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On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    I knew I would like this book but I was not prepared to truly love it as I did. It was truly a delightful stroll through many past reads. I decided after the first chapter to slow way down and not rush through this one. When I got to the next to the last chapter I realized it was about a story by George Saunders which I had not read. Since it was a short story, I downloaded the book immediately and read the story The Tenth of December. I am very happy that Karen introduced me to this story which I knew I would like this book but I was not prepared to truly love it as I did. It was truly a delightful stroll through many past reads. I decided after the first chapter to slow way down and not rush through this one. When I got to the next to the last chapter I realized it was about a story by George Saunders which I had not read. Since it was a short story, I downloaded the book immediately and read the story The Tenth of December. I am very happy that Karen introduced me to this story which she uses to discuss kindness but I grasped onto for its beautiful way of giving dignity to the painful process of loss of control and death. Something I am very familiar with right now having watched my father decline in a 'nursing home' over the last two years. The sights and sounds and smells or skilled care were at once horrifying and beautiful. They reminded me that it is okay to suffer and it is okay to let others care for us. George Saunders has written a story that captures that. On Reading Well was a wonderful romp through many excellent books. I will make my highlights public.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Review originally appeared at Servants of Grace. Only four pages in to Karen Swallow Prior’s masterpiece On Reading Well, I knew I was in trouble. I love reading in lots of genres, but books about the act of reading are my weakness. I love them. I’ve already read Prior’s first book, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and immediately wanted to be friends with her. I got a big kick out of reading The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs and Lit! by Tony Reinke. I’ve enjoye Review originally appeared at Servants of Grace. Only four pages in to Karen Swallow Prior’s masterpiece On Reading Well, I knew I was in trouble. I love reading in lots of genres, but books about the act of reading are my weakness. I love them. I’ve already read Prior’s first book, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and immediately wanted to be friends with her. I got a big kick out of reading The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs and Lit! by Tony Reinke. I’ve enjoyed several of Leland Ryken’s book about reading. I loved Marilynne Robsinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books and Sven Bierkerts’ The Gutenberg Elegies and Francis Buechner’s Telling the Truth. All of these books celebrate what I already knew: Reading is the best! And people who read are the best kind of people! And I was nodding along to everything she wrote, revelling in her wisdom, until she told me to do the one thing I simply cannot do: read slow. “Speed-reading is not only inferior to deep reading but may bring more harm than benefits” says Prior, because “speed-reading gives you two things that should never mix: superficial knowledge and overconfidence” (17). This is not just another book about reading. This is a book that dares to teach us how to read. Even before the introduction was over, I could tell I had a lot to learn. Prior believes literature has the ability to encourage “habits of mind, ways of perceiving, processing, and thinking that cultivate virtue” (26). She then applies this philosophy to twelve different stories (many are novel-length, but there are a few chapters about short stories), showing how we see twelve virtues (or the lack thereof) in action. Her explanation of each virtue weaves together ancient philosophy with contemporary thought, creating helpful distinctions so that we can see the potential pitfalls in each virtue. If this sounds heavy-handed, you’ll have to trust me that it’s not. Prior admires these books and her delight is contagious. This book practically demands to be read slowly, and even though I tried to read more slowly than I usually do, I know I would have benefitted from slowing down even more and taking the time to read each of the fictional stories she discusses before reading her chapters on them. I certainly got the most out of chapters on books I knew well. The chapter on Temperance, which is defined as the state of having “one’s appetites…shaped such that one’s very desires are in proper order and proportion”, showcases my favorite novel The Great Gatsby. Even though I’ve read and taught from this book many times, looking at it through the lens of Temperance offered new insights that made me want to read it again. Prior drew a connection between the famous shirt scene and the intemperance of rampant consumerism, noting “Daisy’s ecstatic worship of the shirts reflects a society in which commodities have become god” (65). Perhaps this gives a taste of Prior does so well. In combining the wisdom gained over a lifetime of reading, Prior achieves a three-part harmony between contemporary issues, timeless literature, and Christian philosophy. Prior works her way through three categories of virtues: The Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Courage), The Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, Love), and The Heavenly Virtues (Chastity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility). In each chapter, Prior offers case studies in how each virtue helps us to live out James 3:13Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), which serves as the epigraph for this book. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” When I was preparing to go to college, I assumed that there must be a list out there called “The Classics” and that I should get a head start on reading all of them. Had I ever found such a definitive list, I would have been tempted to read them all just to be able to claim that I was well-read. Karen Swallow Prior’s book, however, redefines what it means to be well-read. It’s less about how much you read and more about how much you gain from what you read. Good stories can and will change your life. I’ve read a lot of books celebrating this, but I can’t think of one I’d recommend more highly than hers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: Makes a case that the reading of great literature may help us live well through cultivating the desire in us to live virtuously and to understand why we are doing so. Karen Swallow Prior wants us to heed John Milton's advice to "read promiscuously" great works of literature because they may help the reader distinguish between vice and virtue, and hopefully choose the latter. In doing so, Prior advances an argument contrary to most of contemporary literary criticism that argues against th Summary: Makes a case that the reading of great literature may help us live well through cultivating the desire in us to live virtuously and to understand why we are doing so. Karen Swallow Prior wants us to heed John Milton's advice to "read promiscuously" great works of literature because they may help the reader distinguish between vice and virtue, and hopefully choose the latter. In