Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
'Read at whim!'
on 10 August 2011
In this slim essay Alan Jacobs offers advice for those who have forgotten how to get pleasure from reading, who would like to get lost in a book but find there are too many distractions to enable sustained concentration. I picked this book up on a whim and as I read I thought that perhaps I was not really its intended audience, being able to pleasurably immerse myself in a book without anxiety or distraction. However Jacobs did make me think about the way I read (probably too fast) and I finished feeling invigorated, looking forward to reading with a new care, being freshly attentive to both the words on the page and the experience of reading itself.
Jacobs offers his counsel with intelligence and liberality, being didactic but not dogmatic. I was most impressed by his use of quotations which as well as being pertinent were a joy to read and opened up new arenas of reading from Machiavelli to David Foster Wallace, via Auden, Zweig, and others. The book ends with 'An Essay on Sources' which, without being a reading list, offers much inspiration.
As well as the beautifully written passages he quotes, Jacobs's own writing is also something to savour; for example in the following passage on the right time to re-read a favourite book:
"Lately I have been asking myself whether I have sufficiently forgotten the details of Patrick O'Brien's novels..that I can return to them with vibrant pleasure. I hover over those memories like a cook over a stewpot: in another year, I think, the books and I will be ready."
Jacobs has thoughtful things to say about the merits of reading on a Kindle or similar device; however, as the 'codex' version of this book is a nicely presented hardback with pleasing typography, I would recommend buying a hard copy.
[Disclaimer: I am an employee of Oxford University Press, this review reflects my personal opinions.]