The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books are So Important in a Distracted Time
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The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books are So Important in a Distracted Time

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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  606 ratings  ·  152 reviews
Reading is a revolutionary act, an act of engagement in a culture that wants us to disengage. In The Lost Art of Reading, David L. Ulin asks a number of timely questions - why is literature important? What does it offer, especially now? Blending commentary with memoir, Ulin addresses the importance of the simple act of reading in an increasingly digital culture. Reading a...more
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Published (first published June 1st 2010)
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Emma Sea
Recently a GR friend commented how surprised they were by the low number of books people were setting as their target for the 2013 GR Reading Challenge.

Did you know the average number of challenge books at time of writing is 59? Less than 2 weeks into the year 60 people have already completed their challenge (!).

On my friend's thread some of us were expressing bewilderment. I was completely perplexed, because I think of GR as a social media network for readers. If you weren't a reader, why woul...more
Jasmine
Okay recently I’ve been working a lot and going to shows and haven’t been sleeping, but I have a lot of things to say about this book that are interesting and thought provoking so I’m going to do my best.

“Far more common is a sense of skittering across the surface,a feeling of drift, both mental and emotional, in which time and context become unmoored. This is the nature of my distraction: the world is always too close at hand”

I kind of hate the internet, there is too much going on and I can’t...more
Lars Guthrie
In ‘The Shallows,’ a book quoted from liberally in ‘The Lost Art of Reading,’ Nicholas Carr notes the way that older technologies are changing because of digital computers. Newspapers and magazines feature shorter articles, more color, more graphics, pull quotes, navigational aids, summaries. ‘Crawls’ and ‘flippers’ clutter TV screens. DVD viewers jump into online conversations about scenes as they watch them. Tweets explain musical reference points to concertgoers who are encouraged to text mes...more
Jill Kandel
WHY does a book that starts off so well, and has such a wonderful premise, have to descend into a political diatribe. I don't care about the author's views on Palin or Obama - whether I agree or not, I didn't pick the book up to read politics. After the first twenty pages the book does not stand up to its title. Very disappointing. And the political references will date the book, which in itself could have been timeless and relevant in the coming decade.
This is one of 'those' books. You know. T...more
Janet
I loved this little book, a meditation on reading, on the reading life. It's not really about reading as a lost art, it's the private journey you take when you open the covers of a book, the conversation you have with the book and it has with you--the interface between one's reading and one's broader life--generously interspersed with thoughts on the subject by writers ranging from Jane Smiley and Nicholson Baker to Jennifer Egan and a writer I had not heard of before this, Eva Hoffman ('Time'),...more
Sarah Brennan-Green
Ulin writes longingly and lovingly about the near meditative power and allure of the fully immersed experience of reading. Yet his writing style is so scattered and digressive that I could not become immersed in the book. The last 50+ pages are the strength of the book. His question, "Is reading still reading if you do it on a screen?" seemed disingenuous. Is reading still reading if you listen to a book?
Heather Colacurcio
I was browsing the new, non-fiction releases at my local library when I stumbled upon this one, and, without thinking twice, added it to my pile of books to check out. Starting it immediately after I brought it home, I was tempted to give up 100 pages into this extensive 150 page essay. Ulin seemed to go off on so many far removed tangents, I was wondering if his whole point was to distract me from reading instead of pointing out what distracted the reader. Luckily, in the final 50 pages, Ulin...more
Gayle
A lovely meditation on reading, "the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being." Ulin, book critic for the LA Times, laments his own growing inability to sit down and read, in a deep and sustained [old]fashion, in an era of delicious electronic distractions, especially with an omnivorous consciousness like Ulin's, who finds everything interesting. Ulin ponders what it means, now, to consume and process stories and information, that we no longer t...more
Claudia
Ooh, I hate books like this: Nuggets of good ideas lie buried under swathes of pure idiocy.

Premise: Modern technology offers so many exciting distractions I now find it hard to concentrate long enough to read a book properly. Sadly, the author then generalizes this to talk about how everybody has this problem.

Well, no, we don't. I don't, for starters. My husband doesn't. Yes, lots of people do, but so what? It's like reading articles in the NYTimes, about how "everybody" is going to that hot new...more
Rae
Subtitle: Why books matter in a distracted time.

WHY I READ: It's a book about reading!

THE GOOD: Ulin raises some interesting questions: Is listening to a book the same as reading one? Is it reading when the print is on some sort of screen rather than on a physical page? His best ideas have to do with the quiet and solitary aspects of reading. I also loved the idea of the technological Sabbath day.