doing so, Prior advances an argument contrary to most of contemporary literary criticism that argues against the purpose of teaching literature to form moral character, perhaps most famously argued in Stanley Fish's Save the World on Your Own Time. Prior argues that great books do set before us not only examples of vice and virtue but help us see the telos or purpose or end of living a virtuous life. Along the way, as she introduces her theme, she proposes some helpful advice for how we might read well, summarized here: "Read books you enjoy, develop your ability to enjoy challenging reading, read deeply and slowly, and increase your enjoyment of a book by writing words of your own in it." Prior then leads us into the practice of reading literature with an eye to what great works might help us understand about specific virtues. Most of this work focuses on twelve virtues in three groups, with a discussion of that virtue being focused on a particular work. While other virtues may be found in each of these works, her discussion is focused around one virtue in each work. Here is how the work is organized: Part One: The Cardinal Virtues 1. Prudence: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding 2. Temperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 3. Justice: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens 4. Courage: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Part Two: The Theological Virtues 5. Faith: Silence by Shusaku Endo 6. Hope: The Road by Cormac McCarthy 7. Love: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy Part Three: The Heavenly Virtues 8. Chastity: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 9. Diligence: Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan 10. Patience: Persuasion by Jane Austen 11. Kindness: "Tenth of December" by George Saunders 12. Humility: "Revelation" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor One of the effects of reading Prior's discussion is to introduce us to the vocabulary of virtue, one that may seem archaic for many, and yet is central to the well-lived life. Tom Jones's observations of the imprudence of many helps us understand that prudence is "right reason direct to the excellent human life." From The Great Gatsby, we discover that temperance is not abstinence but that "One attains the virtue of temperance when one's appetites have been shaped such that one's very desires are in proper order and proportion." While chastity may often be regarded, in the words of C.S. Lewis, as "the most unpopular of Christian virtues," we discover through Ethan Frome that "chastity is not withholding but giving" of our bodies in the right context, keeping faith that we say with our bodies what we've vowed with our lips and that individual chastity is nourished in a community that healthily values the living of chaste lives. Prior's discussion is nuanced, distinguishing between false versions of virtues as well as how each virtue is a mean between an excess and a deficiency. For example, from Jane Austen's Persuasion, we learn not only that patience is born out of enduring suffering but also that patience is virtuous "only if the cause for which that person suffers is good." It may not be a virtue to be patient with injustice! One of the effects of reading this work was to make me want to read or re-read the works she explores in her book. Some, like The Great Gatsby or Ethan Frome, I read in high school. Her chapter on Cormac McCarthy's The Road and her discussion of hope amid the dystopian setting of the book intrigued me enough to pick up a copy of the book. I do find it curious that all but one of the writers she chose were westerners of Caucasian descent. The exception is Shusaku Endo and his fine work, Silence, in which she explores the virtue of faith. Perhaps her selection reflects her own academic area as a professor of English whose research has focused in the area of Eighteenth century English literature and the work of the Eighteenth century women's writer, Hannah More. It might be valuable in future editions of this work (for which I hope!) to offer a reading list, perhaps organized around the virtues, of other great works, including those of non-Western authors and Western authors of color. The book includes a discussion guide at the end, making this a great resource for reading groups, as well as for personal study. The work features delightful illustrations at the beginning of each chapter by artist Ned Bustard (who also drew the cover illustration). Karen Swallow Prior makes a convincing case in this work for what many of us have intuited--that great literature can change our lives as we reflect on examples of virtue. And far from "spoiling" the great works she discusses, she opens them up in their possibility to instruct us such that we want to go out and read them for ourselves. But before you buy the works she discusses, I would suggest you pick up On Reading Well, because I believe it will enrich your reading of the other books. ____________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I received an ARC paperback and read the forward and introduction on June 17–18, 2018. Promotional video here. Commendation here. Claremont review here. Patheos review here. Tony Reinke liked it. KSP article in CT about wisdom and literature (paywall). ByFaith review here. WORLD review here. Forward (Ryken) (pp. 9–11) Context tradition of appreciating the moral dimensions of literature Aristotle and Sidney ("winning the mind") Enlightenment/modernity: decline in moral unity Leavis's The Great Traditio I received an ARC paperback and read the forward and introduction on June 17–18, 2018. Promotional video here. Commendation here. Claremont review here. Patheos review here. Tony Reinke liked it. KSP article in CT about wisdom and literature (paywall). ByFaith review here. WORLD review here. Forward (Ryken) (pp. 9–11) Context tradition of appreciating the moral dimensions of literature Aristotle and Sidney ("winning the mind") Enlightenment/modernity: decline in moral unity Leavis's The Great Tradition Content literary criticism: example theory (return to the great tradition) <— this is only one way of reading a text Achievement goal: enhance literary appreciation and moral life of the reader Prior includes Bible verses at the beginning of each chapter. Introduction Booked: 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 practice reading virtuously: close attention —> patience ; interpretation/evaluation —> prudence ; making time to read —> temperance shortened attention span To 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 slowly take notes; Billy Collins's "Marginalia" Great Books Teach Us How (Not What) to Think (18) positive and negative examples CSL 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 said Aristotle 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 = happiness Enlightenment/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 interpreters imagining 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 mean cardinal (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)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Karen Swallow Prior has written a wonderful masterpiece of a book. I had to read it slowly. There was so much to think about, so much to learn, so much of my chaff to blow away... It is so much more than a book about books. I highly recommend it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michele Morin

