Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review: The Western Lit Survival Kit by Sandra Newman

I know I start a lot of reviews this way, but check out how cute the cover on this book is!  Just in case you can't tell, it's a Swiss Army Knife with caricatures of the major Western Lit authors in it - get it?  Get it?  Ok, anyway, this book is exactly like it sounds - a summary of the authors and works that make up the Western Literary cannon.  It starts with the Greeks and goes through modern literature.  The difference between this book and most text books is that it's hilarious.  In addition to being, as the title says, irreverently funny, the author also provides us with three scales to measure each work: importance, accessibility, and fun.  It reminded me a little bit of my own review process.

The author is certainly funny and has done her research well.  Mixed in with the important information about the authors' works we also get a view of their lives, their contemporaries, and the world events surrounding their writing.  I really appreciated that I received a well-rounded view of the work in its proper context.

Entertainment Value:
Again, the book is funny.  I can't say that I think it will be entertaining for everyone, but I think that it's a good read for a variety of people.  It's not a version of Cliff's Notes, so don't run out to buy it thinking you're going to use it in place of reading the actual work.  However, it's a great book for those of us who love literature to use in deciding which works to focus on.  I want to push myself to read more classics and this book is a great guide to help me decide which to start with and which can wait a while or maybe need to be taken off the good old TBR all together.

I recommend it to those who are already in love with reading and want an idea of how to focus their time.  I also recommend it to those who may not be in love with reading, but want to be conversant in the general area of Western Lit.  I highly recommend it to those who are like me and can't resist a good book about books.

Thank you to Lisa at TLC Tours for including me on this one and click here to see a list of the rest of the tour stops!


  1. "I recommend it to those who are already in love with reading" - well, that would be me for sure! I'm glad you generally enjoyed this one. Thanks for being a part of the tour.