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The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs

2011/11/27

I’ll admit, I go through phases of just tearing through stacks of books and dry spells of glancing forlornly over the four dozen library books languishing on my bookcase. Still, it was only appropriate that I finally got to this particular book while sitting amid the chaos of post-Thanksgiving feasting, with children babbling, the TV blaring cartoons, and the clank of dishes. As indicated by the title, Jacobs advocates reading for pleasure; in particular, he dislikes those who advocate reading for the sake of gleaning instant lessons from it. The system of data mining, speedreading, plundering books to be able to say, “I’ve read this and this and this,” and the techniques of “reading like a professor” are all soundly derided. Instead, Jacobs advocates slow reading, note-taking, rereading, and reading for whim and pleasure, not out of duty or dedication to a discipline.

Although I liked this book, it’s really a matter of preaching to the choir. Jacobs notes that his target audience is really those who used to read for pleasure, yet now find themselves too distracted by other forms of media, too busy, or just plain unmotivated. Although I do sometimes fall into that category, I am too immersed in the world of books and information to ever really give up reading, and therefore, though this was enjoyable, I wouldn’t consider it a “must-read” by any means.

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