To Read or To Have Read

Rush Books, Journal

2 min to read


Thanks for checking out The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs! I finished it, and found it really interesting and helpful. As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about the pursuit of pleasure in various parts of life. This book shed light on an experience common to me and many other people, I think.

I don’t mean to spoil the plot when I tell you a main theme focuses on the difference between finding pleasure in reading or in having read. I’ve often seen in your reading habit a greater desire to have read book, rather than seeking pleasure in the reading of them. You’ve shown a practicing of reading because it promises a benefit to come after you’ve finished the book. There’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking the after-effects, but it can go wrong. For instance, you sometimes work through a list of books because you think it will impress people or because you’ll have a sense of accomplishment in the end.

At one time or another, we’ve both pushed through to the end of a bad or unnecessarily long book just to say we finished it. Or on the front end, I think we’ve started a book or reading list—not because of joy for reading, but for some sort of strange commitment to having read.

I think we should watch this, and work back in the directions Alan Jacobs highlights. This fits in well with a view of life that centers glorifying God through enjoying Him and His good gifts. I suggest we work at two changes. First, focus on the pleasures of reading, in the actual moments of reading. Don’t merely hustle to the end with a hope of some final reward for having read. Second, recognize the rising sense that reading is a duty or obligation. And when that sense of duty presses into the foreground, slow down and pursue the joy of this good gift. Fight for the delight.

If we can make some progress in this way of reading, it will give some momentum into other areas in which we need this kind of change.

– Rush