So, I’ve been thinking about whether or not to write this article as it might cause a heavy backlash from the three website visitors who will accidentally land here from LinkedIn, but I made the decision to write after reading this tweet from James Clear.
And just like any other article on the internet, while the topic is not entirely original, I feel it’s high time that I write this article as I’ve noticed this trend in recent times.
Very often, while scrolling through my Twitter and LinkedIn feed, I come across people who tout the number of business/self-development/self-help books they’ve read in a year. The number tends to be somewhere between 50-100 and sometimes above 100.
While this feat is certainly commendable, I wonder how much impact the books are creating in their lives. In an age of information overload where ideas are a dime a dozen and whatever information we need is just a search query away, the quote, “We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom.” by E.O. Wilson couldn’t be any truer.
The reason I’ve specifically mentioned business books is the purpose of reading. We primarily read books to either derive pleasure (Fiction books) or gain knowledge (Non-fiction books). You can read as many fiction books as you want because technically there is no end goal to it, whereas when someone’s reading a business book, it’s with an aim to gain insights that would help them get ahead in their profession.
The beauty of a book lies in letting it grow on you. The pursuit of chasing a number robs us of the pure joy or an idea a book has to offer. It’s the same with listening to music as well.
Btw, what was the last time you heard an album in its entirety?
Reading a book is just a part of the process. How well you retain and comprehend what you’ve read, and how you contemplate the newly found knowledge is equally important.
One of the reasons this trend is gaining momentum is because of major publication websites writing how the secret of becoming wealthy (Monetary wealth, duh!) is to read a truckload of books. But upon stressing our brain a little, we can easily come up with a number of millionaires who wouldn’t care to read a book.
Another pet peeve of mine is famous people in this niche promoting books (20 Books You Must Read!) that shouldn’t have been anything more than a blog post.
In Moral Letters to Lucilius/Letter 2 (On Discursiveness in Reading), Seneca the Younger says,
Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere. When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends. And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.
He further says,
“But,” you reply, “I wish to dip first into one book and then into another.” I tell you that it is the sign of an overnice appetite to toy with many dishes; for when they are manifold and varied, they cloy but do not nourish. So you should always read standard authors; and when you crave a change, fall back upon those whom you read before.
It’s always better to read fewer books and implement them in our lives than reading too many books and merely appreciating them without applying anything. Also, skimming books without digesting them might lead to analysis paralysis as you have the knowledge, but no insight.
The key is to be ultra-choosey while selecting books. And you become ultra-choosey by sticking to the classics in your niche, the books that I have stood the test of time (Not the most original advice. I know.)
So, do you have to agree with my opinion?
Absolutely not! Feel free to go on your way, and arrive at a conclusion by logic or experiments rather than by following some random dude’s article on the internet.
Thank you if you are still reading the articles despite the occasional digressions. To conclude, I’d like to leave you with a quote by Epictetus,
Image Credits: Ugur Akdemir
Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.