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Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School

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What do the great books of your youth have to say about your life now? Smokler's essays on the classics—witty, down-to-earth, appreciative, and insightful—are divided into ten sections, each covering an archetypal stage of life—from youth and first love to family, loss, and the future. The author not only reminds you about the essential features of each great book but give What do the great books of your youth have to say about your life now? Smokler's essays on the classics—witty, down-to-earth, appreciative, and insightful—are divided into ten sections, each covering an archetypal stage of life—from youth and first love to family, loss, and the future. The author not only reminds you about the essential features of each great book but gives you a practical, real-world reason why revisiting it in adulthood is not only enjoyable but useful.


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What do the great books of your youth have to say about your life now? Smokler's essays on the classics—witty, down-to-earth, appreciative, and insightful—are divided into ten sections, each covering an archetypal stage of life—from youth and first love to family, loss, and the future. The author not only reminds you about the essential features of each great book but give What do the great books of your youth have to say about your life now? Smokler's essays on the classics—witty, down-to-earth, appreciative, and insightful—are divided into ten sections, each covering an archetypal stage of life—from youth and first love to family, loss, and the future. The author not only reminds you about the essential features of each great book but gives you a practical, real-world reason why revisiting it in adulthood is not only enjoyable but useful.

30 review for Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This sounded like a good concept--revisit books you were assigned in high school, as an adult, and see what they can add to your life. Problems---many of items done here aren't even books (some are just essays.) Many of the items listed the author did not read in high school, nor do high schools commonly assign them---the author admits this. And the writing is terrible. Really, truly bad. There were sentences in here that were actually painful. Lamest metaphors I've ever read, I think. So the au This sounded like a good concept--revisit books you were assigned in high school, as an adult, and see what they can add to your life. Problems---many of items done here aren't even books (some are just essays.) Many of the items listed the author did not read in high school, nor do high schools commonly assign them---the author admits this. And the writing is terrible. Really, truly bad. There were sentences in here that were actually painful. Lamest metaphors I've ever read, I think. So the author takes a good concept, messes with it by not following his own rules, and then shoots it dead with bad writing. Sigh.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I can't believe I read the whole thing. I never intended to but I would just pick it up and read a few short chapters in between other things and before I knew it, voila! I added some of the suggestions to my TBR and enjoyed Smokler's take on some of the ones I had already read. I think educators face a dichotomy. Because many people don't study literature post high school, they feel like they have to introduce the classics or these folks will never be exposed to them period. On the other hand, I can't believe I read the whole thing. I never intended to but I would just pick it up and read a few short chapters in between other things and before I knew it, voila! I added some of the suggestions to my TBR and enjoyed Smokler's take on some of the ones I had already read. I think educators face a dichotomy. Because many people don't study literature post high school, they feel like they have to introduce the classics or these folks will never be exposed to them period. On the other hand, most high school students (myself included) were not mature enough to appreciate the themes/metaphors/constructs of great literature. Smokler seems to have grasped them better than most and hence his really valuable recommendation that we absolutely should reread some of what we skimmed in high school. I've pretty much concluded that everything I read in high school should be taken off the "read" list and put back on the TBR. Maturity can't help but add a layer of understanding.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Classics have a lot to say about life, the problem is the ones that are forced upon us during high school are normally hated or forgotten about. Teachers pick books that are designed to teach important lessons as well as develop critically reading skills. Kevin Smokler has decided to reread those classics and try to tell the reader why we should reread them. Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School is a collection of essays that often remind the read Classics have a lot to say about life, the problem is the ones that are forced upon us during high school are normally hated or forgotten about. Teachers pick books that are designed to teach important lessons as well as develop critically reading skills. Kevin Smokler has decided to reread those classics and try to tell the reader why we should reread them. Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School is a collection of essays that often remind the reader what these classics have to offer but told in a very accessible and humours ways. I’m not sure where I first heard about this book, I want to say Books on the Nightstand but I can’t be too sure. I’ve always had an interest in classics and what is assigned in English classes around the place. The only book I remember studying in High School was Romeo and Juliet and I have to admit I never read it, we ended up watching the movie instead; the Baz Luhrmann version was just released. So I never had a chance to learn about the classics and reading critically. These are new skills I’m still developing. When I suddenly gained an interest in reading and education and have often spent time thinking about what books I would want to teach (see this old post where I pick some books to teach). Out of the 50 books in this novel; I think I only read a small portion of them so Smokler has really destroyed my TBR list with so many more novels. Not that it really is his fault; I will probably read most of them anyway. I’m interested in knowing why some of these books were chosen, I couldn’t work that out at times and really want to learn more about how they pick the books. Kevin Smokler stated that he reread the books he was assigned in high school and then consulted friends, teachers, etc. to get a nice round 50. This doesn’t help answer the question I had but it was probably the most practical way to pick books. I’m just fascinated in the idea of studying literature and the process behind deciding what to teach. I’m taking the time to work through an English Lit course and I hope it doesn’t squash my passion for the topic to continue further in. I would love to know if there were books that could help satisfy my curiosity; I will continue to search for them. I wasn’t much of a non-fiction reader for a long time (in fact I’ve only been a reader since 2009), but books about books are my newfound interest. Kevin Stoker’s book really was a fascinating read and I want people to recommend me some more non-fiction books that will help. Stoker mentioned two in his book that I am to pick up and I hope some of the readers of this will give me some more. If you are interested in learning why classics are important, or you are just interested in books about books, this is a nice addition. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I was mostly enjoying this until the essay on Sherlock Holmes, where I came across this line: Leslie S. Klinger, who penned a revision of Holmes in which Holmes is a female detective named Mary Russell. First, Smokler's description of the wonderful Mary Russell novels makes them sound like genderswap fanfiction. They are not. Second, and most important, the series is written by Laurie R. King, not Leslie S. Klinger. Two seconds with Google could have told Smokler that. Urrrrgh...I'll give the book I was mostly enjoying this until the essay on Sherlock Holmes, where I came across this line: Leslie S. Klinger, who penned a revision of Holmes in which Holmes is a female detective named Mary Russell. First, Smokler's description of the wonderful Mary Russell novels makes them sound like genderswap fanfiction. They are not. Second, and most important, the series is written by Laurie R. King, not Leslie S. Klinger. Two seconds with Google could have told Smokler that. Urrrrgh...I'll give the book 2 stars simply because it reminded me of a bunch of books I've been meaning to reread for years.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Kevin Smokler’s Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School is obviously aimed at the serious adult reader, the type of person who reads The New York Times, The New Yorker and probably The New York Review of Books, who buys season theater tickets and spends time in coffee shops. But don’t let that put you off! Many of us, even in high school, didn’t read all of these books, but it is never too late to gain a first-rate education. I didn’t read Candide Kevin Smokler’s Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School is obviously aimed at the serious adult reader, the type of person who reads The New York Times, The New Yorker and probably The New York Review of Books, who buys season theater tickets and spends time in coffee shops. But don’t let that put you off! Many of us, even in high school, didn’t read all of these books, but it is never too late to gain a first-rate education. I didn’t read Candide until I was in my 30s, nor Pride and Prejudice, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Joy Luck Club, or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings until I was in my 40s; I only read The Things They Carried this fall. Coming to these classics in middle age did not lessen my appreciation of their brilliance. In fact, it reinforces Smokler’s contention that readers will gain so much more insight from the novels at 50 rather than at 15. Thanks to Smokler’s book, I now have The Phantom Tollbooth, The Remains of the Day, Maus I : A Survivor's Tale : My Father Bleeds History, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter are now on my sagging to-read list. If for no other reason, read this book in order to find new novels to cherish. That said, Smokler’s book also proves a boon to English teachers like me who are looking for newer works to assign to students or who just need a little coaxing to remember why The Catcher in the Rye still speaks to teenagers today.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Smith