    As a child, reading was my oasis, but it was not until I grew up, finished college, got married, and started reading aloud to a brood of boys that I began to realize it was not enough simply to read widely. I wanted to read well. In On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, Karen Swallow Prior offers the insight that to read well, “one must read virtuously.” (15) One does this by reading closely, resisting the urge to skim, and by reading slowly, investing both time and attenti As a child, reading was my oasis, but it was not until I grew up, finished college, got married, and started reading aloud to a brood of boys that I began to realize it was not enough simply to read widely. I wanted to read well. In On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, Karen Swallow Prior offers the insight that to read well, “one must read virtuously.” (15) One does this by reading closely, resisting the urge to skim, and by reading slowly, investing both time and attention into the words on the page. Books worth reading make demands upon the reader which are well-compensated: enjoyment, enrichment, and enhanced ability to think (and, therefore, to enjoy more books!). Reading Virtuously I have filled journal pages with extensive quotes just to capture and hold the sheer beauty of words. I have been formed by a love for fictional characters who somehow speak more wisdom than they realize and by authors whose view of the world made me want to peer through the same lens they were using. Looking through Karen Swallow Prior’s lens, I see that reading well is a virtue in itself, but it is also a path to further virtue: “Literature embodies virtue, first, by offering images of virtue in action and, second, by offering the reader vicarious practice in exercising virtue, which is not the same as actual practice, of course, but is nonetheless a practice by which habits of mind, ways of thinking and perceiving, accrue. (15) Therefore, On Reading Well is a book about twelve works of literature, but it is also about the twelve central virtues these works enflesh, either by their presence or by their glaring absence. For the believer, this is not simply a matter of academic interest or literary curiosity, but it is our life. The process of sanctification (becoming more virtuous) is a means of glorifying God, and a right understanding of this growth process is our best push-back against a second-rate righteousness in the form of a checklist that Christopher Smith has termed “moralistic therapeutic deism.” (36) For me, one of the most fascinating themes running through Karen Swallow Prior’s twelve chapters is the continual pursuit of Aristotle’s “virtuous mean” expressed this way: “Both the deficiency and the excess of a virtue constitute a vice.” (29) Virtue, then, falls “between the extremes of excess and deficiency.” (29) We’ve all been plagued by and mired in relationship with people on both ends of the bandwidth. Diligence is a virtue, but . . . There’s the excess of a perfectionistic, workaholic boss who has missed every ballgame and birthday party in the history of his family and can’t begin to imagine why you would need a Saturday off. Then, there’s the deficiency of diligence in a malingering co-worker’s two-hour lunch breaks and slipshod attention to detail that leaves you always picking up the slack. Skilled as I am at falling off Luther’s horse, the virtuous mean stopped me in my tracks to ponder which virtues I might be slaughtering–and in which direction. Virtue and Vice in Literature The Great Gatsby demonstrates out-of-control lack of temperance in the life of James Gatz (aka Jay Gatsby) set against the 1920’s American Prohibition movement that outlawed the sale of liquor, “a law so intemperate it could only result in vice.” A Tale of Two Cities captures historical injustice caused by excess and personifies anger, “the vice that opposes the virtue of justice,” in the vengeful knitting of Madame Defarge who “furiously weaves into her knitting the names of all those destined for execution at the hands of the mob.” (77) In this manner, On Reading Well analyzes twelve of the books you may have read courtesy of your own childhood library or bookmobile and invites you into the ones you missed. In a non-fiction format, Prior employs the most compelling aspects of fiction to take readers to a new level of understanding in their own reading life, and this is a great gift because “reading literature, more than informing us, forms us.” By reading well, we become better equipped to read more skillfully our own narrative arc, to ask ourselves the probing questions that reveal our motives and sift our hypocrisy as we trust for grace to live well. Many thanks to Brazos Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    In her introduction to her latest book, On Reading Well (Brazos Press, 2018), Karen Swallow Prior writes: “Reading well adds to our life . . . in the same way a friendship adds to our life, changing it forever.” Just as we cultivate our circle of friends and acquaintances (with an unfriend, unfollow, block, or mute), so too ought we to cultivate that other great shaper of character: our reading list, known to many as the TBR. In an age when our worth - or at least the value of our words - is ofte In her introduction to her latest book, On Reading Well (Brazos Press, 2018), Karen Swallow Prior writes: “Reading well adds to our life . . . in the same way a friendship adds to our life, changing it forever.” Just as we cultivate our circle of friends and acquaintances (with an unfriend, unfollow, block, or mute), so too ought we to cultivate that other great shaper of character: our reading list, known to many as the TBR. In an age when our worth - or at least the value of our words - is often determined by the number of our online friends, followers, likes, and mentions, it does us well to step back and consider the quality of those friends. The same goes for books. For, as Prior reminds us, “it is not enough to read widely”. How often I myself fall into that trap, constantly checking on my Goodreads Reading Challenge and comparing my own book count to those of my friends! Prior immediately challenges the idea of what it means to read well. “The true worth of books is in their words and ideas, not their pristine pages.” Five shelves of books, their covers well-worn and well-loved yet their pages unblemished, stood over me in silent judgment. Thus challenged, I took pencil in hand, underlining that sentence. It felt nearly sacreligious. By the end, though, it felt nearly sacramental, as I found myself transformed from a passive observer to Prior’s search to an active participant in a pilgrimage towards - as Prior puts it - finding the good life. Those expecting an easily digestible listicle will be sorely disappointed. Drawing not only from her many years as a professor of literature but also from philosophers and theologians such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and C.S. Lewis, Prior plays the Virgil to our Dante, guiding us through the twelve cardinal, theological, and heavenly virtues. Here, however, the whips and reigns that would compel us toward virtuous living are not Christian examples, per se, but rather works of classic literature. On Reading Well is to be savored. That is not to say Prior’s writing is needlessly heavy. At times it is, as she challenges us to re-examine our self-perception and what we mean by “living the good life”. And yet, Prior is also personal, giving us brief glimpses into her private life and the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that go with it. She is practical without being partisan as she touches on American politics, both religious and secular. Prior is witty. She is not funny for funniness’ sake, but rather uses humor to effectively prove her point. Perhaps the most common lie told online is “lol”, but I genuinely laughed out loud when I saw F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as the novel chosen for “Temperance”. Though each of Prior’s twelve chapters could stand on their own as a short essay, together they form a cohesive, powerful whole. Like the pages of an atlas or road map, On Reading Well directs us, through examining individual virtues, to our ultimate purpose: to love God and worship Him forever, “the Love that moves the sun and other stars”.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    I've only read the Persuasion chapter. Of which, I will try to comment on in the future. "Of all Austen's characters, Anne Elliot is the one who is most lovable and most admirable. Elizabeth Bennet is lovable, but until she overcomes her pride, she is not entirely admirable. Fanny Price and Elinor Dashwood are perhaps Austen's two most admirable characters, but they are too passionless to be greatly lovable. Anne Elliot is both of these. She is so because she is self-possessed. In her patience, s I've only read the Persuasion chapter. Of which, I will try to comment on in the future. "Of all Austen's characters, Anne Elliot is the one who is most lovable and most admirable. Elizabeth Bennet is lovable, but until she overcomes her pride, she is not entirely admirable. Fanny Price and Elinor Dashwood are perhaps Austen's two most admirable characters, but they are too passionless to be greatly lovable. Anne Elliot is both of these. She is so because she is self-possessed. In her patience, she possesses her soul." -pg 203 "On Reading Well" by Karen Swallow Prior, Brazos Press 2018

