In The Western Lit Survivial Kit, author Sandra Newman seeks to shed a new light on the classics to prove they are less intimidating and more readable than you think. She argues that reading literature should be "emotionally satisfying, intellectually thrilling, and just plain fun." By providing a humorous guide that covers nearly every important work in the Western literary canon, Newman resurrects the classics you forgot you read in college and helps you remember why you studied them in the first place. Starting with classical literature, the Greeks and the Romans, and covering everything through the 20th century, Newman deconstructs the plots of important authors into concise summaries, so even if you never got around to reading Chaucer's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, at least you've got a basic knowledge of its plot.
This book treats Western lit like an amusement park. It offers a guide to the rides, suggesting which ones are fun for all ages, which are impossibly dull for all ages, and which might take a lot out of you but offer an experience you simply can't get anywhere else.
What I found especially helpful about this book is it's rating system. Newman conveniently rates each work by each author she cites by it's importance, accessibility and fun, making it easy to weed through the lesser important works in favor for the ones that are more worth your while. The book as a whole has motivated to tackle more classics. While their may not be any new information or profound opinions included in this guide, and though it's likely you'll roll your eyes at some of her jokes, Newman's fresh take on the classics is sure to inspire a non-classic reader to take a look at the works that set the precedent for future literature.
I was provided a copy of this book by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.
Publisher: Gotham Books, 2012