    I was expecting this book to discuss some of the major themes in the chosen famous works and bring their themes into the modern world. In the instance of my beloved Jane Eyre, I would imagine discussing redemption, brash assumptions on others’ motives, or the role religion plays in decision-making in social hierarchy. And for about 80% of this book, there were good points worthy of rumination and discussion. Great discussion about Atticus Finch’s single parenthood in the world of To Kill a Mocki I was expecting this book to discuss some of the major themes in the chosen famous works and bring their themes into the modern world. In the instance of my beloved Jane Eyre, I would imagine discussing redemption, brash assumptions on others’ motives, or the role religion plays in decision-making in social hierarchy. And for about 80% of this book, there were good points worthy of rumination and discussion. Great discussion about Atticus Finch’s single parenthood in the world of To Kill a Mockingbird contrasted with today’s world of perfection parenting, poignant remarks about who you can best relate to in the Sherlock Holmes works, and sweet recollections of time spent reading The Phantom Tollbooth. Unfortunately, the remaining 20% of this book was filled with judgment and seemingly myopic views. On the subject of Fahrenheit 451, Smokler says, “My heart breaks for the adult who calls the novel his favorite book. That reader probably still thinks we live in a dystopia where seditious ideas are set ablaze and then stamped out of consciousness.” Leveling these sort of ad-hominem attacks on a reader who might well love Bradbury’s work for other reasons (maybe a passion for Banned Books Week? Maybe from the place they were at in their life when they first read it?) is a rather exclusive viewpoint and ostracizes readers who might fall against his viewpoints that seem tangential to the actual discussion of the books’ themes. I expected this book to give me fodder to lead a book discussions about. What I felt this book really consisted of was a editor’s discussion of classic book reviews; filled with a bit of history of the authors’ lives, social context for the novels’ creations, and a heap of opinion on what these classical works can offer to a modern person. See my full review on BB Reads.com

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It's difficult for a book like Practical Classics to avoid coming off as condescending, what with its premise of "Oh, give 'em another try...{subtext: because you just didn't get it the first time}!" But Smokler has a point: We bring different things to books at different stages of our life, and what seemed like silly (or boring) crap in high school can speak to us tellingly as we age. That said, he still almost managed to lose me by starting with a weak essay on Huck Finn, which I've had to read It's difficult for a book like Practical Classics to avoid coming off as condescending, what with its premise of "Oh, give 'em another try...{subtext: because you just didn't get it the first time}!" But Smokler has a point: We bring different things to books at different stages of our life, and what seemed like silly (or boring) crap in high school can speak to us tellingly as we age. That said, he still almost managed to lose me by starting with a weak essay on Huck Finn, which I've had to read four times and loathe with an undying passion that will continue to burn long after my body has been reduced to dust by time. I stuck it out long enough to get to the David Foster Wallace reference in the chapter on Candide, though, and - mollified somewhat - from there to the end. Smokler's essays are hit or miss, offering both a brief plot synopsis and a cultural context for the works he features, as well as a few reasons why these classics might mean more to you now than they did when you were eighteen. Frankly, the greatest strength of his book is the variety of classics he chooses. Sure, you've got the obvious suspects (Holden Caulfield, Jay Gatsby, Elizabeth Bennet), but I wasn't expecting Shirley Jackson, Marshall McLuhan, or Borges to crop up, and their inclusion, along with others I hadn't even heard of, was a delight. So I offer Practical Classics perhaps the highest compliment a work of this kind can aspire to: You've added some things to my reading list.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Motivational. Added some titles to my "to read" list. notes: 20..H Finn..on an Odyssey..structured as a journey..Homer, Quixote, Oz, Rain Man...stability of home & clean clothes vs a wilder and unblemished America beyond the next river describes the torment of the Am. soul since its founding. 26..Candide..optimism thats willfully blind to the situation of others is just cruelty.. 27..man is free at the instant he wants to be 88..Portnoy..the things we love ignite curiosity about how they're made (eg Motivational. Added some titles to my "to read" list. notes: 20..H Finn..on an Odyssey..structured as a journey..Homer, Quixote, Oz, Rain Man...stability of home & clean clothes vs a wilder and unblemished America beyond the next river describes the torment of the Am. soul since its founding. 26..Candide..optimism thats willfully blind to the situation of others is just cruelty.. 27..man is free at the instant he wants to be 88..Portnoy..the things we love ignite curiosity about how they're made (eg Updike on Serra) 151..F451..Bradbury wrote in a UCLA library typewriter rooms for 25 cents an hour a..451 not about censorship, but about the opiate of easy answers, of info over imagination, or consuming w/o thinking..TV is the culprit 152.err? did Montag light the fire around the lady reader, or did she? b..why does my job leave me broken? 153..dependence on screens.."amusing ourselves to death" N Postman 157..Mockingbird..2010 documentary Hey, Boo 176..Maus..legacy approach..narrative of his father's escape from Nazi death camps 183..Phantom Toll Booth..Juster..american alice in wonderland..w/J Feiffer..prizes the renaissance nerd.. 244..D Allison..Bastard out of Carolina..forgiveness 259..Dickinson's isolation was guerilla warfare against confines of a daughterly life amid conventional Protestant small town society...she pushed herself to be better 293..Things fall apart..Achebe

