Given the launch of Kindle Unlimited, now seems a good time to recommend three books that look at how technology is changing the way we read and receive stories:
The first to recommend is Alan Jacobs’ book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. There are three things I particularly admire about this book: First, Jacobs addresses technological shifts (and really does take them seriously) without resorting to lots of handwringing and alarmism. Second, he reminds his readers that reading ought to be fun. This is particularly useful in a book like his because the sort of person who picks up a book with such a title is likely the same sort of person who has read How to Read a Book or Amusing Ourselves to Death and has taken some really bad lessons from both. Jacobs’ book is a great antidote to that. Third, Jacobs’ loyalty is to the written word, not to any single device we might use for reading. So he manages to speak intelligently about codices (conventional books) as well as Kindles and other e-readers. (As long as you’re reading him, you should also read his lecture “Christianity and the Future of the Book.”)
The second I’d recommend is Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson. It’s not a perfect book and if you only are going to read one of my recommendations, read Jacobs. But Johnson’s book is an interesting and engaging look at how pop culture is getting smarter and how technological innovations have helped make that happen. For Berry-loving luddite-types like myself, this is a really helpful counter. (His discussion of TV shows is especially good and helps explain the marked increase in quality we’ve seen on TV in the past 10-15 years.)
The third is Susan Maushart’s The Winter of Our Disconnect. Maushart is a single mom living in western Australia who decided to unplug in her house for six months–and she took her children along for the ride. This is a fun read because you get to hear first-hand how the experience changed her and her kids and how they brought screen devices back into their home after the six months ended. She also looks at different research that has been done on the effects screen devices have on us. It’s a breezy, fun read that still manages to teach its readers something interesting and helpful.