Your brain on books

From Laura Miller, in a Salon book review of Susan Jacoby’s new book, The Age of American Unreason:

“I believe that reading fosters a particular mental stamina, discipline, creativity and flexibility that can’t be acquired from other media. In a future dominated by complex social systems, technology and science, only people who can think in this fashion will have enough understanding of how the world works to actually run it. And to remain truly democratic, America should be made up of citizens who are able to think that way.”


“As Jacoby astutely points out, reading does not “constitute a continuous invasion of individual thought and consciousness … printed works do not take up mental space simply by virtue of being there; attention must be paid or their content, whether simple or complex, can never be truly assimilated.” Unless you make a point of turning off the TV and putting the computer to sleep, they can easily fill up your day and mind, gradually atrophying the mental muscles uniquely exercised by reading. Abstaining, for many people, turns out to be as easy as bypassing a cupboard stocked with chips and cookies and snacking on carrot sticks instead. To hope that the American public will pick the nutritious but difficult over the easy and tasty is to bet on a losing horse.”

Related links:
Twilight of the Books, New Yorker
Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading, Harpers (by Ursula K. LeGuin; subscription required)
How Reading is Being Reimagined, Chronicle of Higher Eduation

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4 Responses to Your brain on books

  1. Charlotte says:

    So readers will rule the world? That’s OK with me.I’ve started the practice of leaving my laptop upstairs. If I bring it downstairs I find I surf aimlessly, but if I leave it where I seldom go then I tend to use it more purposefully.


  2. great post, I am hoping to get some suggestions from you –am going to go back through your blog tomorrow and look at the posts.


  3. bookfraud says:

    great post. finally, someone puts into words what i’ve thought for a long time — it’s not just reading that counts, it’s the act of reading, it’s the discipline. reading voraciously doesn’t teach one as much about anything than it teaches you how to think. not unlike math, or a foreign language.i don’t think i’ve posted on this blog before, and i don’t know how i got here, but i like what i see.


  4. Amanda says:

    How sad. I’m sad that so many people miss out on reading. I can’t imagine my life without books!!!


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