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

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Reading is a revolutionary act, an act of engagement in a culture that wants us to disengage. In The Lost Art of Reading, David L. Ulin asks a number of timely questions - why is literature important? What does it offer, especially now? Blending commentary with memoir, Ulin addresses the importance of the simple act of reading in an increasingly digital culture. Reading a Reading is a revolutionary act, an act of engagement in a culture that wants us to disengage. In The Lost Art of Reading, David L. Ulin asks a number of timely questions - why is literature important? What does it offer, especially now? Blending commentary with memoir, Ulin addresses the importance of the simple act of reading in an increasingly digital culture. Reading a book, flipping through hard pages, or shuffling them on screen - it doesn't matter. The key is the act of reading, and it's seriousness and depth. Ulin emphasizes the importance of reflection and pause allowed by stopping to read a book, and the accompanying focus required to let the mind run free in a world that is not one's own. Are we willing to risk our collective interest in contemplation, nuanced thinking, and empathy? Far from preaching to the choir, The Lost Art of Reading is a call to arms, or rather, to pages.


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Reading is a revolutionary act, an act of engagement in a culture that wants us to disengage. In The Lost Art of Reading, David L. Ulin asks a number of timely questions - why is literature important? What does it offer, especially now? Blending commentary with memoir, Ulin addresses the importance of the simple act of reading in an increasingly digital culture. Reading a Reading is a revolutionary act, an act of engagement in a culture that wants us to disengage. In The Lost Art of Reading, David L. Ulin asks a number of timely questions - why is literature important? What does it offer, especially now? Blending commentary with memoir, Ulin addresses the importance of the simple act of reading in an increasingly digital culture. Reading a book, flipping through hard pages, or shuffling them on screen - it doesn't matter. The key is the act of reading, and it's seriousness and depth. Ulin emphasizes the importance of reflection and pause allowed by stopping to read a book, and the accompanying focus required to let the mind run free in a world that is not one's own. Are we willing to risk our collective interest in contemplation, nuanced thinking, and empathy? Far from preaching to the choir, The Lost Art of Reading is a call to arms, or rather, to pages.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    Recently a GR friend commented how surprised they were by the low number of books people were setting as their target for the 2013 GR Reading Challenge. Did you know the average number of challenge books at time of writing is 59? Less than 2 weeks into the year 60 people have already completed their challenge (!). On my friend's thread some of us were expressing bewilderment. I was completely perplexed, because I think of GR as a social media network for readers. If you weren't a reader, why woul Recently a GR friend commented how surprised they were by the low number of books people were setting as their target for the 2013 GR Reading Challenge. Did you know the average number of challenge books at time of writing is 59? Less than 2 weeks into the year 60 people have already completed their challenge (!). On my friend's thread some of us were expressing bewilderment. I was completely perplexed, because I think of GR as a social media network for readers. If you weren't a reader, why would you be here, and not Facebook? I think we may have come across all snobby, because we prompted a commenter to state that lots of people liked reading a book now and then, but just weren't into the high numbers we all clearly were. I wanted to reply that there's a difference between liking the odd book, and being a reader, but I didn't know how to convey what I meant. Then I started David L. Ulin's book. He did know how to say it. Being a reader means framing your world through books. Reading is "a slicing through of all the noise and the ephemera, a cutting to the chase. There is something thrilling about it, this unburdening, the idea of getting at a truth so profound that, for a moment anyway, we become transcendent in the fullest sense" (p. 25). A reader know that books are "one side of a conversation in which we also play a part" (p. 45). My daughter will read a book (A Game of Thrones, for example) but she’s not a reader. This is the secret readers know; that books provide “the blurring of boundaries that divide us, that keep us separate and apart . . . I do not believe that anything is lasting; all of it will be taken from us in the end. Chaos, entropy . . . the best that we can hope for are a few transcendent moments, in which we bridge the gap of our loneliness and come together with another human being. ” (pp. 148-9) When we find that book we feel "a flash of recognition, of connection, [feel ourselves] slip beneath the surface of the language, [feel] the book rise up as if to swallow [us]" (p. 50). This is why we can DNF a book in the first chapter. We are waiting for that moment when the words will roll over like a breaker and encompass us, take us away from our world and into a world where we might find a story-truth that is as real as our own lives. And it becomes clear that this book will never do that. The author didn’t have the means. Sometimes we’re OK with that. But sometimes we need the book to deliver, and when we realise there is zero chance of it happening we don’t need to finish the whole book. We know already that it will leave us wanting. (And no-one should express a desire to shoot us with their firearm for daring to rate a book without finishing it: and yes, I saw that happen this week). There is no time I ever do not have a book with me. I carry at least one in my bag at all times (I have three plus a journal in there now). Hell, I pick my handbags by their ability to hold a good-sized book. I am never annoyed at waiting for the doctor/dentist/mechanic. Yet nothing is as good as a block of time, in a safe place, to just read. Reading renews me. Ulin nails this: “Reading, real reading . . . demands space, because by drawing us back from the primacy of the instant it restores time to us in a more fundamental way. It’s not possible to read a book in the present, for books exist in many moments at once. There is the immediate experience of reading, but also the chronology of the narrative, as well as of the characters and author, all of whom bear their own relationships to time. There is the fixity of the text, which doesn’t change whether it was written yesterday or a thousand years ago. Perhaps most important, there is the way reading requires us to pay attention, which cannot help but return us to the realm of inner life. ” (p. 80) And yet, I disagree with Ulin over e-readers. Ulin frames this as an either/or situation. He loves books as physical objects, and he finds e-readers do not offer these same characteristics (“I think in pages, not screens”), therefore he rejects them. Above all else Ulin comes across as scared; that e-readers will somehow destroy all he loves about books. The Lost Art of Reading was published in 2010, presumably written mostly in 2009. I would hope that by now he realises it’s not either/or; we can love both physical books and our e-readers. Ulin criticises the “greenish sickly grey” of the Kindle 2: I assume he’s got a Paperwhite now = problem solved. Ulin laments that “no-one can come into your house and peruse your shelves”, to which I would say: Goodreads! He explains the pleasure of browsing in a bookstore and the joy of book serendipity. None of that is gone, David! You can still browse a physical bookstore, and you can browse in an online bookstore. You can still find unexpected gems. Ulin particularly notes the distractedness that (some) e-readers promote: the ability to look up a word, check a reference, research a topic, and he sees this interactivity as worrying. In contrast a paper book does nothing but sit there, and therefore offers us a deeper reading experience. In a different section Ulin discusses the copious notes and marginalia he creates while reading. I see these as exactly the same thing. In writing in the margins and underlining Ulin is pulling away from the book to reflect on it; thinking about what he’s reading. Dipping into the internet to check a historical fact or another author is exactly the same thing. Sometimes we want to do this, sometimes we don’t. I don’t believe anyone should condemn e-readers for this. The fact that a lot of gen Y and gen Z have no interest in books at all is far more worrying, but again, not e-readers’ fault. What Ulin does acknowledge is the beauty of the shared online reading experience i.e. the Goodreads collective: a “hive mind” that operates as “a passage to unexpected depth”. How much is my enjoyment of books increased by all of you? Even Ulin sees that an online reading group can be awesome; “interpretive, personal, truly interactive, a reflection of how we identify with the books we read . . . link[ing] to one another, building and changing, like an endless looping conversation, growing outward from the book” (p. 110). I can truly never communicate what the people on GR mean to me. Talking about books, laughing about books, criticizing, recommending; it adds layers of meaning to my life. Reading is “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. It connects us at the deepest levels” (p. 150). Thank you guys.