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December 6, 2010

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

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!)

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