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in: Books, Classics, Podcast, Travel & Leisure

February 24, 2020 Last updated: March 26, 2020

Podcast #587: How to Get More Pleasure and Fulfillment Out of Your Reading

Do you have a goal of reading more, but any time you start working on that goal, it feels like a chore? The equivalent of eating your broccoli?

My guest today argues that the problem is likely due to the fact that you’re trying to read what you think you should be reading, instead of reading what you actually enjoy. 

His name is Alan Jacobs. He’s a professor of literature and the author of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. At the start of our conversation Alan offers a critique of a certain approach to reading the so-called “Great Books,” and makes an argument for choosing what you read based on Whim, with a capital W, rather than following any kind of list. He then makes the case for following that Whim into reading not only the books of your favorite authors, but the books your favorite authors read, which can actually lead you back to the Great Books, but in a way that will allow you to enjoy and appreciate them more. Alan makes the case as well for the value of re-reading books. Alan and I then discuss tactics to get more out of reading in our age of distraction, including his opinion on reading ebooks versus paper copies. We also get into his take on speed reading and whether it’s okay to not finish books you’re not digging. We end our conversation with what parents can do to raise eager readers. 

If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.

Show Highlights

  • Alan’s beef with legendary critics Mortimer Adler and Harold Bloom
  • Why you need to sometimes read Harry Potter instead of Shakespeare
  • Reading at “Whim” 
  • Reading “upstream” of your favorite authors 
  • Why re-reading is always worth it 
  • Naturally arriving at the Great Books rather than forcing it 
  • Why masterpieces aren’t necessarily supposed to be read daily
  • CS Lewis’s advice on reading (and re-reading) 
  • The value of bookstores and libraries 
  • What happens if all you seem to enjoy are the “cheap calories” of books? 
  • Reading in our age of distraction
  • Is there a difference between reading ebooks and paper books?
  • On marginalia 
  • Different kinds of reading for different types of books 
  • On not finishing books 
  • Raising kids who enjoy reading and books 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Alan 

Alan’s website

Alan on Twitter

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