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Comment: A well-cared-for item that has seen limited use but remains in great condition. The item is complete, unmarked, and undamaged, but may show some limited signs of wear. Item works perfectly. Pages and dust cover are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine is undamaged.
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The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time Hardcover – October 12, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Expanding on a 2009 essay, Ulin, former book review editor of the Los Angeles Times, addresses the act of reading and its place in our information overloaded age. Ulin relies mainly on his own experiences as a loyal reader--specifically a recent attempt to reread The Great Gatsby alongside his son Noah's high school English class--which goes devastatingly wrong ("You'd fail if you were in my class," Noah pronounces). Ulin uses this incident to frame the larger narrative, fluently addressing the art and craft of literature, the reader's participation, the writer and the writing--and the act of rereading. He addresses in greater depth distractions from reading, specifically the ever-present seductions of technology, and the experience of reading on a screen. Moving toward an optimistic note, Ulin argues that technology can enlarge us, citing Rick Moody and Jennifer Egan as writers who embrace this ever-changing landscape. Ulin's short book not only puts forth a strong and passionate case for reading but also compiles a reading list of writers and critics (e.g., Anne Fadiman, Joan Didion, David Shields) who have influenced Ulin and who are well worth reading. (Nov.) (c)
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From Booklist

As the media focus on the business of e-books, ardent readers ponder the effects electronic devices are having on what and how we read and the viability of literary culture. Ulin, book critic at the Los Angeles Times, confesses to his own changed reading habits as he partakes of “the instant gratifications of the information stream” in this thoughtful, candid, and gratifyingly balanced inquiry. He writes with surpassing eloquence and insight about what books have meant to him since childhood, his son’s reading of The Great Gatsby and his own rereading of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, and how books “serve as a collective soul, a memory bank, bigger than mere commerce.” Quoting Thomas Paine, Kerouac, Vonnegut, and Didion, Ulin is wisely open-minded in his grappling with the growing complexity and attendant ambiguity of our changing approaches to writing and reading, creating a genuinely reflective and resonant chapter in the story of the book. And his closing vision of a “quiet revolution” in which reading “is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction” is most inspiriting. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570616701
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570616709
  • Product Dimensions: 4.7 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,014,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
David Ulin expands an essay he had written on the status of reading in our world. He is correct, in that the electronic world is demanding. We tend to answer email and clear them away, e mails and messages of all sorts grow at an exponential rate. He also admits that literature does not have the influence it once did. So he muses on the place of reading and books today. Those of us that are unrepentant readers can identify with his descriptions of rooms of books, books as an escape, carrying them everywhere to read during waiting times.

He defines in many ways the purpose of books, the reading of them. There are other thoughts in here, musings on the 2008 elections, his son's assignment to read The Great Gatsby..
His thoughts on blogs, the internet, electronic comments and cyberspace and the change in books- e-books and I pods are included. He points out that kindle is private, no one can share the book unless you loan out your apparatus and not even you can stand in front of your book collection and peruse your titles. The new is not condemned, it just is not embraced wholeheartedly.

So join the revolution of the written page. This little book will make a great gift or a recollection to yourself of what reading is in this world. This book is a love poem to reading, books and the readers among us.
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Format: Hardcover
Ulin is a well known author who has edited several books on Los Angeles, particularly writings about the city, and has for many years been a book critic for the LA Times. He is a professional reviewer and writer who depends upon readers for his livelihood., and lately that readership is hard to find and engage. One need look no further than the pathetic decrease in size and importance of the book review department at the LA Times during the period Mr. Ulin has worked at the paper (which is certainly not his fault). It is thus somewhat courageous for the author to admit that he sympathizes with the distractions faced by people in our culture, including himself and his son. The rapid pace of internet provided information is addictive, and particularly for his son's generation, seems the norm. Why bother reading a book?

What purpose does The Great Gatsby and other works of literature serve in this warp speed world in which we live? Any reader of today will find that an interesting premise, particularly since it seems less and less people are interested in novels. We want an articulate advocate to explain the importance of literature, the reading equivalent of a slow food advocate. From reading various reviews of this book, many people think this book accomplishes the task. I don't.

The storyline that serves as the background for the inquiry is his son's disinterest in reading, and in particular his grumbling about the assignment to read The Great Gatsby. In order to help his son he decides to reread the book, and by the end of the book has done this, returning to his son with his insights and passions to share.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's a thoughtful, sometimes troubling essay about the pleasures of traditional reading, which seems to be in danger of being lost. Oh, there are still some who read actual books; but more & more, many prefer their reading material delivered digitally. And many ask, "Well, what's the difference? People are still reading, aren't they?"

David Ulin, while not entirely dismissing the digital out of hand, makes a very strong case that there is indeed a difference. Some of what he offers is factual, some of it anecdotal; but above all else, it's deeply personal, as he explains why reading in depth matters so much to him. And by extension, why it should matter equally as much to the rest of us.

What he's getting at here, it seems to me, is the notion of reading as a sort of sacred space, set apart from the demands & distractions of the everyday world. It's a space that's intensely private, a place of engagement between the reader & the written, where the individual mind (and perhaps soul) is shaped by the encounter with words, images & ideas. The book is presented as a separate world of its own, a construct made out of the writer's own life experience, education & psyche, into which the reader enters & is changed ... presumably for the better.

Here's where the doubts about the digital come in, as we consider just how many distractions are available to the online or plugged-in reader. We tell ourselves that we can multitask without any loss of focus or understanding -- we may even tell ourselves that we get more out of reading that way -- but the evidence for that seems to be lacking. A place apart from the everyday world is getting harder to find as the digital invades everything -- often quite willingly invited in, let's be honest!
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IMO, this is a very important book. To emphasize that point, I'll just say that when I started drafting my review, I found that that review, itself, would end up being as long as this small published essay. I'll spare you my superlative thoughts and just encourage you to read "The Lost Art of Reading" for yourself.

The only reason I didn't award 5 stars was because, ironically, the first 100 pages or so demonstrated a writing style that annoyed me even while I appreciated and approved the message Mr. Ulin was sending. The last 50 pages or so, though, showed the style to even out somewhat. The ending was simply beautiful. I'll be thinking about this topic and Mr. Ulin's thoughts on it for months to come, I'm certain.

My personal experiences with distraction and having to relearn "how to read" after being part of the computer industry for 30 years is anecdotal evidence to support his positions. Those positions, btw, are very balanced - he recognizes that society is in a transition state and thus has it ever been. This current transition may be caused by technology but what we do with it and how we use it is, as always, up to us. One of the numerous quotes I copied was "If we frame every situation in terms of right and wrong, we never have to wrestle with complexity." My own paraphrase with which Ulin may or may not agree is that we tend to bow to information overload and allow ourselves to equate that to learning because we are, at heart, lazy. Yes - we feel that if we pause for a nano second to immerse ourselves in deep thought that can result from contemplative reading, then we will automatically be left behind. Scrambling is the order of the day. Parts of our minds, though, simply waste away from disuse if we follow the scramble to the extremes.
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