Book review: The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time (David L. Ulin)

Via Todd Mayville
on Dec 5, 2010
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Some years ago, an administrator in the district where I worked asked a group of English teachers why it was important for students to read a novel. After the stunned silence had passed into shock, dismay, and a general (internal and collective) shaking of our heads, we explained the reason why it was important for high school students, many of whom in the district didn’t own a single book, needed the skills necessary to complete the reading of at least one novel in their high school careers. If The Lost Art of Reading had existed at the time, said administrator would likely have ended up with multiple copies delivered to her office the next day.

This outstanding book/essay is based on an essay that originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times in August of 2009. Triggered by the sentiment from his high school aged son that “…reading is over,” Ulin reflects on the importance of reading in general, whether print or electronic format (though he has a clear preference for print format when it comes to books, as do I). Offering criticism that while the world wide web has served to make more information available to us, it hasn’t necessarily made us better informed, nor has it helped us to become more reflective in our actions or thoughts. Through immersion in a book, Ulin tells us, we are better able to equip ourselves for the verities of life and for better understanding of who we are not only as individuals, but as a society as well.

Appropriately, I came across this book while browsing the shelves of the Boulder Bookstore, something that would not have happened had I been browsing online and makes the argument not only for books but for bookstores themselves. From Sasquatch Books and available from your local, independent bookstore. (Shop local! Shop independent! Tell ‘em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)


About Todd Mayville

Todd is a single dad of four diverse and lively kids, and is an English teacher and climbing team coach at a local public high school. A rock climber, cyclist and avid reader, Todd also practices yoga and meditation as often as he possibly can, which helps him stay at least a little centered and sane.


5 Responses to “Book review: The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time (David L. Ulin)”

  1. Joe Mohr says:

    Great post, Todd.
    I hope books and bookstores do not die off!

  2. My three adult children are all avid readers today because when they were growing up TV was severely restricted, whereas books and reading were unlimited. Two of the three don't even have TVs in their homes today!

    I'm certainly with you and the author on this one!

    Bob W.

  3. Yogini33# says:

    As someone who can learn and/or enjoy best from the printed word (up to and including text online), I have to admit and reaffirm that there is a qualitative difference between the mode of transmission of the verbal medium [online (and interactive) text vs. pocket electronic text transmission of books vs. the actual printed page]. Marshall McLuhan was right: the medium IS the message … and the more electronic the transmission gets (even if it is remains words and still photos …), the "cooler" the medium gets … the receiver of the message (=you—the reader/watcher/scroller) has more of a chance for distraction, inattention, lack of recall and ego to muddy up the reception of the message …

  4. Hi, Yogini33#.

    I think this must be a very individual thing. I've been reading books exclusively on my Kindle now for several months and I haven't noticed any difference at all in my comprehension, recall, or enjoyment. And I've been reading some fairly heavy books, like Feuerstein's massive "The Yoga Tradition". No problem. And I love the search feature. I love the fact that I can hear about a book and be reading it within minutes. And now I no longer have to try to figure out which books I want to take on a trip. I can take all of them.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  5. […] year I’m going to read one book every month!” Or, “This year I’m going to learn how to cook!” Or, […]