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cinnamon

    I'd started reading this book quickly, essay after essay. But then realized that I wasn't keeping the books straight in my mind and decided to slow down and read them one essay at a time with intervals in between. So at this rate it may take me another 3-6 months to finish this book, but I'm liking this longer approach to the book. The essays give a very good picture of elements of the books that I did not grasp when I was younger and it gives me little hints into the thought processes behind th I'd started reading this book quickly, essay after essay. But then realized that I wasn't keeping the books straight in my mind and decided to slow down and read them one essay at a time with intervals in between. So at this rate it may take me another 3-6 months to finish this book, but I'm liking this longer approach to the book. The essays give a very good picture of elements of the books that I did not grasp when I was younger and it gives me little hints into the thought processes behind the author. It's a very good balance between analysis, critique, guided reading suggestions, and opinion of the author. I'm enjoying the book thoroughly.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    I can see myself writing a book like this someday. Smokler goes back to books recommended to high school students to find and share with others the books that speak not only to teens but also to adults. He opts for shorter works (I'm pretty sure I'd do that, too) and throws in lots of contemporary books (again, something I'd probably do). His little essays are short and encouraging and persuasive. Good job, Kevin Smokler.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    "Practical Classics" groups 50 books/stories/essays/plays/articles into 10 topics (family, work, loss, heroes, etc.) with an emphasis on pieces that you may have read in high school and haven't thought about since. From "To Kill A Mockingbird" to "Fahrenheit 451," the poems of Emily Dickinson to Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," Smokler presents concise, compelling arguments for revisiting these literary warhorses at other times in your life, not out of obligation but for nourishment. Smokler is very "Practical Classics" groups 50 books/stories/essays/plays/articles into 10 topics (family, work, loss, heroes, etc.) with an emphasis on pieces that you may have read in high school and haven't thought about since. From "To Kill A Mockingbird" to "Fahrenheit 451," the poems of Emily Dickinson to Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," Smokler presents concise, compelling arguments for revisiting these literary warhorses at other times in your life, not out of obligation but for nourishment. Smokler is very prescriptive in some of his capsule reviews, suggesting certain titles as moments of great change, following periods of grieving, within midlife crises, or upon the impending birth of your first child. (Nothing was suggested during bouts of indigestion, or when suffering from the heartbreak of psoriasis.) There's a lot of value to this. The educational system is necessarily built on packing as much of the world's knowledge and literary achievements into a supercompressed span of time. Even if you were one of those diligent students who read all the assignments on time (and not a guy like me, blowing off the assigned reading to get through book six of the "Spellsinger" series), chances are many of these stories run together in your mind. Also, I'm not speaking out of class when I say that great books can mean different things to you at different times in your life. Smokler sticks to books of modest size (less than 300 pages) and reasonable density (there is a Pynchon entry, but it's "Crying of Lot 49"), breaking down how the book might hit a person later in life, avoiding deep readings of syntax or structure in favor of a focus on the themes and emotional effects of a re-read. Like most books about reading books, the end result is yet another expansion of my to-read list. As one would, I strongly objected to Smokler's conclusions about certain books, but found plenty of others to be on the money. The best sections are the distillations of Marshall McLuhan's "Understanding Media" and Benjamin's "Art In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," two fairly dense theory dumps that Smokler untangles and places into modern context. Bravo! A few more modern essays, like David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" indicate that Smokler's 50-work canon is not exclusive to titles he (or I) would have read in high school in the late '80s. I didn't *need* this book, strictly speaking. I had 8 of these 50 titles on my to-read in 2014 list anyway, so I don't need to be convinced of the benefits of re-reading the classics. But I always love a good book about reading books, and Smokler's is a worthy addition to my shelf alongside Lizzie Skurnik's "Shelf Discovery," Erin Blakemore's "The Heroine's Bookshelf," and Francine Prose's "Reading Like A Writer." And don't worry, you don't have to read "The Scarlet Letter" again if you don't want to. Kevin's let you off the hook on that one. (Sort of.)