Recovering the joy of reading for fun

This past month or so, I have spent some time reflecting on reading as I read, among others, How to Read a book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. These are two books I consider excellent in helping on develop the art of reading. My heart has been jolted by

the message especially to be found in the latter book where he encourages us to recover the art of reading just for the fun of it. Here are some brief notes and highlights. 

We have lost the wonderful art of reading in this age of distraction.

“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” – Nicholas Carr: Is Google making us stupid? 

We are in such a hurry that we don´t have time to read leisurely.
“…intellectual nurture cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People who are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the gospel have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking,” – Charles Malik: The Two Tasks 

There is need to relearn what it means to read for fun, for love.

“The critic said that once a year he read Kim; and he read Kim, it was plain, at whim: not to teach, not to criticize, just for love—he read it, as Kipling wrote it, just because he liked to, wanted to, couldn’t help himself. To him it wasn’t a means to a lecture or article, it was an end; he read it not for anything he could get out of it, but for itself. And isn’t this what the work of art demands of us? The work of art, Rilke said, says to us always: You must change your life. It demands of us that we too see things as ends, not as means—that we too know them and love them for their own sake. This change is beyond us, perhaps, during the active, greedy, and powerful hours of our lives; but during the contemplative and sympathetic hours of our reading, our listening, our looking, it is surely within our power, if we choose to make it so, if we choose to let one part of our nature follow its natural desires. So I say to you, for a closing sentence, Read at whim! read at whim!”  – Randall Jarrell:  Read at whim  Poets, Critics and Readers 

And to recover that precious feeling of being lost in a book.

“And so, belatedly, haltingly, accidentally, and quite implausibly and incredibly, it began at last: my education. I wasn’t sure what it would get me, whose approval it might win, or how long it might take to complete (forever, I had an inkling), but for once those weren’t my first concerns. Alone in my room, congested and exhausted, I forgot my obsession with self-advancement. I wanted to lose myself. I wanted to read. Instead of filling in the blanks, I wanted to be a blank and be filled in.”  –  Walter Kirn: Lost in the Meritocracy: The Undereducation of an Overachiever

Have fun as you read.

“Reading for the sheer delight of it—reading at whim—is therefore one of the most important kinds of reading there is. By all means strive to be a better reader, to grow in attentiveness, responsiveness, and charity; but whatever you do, don’t forget to allow yourself to have fun.”  – Alan Jacobs: How to read a book: 

One way to go about recovering is to shut off the internet and just read as did Comedian Aziz Ansari. 

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In short, go pick up that book you have been postponing to read for some time and get lost in reading it this weekend.

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