“The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction” by Alan Jacobs (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Review by Richard Edwards

This is a book about the pleasures of reading and a strategy that combats the distractions of today. The book counterattacks those “literati” such as Mortimer Adler and Harold Bloom who advise that one should read well and not expend one’s energy on non-masterpieces. Adler founded the Great Books of the Western World program.  Bloom, a literary scholar, wrote “How to Read and Why.”

Alan Jacobs, author of “The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction,” distrusts “reading lists” and believes that being “well read” is more appropriate for cocktail parties than building knowledge.

Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College, argues that cultural commentators are not correct when they say Americans are not reading enough or not reading the right books in the right way.

Jacobs contends that you should read what delights you whether it be a Stephen King novel or the King James version of the Bible. Read whatever your “whim” directs you and don’t be so concerned with proper focus, attentiveness and complete discernment.

Reading is a joy – even reading digital texts. And who knows, maybe reading “Frankenstein” will ultimately lead you to “The Divine Comedy.”

Jacobs has written a clever, witty, intelligent book that overturns many staid conventions about reading. So read what pleases you and do so without shame. Check out, say, “Huckleberry Finn” from your neighborhood library.

Cocktails anyone?

Richard Edwards, an Albuquerque resident, is a voracious reader.

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