The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

Alan Jacobs. Oxford Univ., $19.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-19-974749-8
Montaigne once wrote: "there are more books on books than on any other subject: all we do is gloss each other." The great French essayist could have been thinking of Wheaton College English professor Jacobs's tired and trite defense of reading. Jacobs affirms that reading books is one of the great human delights, yet argues that numerous books on reading—such as Mortimer Adler's "dutiful How to Read a Book"—have driven more people away from books than have invited them into the joys of reading. Taking a page from the great literary critic Randall Jarrell, Jacobs's definitive principle is to "read at whim." Rather than sticking to a reading list of the "classics" or books we feel compelled to read in order to feel edified, we will enjoy reading even more, he says, if we select those books that interest us and immerse ourselves in their worlds. Jacobs's ideas are hardly fresh; eminent book critic Michael Dirda has more eloquently proposed in numerous books that we should read at whim for the pleasure it brings us. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
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