  9. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    Reading books about books and reading is very gratifying. Karen Prior has accomplished the telos of reading in a way that will stay with me for a long time. Reading towards virtues like patience, temperance, kindness, diligence, and humility is a great mercy. I believe this book will be my favorite of the year in non-fiction genre. A perfect preface to a year of reading. Get this book and savor it. And you may discover new authors to explore and fill the empty spaces on your bookshelf.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samuel James

    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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christina Von Moll

    I loved this book so much. It’s a book about virtue and a book about great literature. Prior’s writing is beautiful, rich, and thought provoking as she provides insight into great works of literature and encourages and challenges readers to slow down, think deeply, and read “promiscuously.” I can’t recommend this book enough!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel Martin

    I honestly can’t give you a good reason not to read this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kerstin

    "All literature - stories most obviously - centers on some conflict, rupture or lack. Literature is birthed from our fallenness: without the fall, there would be no story." This book is gem. We live in a utilitarian, functional, and secularized culture, and it is no surprise that when we look at literature, probe its meanings, we look for plot, theme, character, and the like. Yet we forget an important aspect, to look for what is edifying, for what is good, true, and beautiful, in other words, we "All literature - stories most obviously - centers on some conflict, rupture or lack. Literature is birthed from our fallenness: without the fall, there would be no story." This book is gem. We live in a utilitarian, functional, and secularized culture, and it is no surprise that when we look at literature, probe its meanings, we look for plot, theme, character, and the like. Yet we forget an important aspect, to look for what is edifying, for what is good, true, and beautiful, in other words, we no longer look for Christian virtues. Karen Swallow Prior explores examples in literature of the 12 virtues divided into the familiar categories of cardinal, theological, and heavenly: such as, temperance and The Great Gatsby, love and The Death of Ivan Ilych, or diligence and Pilgrim's Progress. In each of these essays, which can be read independently, she defines each virtue. She demonstrates with her examples how each virtue is a balance in moderation, for each has corresponding vices due to excess or deficiency. What I found interesting is that some of the examples she chooses, especially those of the 20th century which make me shudder because of their raw bleakness, have no reference at all to faith or Christianity. Here she brings to mind that the human condition doesn't change no matter the zeitgeist. Even in this environment the characters demonstrate virtue or lack thereof. Prior intertwines her narrative with examples from her own life, thereby bringing the virtues discussed to a very tangible level. Karen Swallow Prior has restored to us an awareness on how to read literature, "it is not enough to read widely. One must also read well. One must read virtuously."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I love Karen Swallow Prior's writing so I thoroughly enjoyed reading (and thinking) this book. What keeps it from being rated higher (for me): I didn't come away wanting to read any of the titles I hadn't already read. They sound like drudgery. Or vitamins that are "good for me" at the very least. In a book that is really about virtue, were there no stories that would positively illustrate the virtues (as in the chapter about Persuasion) instead of negatively (especially the bits on Ethan Frome I love Karen Swallow Prior's writing so I thoroughly enjoyed reading (and thinking) this book. What keeps it from being rated higher (for me): I didn't come away wanting to read any of the titles I hadn't already read. They sound like drudgery. Or vitamins that are "good for me" at the very least. In a book that is really about virtue, were there no stories that would positively illustrate the virtues (as in the chapter about Persuasion) instead of negatively (especially the bits on Ethan Frome and Silence)? Still, it's thought-provoking and I can't wait for my husband to hurry up and read it so we can discuss it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Justin Lonas