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Okay recently I’ve been working a lot and going to shows and haven’t been sleeping, but I have a lot of things to say about this book that are interesting and thought provoking so I’m going to do my best. “Far more common is a sense of skittering across the surface,a feeling of drift, both mental and emotional, in which time and context become unmoored. This is the nature of my distraction: the world is always too close at hand” I kind of hate the internet, there is too much going on and I can’t Okay recently I’ve been working a lot and going to shows and haven’t been sleeping, but I have a lot of things to say about this book that are interesting and thought provoking so I’m going to do my best. “Far more common is a sense of skittering across the surface,a feeling of drift, both mental and emotional, in which time and context become unmoored. This is the nature of my distraction: the world is always too close at hand” I kind of hate the internet, there is too much going on and I can’t keep up and there are too many people I don’t care about in the least. Let me be more specific. I am a member of 3 social networking cites: myspace, facebook, and goodreads. I periodically focus on various of these websites, but I almost never use more than one at once. The problem is that I have to filter so much information that there isn’t actually any time to actually focus on what you are looking at on the website. Yeah there is all that shit I talk about with regards to horizontal and vertical processing, and yes I’m a really solid horizontal processor. At one point Ulin says that the internet makes us better at the kind of processing the internet requires, it doesn’t make us objectively smarter. What it makes us better at is looking at 20 streams of information, picking one and disregarding all the others. God, Connor told me this great story once. He was offered a trial subscription to the new York times, and he ended up canceling it early because it was too stressful to have a pile of unread new York times newspapers that he didn’t know when he would be able to get to. The internet, at least for me, is like that all the time. I open a group page and there are hundreds and hundreds of new comments. I am considering dropping out of a few groups because they consider things like hundreds of threads and thousands of members a selling point. Here is the thing, I have been using the same myspace forum for 6 years about. I have made a total of maybe 10 friends because I’m not one to spread myself to thin. Meeting new people expanding my horizons… well I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. There is a book called the paradox of choice the book designates two kinds of people. First, there are the people who have to look at every option and find it impossible to choose for fear of choosing wrong, then there is a group of people who find a good enough option and stop looking. I am in the latter camp. So all this information and choice presented to me on the internet I don’t need it. At my height of news reading (back when I was studying politics for two minutes) I got updates from the NYT, BBCnews, and al jeezera (hi CIA!). I didn’t look for more news, now I read the article google chooses when you search for news (are you aware of this function hat collapses all the articles and presents you with a representative one? I love that function). Basically, when I’m online I learn nothing. I take the first thing I find and then I don’t bother to look for anything else. When I read (for example when I started looking into health and food consumption) I’ll read multiple books. What I’m saying in all this incoherrentness is that there is too much on the internet and I don’t feel informed when I use it I feel overwhelmed. The internet isn’t about becoming more informed it’s about being able to know everything and not actually processing anything (Okay I know this is an exaggeration, but really, not to mention the weird things people post on facebook and act like they are “true”). Okay my other major problem with the internet? People. Basically on the internet there is an inherent lack of choice. On my facebook I am friends with several members of my father’s family I haven’t seen since before I could form coherent memories. I am friends with several people in my mother’s family who I actively avoid and hate. Now I see the internet as restricting choice. I know I could deny these people, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t deny them without making them angry and then they will invade my real life in addition to my virtual life. So where in the past it made sense I never talked to my grandmother because she was in a different state, now she sends me commands in facebook messages (okay that only happened once). My mother’s family consider me THE “ROLE MODEL”. I don’t want this job, or anything to do with it, but the fact is that now that all the children in the family can see my facebook and me pouring a shot of 151 for ethan at a party 2 years ago (which my mother always refers to as “that picture of you drinking straight out of the bottle”) now I am failing at my role. I no longer have the right to refuse that role because they can all see me, everyone can see me, where the fuck is my privacy, I wasn’t even the one who put the damn picture online, that was done by someone else who will be offended if I untag myself. The internet has stolen my life and won’t give it back. Ulin talks a lot about memory and identity and the internet. That’s what we are talking about here. Identity use to be memory and he says memory is what you forget. Now memory is stored online. Now this is less so for people who don’t have digital cameras and post their lives online, but if other people do that for you, not only is your identity still being posted online, but you aren’t even getting a say in that identity. The internet has taken the private concept of self definition and made it public. Now Ulin’s book doesn’t say it’s about the internet, but trust me everything that I’m talking about is intimately related to this book, but let’s get to the real point. What makes books better other than everything. First, books are private (other than those idiots who try to have a book group with you on the subway, fuck off jerk faces). Second, books allow you to come as you are, they don’t judge and they don’t impose they simply allow you to enter the story. Third, books allow you to be someone else. I saw a comment on an amazon review that said “the only bad thing about this book was having to hold it up”. That’s flat out wrong. That is the best thing about a book, a book is an object that separates you from the rest of the world, whether fiction or non, a book allows you to introspect to see yourself and to appreciate your place in the world. And best books care out time, commitment, they let you feel and think and interact without confronting everything in the world all at once. It isn’t about a tweet any longer, it’s about those extended moments of emotional attachment to the pages. This book made me want to change the way I live my life. I mean I’m not a highly technologized person. I have an offbrand phone that doesn’t do much other than make calls and text, which I commonly don’t even bring with me when I leave my house. Not that long ago I didn’t have a computer for 6 months. But when I have technology it is too available and I use it in too destructive away. I want to force myself to slow down to force myself to engage. Instead of existing on the internet in a mass of people trying to prove simply that they exist at all, I would like to live in a world of discourse online or off. And discourse is exactly what books are about. "A novel is a conversation between a reader and a writer." — John Green

