by Steve Laube
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (published by Oxford in June 2011) is this month’s “Book of the Month.” I recommend you pick up a copy and enjoy the experience for yourself.
It seems a little odd to read a book about reading. But for those of us who are in the “business” of creating books it is always interesting to read a wise person’s take on the very lifeblood of our profession.
Many people say they no longer read and yet ironically they are always “reading” their texts, emails, blogs or favorite social network hub. They are not necessarily reading books which means they are truly missing out on the experiences of a lifetime. Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College offers some simple, powerful, and much needed advice:
read at whim,
read what gives you delight,
and do so without shame.
He advocates an exhilarating freedom to read whatever strikes you as interesting. I am a very eclectic reader, always have been. I read dozens of thrillers and science fiction each year, but I also read theology, history, deeper-life spirituality, sports, leadership, culture, commentaries, business, investing, etc. And that is what I do at home. Someone asked me what I did for work. I answered, “I read.” Then they asked what I did for fun. As a smile quickly spread over my face I declared, “I read.”
So for fun, read Jacobs’ book this month. It will delight you, challenge you, and hopefully give you hope for a lifetime of joyful discovery.
As a bonus I found the below video of Alan Jacobs speaking on the topic of this book. The video lasts an hour.
I really enjoyed the video. I’ve struggled with a lack of love for reading print material for the last fifteen years and I know this started with the Internet. Before the Internet, I had four theological magazines I read cover to cover every month and I read a lot of books, both nonfiction and novels. After the Internet I never had time to read magazines and books. I think I chose the Internet over print material because the Internet not only let me read, it let me react. I could comment. I could wrestle with what I read in a different way than I could do with a book.
This is not necessarily a good thing. There are plenty of times when I should have been quick to listen and slow to speak.
Several years ago, I cancelled my Internet service for eighteen months. I didn’t miss it one bit. I dove right back into books and magazines. When I connected back up the Internet, the print material became less appealing again. I do read novels, but I abandon them if they don’t grip me early or if they bore me along the way.
The kindle makes reading easier for me. I attribute this not to the thumb action but to the smaller chunk of text on the screen. I feel like I’m reading fast, because I’m turning pages fast. So I don’t grow impatient as quickly.
But here’s the question: Now that I’ve watched the video and interacted with it, will I buy this guy’s book? He was pretty interesting. It’s tempting. If it’s on kindle, I just might download it. 🙂