The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin
Seattle. Sasquatch. 2010. vi + 151 pages. $12.95. isbn 978-1-57061- 670-9
We have all experienced it before: while attempting to read, our phone pings, alerting us to the arrival of a new text, email, Tweet, or status update. And try as we might to forget that it happened and continue reading, we simply cannot ignore the itching anxiety we feel at not knowing immediately what it says. We stop reading (oftentimes midsentence), put down the book, and check our phones, immersing ourselves in a technologically driven world that David Ulin calls "the buzz." In his newest book, The Lost Art of Reading, Ulin explores the importance of the stolen moment, the quiet solitude provided by reading a book, and the ways in which our lives are shaped and enriched by reading.
This is not, however, a personal vendetta against technology; in fact, as he states in the book, Ulin himself is an avid user of such technologies as the iPod, the Blackberry, and various e-readers. And, as he so astutely points out, books also belong on the technological continuum: the invention of movable type radicalized the entire world and shaped the future of literacy. Instead, the book serves to create a dialogue between print and technology, presenting both as viable ways to do what Ulin considers most important in today's changing world: reading.
Though highly informational, the book reads similar to a novel; with poignancy and humor, Ulin retells his own experiences from his reading-centered youth. He entreats us to remember, as he has done, what it felt like to find a story so compelling and personal that we felt absolutely and deeply connected to the characters, the setting, the plot—to remember how we felt when we finished our favorite book. Only when we realize this will we be able to retake our lives from the technology that continually surrounds and overpowers us and once again see ourselves through the eyes of another. For Ulin, as for many of us, books are the only way we can step back from the humdrum of life and cure the anxiety caused by "the buzz."
David Ulin has written a phenomenal piece that will inspire anyone to immediately pick up another book to read. Literature is not irrelevant; it is not dead—it is necessary and vital to our very existence. So, whatever your medium, remember what is most important: keep reading!
University of Oklahoma