Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Reading in an Age of Distraction

In his new book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Wheaton College literature professor Alan Jacobs addresses the impediments to reading today and makes a case for reading as something for which we should lay aside, however temporarily, our passive entertainments. Jacobs is an affable teacher, given to using “we” and offering encouragement to “those who believe or fear that serious reading is beyond their reach.” To this end, he takes up the question of whether, having once lost the ability to concentrate on a good book, one can ever regain it. The author, himself a recovered casualty of technological distraction, sees reason for hope. He won the victory by fighting tech with tech—switching from paper books to Amazon’s Kindle, whose Next button occupied his twitchy thumb, freeing his mind for sustained attention to the text. Through the novelty of an e-reader he found a way out of what he calls “the Great Digital Skinner Box,” and he means to return, Moses-like, to set the captives free.

Read the rest of
the City Journal review here.

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