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The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in…

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time

by David L. Ulin

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Excellent, thought-provoking, and interesting. The author has much to say in this slim volume (really just an essay). Thoughts on reading and literature in our changing environment. Observations about ebooks and the internet. A worthwhile read. ( )
  bibliostuff | Mar 20, 2014 |
The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin was originally published as an essay in The Los Angeles Times. It is offered up as an examination of the importance of reading in a day and age of electronic distractions.

The book starts off simply enough — Ulin is a concerned father, worried that his son isn't enjoying The Great Gatsby. Then it completely falls apart. It becomes more of a diatribe and a pat on the back than an essay on managing reading.

Here's the thing — not every reader likes The Great Gatsby. Yes, it's the most compact example of Fitzgerald's writing — containing the distilled themes and motifs that he had been developing throughout his writing career. But without knowing the body of his work, Gatsby can be a strange, off-putting book.

BUT even knowing Fitzgerald doesn't automatically make The Great Gatsby a beloved book. Nor does NOT liking Gatsby make the reader a failure at reading! For anyone to feel disappointment, frustration or concern over another person's lack of interest in personal favorites is shameful. Reading is a very personal experience. Not all books work for all people. ( )
  pussreboots | Mar 1, 2014 |
I've recently read a few books about reading and the struggle many people are having with focus in the modern age. I've noticed frequent references in many of these books to The Shallows by Carr.[b:The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains|6966823|The Shallows What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains|Nicholas G. Carr|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1264537321s/6966823.jpg|7205526]
This was a short, enjoyable book - basically an extended essay.
At times I felt that the author wandered and, in the end, I was left unclear about what exactly his thesis is.
The book was worthwhile, but I think that Alan Jacobs' The Pleasure of Reading in an Age of Distraction got to the issues more concretely and gave me more to think about and try on my own.[b:The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction|9859899|The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction|Alan Jacobs|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1301501098s/9859899.jpg|14751173] ( )
  Scarchin | Nov 12, 2013 |
An interesting extended meditation. I suppose I expected more profundity. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Several years ago I read a wonderful book, Distraction, by the philosopher and author Damon Young. His book describes the success of several great thinkers and writers in living a thoughtful life filled with freedom from distraction. One of the hallmarks of the lives he described was reading. It is this act, which David Ulin describes as "an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage"(p 150).
This observation is near the end of Ulin's essay on why books matter, The Lost Art of Reading. Some of us have not lost the art, but may need a reminder of its importance. For reading is more than entertainment, although it often is entertaining; it may also be invigorating, meditative, or even a spiritual life enhancing experience. Above all, as Ulin argues, it is a way to get in touch with ourselves in this instant as we connect with the thoughts of authors that may have lived millenniums ago.
The essay focuses on reading a through a variety of metaphors. Reading is "a journey of discovery"(p 13). The journey is different for each individual but one example highlighted by the author resonated with me. It was the immersion of Frank Conroy in books when he was a boy. His journey began with what seems a chaotic passage through book and authors both great and small, heavy and light, but it was a start and a wonderful way for Conroy to get the lay of the land. To enter into a world that would provide him with a place that was apart from the distraction of society became a foundation on which he could build his own life as a writer.
David Ulin remembers his own library of books as a " virtual city, a litropolis, in which the further you were from the axis, the less essential a story you had to tell"(p 17). It was this view of books as a city that he translated later into remembering cities by their books and populating his reading life with a vision of the world based on his own tastes and aspirations. This is something that each of us as readers may do in our own life. The essay takes you through encounters with readers like Ulin's own son, who has to read and reluctantly annotate Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, with the encouragement of his father. But he also discusses writers like Anne Fadiman who is among the greatest connoisseurs of reading and writing that I have encountered. And we are regaled with a story about reading David Foster Wallace, a contemporary writer of revolutionary tomes. There is even a discussion about reading on a Kindle which is not necessarily a bad thing except there are a lot of worthwhile books that are not available on a Kindle, so the book is safe for the moment.
As a reader I found this essay encouraging and invigorating. It is a reminder of what I love about reading, what I would love to reread, and where I may go to continue my own journey. Just as I enjoy the freedom from distraction that reading can bring, I wonder at the infinite worlds that are opened when we take time to get in touch with ourselves in the pages of a book. ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 15, 2013 |
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[R]eading is, by its nature, a strategy for displacement, for pulling back from the circumstances of the present and immersing in the textures of a different life.

Lately, I've begun to think of this as the touchstone of a quiet revolution, an idea as insurrectionary, in its own sense, as those of Thomas Paine. Reading, after all, an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage. [150]
Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. [16]
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An expansion of the author's Los Angeles Times essay explores the personal and cultural importance of reading in today's increasingly digital age, blending commentary with memoir to explain how the act of reading promotes engagement and mental freedom.… (more)

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