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jill Kandel

    WHY does a book that starts off so well, and has such a wonderful premise, have to descend into a political diatribe. I don't care about the author's views on Palin or Obama - whether I agree or not, I didn't pick the book up to read politics. After the first twenty pages the book does not stand up to its title. Very disappointing. And the political references will date the book, which in itself could have been timeless and relevant in the coming decade. This is one of 'those' books. You know. T WHY does a book that starts off so well, and has such a wonderful premise, have to descend into a political diatribe. I don't care about the author's views on Palin or Obama - whether I agree or not, I didn't pick the book up to read politics. After the first twenty pages the book does not stand up to its title. Very disappointing. And the political references will date the book, which in itself could have been timeless and relevant in the coming decade. This is one of 'those' books. You know. The kind I start reading, hugging it to myself, and end up throwing across the room, disgusted. Oh, sadness.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lars Guthrie

    In ‘The Shallows,’ a book quoted from liberally in ‘The Lost Art of Reading,’ Nicholas Carr notes the way that older technologies are changing because of digital computers. Newspapers and magazines feature shorter articles, more color, more graphics, pull quotes, navigational aids, summaries. ‘Crawls’ and ‘flippers’ clutter TV screens. DVD viewers jump into online conversations about scenes as they watch them. Tweets explain musical reference points to concertgoers who are encouraged to text mes In ‘The Shallows,’ a book quoted from liberally in ‘The Lost Art of Reading,’ Nicholas Carr notes the way that older technologies are changing because of digital computers. Newspapers and magazines feature shorter articles, more color, more graphics, pull quotes, navigational aids, summaries. ‘Crawls’ and ‘flippers’ clutter TV screens. DVD viewers jump into online conversations about scenes as they watch them. Tweets explain musical reference points to concertgoers who are encouraged to text message back. It’s true, it’s true. But I’m not so sure about Carr’s take on libraries. Perhaps in the initial days of digital mania, their ‘most popular service’ quickly became internet access. At my local library, there has been a steady increase in the number of internet stations, and they are heavily used. But unlike the old days, it’s not that hard to find one that’s open. As more and more people carry along their own laptops, their own digital phones and pads everywhere they go, they could care less about using someone else’s. It might be true, as Carr says, that ‘the predominant sound in the modern library is the tapping of keys, not the turning of pages.’ But the primary reason people are going to my library is its stock in trade: books. There’s no doubt that the way we read and even, perhaps, the amount of books we read, is changing. But fading out altogether? Maybe I’m myopic, but I don’t think so. There’s something you get from a book that you can’t get from any other medium. Books by nature eliminate distractions, rather than multiplying them. They have what Ulin calls a ‘nearly magical power to transport us to other landscapes, other lives.’ Books demand total engagement, and that is why they have such paradoxical force. It’s rather odd that the quiet act of reading a book may be more interactive than looking at the most noisy and colorful web site. Instead of pulling us toward the next and then the next exciting image, they demand that we make our own images. What is becoming harder, as Ulin notes, is finding the time and place for that total engagement. ‘Language is internal,’ he says. ‘And yet, what do we do in a culture where we are constantly invited to step out of the frame, to externalize imagination and to rethink how the process works?’ That is what ‘The Lost Art of Reading’ is all about. It’s not an obituary at all, and Ulin is quite realistic about what is happening. He is not saying we have to adjust for new technology; as Nicholas Carr points out, the new technology has already adjusted us. Ulin is searching for a way we can incorporate the old, because we need it. Beyond the attractions of books as ‘ripcords, escape hatches, portals out of…life,’ the deep reading they require engenders the deep thought that we have to do to face a forbidding future. The polarized debate that keeps us glued to screens just perpetuates confirmation bias. Resolving problems means focusing on them longer than a soundbite. ‘If we frame every situation in terms of right and wrong,’ Ulin writes, ‘we never have to wrestle with complexity; if we define the world in narrow bands of black and white, we don’t have to parse out endless shades of gray.’ He effectively quotes Fitzgerald: ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.’ Books push us beyond our preconceptions. Reading books, of course, is hardly a silver bullet, but Ulin makes an impassioned case for finding the space in our distractible culture for what has become, thanks to the book, an elemental part of our humanity. Ulin doesn’t believe ‘that anything is lasting; all of it will be taken from us at the end. Chaos, entropy…the best that we can hope for are a few transcendent moments, in which we bridge the gap of our loneliness and come together with another human being. That is what reading has always meant to me and what, even more, it means to me now.’ Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    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 o 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. That connection is one that can be experienced reading authors as disparate as Dostoevsky, Milton, or Murakami. It has often been referred to as "The Great Conversation". 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. I hope for a future that includes many things, but above all reading. Listen to the words of Walt Whitman: "SHUT not your doors to me proud libraries, For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet needed most, I bring, Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made, The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing, A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect, But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Sorsby

    Ooh, I hate books like this: Nuggets of good ideas lie buried under swathes of pure idiocy. Premise: Modern technology offers so many exciting distractions I now find it hard to concentrate long enough to read a book properly. Sadly, the author then generalizes this to talk about how everybody has this problem. Well, no, we don't. I don't, for starters. My husband doesn't. Yes, lots of people do, but so what? It's like reading articles in the NYTimes, about how "everybody" is going to that hot new Ooh, I hate books like this: Nuggets of good ideas lie buried under swathes of pure idiocy. Premise: Modern technology offers so many exciting distractions I now find it hard to concentrate long enough to read a book properly. Sadly, the author then generalizes this to talk about how everybody has this problem. Well, no, we don't. I don't, for starters. My husband doesn't. Yes, lots of people do, but so what? It's like reading articles in the NYTimes, about how "everybody" is going to that hot new restaurant, or wearing that new designer. No, they're not. This leads to nonsense, like portentous discussions of the death of narrative. Yawn. Again? Or other newsflashes, like this one, wait for it: Teenagers are easily distracted. Shocking, no? They're probably listening to that dreadful "fill-in-today's-outrageous" music, on their transistor radios/Walkmen/iPods. Oh, let me clutch my pearls. In fairness, Ulin is perhaps more concerned about his own inability to concentrate, but I sincerely think that's his problem. Years ago I saw a lecture in which a wannabe professor was lamenting how she couldn't get any work done at her office, because there were so many distractions, but working at home was no better, because her family also distracted her. Afterwards, my husband commented that she seemed like the sort of person who couldn't get anything done if you locked her alone in a cell, chained to a typewriter. Ulin's complaints sounded a lot like hers. There's also some serious quoted silliness, like this bit from Judith Shulevitz, in something called The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time. Apparently she writes about the way social networks and similar technologies "suspend us within 'mobile time,' which can be made to flow any way we want." Note to self: Avoid Shulevitz. Still, I shouldn't complain; I can't wait to make that "mobile time" flow differently and re-animate my dead cat. But then, annoyingly, just as I was about to give up in disgust, Ulin came up with something genuinely fun. In a description of his son's travails in reading The Great Gatsby for school, Ulin mentions a Facebook page the kid finds: "I Attend Jay Gatsby's Parties." It sounds great, a place where kids exchange comments on the book (some snarky, some silly, some smart) as well as strategies for dealing with oblivious teachers and their predictable questions. Plus, some folks really get creative, putting up cartoons about the story and even a short "video" re-creation of Daisy's car crash. These are people who seem to have found ways to read, enjoy reading, and integrate that with their use of social networks. Huh. Who'da thunk it?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    1.5 stars. I feel like this should've been Ulin's private journal since it is essentially an ode to how sophisticated his tastes range in books. Ugghh. If I wasn't also a reader, I wouldn't have picked up this book, so clearly I, too, love books (and have somewhat of a range of tastes, as well). However, the incessant name dropping of titles (and authors) was a complete turn-off for me - too little on the argument, too much on the "look at how smart I am." When Ulin finally got to the argument t 1.5 stars. I feel like this should've been Ulin's private journal since it is essentially an ode to how sophisticated his tastes range in books. Ugghh. If I wasn't also a reader, I wouldn't have picked up this book, so clearly I, too, love books (and have somewhat of a range of tastes, as well). However, the incessant name dropping of titles (and authors) was a complete turn-off for me - too little on the argument, too much on the "look at how smart I am." When Ulin finally got to the argument the title promised, the predictability (that the electronic age is killing print media, and therefore its audience) was nothing at all noteworthy (or new). Some interesting observations, to be sure, but ultimately not worth the time (even though I agreed with much of what he said). Not recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Gosh that was a snarky little review I wrote in 2011. I just sat down to read the new material (Intro and Afterword), but I think I'll re-read the entire book and give Ulin a fair chance. Gosh that was a snarky little review I wrote in 2011. I just sat down to read the new material (Intro and Afterword), but I think I'll re-read the entire book and give Ulin a fair chance.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I loved this little book, a meditation on reading, on the reading life. It's not really about reading as a lost art, it's the private journey you take when you open the covers of a book, the conversation you have with the book and it has with you--the interface between one's reading and one's broader life--generously interspersed with thoughts on the subject by writers ranging from Jane Smiley and Nicholson Baker to Jennifer Egan and a writer I had not heard of before this, Eva Hoffman ('Time'), I loved this little book, a meditation on reading, on the reading life. It's not really about reading as a lost art, it's the private journey you take when you open the covers of a book, the conversation you have with the book and it has with you--the interface between one's reading and one's broader life--generously interspersed with thoughts on the subject by writers ranging from Jane Smiley and Nicholson Baker to Jennifer Egan and a writer I had not heard of before this, Eva Hoffman ('Time'), whose meditation on the replacement of human intellectual faculties--memory in particular--with mechanical devices, and speculating how that changes the very idea of identity--made this book a "keep-on-the-shelf-behind-the-desk" item, for sure. (It's also just a great physical object, a very small hardbound, no dust jacket, a softish hardcover that reminded my hands of my very first books, the Dick and Jane readers of the 'Fifties.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    David Ulin must be a double agent. It's not clear who he's working for, maybe Lady Gaga, or Donald Trump, or Rupert Murdoch, or some other agency of mediocrity. But what is clear, is that his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Are So Important in a Distracted Time is so dreadful, that it is sure to drive people to seek some other form of entertainment ... in fact, any other form of entertainment, as long as it does not involve reading. The book reads like a college essay written by a desper David Ulin must be a double agent. It's not clear who he's working for, maybe Lady Gaga, or Donald Trump, or Rupert Murdoch, or some other agency of mediocrity. But what is clear, is that his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Are So Important in a Distracted Time is so dreadful, that it is sure to drive people to seek some other form of entertainment ... in fact, any other form of entertainment, as long as it does not involve reading. The book reads like a college essay written by a desperately sincere English major who believes each of his painfully drab and mundane thoughts will be perceived by his professor as deeply insightful. Books ARE important .... but not this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Irwan

