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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Art of Reading

“Sometime late last year -- I don't remember when, exactly -- I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read,” begins a 2009 essay by former Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin, ("The Lost Act of Reading," Aug. 9, 2009). Ulin argued that “reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being.”

“Books,” he continued, “enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise.” Ulin argued that in the age of blogs, Facebook and Twitter, the act of reading has become a distraction, an entertainment, rather than an act of concentration.

Ironically, his essay exploded across the Internet in blogs, Tweets and Facebook postings and he has now expanded it into a book, The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time.

There are those who question his thesis. In his review of Ulin’s book in the New York Times ("Our Unlettered Landscape," Nov. 26, 2010), Christopher R. Beha argued that Ulin might be preaching to the choir. While he agreed with much of what Ulin wrote, “There are too many books, and this is part of the problem. David Ulin’s intentions are beyond reproach, but his book is another distraction.”
Ulin is not the first to muse on the art of reading. Here are a few other titles you might want to try:

The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future by Robert Darnton

You’ve GOT to Read This Book! 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life by Jack Canfield

Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel by Lisa Zunshine

Housekeeping vs. Dirt by Nick Hornby

Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the Worldby Nicholas Basbanes

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