NOT SO GOOD: Ulin does get political at times. And the book is really just an extended version of hi...more
Megan
A good chunk of my vague New Year's resolutions have to do with refocusing on processes that I think are important to engage in. Real reading is one such process. Not just internet blog skimming, but actual reading. I took stock of the books I had actually finished in 2011 and was ashamed to discover what I had suspected: my first full year as a bookseller, and I read the fewest number of books of any year of my adult life.

So this is one of my first books for the year, to help remind me of what...more
James
Several years ago I read a wonderful book, Distraction, by the philosopher and author Damon Young. His book describes the success of several great thinkers and writers in living a thoughtful life filled with freedom from distraction. One of the hallmarks of the lives he described was reading. It is this act, which David Ulin describes as "an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage"(p 150).
This o...more
Lisette
This is a thought-provoking defense of the necessity for reading, especially in this age of technological distractions that tend to reinforce/enforce shallow thinking. Nevertheless, this slim book is not a diatribe against the tech world. It is an argument against our tendency to allow all things tech to dominate our lives and thinking process. And it's a would-be jeremiad exhorting us to slow down, give ourselves the space to read and reflect and think about ideas and concepts. It's also part m...more
Irwan
What the f***!?!
This book (if you can call it that) is just an irony of the year. Starting with the premise about how distracting the present is with all the old media and the new, technology-based social media, to the art of reading. But it itself is no less distracting and pointless.

It is like if you friend (yes, it is a verb!) all those big names in literature in facebook. And then you compile their status in a longwinded text. Reading this is as tiring as reading facebook feed, minus the d...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
A long essay, really. Honestly, if you are taking the time to read this book, you are probably cheering for Ulin on every page, as he shares with us, those who live to read, all the glorious joys of reading. Sadly, I just don’t see those who should be reading this book (you know who you are, you video game fiends, you tv addicts) saying to themselves, I will repudiate my Nintendo 64 and my tv and read a book about why books matter so I can vituperate myself about how I am squandering my life by...more
April
These 150 pages were rich with food for thought for the literary and tech whizzes alike (Not that a person needs to fall into one camp or the other). The main focus of the book, or at least what I got out of it the most, is what David L. Ulin suggests technology is doing to our minds.

Ulin starts off his case by stating that "Sometime in the last few years--I don't remember when, exactly--I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read," (9). A lot of this feeling, he claims, comes with our c...more
Amber Tucker
I'd buy this book in a moment, if only it would kindly appear before me on a bookstore shelf. I started reading it at a sadly tardy point in the summer, and by the time I was heading back to school the unfinished library book was screaming at me in frustration at my leaving it behind.

Okay, so I could be anthropomorphizing there. Maybe I'd just like to believe that this book loved me as much as I was loving it. David Ulin, I promise I will return to your fabulously far-reaching and philosophical...more
Heather
The way I read this book was strangely indicative of its content. I began, actually fearful that I would be indeed too distracted to read, especially a non-fiction work, which I rarely read these days. I tried two or three times to start this book, and it just sat on my bedside table, staring at me, making me feel guilty, as if I'd let down the entire philosophy I hold dear: reading, the quietness of it, the thoughtfulness and isolation it requires. And it sat there, ironically, on top of Gettin...more
Mark
Not a bad little book--it's really just an impressionistic defense of deeply attentive reading. You wouldn't think that needed to be defended, but the author belongs to the slightly hysterical camp which sees threats to literacy in every new technology. Ulin isn't the worst offender in that regard, but he seems to listening to ranters like Nicholas Carr (The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains). These folks who are so concerned about the distractions of the internet are probably j...more
jeremy
the lost art of reading was adapted from a much shorter piece that originally appeared in the los angeles times (for whom david ulin formerly served as book editor). as ulin emphasizes in this slim work, reading is an act requiring both engagement and immersion; an act that currently suffers from the ever-increasing onslaughts of hypermodern, technological distraction. ulin considers the effects of digital media upon the act of reading itself, as well as, more broadly, reading habits themselves....more
Jorge Luis Castanos
Supe de esta obra gracias a un tuit del autor Joe Hill, en el cual señaló que era el mejor libro que había leído con respecto a ese tema. Confiando en sus palabras, decidí comprarlo.