    What the f***!?! This book (if you can call it that) is just an irony of the year. Starting with the premise about how distracting the present is with all the old media and the new, technology-based social media, to the art of reading. But it itself is no less distracting and pointless. It is like if you friend (yes, it is a verb!) all those big names in literature in facebook. And then you compile their status in a longwinded text. Reading this is as tiring as reading facebook feed, minus the d What the f***!?! This book (if you can call it that) is just an irony of the year. Starting with the premise about how distracting the present is with all the old media and the new, technology-based social media, to the art of reading. But it itself is no less distracting and pointless. It is like if you friend (yes, it is a verb!) all those big names in literature in facebook. And then you compile their status in a longwinded text. Reading this is as tiring as reading facebook feed, minus the distracting pictures and videos: some of the bits and pieces are deep and profound, of course, but overall it's just distracting and pointless...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Brennan-Green

    Ulin writes longingly and lovingly about the near meditative power and allure of the fully immersed experience of reading. Yet his writing style is so scattered and digressive that I could not become immersed in the book. The last 50+ pages are the strength of the book. His question, "Is reading still reading if you do it on a screen?" seemed disingenuous. Is reading still reading if you listen to a book? Ulin writes longingly and lovingly about the near meditative power and allure of the fully immersed experience of reading. Yet his writing style is so scattered and digressive that I could not become immersed in the book. The last 50+ pages are the strength of the book. His question, "Is reading still reading if you do it on a screen?" seemed disingenuous. Is reading still reading if you listen to a book?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Heather Colacurcio

    I was browsing the new, non-fiction releases at my local library when I stumbled upon this one, and, without thinking twice, added it to my pile of books to check out. Starting it immediately after I brought it home, I was tempted to give up 100 pages into this extensive 150 page essay. Ulin seemed to go off on so many far removed tangents, I was wondering if his whole point was to distract me from reading instead of pointing out what distracted the reader. Luckily, in the final 50 pages, Ulin I was browsing the new, non-fiction releases at my local library when I stumbled upon this one, and, without thinking twice, added it to my pile of books to check out. Starting it immediately after I brought it home, I was tempted to give up 100 pages into this extensive 150 page essay. Ulin seemed to go off on so many far removed tangents, I was wondering if his whole point was to distract me from reading instead of pointing out what distracted the reader. Luckily, in the final 50 pages, Ulin brought up some points that resonated with me as an avid reader, book buyer, English major and future librarian. Ulin discusses the fact that Twitter, Facebook and the internet as a whole has shaped society's view of reading. Instead of investing hours, days and weeks into novels, society prefers a few, casual seconds glancing at Tweets and posts. A reader who can devote themselves entirely to a book is becoming rare, and I, like Ulin, am deeply concerned. The rise (albeit slow) of the E-reader has touched the printed word in a way I never thought possible. Ulin is cautious of these electronic devices and rightfully so; the E-reader is a threat to the bookstore, to the library, and to the reader that longs for a personal library and a real book in their hands. Browsing the bookstore is my hobby, becoming a librarian my dream, and without physical copies of books, that which brings me the greatest joy in my life has been transformed into something that I detest. Ulin discusses the ways in which technology changes the way we read, both positively and negatively. His description of how the novel (or anything we read) can be enhanced by our instant connection to information via the internet made me think about my reading experiences of the past few years. I always cite my reading of Dave Cullen's Columbine as a reading experience that truly changed my life. However, I read that book with a picture in my head, a picture that was soon toppled when I turned to Google for pictures, videos and information that changed the mental images I created, and therefore, my entire reading experience. I can no longer remember exactly how I felt upon that first reading, and in subsequent readings, will never recapture those feelings. These type of experiences are exactly what concerns Ulin, a concern which creates tension between the world of reading and the internet. Are we losing our imagination to the availability of truth on the internet? On the contrary, does the internet enhance our experience of reading because it gives us a perspective that perhaps we did not have before? Ulin raises questions such as these, as well as a great deal more. So what is the ultimate verdict here? Ulin doesn't seem to have a concrete theory about where reading or the reader is going in this technological culture. Ulin doesn't foresee any particular outcome, but that does not reduce the relevance of this work. Ulin, like so many of us who are enamored with books and reading, have serious worries about where we are going in terms of enjoying, processing and internalizing written texts. As a society, we need to ask ourselves where we are headed and where we came from; The Lost Art of Reading is precisely the kind of text that begins that important dialogue.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    “For a long time, I read for just that reason, as if books were ripcords, escape hatches, portals out of my own life.” p.10 “What I was after, in other words, was not merely an escape but also a point of entry, a passport, or a series of passports, not to an older version of myself but to a different version - to the person I wanted to become.” p. 11 I had not heard of Ulin before encountering this essay. He is a book critic, teacher and author. Reading and books have been part of his life for a “For a long time, I read for just that reason, as if books were ripcords, escape hatches, portals out of my own life.” p.10 “What I was after, in other words, was not merely an escape but also a point of entry, a passport, or a series of passports, not to an older version of myself but to a different version - to the person I wanted to become.” p. 11 I had not heard of Ulin before encountering this essay. He is a book critic, teacher and author. Reading and books have been part of his life for a very long time. He says that his parents had wall-to-wall bookcases in their apartment and he has done the same wherever he has lived. (I am envious.) I was curious when I saw the title and then even more interested when I saw this question on the back of the book: “Does reading even matter anymore?” Of course, this is not the first time I have seen this question. For years, librarians have worried about how much reading is being done. Many of us think our jobs depend on readers. Ulin does believe that reading is important in our time. I was not surprised by that. Most essays of this type eventually say that reading is vital to human existence. For me, the pleasure of this 150 page essay is learning about Ulin’s relationship with reading and how he sees the distractions of technology affecting readers. Given that the book is five years old, I was wondering if Ulin’s data was obsolescent. Most of his concerns are still important and people are still worrying about what technology is doing to our culture. If you are a reader, a teacher or a librarian, you may find information here that you find useful. However, I recommend you pick up this essay for the joy of meeting another reader. Ulin is obviously a lover of books and reading and I am glad to have met him.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Krystina