    A delight-filled reminder of why any of us read in the first place. Wisdom and joy abounding.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    [Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reading Copy from the publisher, but no other remuneration for a review in any manner] We’ve grown used to quick reads, a couple of swipes up with our finger and we are ready to move on to the next thing. We read for information or for distraction. We’ve taken to speed reading, to listening to audiobooks at double speed, to reading summaries online, in lieu of reading well. Reading slowly has come to be seen as something to be ashamed of. Who has time to read c [Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reading Copy from the publisher, but no other remuneration for a review in any manner] We’ve grown used to quick reads, a couple of swipes up with our finger and we are ready to move on to the next thing. We read for information or for distraction. We’ve taken to speed reading, to listening to audiobooks at double speed, to reading summaries online, in lieu of reading well. Reading slowly has come to be seen as something to be ashamed of. Who has time to read closely? In “On Reading Well” Karen Swallow Prior reminds us of the importance of reading “widely, voraciously, and indiscriminately,” but more importantly to read virtuously. By reading literature virtuously - attending to the words on the page, to the genres and styles employed by the author, to the constructions of the narrative and the characters - we can in fact begin to learn from what we are reading, be changed by literature and the stories told therein. Prior engages 12 works of literature (mostly American & British, with the odd Russian & Japanese work thrown in) and employs these as descriptors, and sometimes foils for, one of 12 virtues. Her engagement with and investigation of these literary works and corresponding virtues is based in her understanding the stories we tell and the stories we engage form us. This is not only true on in a religious sense (the Bible is after all a large, overarching narrative with different genres employed throughout), but in our national, cultural, and personal identities. These stories and narratives can impact us in ways we can’t comprehend if we don’t engage (read) them well. Prior notes that this is hard work, really reading well, but so is the cultivation of virtue. These things don’t come easy, and it is easy to err toward one extreme or another as one seeks to cultivate virtue, as one seeks out the truth of a narrative. While more of an act of literary criticism, Prior’s work also engages theological and philosophical arguments about the nature of these virtues and the characters and societies that display the lack or fullness of them. Overall a helpful book, an excellent companion and reminder of the importance of literature and the art of reading well. The work would be helpful read devotionally, as a reflection on virtue. Overall, highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Justin Wiggins

    On Reading Well : Finding The Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior is a book that I highly recommend it. This has been one of the best books I have read about virtue, a love for books, reading attentively, how powerful and universal literature and art is, and the reality that we are all living works of art, created in the image of The Great Artist. Reading this book has also reminded me of why I wrote Surprised by Agape, given me great creative inspiration for a second book, and On Reading Well : Finding The Good Life Through Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior is a book that I highly recommend it. This has been one of the best books I have read about virtue, a love for books, reading attentively, how powerful and universal literature and art is, and the reality that we are all living works of art, created in the image of The Great Artist. Reading this book has also reminded me of why I wrote Surprised by Agape, given me great creative inspiration for a second book, and a greater passion for literature, writing, art, living out my faith, and loving people of all worldviews. Thank you for writing this Karen! From one writer to another, I appreciate what you do! "Reading virtuously means, first, reading closely, being faithful to both text and context, interpreting accurately and insightfully. Indeed, there is something in the very form of reading-the shape of the action itself-that tends towards virtue. The attentiveness necessary for deep reading (the kind of reading we practice in reading literary works as opposed to skimming news stories or reading instructions) requires patience. The skills of interpretation and evaluation require prudence. Even the simple decision to set aside time to read in a world rife with so many other choices competing for our attention require a kind of temperance."- Karen Swallow Prior

