KatBook 05-12-193



Cynthia Lee Katona

Scarecrow Press, 2005, 155 pp., ISBN 0-8108-5434-1 www.scarecrowpress.com


Katona teaches English composition and literature at Ohlone College in Fremont, CA.  She has compiled a handbook for students and general readers of literature.

An annotated book list comprises the bulk of the book.  It is introduced by a brief autobiography, an introduction to reading in America, and eleven reasons to read – all three parts surprisingly interesting.  She completes the book with short chapters on active reading (largely quoting Mortimer Adler), developing a reading journal, lists of books and book awards, and quotations on books and reading.


“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” (Mark Twain)


“An abandonment of phonics by well-meaning but misguided elementary school teachers; a truly historic influx of non-English speaking students into American classrooms; a slackening of standards, in all things, since the 1960s; a lack of support for adequate budgets for public education; ‘white flight’ to private educational institutions; and a disproportionate emphasis on ‘self esteem’ as opposed to ‘accomplishment’ in American schools have all coalesced to create a reading crisis in America....” [My mother, who has been teaching school since 1936—and still teaches a half-day a week—would strongly affirm most of these. dlm]


“For the totally illiterate, the world is a twenty-four-hour minefield.” (11)


“Our education system has unfortunately produced in the last forty years a huge population of citizens who are marginally literate....” (11)


Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” (13)


“For me, life without reading would be like being in prison, it would be as if my spirit were in a straitjacket; life would be a very dark and narrow place” (Isabel Allende).” (15)


“In a very real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. . . . It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish” (S. I. Hayakawa).” (15)


“I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage” (Charles de Secondat).” (15)


“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” (Sir Richard Steele).” (15)


Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is an example of a good book to read primarily for an understanding of others. (20)


WWID  “What Would I Do?”  “A strong sense of “What Would I Do” in any given situation is what is largely missing in many Americans’ lives.  People scramble from crisis to crisis, without any self-awareness or rock-solid principles to guide them.”  Where do such helpful principles and self-awareness come from?”  Churches and good literature.  (20)


“Reading good books encourages us to identify and enrich our authentic interests.  We define what we are, and are not, by looking into the telling mirror of literature.”  “Reading is also a way of putting our own lives and selves in proper perspective.”  “Knowing oneself not only takes time, it takes privacy, and also a habit of introspection that can be developed through a healthy love of solitude, in which we can take the time to read and think.” (21)


Money: A Suicide Note, by Martin Amis is a good book to read primarily for fun. (23)


“Do you want to get at new ideas?  Read old books.  Do you want to find old ideas?  Read new ones.” (Edward Bulwer-Lytton) (24)


“Dead cultures are dead only because no one any longer reads their books, plays their music, enjoys their arts, or lives by their values.” (26)


“Books are the carriers of civilization.  Without books, history is silent....” (26)


Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a good book to read primarily for suspense.  (28)


Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a good book to read for the love of beauty of language. (29)


Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time is a science fiction book to read for glimpses of perfection.  (31)


Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a good book to read for thinking, writing, and conversational skills. (33)


Some books I thought I might want to read from the annotated list:

Alaska, James Michener

All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy, western

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, Gothic Novel [No, really, I have since read it and it’s quite good! dlm]

Horseman, Pass By, Larry McMurtry, western  (author of Lonesome Dove)

Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri, stories on Indian immigrants in America

Money: A suicide Note, Martin Amis, comic novel


Quoting How To Mark a Book, by Mortimer Adler:

“You know you have to read ‘between the lines’ to get the most out of anything.  I want to persuade you to do something equally important in the course of your reading.  I want to persuade you to write between the lines.  Unless you do, you are not likely to do the most efficient kind of reading.” (125) 


“You buy a beefsteak and transfer it from the butcher’s icebox to your own.  But you do not own the beefsteak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream.  I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed into your bloodstream to do you any good.” (126)


“Reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written.  The marked book is usually the thought-through book.”  “And best of all, your marks and notes become an integral part of the book and stay there forever.” (127)


“Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author.”  “Learning doesn’t consist in being an empty receptacle.  The learner has to question himself and question the teacher.  HE even has to argue with the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying.” (128) 


A reading journal is a private place where readers assemble their thoughts and feelings about the books that the are currently reading.”  “Many writers enjoy drawing, making charts, painting pictures, creating maps, or doodling in their journals.  The journal is their private place to be creative and imaginative.” (131)


Reasons for keeping a reading journal include:  record important first impressions; focus and reflect on what was read; integrate reading and writing; generate new ideas for your own writing; save important quotes and passages; trace their attitudes through time; keep track of favorite authors.  (132)


A set of writing prompts or questions can help keep the journal flowing.  See p. 133


More quotes on books and reading:


“Tell me what you read and I shall tell you what you are.”—Anonymous


“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”—Sir Francis Bacon


“It is well to read everything of something, and something of everything.” –Henry Brougham


“It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds...  In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.”—William Ellery Channing


“It’s a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”—Sir Winston Churchill


“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”—Mason Cooley


“Never judge a book by its movie.”—J. W. Eagan


“When I get a little money, I buy books; if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”—Erasmus


“The art of reading is to skip judiciously.”—Philip G. Hamerton


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