    Last year, I could tell that my brain was different. I couldn’t focus on anything longer than a minute or two and I felt an ongoing urge to check for updates on my phone. My email, all my social media apps, the news... once I finished checking it all, I’d want to start right back and check it all again in case I’d missed something new. It was bad. I knew that I had to start fighting to regain my attention span, and that meant unplugging as much as possible. So I started reading books. I’ve been Last year, I could tell that my brain was different. I couldn’t focus on anything longer than a minute or two and I felt an ongoing urge to check for updates on my phone. My email, all my social media apps, the news... once I finished checking it all, I’d want to start right back and check it all again in case I’d missed something new. It was bad. I knew that I had to start fighting to regain my attention span, and that meant unplugging as much as possible. So I started reading books. I’ve been averaging a book a week now, which is something I really didn’t think I was capable of doing. It helps me unplug and I can feel my brain changing, yet again, to having depth and patience. It’s remarkable. The Lost Art of Reading gets into this importance of reading books. The way the author writes in silence and you read the words in silence, and in our modern magic way, we the readers deeply connect with another person’s mind — an author that might be long dead, but we become all the wiser for this connection.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    The LOST Art of Reading. Aptly titled. For I felt like I couldn't even find it in this book. A slim 150-pages which felt like twice that many. All of the reasons reading seems to have fallen away in a technology-obsessed world were skimmed over in lieu of Mr. Ulin's reminiscing of his own reading experiences, his stock of favorite authors, and some rather strangely misplaced political diatribes. There have been better books (and even more succinct news articles) written about people's rapidly increas The LOST Art of Reading. Aptly titled. For I felt like I couldn't even find it in this book. A slim 150-pages which felt like twice that many. All of the reasons reading seems to have fallen away in a technology-obsessed world were skimmed over in lieu of Mr. Ulin's reminiscing of his own reading experiences, his stock of favorite authors, and some rather strangely misplaced political diatribes. There have been better books (and even more succinct news articles) written about people's rapidly increasingly inability to focus on a written page vs. the back-lit screen with multiple places to click and rapidly change the rhythm of one's thought patterns. Focusing is losing its foothold. It's just a pity that this offering didn't stick to its title's subject matter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisette

    This is a thought-provoking defense of the necessity for reading, especially in this age of technological distractions that tend to reinforce/enforce shallow thinking. Nevertheless, this slim book is not a diatribe against the tech world. It is an argument against our tendency to allow all things tech to dominate our lives and thinking process. And it's a would-be jeremiad exhorting us to slow down, give ourselves the space to read and reflect and think about ideas and concepts. It's also part m This is a thought-provoking defense of the necessity for reading, especially in this age of technological distractions that tend to reinforce/enforce shallow thinking. Nevertheless, this slim book is not a diatribe against the tech world. It is an argument against our tendency to allow all things tech to dominate our lives and thinking process. And it's a would-be jeremiad exhorting us to slow down, give ourselves the space to read and reflect and think about ideas and concepts. It's also part memoir as Ulin intersperses reflections on his reading life with his fundamental argument. I found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable and impassioned read, one I will return to again and again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    A long essay, really. Honestly, if you are taking the time to read this book, you are probably cheering for Ulin on every page, as he shares with us, those who live to read, all the glorious joys of reading. Sadly, I just don’t see those who should be reading this book (you know who you are, you video game fiends, you tv addicts) saying to themselves, I will repudiate my Nintendo 64 and my tv and read a book about why books matter so I can vituperate myself about how I am squandering my life by A long essay, really. Honestly, if you are taking the time to read this book, you are probably cheering for Ulin on every page, as he shares with us, those who live to read, all the glorious joys of reading. Sadly, I just don’t see those who should be reading this book (you know who you are, you video game fiends, you tv addicts) saying to themselves, I will repudiate my Nintendo 64 and my tv and read a book about why books matter so I can vituperate myself about how I am squandering my life by spurning reading.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ngaire

    Couldn't finish this. I swear, in the 80 or so pages I read, the guy didn't mention one book written by a woman. No Charlotte Bronte, no George Elliot, no Jane Austen, no Virginia Woolf, no Edith Wharton, no Doris Lessing, no Margaret Atwood, nothing. I don't know why I couldn't get past that, maybe because he was all over the place in terms of what he was trying to say. All I got from this is that he read a bunch of writers as a young person and they affected him a lot. Well, welcome to the wor Couldn't finish this. I swear, in the 80 or so pages I read, the guy didn't mention one book written by a woman. No Charlotte Bronte, no George Elliot, no Jane Austen, no Virginia Woolf, no Edith Wharton, no Doris Lessing, no Margaret Atwood, nothing. I don't know why I couldn't get past that, maybe because he was all over the place in terms of what he was trying to say. All I got from this is that he read a bunch of writers as a young person and they affected him a lot. Well, welcome to the world, dude. Who didn't?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Sammis

    Starts off simply enough — a father who loves to read is concerned that his son isn't enjoying The Great Gatsby. Then it completely falls apart. This is more diatribe / pat on the back than it is about an essay on managing reading in a world of electronic interruptions. The prose is more akin to the excerpts of Fifty Shades of Grey than an essay on reading for fun. http://www.pussreboots.pair.com/blog/... Starts off simply enough — a father who loves to read is concerned that his son isn't enjoying The Great Gatsby. Then it completely falls apart. This is more diatribe / pat on the back than it is about an essay on managing reading in a world of electronic interruptions. The prose is more akin to the excerpts of Fifty Shades of Grey than an essay on reading for fun. http://www.pussreboots.pair.com/blog/...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gayle

    A lovely meditation on reading, "the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being." Ulin, book critic for the LA Times, laments his own growing inability to sit down and read, in a deep and sustained [old]fashion, in an era of delicious electronic distractions, especially with an omnivorous consciousness like Ulin's, who finds everything interesting. Ulin ponders what it means, now, to consume and process stories and information, that we no longer t A lovely meditation on reading, "the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being." Ulin, book critic for the LA Times, laments his own growing inability to sit down and read, in a deep and sustained [old]fashion, in an era of delicious electronic distractions, especially with an omnivorous consciousness like Ulin's, who finds everything interesting. Ulin ponders what it means, now, to consume and process stories and information, that we no longer take much time to ruminate and reflect: what does this do to the very structure of memory, the self, our sense of time and our actual engagement with a world in which bytes are as quickly consumed as forgotten? At the same time I read this book, I attended the keynote lecture to the American Library Association by Richard Rhodes, a Pulitzer prize-winning author and another omnivorous, deeply engagingly human thinker, who also happens to be my friend's dad. He attacked the same concepts, how the very structures of our memory and cognition are affected by our approaches to narrative. Few of us now can do what the Greeks did, committing vast tomes to memory and recital. And to think over 500 years ago all the debates were about humanity going to hell in a handbasket because the printing press would cheapen our brainwork, the very quality of our minds, by offering instant effortless narrative. Now we consider reading itself to be brainwork, engaging our imaginations and participating, but the classic ancients would lament our unconscious, blissfully lowered standards. There's definitely a zeitgeisty trajectory here, the intimate relations between technology and the brain and what this means to the mind and what it means to be human, going from onion skin technology all the way to Twitter. Memory? Consciousness? Soul? I, too, am beginning to feel like I have disposable brain, one that could use an upgrade: I can't even remember the last Facebook post I read. Everything's available, and therefore...lost. When I do read a book, it's a guilty pleasure, as if I'm going anachronistic, sneaking off the grid, exactly the opposite of what books actually do, which, ironically make me feel more engaged and aware of life. What does it all mean? Ulin and Rhodes are right to ask.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    A good chunk of my vague New Year's resolutions have to do with refocusing on processes that I think are important to engage in. Real reading is one such process. Not just internet blog skimming, but actual reading. I took stock of the books I had actually finished in 2011 and was ashamed to discover what I had suspected: my first full year as a bookseller, and I read the fewest number of books of any year of my adult life. So this is one of my first books for the year, to help remind me of what A good chunk of my vague New Year's resolutions have to do with refocusing on processes that I think are important to engage in. Real reading is one such process. Not just internet blog skimming, but actual reading. I took stock of the books I had actually finished in 2011 and was ashamed to discover what I had suspected: my first full year as a bookseller, and I read the fewest number of books of any year of my adult life. So this is one of my first books for the year, to help remind me of what I value about the reading process. And it was good for that. As a book or piece of writing itself, though, it was enjoyable, but didn't seem to move beyond anything you've probably already covered in a conversation with friends if you're someone who pays attention to books, technology, and culture, and the way the relationships between these things are changing. There are hints at an argument about the nature of agency, and if it's different - worse - in the swirl of internet information vs. in the slower reading of a book, which I found interesting, but it doesn't really get expanded. No full argument on any topic Ulin covers is actually developed, in the end, which is interesting given that one of his points is about the erosion of our ability to make or follow logical arguments when all we do is engage with 'facts' that have a level of certainty and argument embedded and hidden within them. Nor does he do much interrogating of his own assumptions and definitions. For instance: reading = reading novels, or so it seems for Ulin (or maybe novels + particular works of Joan Didion). So, a nice, brief reflection on the difficulties of reading slowly in the current era, but not much more than that.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Camilla

    This book was absolutely ridiculous. I somehow was under the impression that it would be about the role of books/reading in a rocky political climate and the role of literature in resistance. Instead I got Ulin talking about his asshole clenching when he walks into a bookshop (yes, this happened a few times!) as he jerks off about him and other men reading almost exclusively other men, almost all white. Sometimes he pauses his masturbatory session about how well read and centrist he is to tortur This book was absolutely ridiculous. I somehow was under the impression that it would be about the role of books/reading in a rocky political climate and the role of literature in resistance. Instead I got Ulin talking about his asshole clenching when he walks into a bookshop (yes, this happened a few times!) as he jerks off about him and other men reading almost exclusively other men, almost all white. Sometimes he pauses his masturbatory session about how well read and centrist he is to torture his teenaged son with unwanted help with his *The Great Gatsby* homework. He thinks this says something profound. It does not. Ulin doesn't appear to understand technology at all, and everything interesting he has to say about the subject is actually just quoted from *The Shallows* by Nicholas Carr, which I want to read because of this. Ulin's love of books is performative, and he thinks ebooks lose something because other people can't browse your bookshelf and see what kind of person you are. How narcissistic. When I saw the word 'revolutionary' on the back cover in bold, I was not picturing an extremely mediocre white man crying about how smart he and other mediocre white men are because they read other mediocre white men and don't know how ebooks work. Deeply uninteresting unless quoting others. Again, the phrase 'clenching sphincter' is used multiple times because this man loves the mere sight of books so much. Gag.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rae

    Subtitle: Why books matter in a distracted time. WHY I READ: It's a book about reading! THE GOOD: Ulin raises some interesting questions: Is listening to a book the same as reading one? Is it reading when the print is on some sort of screen rather than on a physical page? His best ideas have to do with the quiet and solitary aspects of reading. I also loved the idea of the technological Sabbath day. NOT SO GOOD: Ulin does get political at times. And the book is really just an extended version of hi Subtitle: Why books matter in a distracted time. WHY I READ: It's a book about reading! THE GOOD: Ulin raises some interesting questions: Is listening to a book the same as reading one? Is it reading when the print is on some sort of screen rather than on a physical page? His best ideas have to do with the quiet and solitary aspects of reading. I also loved the idea of the technological Sabbath day. NOT SO GOOD: Ulin does get political at times. And the book is really just an extended version of his LA Times essay. QUOTES: In February 1946, Hermann Goering told the judges of the Nuremberg tribunal, “Naturally the common people don't want war....But after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or parliament, or a communist dictatorship. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” (45-46)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yaaresse

