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The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199747498
ISBN-10: 0199747490
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Editorial Reviews


"Delightful...appealing and convincing." --The Wall Street Journal

"As so many recent studies have suggested, the activity of reading itself is seriously threatened in this digital age. But Alan Jacobs -- bless him -- has an approach that will warm the hearts of serious readers and lead many prospective readers into the deeply satisfying swells of good prose. Reading should be a pleasure, and Jacobs shows us how to make sure we take delight in this work, which is not work at all. This is a witty and reader-friendly book, and it's one I would happily give to any potential reader, young or old." -- Jay Parini, author of The Passages of H.M. and The Last Station

"A vigorous and friendly exhortation to get back into the kind of reading that made you a reader in the first place." - Library Journal

"Jacobs' little, witty ode to pleasure found between hardcovers is a useful reminder of the joy of text." --Dan Kois, NPR

"Jacobs gives us the best entry to date in the flurry of recent attempts to augur and meditate upon the fate of reading in our time." --John Wilson, Christianity Today

"It seems a rare accomplishment that a book on the pleasures of reading could actually pull off being pleasurable itself. But Alan Jacobs' newest book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, does just that. It is a marvelous manifesto of sanity in an age of jeremiads about the modern predicament of attention loss on one hand, and those proud champions of distraction singing the hallelujah chorus of a world devoid of long-form books on the other." --Trevor Logan, First Things

"A passionate call to indulge one's readerly passions in the pursuit of centeredness and growth, this book just might change the way you think about reading." --Brendan Driscoll, Booklist

"Alan Jacobs' bright, broad paean to reading is a sort of secular prayer book. It instructs, exhorts, laments, reveres; it has great faith andbest of allshows the Way. Or a way at leastfor author Jacobs, a college English professor, warns well that the road to reading Nirvana is a highly personal one." --Joseph Mackin, New York Journal of Books

"wonderful" --Micah Mattix, The Weekly Standard

"Reading Jacobs is a supreme pleasure...Jacobs has reshaped not only how I think about reading but how and what I actually read." --Lauren Winner, Books & Culture

"Jacobs makes a persuasive case that reading for pleasure should remain a live option in any discipline...The book as a whole makes many compelling points and refreshingly celebrates the God-given gift of reading in an age where texts are ubiquitous but often neglected."--Themelios

"Using Auden's terms to describe judging books, I conclude that 'I can see this is good and I like it.' The Pleasures of Reading in a Time of Distraction represents a realistic approach to recovering deep reading for the sole purpose of pleasure."--Journal of Education and Christian Belief

About the Author

Alan Jacobs is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Baylor University. His books include The Narnian, a biography of C.S. Lewis, Original Sin: A Cultural History, and a Theology of Reading. His literary and cultural criticism has appeared in the Boston Globe, The American Scholar, and the Oxford American.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199747490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199747498
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.8 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a self-confessed reader. Sometimes I am voracious, other times cautious, reading either too fast or too slow. Now and then I like to read the odd book, typically written by a professor, about what it means to read and why. This is one of those books but with less emphasis on the why but the how. How does one read with a cell phone, with Twitter and Facebook in easy reach? (I don't have those problems - my cell phone is usually shut off because it isn't a Iphone or anything special; as for Twitter and Facebook, I don't have the time to really bother with them.)

I admit, I liked what Professor Jacobs had to say which is basically, mankind has always had distractions. Life is noisy. And heck, we can't all be reading like scholars. We can't always be reading War and Peace and The Decline of the Roman Empire. He does stress the need to read just for the sake of reading (which would probably sound better in French - like 'l'art pour l'art'). He quotes Auden and Greene and a host of other intellectuals and scientists about what reading means, why it's important, how we read, how we process words in our brain and so forth. He even looks at the medieval and ancient world, how Abbot Hugh and Machiavelli and St. Augustine read and how they approached books, what they meant.

He touched on something I found very fascinating and close to my heart, the distinction between deep reading and scanning. To be successful in university, one has to balance the two. I was good at deep reading but found it hard to jump around all the time.

Notably, he quotes Harold Bloom on the Harry Potter phenomenon which I found entertaining. Sure, Mr. Bloom says, kids are moving their eyes back and forth on the page but it's just a substitute for video games and other distractions.
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Format: Hardcover
Three thoughts about this book:

* Since my May 1 surgery, I had--until this week--been able to read exactly one book front-to-back: Tina Fey's "Bossypants." It was clever and entertaining, but it took all of an afternoon to read. Everything else I've tried to read the last two months has either been a bit of a slog, or else I've simply been unable to maintain focus. But reading is important to me; it frightened me to think I might be losing my capacity somehow. So when I saw this slim volume at the Joseph Fox Bookshop in Philadelphia, I snapped it up immediately. Maybe, just maybe, I could find my way back.

* A wise choice, because one of Jacobs' chief messages in this book is: "Relax." He eschews reading lists and eat-your-veggies approaches to reading in favor of urging readers to follow their Whim. In Jacobs' hands, this is not a call to dispense with Great Books and devote oneself entirely to Stephen King. He makes it quite clear that one's Whim--he's the one doing the capitalizing--can lead one both to high art and splendid trash, and that one can derive different sorts of pleasures from both. (He's also quite keen on the virtues of rereading certain books.)

* But how does one continue to be a book reader when Twitter, Facebook, and life itself are lurking all around? Jacobs doesn't really offer an answer to this question: Instead, he suggests that it is possible, with some persistent effort, to create a "cone of silence" around oneself--if one chooses to do so. And perhaps he's right: I managed to read this 150-page book in three days. On a long holiday weekend, to be sure, but it was possible. Jacobs' book about the pleasures of reading turns out to be a pleasurable read in its own right.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alan Jacobs, who readers of my blog (nearearthobject-dot-net) may know from previous references to his excellent blog TextPatterns, has recently released a wonderful book about reading that I simply can't recommend highly enough. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction is just the sort of pithy, sympathetic tract that our times demand -- it encourages bibliographic exploration, celebrates chance literary encounters, while offering sincere understanding for the would-be "well-read" among us who fear missing out on an overly massive menu of "great works."

Those chance literary encounters are the subject of this passage, which I found so delightful and even moving, that I thought I'd share it here.

"The cultivation of serendipity is an option for anyone, but for people living in conditions of prosperity and security and informational richness it is something vital. To practice "accidental sagacity" is to recognize that I don't really know where I am going, even if I like to think I do, or think Google does; that if I know what I am looking for, I do not therefore know what I need; that I am not master of my destiny and captain of my fate; that it is probably a very good thing that I am not master of my destiny and captain of my fate. An accidental sagacity may be the form of wisdom I most need, but am least likely to find without eager pursuit. Moreover, serendipity is the near relation of Whim; each stands against the Plan. Plan once appealed to me, but I have grown to be a natural worshiper of Serendipity and Whim; I can try to serve other gods, but my heart is never in it. I truly think I would rather read an indifferent book on a lark than a fine one according to schedule and plan. And why not?
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