in my daily experience. So it's worth discussing these virtues.The first chapter--on the virtue of Prudence--presents prudence in the context of Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. I had never heard of this book before--showing my cards, I am not an English professor ;). So I wanted to test drive the KSP's approach to Tom Jones. While I haven't finished Tom Jones yet (it's over 700 pages), it has been an excellent and enjoyable read. I can see the Fielding's working strains of prudence throughout his characters. I'm hoping to revisit this point when I finish Tom Jones.
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  • Gina Dalfonzo
    January 1, 1970
    As always, Karen presents us with a deeply insightful and moving analysis of great literature and how it applies to our emotional, moral, and spiritual lives. Although "A Tale of Two Cities" is my favorite novel and I loved her chapter on that one (which I got to help with a little bit! :-) ), what brought me to tears was her chapter on "Tenth of December," a book I haven't even read yet. Which just goes to show how good Karen is at bringing these stories home to us and bringing out their beauty As always, Karen presents us with a deeply insightful and moving analysis of great literature and how it applies to our emotional, moral, and spiritual lives. Although "A Tale of Two Cities" is my favorite novel and I loved her chapter on that one (which I got to help with a little bit! :-) ), what brought me to tears was her chapter on "Tenth of December," a book I haven't even read yet. Which just goes to show how good Karen is at bringing these stories home to us and bringing out their beauty and truth. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.
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  • Dorothy Greco
    January 1, 1970
    Karen's wit, wisdom, insight and spectacular skill as a writer ALWAYS make for a good read. In her third book, Prior chooses 12 literature classics (e.g. The Great Gatsby, Pilgrim's Progress, and A Tale of Two Cities) and mines them for the virtue that they embody. That might not sound compelling but that's because I'm not nearly as gifted a writer as Prior. If you're not familiar with her, you should be. She's one of the preeminent thinkers and apologists of our time.
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  • Ned Bustard
    January 1, 1970
    This was an excellent book—it had great insights into classic works of literature and inspired me to want to read several great books that I have never gotten around to picking up. And, of course, I like the artwork on the cover and at the opening of each chapter...
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  • Kaytlin
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book from a Good reads giveaway. I have opted not to give this book a star rating in order to be fair. This book just wasn't for me. Also, while the writing is well done, I felt that the Forward was real poorly done.
  • Nick Roark
    January 1, 1970
    Exquisite
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