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Showing 1-10 of 10 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 23 reviews
TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 28, 2011
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! Yet it's in that place apart that we can truly become individuals, or at least the sort of people we once defined as civilized & reasonably whole human beings.

The true danger of the digital lies in its very ease & ubiquity, I would think. With everything so readily available, with the capacity to continuously leap from one thing to another in a second, anything of depth must necessarily be flattened out, presented as being of equal worth (or non-worth) as the most trivial factoid. It's almost the Gresham's Law of Reading: bad (or empty) content drives out good.

Is this a fair assessment, though? My own feeling is that it's all too accurate. Whether or not you agree, Ulin will make you think about what you read & how you read it. At the very least, you won't take reading for granted after you finish the last page of this worthy little book. Most highly recommended!
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VINE VOICEon August 3, 2012
I picked David Ulin's The Lost Art of Reading up a few years ago and decided I needed to read it after I heard a colleague say that literature in high school classroom is dying out (be still my heart). This is why we need to read.

Positives
- So often I found myself saying "yes, me too!" while reading the essay. I also feel a physical reaction upon entering bookstores, consider my identity molded by books, collect them by the stacks, and do the "how many more pages until the end" math.
- This book really made me think about how many distractors there are in my life- how many minutes a day do I spend on Facebook, reading blogs, or texting friends? We have lost the time and desire to sufficiently digest what we're taking in from the world
- The running story of Ulin and his son reading The Great Gatsby was entertaining to me- as a high school teacher I have this battle on a daily basis.
- As an ant-ereader kinda gal I definitely appreciated his primary allegiance to the paper form.

Drawbacks
- This was obviously written by a middle-aged white, educated, upper middle class guy, which is fine, but may not necessarily feel accessibly to certain audiences. Granted I'm only 28 and female, but I am confident that some groups of readers may not be able to relate.
- A few times, especially a third or so in, I found myself getting a little bored, but that may be a matter of preference (I think that was when he was talking about Thomas Paine... yawn...)

Great read that helps me restore my faith in literature and it's value.
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on December 13, 2012
I've read a number of books on the impact of digital technology on modern culture, and this slender tome is one of the best. I particularly appreciated Ulin's deep thinking on the issues of linear thought and contextualization -- as in the immersive quality of books, opposed to the lack of context in the hyperlinked search experience. Ulin is no Luddite; he clearly uses digital media effectively in his daily life, but has not lost his appreciation for the unique qualities of print.
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on February 3, 2013
Interesting - a bit "all over the place" - has some good quotes from others about reading. But having been drawn in by the title, I was a bit disappointed.
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on September 28, 2012
Great clean book shipped quickly and was exactly what I needed for my college English 101 class!! Five stars for a good book
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on December 7, 2010
A bumper sticker neatly answers the premise of this book: Hang Up and Drive

So, 'Hang Up and Read'. There's no reason to be plugged into everything with every gadget at every moment to every person for every reason for ever and ever. So, hang up your electronics and stare at the clouds until a new idea is born. Start with a fact from Pew Research which reports "84 percent of text-messaging adults say they send and receive texts 'just to say Hello'".

Okay. If you're reading a convention book and feel the need to say "Hello" to everyone who comes near, you'll get very little out of reading or social relationships. In other words, we get the most out of what we decide is most important. When driving, pay attention to "STOP" and other signs; at the end of a trip, can you recall any semblance of signs seen along the way?

Likewise with reading. The difference between reading and social relations was nicely summed up by a Inuit man many years ago. After seeing how visitors made marks on paper and later recited precisely what was said, he concluded witing meant, "Words stay put."

It's the essence of printing newspapers and books. "Words stay put" The idea goes back at least 8,000 years to Sumerians who put marks on clay balls to identify the contents; by looking at such marks, "readers" obtained precise information.

How would Ulin have reacted to the switch from clay tablets to papyrus scrolls to bound books? In other words, technology changes but content remains vital. The medium is not the message, as McLuhan said; the medium tickles our attention, the message is what we choose to remember.

Television glitters, but is mostly a wasteland. Good words well written hold our attention whether said on television or printed on ground up trees. To cite a lack of intellectual content in text messaging is equivalent to seeking "great literature" in Harlequin romances.

A Harlequin will likely sell 100 times as many copies as this book; the first page of this book will likely have 100 times the intellectual impact of a Harlequin. Both have their place. If only Harlequins existed, books would hardly matter. Harlequin began as a weekend newspaper insert and evolved into books, because books have more impact than weekend newspapers.

Likewise, the fact thoughtful books are published, bought, read and discussed shows the art of reading is still alive and well.

'Common Sense' by Tom Paine sold 150,000 copies in a society of four million; yet, it gave the intellectual reasoning behind the war for independence. Today, 600,000 titles are published in English every year; bit by bit, they form the society we now know and enjoy.

Why? Because those books are read.
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on December 1, 2010
The other two five-star reviews provide you with excellent information about this wonderful little--and it is little--book.
I am going to write about the book from my point of view as an English teacher, now retired, but still teaching, this time as an adjunct at the college level.
My two daughters are avid readers as was their mom. And now that I have more time to do so, I read as many as three books a week. Recently I have become interested in my elder daughter's two children's reading zeal. Her daughter is an avid reader. Her son is not, yet he is a highly inquisitive child and certainly could read anything. But he doesn't wish to. And I think it is important for those of us who love reading to realize that today there are so many more ways in which people can enjoy gaining information. Although the author of this book does not write much about electronic books, I had a fascinating experience last week when this grandson showed me the Apple iSomething, a little thing, that completely took me by surprise when he showed me the books on it, ones that have "pages" that turn like pages. And he was intrigued.
Most of my college students have not read a book in years. In fact, now that they have departed high school, most have told me that they never did finish assigned books, that Spark Notes sufficed. And in my own experiences, I discovered that most of the English teachers with whom I taught didn't read much. And seldom did any of them read current published works.
And this wonderful little book deals with those issues.
It would make a wonderful gift to friends who are avid readers. Or not!
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on June 20, 2011
A superb and extraordinary little book -- a lovely lyrical essay packed with power and grace.
I plan to press it into the hands of all my friends and say, 'This you must read.'
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on September 23, 2013
Very good condition. This book is confusing though. I'm not a native english. It makes me go back and forth searching words in dictionary
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on February 13, 2011
This was the perfect book to read on vacation. The author presents some interesting ideas and observations about how reading has changed in recent years.
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