More Personal Than Authoritative

The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time - David L. Ulin

This version of The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin is a revised edition previously published in 2010.  It contains a new Introduction and Afterword reflecting important cultural and technological changes that have occurred over the past eight years.  Ulin uses these updated sections to describe and bemoan current trends in the US in terms of freedom of speech, privacy concerns, censorship controversies, and race relations.  He does not hesitate to excoriate the election results of 2016, making his political opinions pretty clear from the start when he describes: “…the racist rhetoric that runs, like excrement, from the President’s mouth.”   It seems that Ulin could have written a separate book on that subject, especially given the fact that these parts of the book take up almost 25% of the total.  The rest of The Lost Art of Reading contains some very personal anecdotes and broad assumptions based on seemingly only on his own experience.  The author digresses into history and sports analogies, explaining that everything can be considered a “story” and is thus relevant to his discussion.  Ulin relates his own dismay at discovering an uncharacteristic inability to maintain sustained attention and interest in his reading.  He uses the frame of helping his son with a school assignment to demonstrate the younger generation’s lack of interest in traditional modes of reading. He notes that the Internet, with its sheer saturation effect and many distractions, has impeded people’s ability to concentrate on text as is required.  He also seems skeptical of the value of e-readers and cites their limitations, although his observations are based on outdated technology from 2010. This new release of The Lost Art of Reading would have benefitted from a complete update throughout so advances in this area could have been considered.  Ulin’s book is most interesting if approached more like an extended essay or personal memoir than a definitive text.  Those seeking a research-based or global approach to current trends in reading would be better served by searching elsewhere.