RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books... an enthralling, timely, and spirited tour through the history of the book ... Smith’s love of reading comes across throughout Portable Magic, but this is not an idealized account, nor does she seek to romanticize the role of the book in history ... Although Portable Magic celebrates books, it does not praise them unconditionally; rather, it explores their complexities and their sometimes problematic legacies. The resulting account not only testifies to the book’s enduring prominence but also provides valuable context for current debates about the power of certain books — debates that, Portable Magic shows, are almost as old as books themselves ... 16 dynamic chapters ... Smith traces the iconographic template for women reading back even further to the 12th century, moving seamlessly, effortlessly, between eras and locations. This range represents one of Portable Magic’s greatest strengths. Smith weaves together a rich tapestry of bibliographic history through seemingly disparate examples and stories. The effect can be surprising, even at times jarring, but it never feels forced. It is a powerful reminder that much of our own literary culture, novel though it may seem, did not arise within a vacuum but rather derives from the rich history of books themselves ... brims with insights, causing its reader to feel as though it might at any moment burst forth from its binding. Yet it wears its considerable learning lightly. It contains plenty of secrets, but it shares them willingly ... a fine testament to the bibliographic history it discusses, and a remarkable reminder of how books bear witness to their own histories — as well as, in various senses, those of their readers.
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books...[a] clever new book ... Newstok takes an original approach: his purpose is not so much to enhance our understanding of Shakespeare’s works as to develop our own mental processes with Elizabethan schooling as our guide ... He turns to Shakespeare’s classroom because, in his view, it embodies this philosophy; he recognizes from the outset that \'building a bridge to the sixteenth century must seem a perverse prescription for today’s ills,\' but does so because it allows him to conjure an educational environment that privileged writing, speaking, and critical thinking. These are valuable skills too, Newstok argues, skills that need to be pursued with just as much rigor as those taught in STEM fields ... The problem, however, is that How to Think Like Shakespeare idealizes the Elizabethan classroom and the Latin drills that underpinned it ... Newstok’s is not a historicist book, nor does it aim to be. Yet more attention to the historical particulars might have strengthened the project; as it stands, his view of early modern pedagogy is somewhat rosy-eyed ... Scott Newstok’s smart and valuable new book, luckily, teaches us only to think like Shakespeare: it’s as close as we can get to the real thing, and perhaps as close as we might want to.