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

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,021 Ratings  ·  227 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
ebook, 160 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Sasquatch Books
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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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, writing-reading
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 17, 2018 is currently reading 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.
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 16, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
“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
Feb 20, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, finished
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
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
Todd Martin
Mar 14, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
This book had my name on it.  Like many people, I struggle with internet dysfunction. (I refuse to call it addiction.) When I started this blog in December 2012, I decided to write a bookish post every day.   Imagine my shock when I discovered in 2014 that my book blog interfered with my reading.

In "The Lost Art of Reading: Books and Resistance in a Troubled Time," David L. Ulin, a critic, essayist, and former editor of the "L.A. Times" book page, writes about his own struggle with interrupted r
Oct 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  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.
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Laura Hoffman Brauman
There were so many ideas in here that I enjoyed engaging with -- and I think it is a book that would benefit from reading it with others and discussing. The topic here is clearly in my wheelhouse -- how we engage with text, why it is important, and the value in digging far deeper than you do in a comment thread or in twitter -- these are all issues that I feel strongly about and I worry that we are missing the collective value of this as we maneuver through clickbait and get our news in headline ...more
Larissa Cantanho
Aug 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I needed this book. It’s a delightful and slightly mournful reflection on the loss of the act of reading - full books, end to end - in our modern world. Ulin acts as a conductor, weaving together various narratives on the importance of the written word, the impacts technology have on the hardwiring of our physical brains, and how society is shifting from valuing depth of knowledge to speed of information. I’ve struggled to capture many of the ideas that Ulin so eloquently conveys and am overjoye ...more
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Around the Year i...: The Lost Art of Reading, by David L. Ulin 1 13 Jun 27, 2016 09:38PM  
  • Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life
  • Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love
  • Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
  • The Anatomy of Bibliomania
  • So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance
  • The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future
  • A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books
  • The Library: An Illustrated History
  • Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read
  • The Quotable Book Lover
  • On Rereading
  • Buried in Books: A Reader's Anthology
  • Ruined By Reading: A Life in Books
  • Phantoms on the Bookshelves
  • Bibliotopia Or, Mr. Gilbar's Book of Books & Catch-all of Literary Facts And Curiosities
  • A Reader on Reading
  • Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Book store
  • Walking a Literary Labyrinth
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
“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.” 7 likes
“Reading (...) is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.” 4 likes
More quotes…