In Defence of Literature: What Are the Benefits of Reading Books?
There is a great chance you’ve come across, even entered, these magical places we call bookstores. Maybe you were inside because you were looking to buy a present for your geeky friend. Or, because you run out of tape after packing all the other cool presents – clothes, video games, cosmetics, smart gadgets, shiny objects. Even though we know that these places are full of wisdom and knowledge we rarely take advantage of what they have to offer.
About 10 years ago, I used books as a tool, not as something to read. I used to put books on top of a wrinkled piece of paper so it can be straightened out. It sounds sad, I know.
At least I owned books.
In the era of AI, phones, notifications, alerts and all kind of other smart devices, the love for literature rapidly declines in favor of other cool activities. Watching television and scrolling on our phones are undoubtedly the winners in moments of relaxation. The previous traditional forms of entertainment – books and magazines – are no longer considered cool, therefore are less practiced.
But should we care about literature? Is the problem with not reading really a problem, or I’m just babbling?
We have Google, Facebook, Twitter, right? We have easy access to all the data in the world. If we want to know something we can quickly search for the answer online. We no longer have to read heavy books to answer difficult questions. We can simply ask Google and defend our argument when needed.
Since the world is evolving we should maybe reconsider our relationship with books and the way we obtain knowledge. Maybe it’s all about getting “whole lotta new money, drop tops, smokin’ on cookie in the hotbox” as the famous rappers sing in their songs. Or is it?1
In this post, I’ll do my best to make reading sound dope again and hopefully convince you to buy a book and actually read it. Before doing so though, let’s see the main reasons we don’t make room for reading in our lives.
Why We Don’t Read Books?
The 10 most common reasons people don’t read books nowadays:
It’s considered boring: You don’t see Kanye sharing photos reading, right? Therefore, you don’t do it;
It takes time: Reading a single book will take you a week. Even longer if you mix it up with playing video games;
It’s not interactive: Reading is a two-dimensional (2D) type of entertainment. You have the book itself and the words on each piece of paper. You don’t actually see what’s happening in the book. You have to imagine it. Unlike games, where things are interactive and in-depth;
Too many options: Not knowing what book to pick among the avalanche of options is surely a bummer. There are thousands of new titles published daily and it’s hard to pick;
Others might think that you’re a snob: Society doesn’t like smarty-pants type of guys and girls who quote books or famous authors. This makes them feel stupid, and people don’t want to feel dumb. They prefer to see themselves as athletic and knowledgeable inhabitants of the world. Even if the latter is not even close to the truth;
Books cost money: “Not only that I have to read it, but I also have to pay for it? The authors of the book should be paying me for my time!” – Yep, people do consider the cost of a book a valid reason for not reading.
We relate reading to studying and school: “I’m no longer in school, why should I read?” That’s a common perception of how we see the act of reading books. It’s actually quite normal. In school, we have to constantly read in order to move to the upper class. In school, reading is a chore and it continues to be perceived as the same type of activity after we’re out – not a joyful one. If we don’t change our perspective we’ll loathe reading;
It’s slow: Nowadays everything is moving uberly fast: fast internet connection, instant messages, fast shipping, immediate responses. The act of reading is a slow process.
Cool alternatives: In the era of video games and VR – all things I was dreaming about when I was 5 – reading is losing the battle. You don’t get to experience the same amount of emotions you can otherwise get when you’re playing a video game, for example;
Other: Help me out. I might be missing something. Share in the comments below why you’re not reading…
So, these are the most common reasons people don’t read books nowadays. Some of them are reasonable, we can tell.2
Nevertheless, I find reading books as one of the best habits you can adopt. Hopefully, I can persuade you at the end of the post to grab a book and unplug for a while from everything else.
Let’s see what are the advantages of reading books:
The Value of Reading Books
Reading Books Saves Time
Contrary to what we mentioned above, reading actually saves time. Here’s why:
In order a book to be published, the author must do a lot of research. It’s not like they have all the answers and everything inside is based on their experience and knowledge. They use outside sources to prove their point and make a case.
Even though this might provoke you to think that books are not original content – merely a new twist of old information. Mark Twain says it best:
There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” Mark Twain
Fiction books are often a result of the vivid imagination of the author but they too require prior analysis: research for a specific time and city, the personality of the characters and so on.
The amount of investigation is even bigger when the book is a nonfiction one. The writer should go through an enormous amount of data, curate it, and finally arrange it in an easily digestible way. This type of work requires time. A lot of times an author should read 20, 30 books and go through a bunch of other analysis in order to create a piece of content. And this type of work requires time – in a lot of occasions a couple of years.
If you want to learn about psychology, for instance, you can research the famous authors who specialized, and the others who still do, on this subject: read their work and their publications. This route, if you choose to follow it, might take you years, even decades.
In contrast, you can grab the most famous books on the subject, spend a month or two studying them and at the end have even better understanding on the subject of human psychology, than the previously mentioned learning method.
A good book, in essence, is a short form content produced after digesting an avalanche of information. It’s like squeezing a fruit. The end result is an easy to digest juice of vitamins. In our case, the vitamins are valuable information.
Reading broadens your perspective
It’s not a secret that reading will teach you something.