Puedo resumir diciendo que el libro es una recopilación de ideas sobre el tema de la lectura, repleto de citas y los pensamientos consiguientes a esas citas. También el autor mezcla sus vivencias y sus experiencias, relaciones con algunos de sus familiares y conocidos; además de temas variados que rondan la idea cent...more
Nicole
1.5 stars. I feel like this should've been Ulin's private journal since it is essentially an ode to how sophisticated his tastes range in books. Ugghh. If I wasn't also a reader, I wouldn't have picked up this book, so clearly I, too, love books (and have somewhat of a range of tastes, as well). However, the incessant name dropping of titles (and authors) was a complete turn-off for me - too little on the argument, too much on the "look at how smart I am." When Ulin finally got to the argument t...more
Jennifer
Probably more like 3 1/2 stars. This book felt more like a string of semi-related essays, instead of a coherent book. There are no chapters, so when he changes topic or time period, the effect is rather abrupt. I was definitely not moved by his words about e-readers like the Kindle (he owns one but...doesn't like it?), as I read his book on my Kindle. I still read paper books often, but love the Kindle for its portability in this urban place I live. Because of my Kindle, I really do read more no...more
Gloria
The LOST Art of Reading.

Aptly titled.
For I felt like I couldn't even find it in this book.

A slim 150-pages which felt like twice that many.
All of the reasons reading seems to have fallen away in a technology-obsessed world were skimmed over in lieu of Mr. Ulin's reminiscing of his own reading experiences, his stock of favorite authors, and some rather strangely misplaced political diatribes.

There have been better books (and even more succinct news articles) written about people's rapidly increas...more
Todd Mayville
I reviewed this on Elephant Journal back in December (http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/1...), but will continue to say that this is one of my favorite books, and is likely one of the most important books on reading to come out in a while. Ulin does a fantastic job of discussing why reading is important to us as a culture as well as individuals, and defends the book versus the e-reader as well. I came across this book while browsing in the Boulder Bookstore, which is one more reason to defend...more
Todd Martin
David Ulin must be a double agent. It's not clear who he's working for, maybe Lady Gaga, or Donald Trump, or Rupert Murdoch, or some other agency of mediocrity. But what is clear, is that his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Are So Important in a Distracted Time is so dreadful, that it is sure to drive people to seek some other form of entertainment ... in fact, any other form of entertainment, as long as it does not involve reading.

The book reads like a college essay written by a desper...more
Ngaire
Couldn't finish this. I swear, in the 80 or so pages I read, the guy didn't mention one book written by a woman. No Charlotte Bronte, no George Elliot, no Jane Austen, no Virginia Woolf, no Edith Wharton, no Doris Lessing, no Margaret Atwood, nothing. I don't know why I couldn't get past that, maybe because he was all over the place in terms of what he was trying to say. All I got from this is that he read a bunch of writers as a young person and they affected him a lot. Well, welcome to the wor...more
Amy
Ulin's affirms my own argument about the reading lives of so many students. Quite frankly, many do not read -- okay, that's not true. They read: text messages, status updates, YouTube titles, etc. But they rarely engage in deep reading. Among other things in this little book, David L. Ulin asserts that the reading we do online, while perhaps important, is not the same in terms of the deep thinking that we do when we engage with a book of literature. His research supports that our brains are bein...more
Sarah Sammis
Jan 06, 2014 Sarah Sammis rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: My Reader's Block
Starts off simply enough — a father who loves to read is concerned that his son isn't enjoying The Great Gatsby. Then it completely falls apart. This is more diatribe / pat on the back than it is about an essay on managing reading in a world of electronic interruptions. The prose is more akin to the excerpts of Fifty Shades of Grey than an essay on reading for fun.

http://www.pussreboots.pair.com/blog/...
Donna
Ulin makes a lot of good points about the distractedness of our lives, much of which is brought on by our addiction to the internet. Our need to know *now* pulls us away from the ability to sink into sustained reading. I know that feeling. Sometimes I think it is the problem of the book which doesn't draw me in when I should be blaming the electronic device sitting next to me, calling me to check status updates or the weather report or an email from work. I would not give up the internet, but I...more
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David L. Ulin is book critic, and former book editor, of the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, Labyrinth, and The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith, selected as a best book of 2004 by the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle.

He is also the editor of three antholo...more
More about David L. Ulin...
Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology Cape Cod Noir Los Angeles. Portrait of a City The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith Another City: Writing from Los Angeles

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“Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves.” 5 likes
“For new media reactionaries...the problem is technology, the endless distractions of the Internet, the breakdown of authority in an age of blogs and Twitter, the collapse of narrative in a hyper-linked, multi-networked world.” 1 likes
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