Thursday, August 19, 2021

Book Review: The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of DistractionThe Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.  Alan Jacobs. Oxford University Press (2011). 162 pages.  Genre:  Non-fiction.

First Line:  "A while back my teenage son drifted into the room where I was reading, tilting his head to catch the title of the book in my hands."

Summary: We often hear these days that reading is on the decline, that fewer people than ever before are reading.  Even those of us who love reading find ourselves, at times, distracted.  In this book, Alan Jacobs contradicts the idea that reading is on the decline.  He is in contact on a daily basis with people who read and who want to know what they should read.  It is the question of "what should you read" and why that he attempts to address in this book.

My thoughts:  I found this book interesting, but I also found it frustrating at times.  I often felt that the author was going to make a point that never got made.  I found myself going back in the book to see what a section was supposed to be about.  However, I did copy many quotes into my commonplace book.  Here are some things I took away from the book:

1. A reminder that the most important reason to read books is that they bring us pleasure.

2. Don't turn reading into the intellectual equivalent of eating organic greens - because something is good for you or to check it off a list.

3.  Read at whim.

4. "Read what gives you delight - at least most of the time - and do so without shame."

5. A great way to determine what to read next is to find out what an author you love read and read that.

6. Rereading books can help you understand yourself better. 

7. Very little of our growth as readers can be planned. 

8. Serendipity (discovering things you were not looking for) in our reading life is desirable.

9. Serendipity can be cultivated.

10. "I used to try to determine in advance what books I would read over the summer, but eventually realized that to put any book on such a list nearly guaranteed that I would not read it."  This is my favorite quote from the book because I have felt and said the exact same thing.

This is probably a book that needs to be read more than once to fully appreciate.  However, I came away from it with lots to think about.  


  1. That's an interesting read. Great review. Thanks for sharing the quotes.

  2. This sounds interesting. I can identify with so many of those quotes and I need to really consider them.

    Thanks for the great review.

    1. You're welcome, Yvonne! The book gave me a lot to think about as well.

  3. Thanks for your post, You are going to love this: The title rang a bell, and I was going to write, thanks for the warning, I'll take it off my TBR. Then I go to Goodreads, and realize that I did actually read it, 6 years ago, I even gave it 4 stars. But I didn't post any review on my blog nor any comment on Goodreads, so I have really no memory at all of the book!!

    1. That's funny, Emma! It was hard to write a review about. While he did make some points I agreed with, it was hard to grasp what he was really getting at.

  4. I read this some time ago. I felt like the book could have used a good editor.

    1. You may be right about that Deb. It was almost like a stream of consciousness.