The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

I recently finished Alan Jacobs’ book on reading and found it to be an interesting commentary given the impact of technology on our culture today. One of the most interesting arguments that Jacobs makes is that we do reading a disservice when we talk of it only as something that we should do, comparable to eating your daily vegetables. We need to also embrace the reality that “reading on a whim” can be an ever increasing entertainment for the person that pursues it.
“Forget for a moment how books should be read: Why should they be read? The first reason—the first sequentially in the story that follows but also the first in order of importance—is that reading books can be intensely pleasurable. Reading is one of the great human delights.”
We often talk of people who read books for enjoyment as lesser than other, more elite, readers. I confess that I’ve even had thoughts of book elitism. At the end of the day, as Jacobs argues, we must learn to read primarily for the enjoyment of it and allow that enjoyment to take us further and further into the appreciation of reading. He does a great job at showing how reading may seem like a discipline at times, but it is a discipline that will pay dividends and that is extremely lacking in our culture today.
“So whether you’re participating in an online conversation or reading a book by yourself, your experience is a readerly one and a responsive one. The most significant difference is that reading a book is dialogically asymmetrical: you learn about the book, about its characters and perhaps its author, but none of them learns anything about you. I’m not convinced that this is necessarily regrettable: many of us should probably spend more time just listening, rather than insisting on being heard.”
Finally, and this doesn’t really tie into anything in particular, I found a gem of a quote in it:
“A book is like a mirror: if an ass looks in, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.” G. C. Lichtenberg

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.