The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction - Alan Jacobs This book was ordered by a customer in the store and, both when she placed the order and when she came to pick it up, I remarked on the title. The customer in question is a teacher, and I would like to think out relative professions allow us to be aware of the pleasures of reading, even in this current age. But of course the title, so well chosen, does imply something deeper, doesn't it? Despite a generous staff discount, I can't afford every book that catches my fancy (nor do I have space for them all in my tiny apartment), so, when the customer had left the second time, I logged onto my local library website and added it to my hold list. Unlike some of the books I put there*, it arrived at my local branch while it was still fresh in my mind. I wish I had bought a copy, as I'm now in possession of a library copy with more than a dozen bookmarks and several post-its, waiting for my own copy to arrive so I can transfer everything. Jacobs is not nearly as alarmist about the "distractibility" of our age as some. He is quite happy to admit the advantages of our developing ability to skim for information, but he will admit that he does find that he has to practice the more focussed practice of reading for understanding and for pleasure. This reminds me of passages I read in Moonwalking with Einstien by Joshua Foer, recalling how the invention of writing was decried as the death of human memory. (Ironically, we only know that Socrates distrusted writing because his student wrote of his objections.) Jacobs fits well with my own philosophies about how the human mind is developing. While we do have to take care that we don't lose too much of our present abilities, we also should not fear changes to the human brain without considering what we might gain.In the interest of keeping that balance, Jacobs offers personal experiences and strategies that have helped him practice his "deep focus". (I do find it amusing that, with e-books being lumped into the we-are-losing-our-brains rhetoric, it was getting a Kindle that helped Jacobs rediscover his deep focus.) Despite all my bookmarks, I really don't feel like I've completely absorbed this volume, and I do hope to revisit it soon. In fact, Jacobs gave me permission to do just that, by pointing out that though we seem to panic at the thought of all the books we might leave unread, we don't feel the same when we consider we might not have to the time to re-read all the books we love. Strange that we seek the possibility more than the guarantee. Cate* My local library system is excellent; it's just I often reserve books that have hold lists going into the triple digits.