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I came across this book in a booth at the 2013 San Francisco Writers' Conference and was immediately intrigued. Author Kevin Smokler revisits some of the classics he was assigned in high school, as well as some of the books and essays that are being assigned currently. Smokler graduated high school 10 years after I did, so he touches on some books that I read for pleasure, and a few with which I was unfamiliar. Each chapter is an essay about one of the 50 titular books, with Smokler's thoughts ab I came across this book in a booth at the 2013 San Francisco Writers' Conference and was immediately intrigued. Author Kevin Smokler revisits some of the classics he was assigned in high school, as well as some of the books and essays that are being assigned currently. Smokler graduated high school 10 years after I did, so he touches on some books that I read for pleasure, and a few with which I was unfamiliar. Each chapter is an essay about one of the 50 titular books, with Smokler's thoughts about the work. What's particularly fascinating here is the different eyes with which Smokler examines these books as an adult. His life experience puts the tales into a different perspective. I had a similar experience when I re-read Siddhartha, so I was curious to see his take on some of the books I had in high school and college, and to see about some of the new books. A particularly interesting example is Smokler's essay on The Hound of the Baskervilles, where he takes an opportunity to examine the relatively modern concept of work/life balance. Smokler discusses how Dr. Watson doesn't practice medicine during the entire book; he is able to leave his practice to help his friend, and not worry about being a physician all the time. Holmes, on the other hand, sees himself as his job and is insulted at the very idea when it is brought up by one of the other characters. With essays on books ranging from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings andThe Age of Innocence, and as varied as A Separate Peace and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, readers are sure to find an opportunity to revisit an old favorite (or the one that made you groan the most; Smokler includes an essay entitled "The Scarlet Letter: I Didn't Like It, Either"). Those who enjoy literary commentary and criticism will find this book well worth their time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    A very eclectic collection of recommended reads. Not all are standard HS reads. Some, like DFW, were writing as I finished high school, some, like Walter Benjamin, I didn't read until a post-grad class in lit theory. But a good chunk (Animal Farm, Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, etc) are mainstays of the HS curriculum (no Hemingway or Faulkner, tho). Good variation in the chapter formats. Some are more like fan letters, some are outlines, and a few are straight-up short es A very eclectic collection of recommended reads. Not all are standard HS reads. Some, like DFW, were writing as I finished high school, some, like Walter Benjamin, I didn't read until a post-grad class in lit theory. But a good chunk (Animal Farm, Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, etc) are mainstays of the HS curriculum (no Hemingway or Faulkner, tho). Good variation in the chapter formats. Some are more like fan letters, some are outlines, and a few are straight-up short essays. And all are short so the book is easily read in little bites. A note about my previous status update: On page 138, it is noted that Leslie S. Klinger created the feminist character of Mary Russell to rescript the Victorian Holmes. The citation is from an NPR article (http://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/1439542...). However, the quotation given by Klinger is conflated with the actual author of the Mary Russell series, Laurie R. King (or, in Miss Russell's opinion, Ms. King is Miss Russell's literary executor) who is also interviewed in the article. Simple fact-checking. I happened to notice the error because I've read 90% of the Mary Russell series and I'm a bookseller besides. Another reader might not notice. I hope the error is corrected in the next printing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jamais