    Yes, my notes are nearly as long as the book. Yes, I see the irony. One of the hot topics lately is one of the many variations on the theme of technology versus our brains: how distracted people are as a constant state, how technology has changed our brains so that we multitask (badly) and no longer have the self-discipline to focus, how we’re all hard-wiring ourselves into a ADHD-esque response to the real world, how everyone has their eyes glued to our little glowing screens and can’t function Yes, my notes are nearly as long as the book. Yes, I see the irony. One of the hot topics lately is one of the many variations on the theme of technology versus our brains: how distracted people are as a constant state, how technology has changed our brains so that we multitask (badly) and no longer have the self-discipline to focus, how we’re all hard-wiring ourselves into a ADHD-esque response to the real world, how everyone has their eyes glued to our little glowing screens and can’t function socially, and, gosh darn it, how no one reads anymore. Piles of data support these theories: MRIs, EEGs, speed response tests, surveys, Buzzfeed lists, the opinions of some random Twitter users…oh, wait, those last two don’t really count, do they? The Lost Art of Reading is a long essay about all the above. (Minus the random tweeting.) The author clearly prefers print books. Nothing wrong with that. He also clearly loves the feeling of getting lost in a book and the feeling of being transported that comes when one is fully immersed in a good read. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. The peeves I had with the book—sometimes out loud, much to the amusement of my spouse--are these: 1. It reads like a magazine article stretched to make a book. And, as it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. 2. Written in 2010, it’s already dated. Technology will bite you like that every time, won’t it? 3. So sayeth the author, “This is how a serious reader reads a book” or “You’re doing it all wrong.” 4. Sometimes choices can be more like a buffet than a either-or fixed price menu. So, the first peeve: stretching for word length. This was originally an essay in the LA Times. For some reason, Ulin (or his agent) felt the need to turn it into a book. Maybe books pay better than essays? There was a lot of stretching the soup to fit the pot going on here. For an essay on the joys of focused reading and the importance of deep attention, Ulin can certainly go on some tangential side-trips. As an example, while I agree (mostly) with his political comments, they don’t add anything of value here. I also agree with him about the thrill of bookstores, but I didn’t need to hear about how his sphincter tightens with glee (no, really), much less read it that second or third time. And while the scuba diving story was an interesting anecdote, I didn’t think equating saving his son from literally drowning to “saving” him from “drowning” in The Great Gatsby worked. (Also? Could have done without the description of throwing up underwater.) I got exasperated with what felt like asides that he then had to force back to the main topic. There were a few places where the only reason I kept reading was that I wanted to know if his son ever finished The Great Gatsby or if he resorted to the Spark Notes. Second peeve: datedness. As soon as technology is released, it’s obsolete. This isn’t the author’s fault, of course, but it does make him sound like one of those old geezers standing on the porch, shaking his cane and yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. I suspect most of us who were even remotely tech savvy in 2010 knew that e-books and e-readers would quickly evolve into something far more sophisticated than their initial forms. • Ulin clearly wasn’t that impressed with the Kindle, but he’s also writing about the 2009 Kindle, cutting edge at the time, but still was (and I think still is) a clunky, ugly, annoying way to read a book. The Kindle hardware of 2010 and a current Kindle are sort of like the difference between a single-gear kid’s bicycle to a twenty-speed road bike. (In my opinion, compared to either of them, reading with a Kindle app on iPad is moving up to a Ducati motorcycle.) • He writes about the lack of e-book selection. This is no longer even remotely true. • He writes about the inability to loan, sell or give away e-books. Yes, the sell and give away part is still an issue, but we can now loan and borrow. Frankly, the trade-off for convenience is accepting that we are not owning a thing, but leasing a license. What priority one places on ownership plays into whether that is a make-or-break deal for each person. Owning books used to be a huge priority for me for reasons that had very little to do with reading and more to do with surrounding myself with symbols of diverse thought. These days, my priority has shifted to the convenience and accessibility I get with e-books. Nothing like packing and moving 40-60 boxes of books a dozen times to convince me that hundreds of books on one device that weighs less than a pound = An Excellent Thing. • Ulin ponders what it would be like to have enhanced graphics and embedded content in e-books. We’re there. Enhancements develop daily. This, however, is almost a counterpoint to his main thesis because all that “enhanced content” provokes the very distraction he argues against. He sort of shot himself in the foot by bringing it up. 3. Third peeve – and maybe my biggest: “Real book readers” do it THIS way. Ulin spends a lot of time telling us how he uses books, and he goes on about it in a way that suggests people who don’t read his way aren’t “real” readers. He’s a margin writer, a highlighter, a underliner. Hell, he probably dog-ears pages. I shudder to think of it. Clearly, he can do what he likes with his own books, but all this tells me is that he either grew up in a middle-class or more affluent household, or he was a literature major who fell prey to a teacher much like the one who is forcing his poor son to annotate every sentence of The Great Gatsby as he reads it rather than just read the damn thing. I cannot relate. I grew up in a household where the budget didn’t allow for new books. We had plenty to read, but books were from the library, borrowed from other homes, or handed down from previous generations. Heaven help the person who incurred a library fine for damages or defaced a book in any way. You were to return what you borrowed in better condition than you got it, and you handled the books you owned in a way that others could enjoy them in years to come. I cannot bring myself to write in a book, the only exception being to insert errata in cookbooks. Anything else feels like vandalism. Does this mean I’m not a “real” reader? Bollocks to that. Oh, and if you aren't surrounding yourself with books, wallowing in them, eat/sleep/breathing deep thoughts about them, suckling the very spines of them in search for Great Truth? You read, but you are not a reader. It's an arrogant POV, the kind that could turn off a tentative, struggling reader from becoming an avid, joyful reader. My sympathies were with Ulin’s son--who, according to his father, isn't a "real reader." The boy's teacher apparently went to the same “let’s make reading as onerous as possible” boot camp as most of my high school English teachers. Your typical high school English class could suck the joy out of Christmas itself, much less leave any enjoyment in The Christmas Carol. (Disclaimer: English was my favorite class. I loved language arts, but I hated the gutting a perfectly good story for highbrow metaphor. I was pretty convinced 99% of what was taught wasn’t placed there by the author, but were curriculum cowpies manufactured by someone who needed to publish a thesis so they could get tenure.) It doesn’t all have to be taken so seriously. You’re not a “shallow” reader if you want to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for fun rather than furrowing your forehead for hours about the socio-economic overtones and racial environment of the 1860s. Sure, you’ll get more out of it if you give those a passing thought and throw in a nod to the importance of Twain being among the first to popularize colloquial speech patterns in novels, but you won’t “read it wrong” if you don’t fill the margins with erudite notations about all that. Analyzing books to death has created more nonreaders than readers. Fourth peeve: Either/or. Ulin seems to have a “selection of tiny boxes” mindset. You are either a serious reader or you aren’t. You either love bookstores and libraries or you are a whore for Amazon and Kindle. You either read print (real reading) or pretend to read e-books while doing twelve other things. You either think deeply about what you read or you don’t. You either understand the warm, sustaining, transformative power of the written word or you’re a shallow reader who cares nothing for content. You either read Important Works by Serious Writers or you don’t read anything more substantive than the instructions on a box of Hot Pockets. Someone open a window and let’s air the room of the stuffy stink of pomposity. It sounds like Ulin’s ideal world would be one where independent bookstores would be as prevalent as bars, no one would be illiterate, have dyslexia or low vision, we’d sit around in deep discussion about symbols and motifs, and everyone would thrill to Tolstoy, Chekov and Golding. Hey, except for that last part, I'd like that, too. I’m sorry, but people who live in small towns or BFE are going to buy books from Amazon because that may be one of their few available options. Those on a limited budget will likely look first to e-books to avoid shipping charges or those for whom transportation is an issue will appreciate being able to download an e-book from the library. That doesn’t mean they hate indy bookstores or don’t want to patronize them when possible. People who find it difficult to read print or who travel and don’t want to pay the airlines $50 for that extra carry-on fully appreciate their tablets/e-readers or audio books. Some of us—get ready to be stunned—are fully capable of using a tablet to read a book WITHOUT checking our email, social media, or sports scores. Altogether now in a stage whisper: whoooooa! Ulin apparently has a hard time resisting the bright-shiny and is projecting his attention deficit problem onto the nefarious “everyone.” No, not everyone. I read on an iPad. That little “ding” when an email comes in? It can wait. Yes, I’m only one person, but it only takes one person to blow the “everyone” argument. Don’t blame the tool for the fault of the user. If someone cannot focus attention to one task, it is not the fault of all the other things available. The electronic device doesn’t “make” us less attentive or force us to do anything. The user chooses. Yes, multitasking, especially on electronic devices does rewire our brains for shallow attention or more stimuli rather than deeper attention to one focal point. Ulin rides that research hard, and there is plenty of it to ride. The tool doesn’t train the user; the way the user uses the tool creates the habit. In other words, habitual behavior does not form spontaneously. Don’t blame the inanimate (for now anyway) object for what we’re doing to ourselves. If Mr. Ulin can’t read Sway on e-book without going to YouTube to look up period-piece videos every five minutes, that’s on him, not the device. First rule of the internet also applies to e-books: just because a link is there doesn’t mean you must click on it. It’s completely possible to ignore it and keep reading. Many of us read for love of story and for vicarious experiences, not to impress other people with our book collection or intellectual marginalia. (OK, yes, some people do just that, but they tend to be utter pricks and don’t lend books anyway.) Some people prefer to read things that bring us a little optimism or humor about the world rather than drive us closer to needing antidepressants. Hey, I have read Lord of the Flies—which Ulin thinks is magnificent "real" reading material--and I wouldn’t read it again if you tucked a $10 between each page. As for some of the “shallower” material, if what I find to be utter dreck--glittery vampire angst or Amish romances--gets a non-reader to pick up a book…or e-reader…well, at least they’re reading something. We all had to start somewhere, and I don’t remember a lot of enduring interest was available from “Run, Jane, run. See Jane run.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    As an avid reader and a member of the resistance, I was excited to read this extended essay (originally published in 2010) and the new introduction added for our current era. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver on what it promised. Instead of being a call to action, an impassioned position on how reading enriches not only our individual lives but society as a whole, The Lost Art of Reading was mostly a purple-prose-filled whine about technology, interspersed with literati name-dropping and unnecess As an avid reader and a member of the resistance, I was excited to read this extended essay (originally published in 2010) and the new introduction added for our current era. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver on what it promised. Instead of being a call to action, an impassioned position on how reading enriches not only our individual lives but society as a whole, The Lost Art of Reading was mostly a purple-prose-filled whine about technology, interspersed with literati name-dropping and unnecessary tangents. The handful of times I did want to bookmark a page or highlight a sentence, the words were usually a quote that Ulin included from someone else. This essay was definitely of the "preaching to the choir" variety. Look, if you want to get more people interested in reading, you need way more of this rare inspiring type of statement: "...when we read, we soul travel, in the sense that we join, or enter, the consciousness of another human. We empathize - we have to - because our experience is enlarged." ...even contrasted with this rare nail-on-the-head take-down of the internet comment-board culture: "This is how we interact now, by mouthing off, steering every conversation back to our agendas, skimming the surface of each subject looking for an opportunity to spew." ...and WAY less complaining about how eReaders suck (hello, just be glad people are READING), lecturing that certain types of books just aren't up to snuff (again, be glad people are putting in the effort of actually reading), and flowery, rambling language that eventually gets around to making a point, but not before turning people off of reading all together. *Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    April

