WEM Journey: How to Read an Autobiography

My mom surprised me with an early birthday present, my own copy of The Well-Educated Mind! It was so thrilling to return my library copy and plunge into my own copy of this book. And it’s been a blast to take notes in Evernote on my iPod, with my music playing through my headset.

Before I plunge into the book list that the author provides, I’ve taken the time to actually read all of her preface material for each genre list. She has a wealth of “How to read…” information on each genre; and while some of it I already knew, I find many intriguing points in each section.

For instance, on her section on how to read autobiographies, she breaks down the genre into two categories: spiritual and skeptical. In other words, those who are writing from a Christian perspective of God’s working in their lives and those who are writing from a more Freudian perspective of self-discovery. One point that she made about autobiographies is how much you can gain from observing confessions/justifications within the work. On pg. 130 she states, “Since no life is blameless, every autobiography contains an accounting of faults. And since humans find it psychologically impossible to live with guilt, apologies for these faults are almost always followed by justifications.” An interesting observation! And how intriguing that one way I can gain knowledge about an author is to observe not only what he is confessing but how he is justifying it.

I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed this journey of self-education so far, and I have yet to crack open a book on the reading list! What a thrill that you never get to old to learn!