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Can We Teach Love of Reading?

August 2nd, 2011 by Chris Strauber

Alan Jacobs, writing for the Chronicle, is dubious. He makes a really sensible distinction between reading for pleasure (deeply, immersively) and reading for information (skimming masses of information to identify where to focus), and suggests that deep, attentive reading of works of literature is a bit of a historical anomaly as a mass phenomenon. I’m inclined to agree that it’s unnecessary to worry for the fate of our intellectual life just because we can suddenly see so much more writing and discourse that’s un-literary and un-scholarly. It’s a really well-written piece, with a nice list of suggested reading. Here’s how to find the most interesting bits:

Jacobs cites Nicholson Baker’s The Shallows, Bacon’s Essay “Of Studies” (it’s number L in his Essays, in print or in EEBO), Rose’s The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Brown’s biography of St. Augustine, Blair’s Too Much To Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age, and an article by Griswold, McDonnell, and Wright called “Reading and the Reading Class in the Twenty-First Century“. It’s a great bibliography, and bonus points for talking about the intellectual underpinnings of the Dewey Decimal system.

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