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    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 Fielding Temperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Justice: 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 Fielding Temperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Justice: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens Courage: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Faith: Silence by Shusaku Endo Hope: The Road by Cormac McCarthy Love: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy Chastity: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton Diligence: Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan Patience: Persuasion by Jane Austen Humility: "Revelation" and "Everything that Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor These 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    This one is quite good. Each chapter is a meditation on a particular virtue, using works of literature for further illumination. It functions as a nice companion to one of my favorite essays by Dorothy Sayers expounding on the Seven Deadly Sins, “The Other Six Deadly Sins.” Here are the virtues and books Prior discusses: The Cardinal Virtues: Prudence- History of Tom Jones Temperance- Great Gatsby Justice- Tale of Two Cities Courage- Huckleberry Finn Theological Virtues: Faith- Silence Hope- The R This one is quite good. Each chapter is a meditation on a particular virtue, using works of literature for further illumination. It functions as a nice companion to one of my favorite essays by Dorothy Sayers expounding on the Seven Deadly Sins, “The Other Six Deadly Sins.” Here are the virtues and books Prior discusses: The Cardinal Virtues: Prudence- History of Tom Jones Temperance- Great Gatsby Justice- Tale of Two Cities Courage- Huckleberry Finn Theological Virtues: Faith- Silence Hope- The Road Love- The Death of Ivan Ilych Heavenly Virtues: Chastity- Ethan Frome Diligence- Pilgrim’s Progress Patience- Persuasion Kindness- Tenth of December Humility- Stories by Flannery O’Connor Bob has written a great review. He writes a lot of great reviews! https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  20. 5 out of 5

    George P.

    For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. My father was a pastor and my mother was a teacher, so there were always books around the house — preeminently the Bible, but also works of fiction and nonfiction. I never caught flak for reading as such, but my mom would sometimes look askance at me when I told her I was reading fiction. Fiction is weird. Pablo Picasso wrote, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” Leland Ryken, my college English profess For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. My father was a pastor and my mother was a teacher, so there were always books around the house — preeminently the Bible, but also works of fiction and nonfiction. I never caught flak for reading as such, but my mom would sometimes look askance at me when I told her I was reading fiction. Fiction is weird. Pablo Picasso wrote, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” Leland Ryken, my college English professor, said the same thing about fiction particularly. It is “the lie that tells the truth.” That’s what makes fiction weird. It describes the human condition without narrating a historical occurrence. Some Christians trip over this paradox. I vividly remember a conversation with an older minister who insisted that Jesus’ parables weren’t made-up stories. They actually happened. If they were made up, he reasoned, then Jesus lied. Since Jesus didn’t lie, His parables took place in real life. The minister simply couldn’t see how a made-up story could tell the truth. Other Christians trip over fiction’s literary form. They are so concerned for fiction to tell “The Truth” that they write and/or read novels that are thinly veiled Sunday school lessons. I think this is why so much “Christian fiction” is so badly reviewed. Literary art gets sacrificed on the altar of making a point. On Reading Wellby Karen Swallow Prior avoids both of these errors. It shows how the best fiction uses literary art to display virtue or its opposite. That’s not all fiction does, of course. It delights, intrigues, inspires, enrages, entertains, and a thousand other things, too. But good fiction preaches without being preachy. It moralizes without becoming moralistic. As Prior writes: "Literature embodies virtue, first, by offering images of virtue in action and, second, by offering the reader vicarious practice in exercising virtue, which is not the same as actual practice, of course, but is nonetheless a practice by which habits of mind, ways of thinking and perceiving, accrue." After an Introduction that explores the connection between literature and virtue, Prior divides her book into three parts grouped around a particular set of virtues, with each chapter pairing a particular virtue with a particular story. Part One focuses on the cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice and courage. The word cardinalderives from the Latin word for hinge. According to both classical philosophers and early Christian theologians, all other virtues pivot around these four. That’s why they’re cardinal. Prior explores these virtues through careful readings of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundingby Henry Fielding (prudence); The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (temperance); A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens (justice): and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (courage). Part Two examines the theological virtues: faith, hope and love. “In contrast to the other virtues,” Prior writes, “these virtues can be attained only when granted to us by God through his supernatural grace.” That is why they’re theological. The books Prior studies in these chapters are Silenceby Shusaku Endo (faith), The Roadby Cormac McCarthy (hope), and The Death of Ivan Ilychby Leo Tolstoy (love). For me, the chapters on faith and hope were the most challenging in the book, given the apostasy that lies at the heart of Endo’s tale and the hopelessness of McCarthy’s. Most challenging, but also most rewarding. Finally, Part Three explores the heavenly virtues, which are the counterparts to the seven deadly sins. They are charity, temperance, chastity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. Since Swallow discussed charity and temperance in preceding parts of the book, she skips them here, focusing on the last five. The works she discusses are Ethan Fromeby Edith Wharton (chastity); Pilgrim’s Progressby John Bunyan (diligence); Persuasionby Jane Austen; “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders; and two short stories by Flannery O’Connor, “Revelation” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” I have nothing but praise for this book. It exemplifies how to read well, both in the sense of reading closely and of reading through the lens of moral analysis. Perhaps the highest praise I can give the book is that when I turned its last page, I wanted to read (or re-read) the works of fiction it studied. The Puritan divine Richard Baxter wrote, “Good books are a very great mercy to the world.” They are, and Karen Swallow Prior’s book shows why. Fiction, at least the best of it, offers us a window onto life and into ourselves that can alter our perceptions and lead to metanoia, a change of mind, being and action. Given that we are not as virtuous as we could be, let alone as we should be, that change is necessary. And if “the lie that tells the truth” aids us in making that change, then let us read it well. Book Reviewed Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Brooks(Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2018). P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote "Yes" on my Amazon.com review page. P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I LOVED this book! Growing up as the daughter of an enthusiastic Lit major, I have always loved good literature, especially Jane Austen. This book takes some of my favorite titles to an entirely new level, breaking down some of the theological and philosophical truths hidden in the text and explaining them in such a clear way. I felt like I was sitting in the best lit class ever, and that’s a compliment. I will forever read literature differently and I will forever have a new, and better informe I LOVED this book! Growing up as the daughter of an enthusiastic Lit major, I have always loved good literature, especially Jane Austen. This book takes some of my favorite titles to an entirely new level, breaking down some of the theological and philosophical truths hidden in the text and explaining them in such a clear way. I felt like I was sitting in the best lit class ever, and that’s a compliment. I will forever read literature differently and I will forever have a new, and better informed, appreciation for virtue. Can’t recommend this one enough!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Messina

