A friend sent me notice of Alan Jacob’s, The Pleasures of Reading (OUP). He says it is being hailed as something akin to Adler’s How to Read a Book. But my friend (who is quite the reader) says that it reads more like Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism. Either way, if it will help me help my students, members, and children treasure reading more than texting, then I am all for this work. Hopefully I can get Jacobs to sign a copy for me when he is in town. From the publisher:
In recent years, cultural commentators have sounded the alarm about the dire state of reading in America. Americans are not reading enough, they say, or reading the right books, in the right way.In this book, Alan Jacobs argues that, contrary to the doomsayers, reading is alive and well in America. There are millions of devoted readers supporting hundreds of enormous bookstores and online booksellers. Oprah’s Book Club is hugely influential, and a recent NEA survey reveals an actual uptick in the reading of literary fiction. Jacobs’s interactions with his students and the readers of his own books, however, suggest that many readers lack confidence; they wonder whether they are reading well, with proper focus and attentiveness, with due discretion and discernment. Many have absorbed the puritanical message that reading is, first and foremost, good for you–the intellectual equivalent of eating your Brussels sprouts. For such people, indeed for all readers, Jacobs offers some simple, powerful, and much needed advice: read at whim, read what gives you delight, and do so without shame, whether it be Stephen King or the King James Version of the Bible. In contrast to the more methodical approach of Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book (1940), Jacobs offers an insightful, accessible, and playfully irreverent guide for aspiring readers. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of approaching literary fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, and the book explores everything from the invention of silent reading, reading responsively, rereading, and reading on electronic devices.Invitingly written, with equal measures of wit and erudition, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction will appeal to all readers, whether they be novices looking for direction or old hands seeking to recapture the pleasures of reading they first experienced as children.Reviews
“As so many recent studies have suggested, the activity of reading itself is seriously threatened in this digital age. But Alan Jacobs — bless him — has an approach that will warm the hearts of serious readers and lead many prospective readers into the deeply satisfying swells of good prose. Reading should be a pleasure, and Jacobs shows us how to make sure we take delight in this work, which is not work at all. This is a witty and reader-friendly book, and it’s one I would happily give to any potential reader, young or old.” — Jay Parini, author of The Passages of H.M. and The Last Station”A vigorous and friendly exhortation to get back into the kind of reading that made you a reader in the first place.” –Library Journal
Alan Jacobs is a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. His books include The Narnian, a biography of C.S. Lewis, Original Sin: A Cultural History, and aTheology of Reading. His literary and cultural criticism has appeared in the Boston Globe, The American Scholar, and the Oxford American.