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Old 03-06-2019, 11:48 AM   #1
maximus83
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The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Kindle. Epub.

I've been enjoying this book, which is a good thing given the title. The author is a professor of literature at Baylor University, and his thesis is that we should make time to read for 'pleasure, wisdom, or joy.' Versus reading out of a sense of duty, merely because you have to, or an idea that it's good for you, so you should do it even if it hurts (sort of like "Eat your vegetables, junior."). The book provides counter-examples and various well known schemes or writers who fall into the "reading for duty" trap. Which is entertaining. But most of the book involves positive strategies on how to read for pleasure. I found this quite helpful, as for years, I too had fallen into kind of a "read the Great Books because it's your duty" mentality. It can really suck all the fun out of reading. And prevent you from experiencing joy and wisdom from other places besides the Great Books.

A representative excerpt:
Quote:
While I agree with Harold Bloom about many things and am thankful for his long advocacy for the greatest of stories and poems, in these matters I am firmly on the side of Lewis and Chesterton. Read what gives you delight--at least most of the time--and do so without shame. And even if you are that rare sort of person who is delighted chiefly by what some people call Great Books, don't make them your steady intellectual diet, any more than you would eat at the most elegant of restaurants every day. It would be too much. Great books are great in part because of what they ask of their readers: they are not readily encountered, easily assessed. The poet W.H. Auden once wrote, "When one thinks of the attention that a great poem demands, there is something frivolous about the notion of spending every day with one. Masterpieces should be kept for High Holidays of the Spirit"--for our own personal Christmases and Easters, not for any old Wednesday.
Also I chuckled at this quote, where he was commenting on the ideas implied in Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like Professor and How to Read Novels Like a Professor. Jacobs thinks the implicit and flawed premise of such books is that reading is done best by highly trained, accredited experts, and that you can transfer these 'skills' to the ordinary reader.

Quote:
As a professor of literature, I must say that when I first saw Foster's books I thought, "Read like a professor? Good Lord, anything but that."


But after Jacobs sets the context in the initial pages, again, most of the book comprises strategies to help ordinary readers read for pleasure. I find a lot of his anecdotes about reading, example passages and interpretations, and guidance on reading for pleasure, to be insightful and entertaining, so I'd recommend this book to a friend.
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Old 03-06-2019, 05:05 PM   #2
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Looks like an interesting book, short too, so now have it. Oh, darn! Another one on my "to be read" list that it is my duty to struggle through, giving it priority over everything else in life .

I see the signs of a few around who seem to resent the presence of any potential or actual interruption to their duty to read.
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Old 03-07-2019, 09:32 AM   #3
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Also, ebook readers will be pleased to find that professor Jacobs is not a Luddite: this book is most decidedly not an anti-technology rant. In fact he is an avid Kindle user and writes approvingly of how it has been a useful tool to promote reading.
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