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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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.]
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2011
The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs is a little gem. The title immediately resonated with me and what a delight it was to read it. Not long, it is a slender volume but every word is a joy. The author is a great believer in reading on a Whim. "...lists of approved texts can, for some, make reading a drudgery. My son is one such person, it was the Aroma of Responsibility, Obligation and Virtue emanating from such lists that sent him flying".

As a professor of English he is asked for recommended reading lists from his students and he never complies with these requests. the author says that 'in a context of friendship and mutual interest the making of recommendations is a pleasure, outside of that it quickly becomes an onerous duty and I don't like mixing reading with onerous duties'

I could go on quoting this book forever as there are so many things in it with which I am in complete agreement. All book lovers should lay their hands on Alan Jacobs book and peruse from beginning to end. If you don't end up saying out loud Oh Yes and Oh Bang on and Yes I agree then I will be most surprised.
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on 27 September 2012
I am someone who has recently rediscovered the joys of reading so was fascinated by this well-written little book. At times I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the author but the one thing that I would disagree with him about is the use of lists or books such as 1001 Books to Read Before You Die. When I started reading a lot I found a lot of books that I had never heard of by using these sources & have now built up a very small library so that I can 'read at whim' as Alan Jacobs so wisely suggests. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading but who sometimes doubts their method or motives - they will certainly find answers & food for thought here.
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on 22 April 2012
This book will encourage you to read more, and to choose books on a whim. The book is written for people who have drifted away from reading, or like many young people, have not really acquired the habit.

It encourages reading for enjoyment. It is critical of Harold Bloom and his colleagues who have a canon of great books that need to be worked through. It discusses deep and attentive reading, electronic books and other current topics. It is enthusiastic about the deep and lasting pleasures that can be obtained from reading.
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on 4 May 2012
What a perfect little book. Both snappy and thoughtful, entertaining and challenging. I loved it.

(I would probably recommend getting a hard copy of this book. I love my kindle, and felt quite smug to be reading all Jacobs' praise of the kindle ON a kindle. However, there are no hyperlinks to the footnotes within the text of the kindle edition, which means I missed reading them in line with the rest of the book. They are entertaining so this was a loss!)
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on 27 October 2011
A pleasure to own. Alan Jacobs book is well written, easy to understand - although it is thought provoking. Also the book itself is nicely presented with clear print and is hand friendly. His students are fortunate!
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on 7 August 2012
Alan Jacobs exudes an irritating self confidence and an almost evangelical wish to liberate readers from negative thoughts about their own constipated approach to reading. There are some intended amusing moments and some possibly less intended irritating ones - though I suspect that the rather self conscious professor knows jolly well what he is doing. I enjoy reading and had hoped that this book might improve the quantum of pleasure that it brings and was regrettably disappointed.
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on 22 January 2012
Book was received in a timely fashion and in good shape. Thank you very much. I will order more in the future.
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on 25 September 2014
Not sure as I have been too distracted to read it.
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