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The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,296 ratings  ·  293 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
Hardcover, 152 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Sasquatch Books (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
Dec 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american
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
Jill Kandel
Mar 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: writing-reading, 2011
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
Lars Guthrie
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
James Henderson
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
Claudia Sorsby
Oct 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
Gosh that was a snarky little review I wrote in 2011. I just sat down to read the new material (Intro and Afterword), but I think I'll re-read the entire book and give Ulin a fair chance. ...more
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy-essay
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
Todd Martin
Mar 14, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: culture-politics
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
May 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: finished, 2012
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
Sarah Brennan-Green
Apr 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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? ...more
Heather Colacurcio
Mar 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
“For a long time, I read for just that reason, as if books were ripcords, escape hatches, portals out of my own life.” p.10
“What I was after, in other words, was not merely an escape but also a point of entry, a passport, or a series of passports, not to an older version of myself but to a different version - to the person I wanted to become.” p. 11

I had not heard of Ulin before encountering this essay. He is a book critic, teacher and author. Reading and books have been part of his life for a
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Last year, I could tell that my brain was different. I couldn’t focus on anything longer than a minute or two and I felt an ongoing urge to check for updates on my phone. My email, all my social media apps, the news... once I finished checking it all, I’d want to start right back and check it all again in case I’d missed something new. It was bad. I knew that I had to start fighting to regain my attention span, and that meant unplugging as much as possible. So I started reading books.

I’ve been
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Sarah Sammis
Jun 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
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.

Oct 06, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jan 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely ridiculous. I somehow was under the impression that it would be about the role of books/reading in a rocky political climate and the role of literature in resistance. Instead I got Ulin talking about his asshole clenching when he walks into a bookshop (yes, this happened a few times!) as he jerks off about him and other men reading almost exclusively other men, almost all white. Sometimes he pauses his masturbatory session about how well read and centrist he is to tortur ...more
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Yes, my notes are nearly as long as the book. Yes, I see the irony.

One of the hot topics lately is one of the many variations on the theme of technology versus our brains: how distracted people are as a constant state, how technology has changed our brains so that we multitask (badly) and no longer have the self-discipline to focus, how we’re all hard-wiring ourselves into a ADHD-esque response to the real world, how everyone has their eyes glued to our little glowing screens and can’t function
Jacqueline Knirnschild
Jun 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
There were some really wonderful quotes in here that will encourage you to put down your phone and read a damn book. But also, he goes off on some uninteresting political tangents that date the book and take away from his main ideas.

I copied my favorite quotes below:

“This book … is an expression of the back-and-forth, the ongoing conversation, that resides at the heart of how and why we read.”

“One of the fallacies of teaching literature in the classroom is the need to seek a reckoning with ever
As an avid reader and a member of the resistance, I was excited to read this extended essay (originally published in 2010) and the new introduction added for our current era. Unfortunately, it didn't deliver on what it promised. Instead of being a call to action, an impassioned position on how reading enriches not only our individual lives but society as a whole, The Lost Art of Reading was mostly a purple-prose-filled whine about technology, interspersed with literati name-dropping and unnecess ...more
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
I really enjoy books about the reading life and have several on my shelf I need to get to. The Lost Art Of Reading was originally published in 2010 and from what I understand is rather well respected amongst books of this nature. The author, Ulin, is the former book editor for the LA Times, so he knows a little something about books.

This book was not the light-hearted reading that I was expecting. That’s typically bad for expectations but not so much here. It’s a rather philosophical, but not de
Jun 21, 2020 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
Just happened to see this book facing out at the library, with face out always being a great way to catch someone's attention. What particularly caught my eye was the subtitle "Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time." With the troubled times we are in, this seemed so appropriate to pick up.

What is so ironic that it is almost funny is that this is a revised edition of a book that came out in 2008, so it is now 2018. Both in the original and the revised version, the author is talking about troubl
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Around the Year i...: The Lost Art of Reading, by David L. Ulin 1 14 Jun 27, 2016 09:38PM  

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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

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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.” 9 likes
“Reading (...) is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.” 6 likes
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