Reports of the death of reading are greatly exaggerated.
Do you worry that you've lost patience for anything longer than a tweet? If so, you're not alone. Digital-age pundits warn that as our appetite for books dwindles, so too do the virtues in which printed, bound objects once trained us: the willpower to focus on a sustained argument, the curiosity to look beyond the day's news, the willingness to be alone. The shelves of the world's great libraries, though, tell a more complicated story. Examining the wear and tear on the books that they contain, English professor Leah Price finds scant evidence that a golden age of reading ever existed. From the dawn of mass literacy to the invention of the paperback, most readers already skimmed and multitasked. Print-era doctors even forbade the very same silent absorption now recommended as a cure for electronic addictions. The evidence that books are dying proves even scarcer. In encounters with librarians, booksellers, and activists who are reinventing old ways of reading, Price offers fresh hope to bibliophiles and literature lovers alike.
"Leah Price's radiantly intelligent book makes us rethink and re-view the endlessly alive, endlessly shape-shifting and self-reinventing activity that is reading. Its cracking readability - when was the last time you had to disable the wifi for a book on books? - should not disguise how cogently and coherently it is argued, and the depth of learning with which its arguments are meticulously substantiated. It is also profoundly witty, funny, and beautifully written (when was the last time you thought that about a book on books?). You emerge, after turning the last page, a smarter, better informed, joyous person." (Neel Mukherjee, Man Booker Prize-finalist author of The Lives of Others and A State of Freedom)
"Predictions of the death of the book weren't only greatly exaggerated; as Leah Price notes in What We Talk About When We Talk About Books, they were old news. The book has survived numerous death sentences in the past, and this time, as before, it's been the occasion to reinvent old practices of reading. What the Victorians called "furniture books" continue to adorn coffee tables and the Ikea shelves widened to accommodate them. People still hold books in their laps on couches and in coaches (enjoying the "library atmosphere" of Amtrak quiet cars). Self-help books have their roots the "bibliotherapy" proposed a century ago. It is still a very bookish world that we inhabit, and I know of no guide to it more witty and engaging than Leah Price, whose insights, erudition, and apercus had me dog-earing every other page." (Geoff Nunberg, resident linguist, NPR's Fresh Air)
"Price combines a lighthearted romp through literary history with a serious intent: to argue that the rise of e-texts is not the radical change often claimed...Provides welcome comfort that the beloved book is in good shape, regardless of the form it ultimately takes." (Publishers Weekly)