    Quite possibly my favorite book I’ve read this year.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Each chapter gives an in-depth study of a different book that illustrates a virtue, which was interesting if I liked the book, but not if I didn't!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Dec 3, 2018 3 to 3.5 stars (I think, I'm finding it hard to rate). Loved parts (and especially liked the introduction & chapters on Jane Austen, Pilgrim's Progress, and Flannery O'Connor), but other parts fell flat for me and didn't persuade me to read the book she was discussing. Except possibly George Saunders. Even though I've heard others rave about Lincoln in the Bardo it never interested me. KSP's discussion of his short story The Tenth of December makes me think maybe I should try rea Dec 3, 2018 3 to 3.5 stars (I think, I'm finding it hard to rate). Loved parts (and especially liked the introduction & chapters on Jane Austen, Pilgrim's Progress, and Flannery O'Connor), but other parts fell flat for me and didn't persuade me to read the book she was discussing. Except possibly George Saunders. Even though I've heard others rave about Lincoln in the Bardo it never interested me. KSP's discussion of his short story The Tenth of December makes me think maybe I should try reading something by him.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ned Bustard

    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...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    "But it is not enough to read widely. One must also read well. One must read virtuously." Forty years ago, this undergraduate English major was introduced to the book The Universe Next Door by the late Dr James W Sire. As I read it, I was made aware of the competing worldviews of the day, most of which have become a greater part of the American cultural and religious scene in the past four decades. I thought of Sire's book as I read Dr Karen Swallow Prior's new book On Reading Well: Finding the G "But it is not enough to read widely. One must also read well. One must read virtuously." Forty years ago, this undergraduate English major was introduced to the book The Universe Next Door by the late Dr James W Sire. As I read it, I was made aware of the competing worldviews of the day, most of which have become a greater part of the American cultural and religious scene in the past four decades. I thought of Sire's book as I read Dr Karen Swallow Prior's new book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books (Brazos Press, 2018). But while Sire's book focused on the large worldviews which compete for our attention and belief, Prior's newest book focuses on three categories of virtues within the Christian faith and tradition: The cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and courage. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The heavenly virtues of chastity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Prior takes us on a journey through literary classics of the past and present to offer relevant and meaningful illustrations of each virtue through a specific work. The result is a tremendous work of what it means to deeply read and the value of doing so in an age of shortened attention spam and 10 second sound bites. For example, Prior uses Shusaku Endo's novel Silence to illustrated the theological virtue of faith in the story of Father Rodrigues, a Jesuit Priest who sent to Japan to investigate the allegedly renunciation of the faith by his mentor by trampling on a likeness of Jesus or Mary, called in Japanese, fumie. Rodriques himself is brought to the moment of whether or not to trample the fumie, being promised by the authorities that the torture of Christians will end if he will trample. He does. The act, and the novel, raises then the question Prior believes is the most vexing question of the novel. Namely, does the priest's act of trampling on the image of Jesus constitute a true denunciation of Christ? And the issue of what constitutes true faith is raised. I liked Reading Well. It serves as a reminder of the importance of literature to get us to think about what we think about and why we think about "it." God. Death. Faith. Love. Life. It also serves as a reminder that we seek meaning in what we read and from what we read. I believe that Reading Well would be an excellent text for college classes in literature, religion, and theology, church study groups, seminary classes especially those dealing with the virtues listed in the book. I gave Reading Well a five star rating on Goodreads. Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cassian Lynne

