Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Review: The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of DistractionThe Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book.  I found Jacobs to be witty, engaging, smart, and considered.  He discussed several issues related to reading that I had never thought about before. 

I'm not certain I'm his audience.  I'm a reader, but I don't tend to be a "lose myself, read-only" kind of reader.  I like football, TV, and the internet too much.  But I can identify with the lose myself reading.  When I read Island of the World earlier this year, the World Stopped.

I loved his emphasis on reading at Whim, which is a directed, purposeful whim; that we, as readers, should read for interest and direction and toss out the "should" read lists.  Jacobs' instruction to read that which influenced the ideas and writing of favorite authors is inspired.  Also, I think a case could be made from this that one's reading interests will be expanded rather than narrowed by this type of directed Whim.

I'm not so certain about that "reading slowly" concept, though. Also, Jacobs didn't address my particular issues of reading too many books at once and losing the threads of each book ... and then not finishing. Maybe I need to do a better job of annotation and creating for myself a "cone of silence" to help focus.

I was particularly interested, and wished he developed it more, his discussion of Book Groups, both online and in person.  I'm part of a newly formed Book Group with some ladies from church, and we're trying to be serious about the discussion, but some more direction might be helpful.  His discussion of Online Book Groups, made me think of the "group" that Cindy has inspired.  This group works very well and has covered some important literature for our niche reading genre (even though I can barely be called a participant as I've yet to finish a book for that group).  I find this kind of intellectual interaction to be one of the most valuable uses for the internets.

Overall, I found this an engaging, interesting read, particularly following on the heels of Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.

Some practicalities: I love footnotes.  I particularly love footnotes where the author lets us in on little side thoughts and jokes. Jacobs' footnotes were great.  Second, and less great, I was disappointed that the margins were so small, particularly in a book that extolled the virtues of annotation and wide margins.  Third, he almost made me want a Kindle.  Almost.

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