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The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction 1st Edition
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"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.
Top customer reviews
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Apparently, I am not alone. According to Alan Jacobs in his delightful book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction these types of approaches to "responsible" reading are widespread and part of the way we have been educated to read. But Jacobs will have none of it! He brings a breath of fresh air to reading that lifts any burden we might feel and, instead, recommends we read what we find pleasurable - without shame!
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction is a meditative reflection on reading that avoids telling the reader what they should read. No rules here other than some guidelines about gaining the most from reading. Instead, we are to read at Whim. He writes: '... my commitment to one dominant, overarching definitive principle for reading: Read at Whim' (italics in original). 'Read what gives you delight - at least most of the time - and do so without shame.'
Jacobs is not suggesting that we do not sometimes read the so-called "great books" that require us to commit to a demanding read. But he likens those to what we might eat at an elegant restaurant - we eat sometimes but not every day. Reading at Whim cannot be the only reason we read. But it is a type of reading we need to recover.
Jacobs does distinguish between lower-case whim and upper-case Whim. The lower-case version '...is thoughtless, directionless preference that almost leads to boredom or frustration or both. But Whim is something very different: it can guide us because it is based in self-knowledge.'
Jacobs explores the difference between the two using examples from literature - demonstrating a vast richness of ancient and contemporary sources.
The idea that we can read at Whim is liberating! This book has already changed the way I read. He embraces new technologies (he has a fascinating discussion of the benefits of reading with a Kindle compared to a traditional book) and iconoclastically sweeps away a whole lot tired assumptions that make reading so burdensome for many people.
So... if you want to consider a new approach to reading that has the potential to enliven it again for you, then check out this excellent, Whimsical little book.
I would hate to exclude deep thinking from college, though I agree that at the general ed level and even beyond this skill does not make up most of what the student does. But I would argue that learning "intellectual navigation" means finding and maybe even sharpening the skill of differentiating essential from incidental things in a field of study, and deeper thought (what is still called "critical thinking" sometimes) is needed for that. Much of the content that is uploaded will eventually be obsolete, so the skill of being able to think usefully about the field or the subject is all the more . . . wait a minute. All of this is sooooo obvious as not to need explaining. How could Mr. Jacobs seriously be saying that deep thinking and deep reading should be relinquished from college expectations? Surely he is just saying that teachers out to instill a love of reading are taking on a futile chore but that expecting students to learn to weigh things and assess things and to think deeply and well about the information they are given is not expecting too much. Surely. Every teacher knows it's hard to get students to think deeply and to do more than just give back, sponge-like, the information they have been given in class or in a text, but every teacher also knows that, however challenging, this is nonetheless possible, and they can identify moments every semester when it's happened (that it doesn't occur as often as we'd like doesn't mean it's not happening). If you can't expect deeper thinking and reading in a college classroom anymore, where can we go to find it?