mardi 22 novembre 2011

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

Some thoughts on _The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction_ (which I am currently about half way through):

The author says that too many of us read just to get through books in order to move on to the next one. (Guilty).When we do that, according to Jacobs, we don't get the most out of the book we are reading. And can you really "check off" a book, i.e. put it on your "have-read" list, if you don't remember enough of it to tell someone what it's about? I realized I had several of these books: my cousin gave me back a book I had lent her and I realized I couldn't even remember what the story was about. As I'm rereading it, it's coming back to me - but only vaguely. I still couldn't tell you what happens at the end! What is wrong with my short-term memory? Or is it just that I should be reading differently (and especially MORE SLOWLY)?

I might as well accept the fact that I will not be able to read all of the books I'd like to in my lifetime. Wouldn't it be better, anyhow, to have read fewer books, but to have read these really well, than to have a huge list of "books read" but not even remember most of them?

Some books I've put on my "to-be-read list" because they are classics, or important works of literature (i.e. they are important for "cultural literacy"). But I just read Rebecca's notes on the book "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read" and basically the author says that knowing what these classics are about, what the main themes are and who the characters are can be enough (at least until you decide that you really do want to read these books):

"Mostly the book is a meditation on what it means to have read something and on how small and uncertain the difference is between having read something and not having read it. If you think about it, is it meaningful to say that you have read a book you don't remember a thing about beyond its title? Isn't it possible to know much more about a book that you have recently skimmed than one you read 20 years ago and have completely forgotten? Isn't it possible that you could say something more insightful about a book you have read a review of and understand from an exterior, distanced point of view, than one you have read and in whose details you have lost yourself?" (

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