    It’s always sad when people say that they won’t use what they learn in school in real life. //Practical Classics// is about how fifty books you read in high school can affect your life now. The books are separated into sections, each dealing with different topics, allowing for a certain ability to browse through books with similar themes. As the books are set into themes that may not necessarily match what you were taught in high school it makes for some interesting reading. Smokler assumes that It’s always sad when people say that they won’t use what they learn in school in real life. //Practical Classics// is about how fifty books you read in high school can affect your life now. The books are separated into sections, each dealing with different topics, allowing for a certain ability to browse through books with similar themes. As the books are set into themes that may not necessarily match what you were taught in high school it makes for some interesting reading. Smokler assumes that readers have a basic idea of what the book is about and goes right into why the book is important now. This makes the chapters a little easier to read, especially for books whose summary would be longer than the rest of the chapter. The writing is conversational; it’s easy to see him bending over as he tells you why the book is so important. Although it can be off-putting sometimes, overall the effect is nice and makes the lesson more important. For those who like to look back to what they may have missed, or how the books will be important later on, this makes a great gift. As originally written by Jamais Jochim for http://www.portlandbookreview.com/

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill Fessler

    Probably the hardest part of authoring this book was deciding which books to include and - more difficult - which ones to leave out. I'm really glad Kevin Smokler included books he admits he didn't enjoy. He did a great job on the ones he listed, and he did a great job of giving them credibility. Personally, I will never read The Scarlet Letter again, but I'm willing to let it stand as a classic. That's what makes this book so good. It's fun to read the list, and read the reasoning behind each bo Probably the hardest part of authoring this book was deciding which books to include and - more difficult - which ones to leave out. I'm really glad Kevin Smokler included books he admits he didn't enjoy. He did a great job on the ones he listed, and he did a great job of giving them credibility. Personally, I will never read The Scarlet Letter again, but I'm willing to let it stand as a classic. That's what makes this book so good. It's fun to read the list, and read the reasoning behind each book's inclusion. I will definitely use it as I establish my reading list. But I don't want to bog myself down reading the entire collection, because while they might all be classics, they may not be enjoyable - to me. Buy the book, and catch the author on his book tour if you can. But don't consider it gospel. Instead, use it to help you decide what books you will enjoy reading. Also, do me a favor and don't be blind when rating books. I think too many people give out five stars without really thinking about it. Especially the classics.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I had to check this one out on Overdrive a second time and I still couldn't finish it. It was a sign to call it quits. I usually don't include books on Goodreads that I haven't actually finished. In fact I think I've only done it once before. Usually if I can't get through them I delete them off Goodreads as if I never started. Turns out reading someone else's thoughts about classic works of literature is just really boring. I loved Smokler's book on 80s movies and this sounded right up my alley I had to check this one out on Overdrive a second time and I still couldn't finish it. It was a sign to call it quits. I usually don't include books on Goodreads that I haven't actually finished. In fact I think I've only done it once before. Usually if I can't get through them I delete them off Goodreads as if I never started. Turns out reading someone else's thoughts about classic works of literature is just really boring. I loved Smokler's book on 80s movies and this sounded right up my alley. But I think this is the kind of book I'd have loved to have written myself rather than read. Am proud to say I've read at least half of the books on this list and enjoyed most of them. Most recently Remains of the Day, which is fantastic. If I make it through more than 1/2 of a book from now on and just can't finish it I'll add it to the new dnf shelf rather than pretend I never tried.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mechelle

    I really enjoyed reading critiques/essays about the books I've read over the years, not just as a young adult. It was like meeting up with a friend, old sport, and dishing about "older" friends. I was able to remember my reactions to books that I read, and compare my thoughts with Smokler. I especially enjoyed moving through the many genres. Historical to present day. Benign enjoyment of prose and plot of "Pride and Prejudice", to re-examination of those frightening ones, such as Joyce Carol Oat I really enjoyed reading critiques/essays about the books I've read over the years, not just as a young adult. It was like meeting up with a friend, old sport, and dishing about "older" friends. I was able to remember my reactions to books that I read, and compare my thoughts with Smokler. I especially enjoyed moving through the many genres. Historical to present day. Benign enjoyment of prose and plot of "Pride and Prejudice", to re-examination of those frightening ones, such as Joyce Carol Oates, "Where have you been, where are you going?" The world is a mix of the genteel and violence. There is a spectrum. Ahh, redefine the classics for the love of seeing ourselves burning and alive in them.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    While I didn't always like Smokler as a writer, I loved him as a reader. I loved the way he engaged with the texts, using them as a means to contemplate the big questions about himself and the world around him. He was at his best when he was talking about identity and violence, and he gave me a lot to think about. So while his tone was occassionally offputting, and the quality of the essays was uneven (I think he got a little hung up on the symmetry of his frame and made some weak editorial choic While I didn't always like Smokler as a writer, I loved him as a reader. I loved the way he engaged with the texts, using them as a means to contemplate the big questions about himself and the world around him. He was at his best when he was talking about identity and violence, and he gave me a lot to think about. So while his tone was occassionally offputting, and the quality of the essays was uneven (I think he got a little hung up on the symmetry of his frame and made some weak editorial choices), I've already started The Autobiography of Malcolm X, so mission accomplished, Mr. Smokler.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    There were too many books in here that I'd never read in the first place ( including Catcher in the Rye; hi, Stephen Colbert!) I enjoyed a few of the essays about the books that I did know, and was inspired to re-read at least one of them. That was The Great Gatsby, and I found it less satisfying this time around. Actually, I became convinced that in HS I must have quit reading in the middle. Anyway, I love the idea behind Practical Classics, because really, who has great life perspective at age There were too many books in here that I'd never read in the first place ( including Catcher in the Rye; hi, Stephen Colbert!) I enjoyed a few of the essays about the books that I did know, and was inspired to re-read at least one of them. That was The Great Gatsby, and I found it less satisfying this time around. Actually, I became convinced that in HS I must have quit reading in the middle. Anyway, I love the idea behind Practical Classics, because really, who has great life perspective at age 16? Some of these are surely worth a second (or in my case for most of them, a first) look.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chunyang Ding

