What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Another one of my core values is learning as much as I can across disciplines, cultures, and geographies. And one of the chief ways I do that is through reading.

I’ve read hundreds of books across my lifetime, spanning fiction and non-fiction, and have given away hundreds of these same books during seasons of de-cluttering or moving households. I’ve gone through dozens of highlighters, and downloaded pages and pages of Kindle notes. I save my favorite quotes and excerpts in an A-Z Evernote file for quick and easy retrieval when I’m writing something or preparing a presentation.

“The right books are like crowbars for our imaginations,” writes NBA executive and literacy advocate Pat Williams in his book, Read For Your Life. “When we find ourselves stuck at some place in life, the right book can pry open our inner idea banks. You know those moments: life has become so routine you could do it in your sleep; in fact, you wish you could. You need a change, but you’re not sure if it calls for a career switch, a life overhaul, or just a new hairstyle. During these seasons, the right book challenges you to think differently, to see life in a new light, to bring resolution to a problem, or make a life-changing decision. Books can propel you out of life’s occasional ruts. Through their mind-expanding, heart swelling, pulse-quickening words and ideas, books become like WD-40 for our brains.”

Who doesn’t need a shot of WD-40 now and then?

Despite all the distractions that characterize our modern era, books are more popular than ever–in all formats–and more are being written and published every year. My local Barnes and Noble is always packed. Young people, including my daughters, love to read–especially paperback or hardback books. I’m usually surprised when someone tells me, “I’m not much of a reader,” and when I probe a little they usually elaborate by saying they prefer audio books as opposed to sitting still and flipping through pages. But when people tell me their attention span won’t allow them more than a short article or pod cast, I nudge them to practice making reading more of a priority. I’ve even heard one executive say (with a certain amount of pride) that he’s “never read a book,” and after a while and with the help of a couple of others I was able to lift my jaw back off of the table.

Reading books does not make a person “too philosophical, theoretical, high-level, pie-in-the-sky, dreamy, impractical,” or whatever label one might attach to the avid book nerd (oops, there’s another label). Reading, on the other hand, provides knowledge and depth that helps people formulate effective strategies for navigating complexity and making good choices–providing that they don’t spend all of their time reading and put off making actual decisions. In non-fiction works, readers learn from others who have made both good and poor decisions and have succeeded and failed, and fiction authors help readers explore imaginary worlds with characters who illuminate key aspects of the human experience and help us grapple with our own personal histories.

You show me any person who has truly changed the world for the better, and I’ll show you a reader.

What are you reading these days? How much are you reading? What’s keeping you from reading more, or from reading at all?

In response to your answer to that last question, I bet I can coach you to find some reading time you don’t assume you have at the moment. Trust me and try me; I’m a professional.