    These 150 pages were rich with food for thought for the literary and tech whizzes alike (Not that a person needs to fall into one camp or the other). The main focus of the book, or at least what I got out of it the most, is what David L. Ulin suggests technology is doing to our minds. Ulin starts off his case by stating that "Sometime in the last few years--I don't remember when, exactly--I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read," (9). A lot of this feeling, he claims, comes with our c These 150 pages were rich with food for thought for the literary and tech whizzes alike (Not that a person needs to fall into one camp or the other). The main focus of the book, or at least what I got out of it the most, is what David L. Ulin suggests technology is doing to our minds. Ulin starts off his case by stating that "Sometime in the last few years--I don't remember when, exactly--I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read," (9). A lot of this feeling, he claims, comes with our constant state of being "linked in" to technology. As Ulin struggled to immerse himself in a book, his brain kept becoming distracted by his regular technological routine. Check Facebook. Check the sports stats. Email. Twitter. As a book critic who relies heavily on deep thinking and immersion, this was frightening for Ulin. When did his brain decide that it needed to know all of these things...all the time? But is it even wanting to know, or something else? "In our overnetworked society…every buzz and rumor is instantly blogged and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction, distraction masquerading as being in the know. In such a landscape, knowledge can’t help but fall prey to illusion, albeit an illusion that is deeply seductive, with its promise that speed can lead us to illumination, that it is more important to react than to think deeply, that something must be attached to every bit of time," (34). Ulin suggests that the information we feed ourselves isn't even informative, but is "an odd sort of distraction...masquerading as being in the know." I found myself identifying with these lines. How many times a day to I check my Fab 5 Tabs? (Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blog, and Email). Why do I check these so often? Nobody emails me except my dad, (which is always a juxtaposition of Republicany articles and insurance commercials), nobody ever comments on my blog (cough cough youyesyou cough), the only Facebook notifications I get are Farmarketslandsville requests, Tumblr is basically "Let's see what Carrie and Tessa are reading right now," and Pinterest is a never ending hole of paper snowflakes, which can be accessed at any time always. So What, is it that makes me check these sites so often? It's this anxious feeling of ...? Of what? Wanting to know? That doesn't quite place it. It is what Ulin claims--an odd sense of distraction. "What I'm struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it's mostly just a series of disconnected riffs, quick takes and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age," (35). Our brains, he and others suggest, have re-wired themselves to feed our overnetworked brains. This is causing us to desire this state of continuous distraction and feel anxious when deep thinking and deep time commitment is needed to perform a task. Hence, reading is becoming less desirable. Our attention is being chopped up into little bits, making it harder and harder to engage in things like reading a book. Technology is aiding to our inability to process things, think critically, and reflect. Ulin isn't completely anti-technology. He explores the benefits--of having access to an infinite amount of information, for example. But with the benefits, there are the overlooked downfalls. One of the things Ulin discusses is technology's amazing storage ability. We never have to memorize anything again, if we can help it! But... is that so great? People used to memorize enormous amounts of information (Jewish boys, for example, had to memorize the Torah) but since we are now relying on technology to be our memory, we are no longer internalizing these functions (89). Since we have the ability to post or save or look up anything, the responsibility of remembering things ourselves is alleviated. And is this good? I have had the joy of memorizing a couple poems in the past few months. There is no reason I need to memorize these poems--I can look them up on my phone or laptop whenever I want to. But I have become so close to these poems through the process of memorization. I am constantly learning more about them and feeling more of what they have to say. Upon exploring other benefits of technology, Ulin points out that books themselves were part of a technological revolution. Filipppo di Strata stated, "The pen is a virgin; the printing press, a whore" when the press made its debut. It was a good reminder that books aren't technology-free--they were part of a movement themselves. E-readers and the like are simply the next stage. Still, Ulin and I both "Think in pages, not screens; I like the idea of the book as object, of the book as artifact, of reading as a three-dimensional tactile experience, in which the way a text looks or feels or even smells has an influence over how, or whether, I engage," (121). Although Ulin looks at both sides of the technological coin, one can't help but notice the mental downfalls that technology is rewiring us to have. There is no impulsive deep reflection--it must be forced. We are fast-paced, distracted, and empty shells. All of our memories are our status updates, and our desire for knowledge is cheapened by our information intake. No longer do we sit and read up on a subject and consider its merit. We skim a few online articles and consider ourselves professionals. There is something to be said for this "art" of reading. "It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. Even more, we are reminded of all we need to savor--this instant, this scene, this line. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise, the tumult, to discover our reflections in another mind. As we do, we join a broader conversation, by which we both transcend ourselves and are enlarged," (150-1). Ulin's little book isn't your typical "Deactivate your Facebook and go read a book" spiel. He looks at the deeper implications of our overnetworked minds, and considers the consequences of our mental trends. His writing was rich in content and thought. I would recommend it to any of my literary friends, or anyone in general. I hope I can continue to find time for reflection and critical thought in our age of distraction. I hope I will never consider finding out what Carol had for breakfast more important than finding out if Mrs. Dalloway bought the flowers herself.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ColumbusReads

    I really enjoy books about the reading life and have several on my shelf I need to get to. The Lost Art Of Reading was originally published in 2010 and from what I understand is rather well respected amongst books of this nature. The author, Ulin, is the former book editor for the LA Times, so he knows a little something about books. This book was not the light-hearted reading that I was expecting. That’s typically bad for expectations but not so much here. It’s a rather philosophical, but not de I really enjoy books about the reading life and have several on my shelf I need to get to. The Lost Art Of Reading was originally published in 2010 and from what I understand is rather well respected amongst books of this nature. The author, Ulin, is the former book editor for the LA Times, so he knows a little something about books. This book was not the light-hearted reading that I was expecting. That’s typically bad for expectations but not so much here. It’s a rather philosophical, but not dense, book about the changing landscape in how we read. The new distractions (re: emails, texts, social media and the 24/7 news cycle.) many of us are guilty of constantly (as I now try to avoid checking my email as well as the latest administration firing on CNN). This updated edition has a new introduction and afterword along with added text as it relates to reading and deciphering news in the current political climate. Although the new info has been added, some of this feels sort of dated. I guess that’s to be expected with the rapid pace of technology and how fast things change and others become obsolete. If you can get past that you may enjoy this book. As to be expected, there were quite a few books mentioned here as examples to the wider story. I loved his recollection of helping his son with his reading assignment for The Great Gatsby. Pulling passages from the book and the annotation were highlights. I guess that’s more of what I had expected throughout from the book. Overall, not quite what I thought it would be but that’s no fault of the author. Still readable nonetheless.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    Just happened to see this book facing out at the library, with face out always being a great way to catch someone's attention. What particularly caught my eye was the subtitle "Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time." With the troubled times we are in, this seemed so appropriate to pick up. What is so ironic that it is almost funny is that this is a revised edition of a book that came out in 2008, so it is now 2018. Both in the original and the revised version, the author is talking about troubl Just happened to see this book facing out at the library, with face out always being a great way to catch someone's attention. What particularly caught my eye was the subtitle "Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time." With the troubled times we are in, this seemed so appropriate to pick up. What is so ironic that it is almost funny is that this is a revised edition of a book that came out in 2008, so it is now 2018. Both in the original and the revised version, the author is talking about troubled times. Who would have thought we could top the banking crisis and recession, yet we have. This is one long essay that is a bit political but is mainly sociological. Ulin is a book critic and professor and uses his own life experience along with his relationship with his teenaged son to observe how the onslaught of information has diminished reading and especially our attention. Intellectual in tone, it offers historical insights, scientific insights on the brain, and just simple observations on how difficult it is to slow down and really give ourselves over to the experience of reading. There are no "best of" lists of titles everyone should read. Instead there is a call to our own responsibility to work to understand what is going on in our world, to create empathy and acquire knowledge. Quite thought provoking.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    There were so many ideas in here that I enjoyed engaging with -- and I think it is a book that would benefit from reading it with others and discussing. The topic here is clearly in my wheelhouse -- how we engage with text, why it is important, and the value in digging far deeper than you do in a comment thread or in twitter -- these are all issues that I feel strongly about and I worry that we are missing the collective value of this as we maneuver through clickbait and get our news in headline There were so many ideas in here that I enjoyed engaging with -- and I think it is a book that would benefit from reading it with others and discussing. The topic here is clearly in my wheelhouse -- how we engage with text, why it is important, and the value in digging far deeper than you do in a comment thread or in twitter -- these are all issues that I feel strongly about and I worry that we are missing the collective value of this as we maneuver through clickbait and get our news in headlines and tweets. Another concept that I thought was particularly interesting and that I would enjoy more time with is the idea of memory and how it is impacted when there are records through social media of so much more of an experience than there ever used to be. The writing style of this was a little more scholarly than I typically prefer, but I still really appreciated the concepts and discussion here.

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