Synopses & Reviews
What do the great books of your youth have to say about your life now? Remember reading Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby in high school? How about Slaughterhouse-Five and Pride and Prejudice? Would you read them again now that no one's grading you, just for your own enjoyment? This book helps you decide to do just that. This author will guide you through fifty books commonly assigned in high school English class and show you why you'd probably enjoy rereading the same books as an adult. Smokler's essays on the classics-witty, down-to-earth, appreciative, and insightful-are divided into ten sections, each covering an archetypical 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. Can The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn help you cope with aging? What does To Kill a Mockingbird have to say about being a parent? How about Fahrenheit 451 on not getting stuck in a crappy job? Practical Classics gives you an incentive to reread and a reason why.
"Many of us continue to avoid or have forgotten the books that our high school teachers said were good for us. Smokler's humorous, though sometimes superficial book is an attempt to rediscover the practical value of these books 'from the point of view of a married 38-year-old man with a day job.' Arranging the book into 10 divisions that mirror phases and events of our lives, Smokler (editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times) probes fiction, poetry, and essays ranging from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Surfacing, and Their Eyes Were Watching God to Susan Sontag's classic essay 'On Camp,' Walter Benjamin's 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,' and Annie Diller's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The book is a rumination on the lessons these works can impart to our daily lives. Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina, for example, asks us 'an only the strong forgive or does forgiving make us strong?' whereas Borges's 'The Library of Babel' reminds Smokler that 'perhaps the unstated best quality of paradise is the opportunity to leave when you want to and go back to living.' Smokler's guide to reading, however, offers little to distinguish it from many other more entertaining and thoughtful books that cover the same territory." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kevin Smokler (San Francisco, CA) is the editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times, a San Francisco Chronicle Notable Book of 2005. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer.