Month: January 2013

Review: The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume E

The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume E
The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume E by Martin Puchner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This entire anthology is a necessity for any literature lover and/or homeschooler’s bookshelf. I am extremely impressed with the range of literature included, in genre, in geographic origin, and in time period. This volume in particular stands out to me as particularly exceptional as it contains several of my favorite works of literature: Fyodor Dostoyevky’s “Notes from Underground,” Leo Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Illyich,” and Frederick Douglass’s “Narrative of the Life,” all three of which are works I believe everyone should read. I was also introduced to a whole range of incredible works I was hitherto unfamiliar with in reading this book. I recommend this book to anyone with a passion for knowledge, for literature, and for the full range of human thought and experience.

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Review: The Norton Anthology of World Literature

The Norton Anthology of World Literature
The Norton Anthology of World Literature by Martin Puchner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is excellent and I would assert that it is an essential feature in anyone’s library, especially those with children. The entire anthology of which this is a volume is a simply amazing conglomeration of the greatest writings some of the greatest minds of the world have ever produced. My reasons for marking this volume in particular as only three of five stars are:

1. Taste. My own personal preferences are decidedly Western (though I have a very large spot in my heart for Indian literature as well) and the majority of this volume is taken up by Asian literature. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find the requisite interest in or enjoyment of Chinese, Japanese, or other East Asian literature. I’m not asserting that Western literature is objectively better than Eastern literature, but merely admitting where my interests lie. This is not to say that there aren’t large portions of the Asian literature contained in this book that I didn’t enjoy, but only that most of it was tough going for me.

2. One single footnote on Voltaire’s “Candide” was enough to lose one star altogether. I found it rather pathetic (in the negative sense of the word) that the editors felt the need to apologize, in said footnote, for Voltaire’s supposed “Anti-Semitism.” In “Candide,” Voltaire mocks and derides a plethora of religious, historical, philosophical, and political figures, groups, and ideologies, but the Jews alone get a footnote in which the editor apologizes for the author’s thoughts on them. This seems superfluous and silly and it was distracting enough for me that it nearly tainted the entire anthology.

Aside from those two relatively minor points, this is a great book and, whether tough reading for some or not, a must-read — in fact, a collection of must-reads!

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Review: Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War with a New Introductory Essay

Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War with a New Introductory Essay
Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War with a New Introductory Essay by Eric Foner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the best intellectual history of the Antebellum period that I have yet read. Foner does a wonderful job of examining the emergent ideology of both the Republican Party, which would become the ideology of modern America, as well as the ideology of the slave-holding aristocrats of the South. In a nutshell, this is the history of how the United States became bourgeois. I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, in examining the underlying causes of the Civil War, and in the intellectual history of the modern world.

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