Keywords: Reading, books, technology

Title: The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

Author: Alan Jacobs

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN: 978-0199747498


In an age of increasing distraction, this book is a timely reminder of the many and varied pleasures of reading. It's a slim little volume, a rumination on the nature of reading, books and, in part, on technology. It travels light over the terrain, touching on different aspects of why we read, how we read, when to read and so on. There's something immediately engaging about the book, it draws you in and in doing so shows you what a pleasure reading can be. Like a good story, there's no blatant exposition here, just the pleasure of reading emerging naturally from the clear, friendlty and humane prose. The fact that the book (or a codex as Jacobs refers to the physical package) is so well put together and downright desirable is also a factor.

So, does Jacobs have any sage advice for those of us forever pulled towards screens and phones and gadgets and away from books? He suggests reading on Whim (spelt exactly like that). Reading for duty's sake, or for utilitarian reasons, is not the way. Reading on Whim, for the sheer enjoyment of it, for the getting lost in the text, is what he proposes.

Lest you regard Jacobs as a luddite, he offers one of the best rationale's for e-readers (specifically Amazon's Kindle), that I've read anywhere. Not just for the obvious reasons related to electronic books (portability, storage, text search etc), but because the Kindle makes things like web searching and other distractions difficult. And that, I have to say, makes perfect sense.

As you'll have guessed by now, this is a book that's a pleasure (sorry, it's the only word that fits) to read. Highly recommended.

Contents © London Book Review 2011. Published 05 January 2012