Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Lost Art of Reading: Review

David L. Ulin has called his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. He might have called it Why Narrative Matters or The Lost Art of Thinking Deeply. These are both issues that he is very concerned with. He argues that because of the overwhelming amount of information that streams through our consciousness thanks to the internet we do not have the time or the attention to devote to truly immersing ourselves in the story--the narrative. Whether that be a story we are reading, being told, or even living. The constant race to keep up with the latest email, FaceBook post, or Tweet prevents us from savoring the moment...and even interferes with the ability to remember what we've done in a truly human way. As we devote more time to recording what we do in virtual space, we have no need (or time) to store those events in memory.

Ulin's argument is that reading...real reading..takes time. It takes concentration. When you hold a book in your hand, that's all you do--read the story. You can't change screens and check your email or the news or the weather. Deep reading makes you connect with the story and the characters. Your imagination becomes engaged and you try to picture what Victorian England or the American frontier or a battlefield of World War II might have looked and sounded and even smelled like. You examine motives based on what the narrator has told you. You make judgements about who's right and who's wrong. Who the good guys and the bad guys are. In the best reading experiences, it is the immersion that matters.

Ulin asks: Do books, does reading matter anymore? The answer: Yes, to those who still can get lost in a book. To those who can pick up a book and shut out the world and all its distractions for an hour or two or more. It matters to those who can read and find new ideas or new ways to consider old ones. It matters to those who can read and discover viewpoints different from their own. And even if that reading is digital--it matters if any type of immersion, any type of deep reading occurs.

Overall, Ulin asks and answers some important questions about reading and its place in the digital age. The book wasn't quite the celebration of books that I was expecting. But Ulin does have many important insights about the way we read and how the way we read may be changing. Three and a half stars.

I read this one primarily for the Take a Chance 3 Challenge. Challenge #6 asked us to use Book Seer and enter a title recently read to see what book would be suggested for us. The Lost Art of Reading came up as a result of entering Howards End Is on the Landing.


Teacher/Learner said...

Wow, this is such an important book. I'm adding it my TBR list for sure. As a teacher, I know that children need to be introduced to literature early on in order to make it a part of their lives. So many distractions occur in this digitally-obsessed world that having a deep, meaningful connection to just one thing at a time should not be taken for granted.

Yvette said...

This book sounds like an amazing read. Thank you for the review. I'd never heard of it before. But I am definitely adding it to my TBR list near the top...!

pussreboots said...

I keep hearing about how much of a time sink email is but I've never found it to be so. I get so few actual pertinent emails. I have good spam filters and they take care of the vast majority of the extraneous email.