May 04, 2007

A new point on the reading compass

"Books are like neighbors, and your personal library is your neighborhood. Take a look at your bookshelves. What kind of neighborhood are you living in? Are you in a slum or in the suburbs? Who are your neighbors? Are they trash talkers or shrewd sages? If you live next door to Socrates, then invite him to dinner every night. If you live next to Dan Brown, then put your house on the market. ...

A book is a friend who's always ready with a story or some advice. And if your friend is named Tolstoy or Shakespeare, then the stories are going to be transforming as well as entertaining. If your friend is named Plato or Aquinas, then the advice is liable to be life-changing."
from ROMAN Reading by Nick Senger
The other day, someone in one of my Well-Trained online groups forwarded a link for a new, free eBook on reading and literature, ROMAN Reading: 5 Practical Skills for Transforming Your Life through Literature (see this post too for additional download information) by Nick Senger, a reader of great literature and eighth grade teacher, who blogs at Literary Compass ("Reading the Great Books from a Catholic Point of View") and at now at RomanReading.

The ROMAN in the title, aside from a reference to faith, stands for Read, Outline, Mark, Ask, Name (no mention of religion in the text, by the way); as Mr. Senger writes, "With these five skills you can read any book, no matter how difficult", which would seem to make the brief book (73 pages, and short ones at that) a useful guide for those just beginning their literary careers. I think Laura, who'll be starting fifth grade in the fall, would be able to digest most of the information well, and the ideas in the book would certainly give her something to think about as she moves from the grammar stage to the logic stage, and as the focus in some of her reading -- no longer just for pleasure or for information -- begins to change.

An online friend with whom I'm supposed to be having a conversation about Great Books, and I would if only milkmen and matchmakers left me alone and the washing machine's spin cycle would reappear as dramatically as it disappeared, calls ROMAN Reading "a simpler and more contemporary version of [Mortimer] Adler's How to Read a Book", which strikes me as bang on. Not only will How to Read a Book make more sense in a few years, and possibly be less head-bangingly difficult, but you can probably avoid the need for How to Read 'How to Read a Book' if your kids start off their middle school years with ROMAN Reading. My only quibble so far is Mr. Senger's preference for taking notes in books with green pen; I like pencil better, and can still read my old college notes from 25 years ago. You can't go wrong with a Mirado Classic Black/HB 2.

Also worthwhile at Literary Compass, for Catholics and non-Catholics alike:

101 Essential Web Sites for Readers of Literature

Nick's Great Books reading list (which is also an appendix to the eBook): Introduction, and Parts I and II

Nick Senger's motive for sharing the book for free is is mission to change
lives one page at a time. I want to make the world a more literate place, a place where people think for themselves, learn about their world, and share their ideas with each other.

A literate world is a world of peace, tolerance and vision. We've got our work cut out for us.
A most worthy mission. Many thanks.

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