    Honestly, I’ve been longing to get this book since I first heard about it. And I was not disappointed in the slightest. Ms. Prior holds the premise that through good literature, we are able to learn much about life; that the stories about others, fact or fiction, will cause us to reflect on our own lives and help us grow in necessary virtues — all virtues that are required in order to live a good life. In other words: to live well, we must read well. The format of the book is divided into three m Honestly, I’ve been longing to get this book since I first heard about it. And I was not disappointed in the slightest. Ms. Prior holds the premise that through good literature, we are able to learn much about life; that the stories about others, fact or fiction, will cause us to reflect on our own lives and help us grow in necessary virtues — all virtues that are required in order to live a good life. In other words: to live well, we must read well. The format of the book is divided into three main sections that address three categories of virtues, and within each section lies a chapter per virtue to be addressed in that category. I was blown away by the depth of this book. In each chapter, through learning each virtue, I was inspired to stretch my “virtue muscles” and continue to grow in that virtue diligently and with great effort. And I was inspired to read each of the books she discusses that I haven’t already read. Each chapter is genuinely unique and incredibly important to have a well-rounded understanding of a good, virtuous life. I’ve quoted parts of nearly every chapter to someone at this point — I brought the chapter about Hope into a meeting with a girl I mentor, and I sent a picture of a page of Faith to a good friend, just to name a few. While every chapter is brilliant, my personal favorites were temperance, hope, and humility. Ironically, those chapters touched on the books I believe I would enjoy the absolute least out of every book sited, yet the thought-provoking content filled in so much understanding of and desire to grow in those virtues that had apparently been sorely lacking before. Obviously, i highly recommend this book. It’s a knock-out. I hope everyone else enjoys it as whole-heartedly as I have.

  28. 5 out of 5

    NinaB

    It took me awhile to read through this. Even though I found it interesting, I wasn’t compelled to read it cover to cover in one sitting. The author dissects well known classics to dig up the gem of each book highlighting a Christian virtue. It is a great introduction to literary criticism and could help the inquisitive reader to engage with books critically and more mindfully as just a form of entertainment. Ms Prior asserts that reading literature should not only “inform us, but form us” and tha It took me awhile to read through this. Even though I found it interesting, I wasn’t compelled to read it cover to cover in one sitting. The author dissects well known classics to dig up the gem of each book highlighting a Christian virtue. It is a great introduction to literary criticism and could help the inquisitive reader to engage with books critically and more mindfully as just a form of entertainment. Ms Prior asserts that reading literature should not only “inform us, but form us” and that the very purpose of literature is the “winning of the mind from wickedness to virtue” and inflaming a reader with a “desire to be worthy.” And so reading and analyzing good literature, we must all endeavor to do! There are some conclusions and opinions the author came to that I cannot completely get behind, but many I heartily agree with. I highly recommend this book to homeschooling moms, English teachers, or any who loves discussing books. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book: Reading well is, in itself, an act of virtue, or excellence, and it is also a habit that cultivates more virtue in return. Richard Baxter writes, “It is not the reading of many books which is necessary to make a man wise or good; but the well reading of a few, could he be sure to have the best.” The ultimate test of a book, or of an interpretation, is the difference it would make in the conduct of life. Richard Baxter: “Good books are a very great mercy to the world. One attains the virtue of temperance when one’s appetites have been shaped such that one’s very desires are in proper order and proportion. Temperance is liberating because it “allows us to be masters of our pleasure instead of becoming its slaves.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    The introduction to this book is worth the purchase price. I finally understand what the word "aesthetics" means...even though it is often thrown around with the assumption that people know what it is (I mean, where was I supposed to learn that?). And that's the great thing about Karen Swallow Prior's writing: it's accessible and instructional at the same time. You're going to wish she was your English teacher, but just reading this book will give you good insight into the practice of reading. I The introduction to this book is worth the purchase price. I finally understand what the word "aesthetics" means...even though it is often thrown around with the assumption that people know what it is (I mean, where was I supposed to learn that?). And that's the great thing about Karen Swallow Prior's writing: it's accessible and instructional at the same time. You're going to wish she was your English teacher, but just reading this book will give you good insight into the practice of reading. It's almost like a twofer--great information about the virtues along with fabulous discussion of the literature she chose to illustrate those virtues. It's been eye-opening to me that all along I have considered myself a pretty "moral" person but I don't think I could have explained prudence, or probably any of these virtues very well. Yet she does it humbly. The good life the title refers to is a virtuous life. And the cover illustration? Swap the dog for a cat and I am pretty sure that drawing was of my house. I am very grateful for this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rob O'Lynn

    Excellent discussion of moral philosophy and ethical development through the examination of particular literary works. Prior's argument, as is the central argument of moral philosophy, is that developing virtue leads to a lived-well life. And, as a writer and literature professor, Prior further argues that developing virtue is aided by reading well. In classic works such as The Tale of Two Cities and Pilgrim's Progress, we learn to be just and diligent. And in modern works such as The Road and S Excellent discussion of moral philosophy and ethical development through the examination of particular literary works. Prior's argument, as is the central argument of moral philosophy, is that developing virtue leads to a lived-well life. And, as a writer and literature professor, Prior further argues that developing virtue is aided by reading well. In classic works such as The Tale of Two Cities and Pilgrim's Progress, we learn to be just and diligent. And in modern works such as The Road and Silence, we learn to be hopeful and faithful. However reading is simply not enough. As Prior notes in the introduction, "Developing perceptiveness--the sort that literary reading requires--cultivates virtue because action follows affective response" (p. 27). These books, as the virtues they focus on, should challenge us to grow in a more virtuous direction.

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