    I don't think that I've blasted through a book, and definitely not what is essentially a glorified anthropology of fabulous book reviews, that quickly. But Kevin Smokler is absolutely fantastic in Practical Classics, to the point that I don't think that I am worthy of writing a pittance of a book review of that masterful work. But I shall take my feeble attempt! Full Review Here: http://seattlechunny.wordpress.com/20... I don't think that I've blasted through a book, and definitely not what is essentially a glorified anthropology of fabulous book reviews, that quickly. But Kevin Smokler is absolutely fantastic in Practical Classics, to the point that I don't think that I am worthy of writing a pittance of a book review of that masterful work. But I shall take my feeble attempt! Full Review Here: http://seattlechunny.wordpress.com/20...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Sneed

    A look back at life through the some of the more popular books read in high school and college. The writer finished high school and college in the early 1990's and completed this book in 2011. He reflects on the meaning and messages of the books in his life and tries to broaden that introspection to include the adult audience his age and older. He ponders many issues: culture change, adulthood and responsibility, the writer's sage advice with the passage of time, etc.

  22. 5 out of 5

    kdj

    Fantastic! This book doesn't try to tell readers why they must love every book in the collection. Instead, it contains an honest take from the author's perspective -- some books you like, some you don't. Either way, it made me want to revisit some stories I read in high school (Catch-22, Fahrenheit 451) and many others I'd never touched. Overall, this book just makes me want to read more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maryellen

    Smokler gives you lots of reasons why you should reread these 50 classics from high school. Some I agree with, others not so much. Obviously part of his argument is that as an adult you will see them differently. A good place to start if you are looking for some inspiration or wondering if that book you loved so much in high school has stood the test of time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    3.5 stars. Each chapter/essay is perfectly sized, so it was easy to pick my way through the book and find the titles I've read before. The most surprising thing about this book? It makes me want to read "Catcher in the Rye" again. I know! I wouldn't have ever thought that would happen in a million years.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

    This is a solid book recommendation list. Remember that each suggestion is written as a short essay, sometimes invoking the title author's style, and it will excuse the awkward wordiness. The list includes Maus, The Phantom Tollbooth, and many contemporaries which I usually see book lists avoiding. It would be a great jumping point for a committed book club, class or New Year's resolution.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Camp

    Many of these books I've either read or intended to read. Thanks to the essays Kevin Smokler has written these books are now back on my to read list or moved up higher because Im excited to get to them again!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katharine Holden

    He gives away all the plots, twists, or surprises of all the novels and stories. Who wants to read for the first time or re-read a dimly remembered book if this guy's just told you everything that happens and who died at the end?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Sopko

    Excellent!!! This book had some interesting ideas and information about some of the classics that we either read or should have read in high school and/or college. I ended up putting a number of books on my to-read and re-read lists. Highly recommended for anyone who likes to read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    For me this was a quick and interesting read that made me think differently about re-reading some classics. Note to self: In 2014 you are not allowed to read any more books that exist for the sole purpose of adding to your already impossibly long TBR list.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I read a few essays and then skimmed the rest. His writing is imprecise, and lacks any particular insight. His perspective seems weirdly out-of-date or fogey-ish, especially on race issues. I wasn't crazy about many of this book choices. No.

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