Each individual book is written on a specific subject. The author usually asks questions and after that answers them with facts, analysis, and also express his personal opinion on the topic.
Even if you’re familiar with the topic the book is about, you’ll certainly learn something new. The least will be a new point of view, which is always valuable in the world where everything changes really fast as explained.
Books picture different situations and offer solutions to not so common questions. This by itself makes you better problem-solver. Even if the situation in the book is not related to your lifestyle, you can use pieces of what’s mention and tailor it to make your life better.
If you’re reading a book about becoming a better salesman but if you’re not in the business, sort to say. You can use the information and the techniques mentioned to persuade others to buy you a taco when you’re hungry. Everyone loves free tacos.3
In addition, books help you travel through time. You can go a couple of years back if you read about World War 1 and 2 or hop to the possible future by enjoying the imaginary world presented in Ready Player One.
All this data expands your horizon and gives you different ways to solve a possible future, or even presents problems you face in your life.
The information you’ll find in the books can even help you get a date. No kidding. Seak for Neil Strauss’s books. 4
Reading Can Make You An Expert
The usual path to success is through trial and error. You try something. It sucks. You go bankrupt. You do it again. You fail again. You blame the government or your spouse. Either way, you’re losing. Till one day, after unhuman efforts, something happens and finally, success knocks on your door and sits comfortably on your couch- at least for a while.
It’s normal to fail a bunch of times when you’re starting something. You didn’t know everything when you’ve opened your own bakery, for instance. That’s why you failed and now you’re working a 9 to 5 job, again.
Reading prepares you for possible situations. It gives you pre-made solutions to future problems and conditions.
For instance, if you’re pregnant, you’ll most probably read a book or two about becoming a mother. Yes, you can ask your mommy friends but they might miss something. Also, you might dislike the way they treat their child, therefore a piece of advice from them won’t be really valid.
A book on the subject will surely prepare you though. It won’t be like the real thing – trying to cook a meal while nursing your child – but you’ll surely have more knowledge on the subject than before.
Reading Can Help You Dodge Failure
Books are often bought with the presumption that the information inside will make us rich and successful – “We’ll no longer have to go to work and we’ll live happily ever after.” And who can blame us, we see these type of messages on pretty much every book cover: “Get my book and become successful in 30 days.”
In reality through, the primary effect of a good book is to dodge future failures.
A book, no matter how good it is, won’t make you a fortune. It might give you a direction in life or idea about starting a business but it’s up to you to do the work and achieve something.
Books usually explain situations of bitterness and present a possible way to escape them.
The protagonist is constantly facing challenges. Never resting and never truly succeeding. The way the main character overcomes each new bump on the road is expanding our knowledge on the subject and placing a new tool in our box of problem-solving skills.
The best books are the ones who are full of drama, misfortunes, and troubles. They revel parts of the problem we’ve never seen before which is always better than explaining how you can succeed if you simply “work hard.”5
Reading Helps You Focus
Since everything is moving fast: fast cars, fast food, fast internet connecting, instant communication. It’s becoming harder and harder to focus. We’re experts in multitasking but we usually suck at single-tasking.
Don’t believe me? Try turning off your TV and NOT checking your phone for 10 minutes. The silence will kill you.
You may think that doing 100 things at the same time is an advantage and it will soon become discipline in the Olympic games. But in reality, you’re not really doing 100 things. You’re starting one thing, then abandoning it, then starting third… Bottom line, you’re just wasting your time and not really achieving anything. Also, I don’t think that this will soon become part of the Olympics. Sorry to disappoint.
Learning to execute one task at a time, it’s the preferred option. The best way to hone this skill is by reading.
Leave your phone in the other room. Turn off the TV. Play some classical music if there is an outside noise. Finally, concentrate on the words inside the book.
An urge to check your phone will emerge from the inside. Don’t worry, it’s normal. If your device is really in the other room you’ll resist it. Page after page you’ll think less and less about what’s happening around and more in what’s happening in your mind. This repeated form of action will make you a more focused person.
The Modern Benefits of Reading Books
OK, the above are the main advantages of reading. Still, they might sound too boring for your sophisticated nature. Don’t worry. I’ve prepared an extra set of why’s – why reading should be part of your busy, social life full of Insta stories, post likes, status updates, YouTube comments. They might sound shallow and not that significant at first, but I believe they’re equally important to what I’ve added above:
Books look nice online: You haven’t updated your Instagram for a while because you don’t know what to share? Picture of a book is always something trendy. Take a snap of that heavy bastard and share it with a bunch of hashtags. People will think you’re smart;
Books are a conversation starter: Don’t know what to say to the cutie standing right next to you at a party? Sharing a quote from one of the Harry Potter’s books is a great way to involve a girl and show her your bright side. Girls dig Harry Potter man. Get to know that funny-looking, glasses-wearing, wand-shaving, cloak-wearing dude and girls will line-up to talk to you.
Rappers also write books: You don’t think reading is cool? Well, you might reconsider. There are a lot of books written by famous rappers. Some of them are Decoded by Jay-Z, The Wu-Tang Manual by The RZA, The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Green.
Books expand your vocabulary: Even if your vocabulary is awesome, there is still room for improvement. The more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, understand better, start using. This will surely help you when you leave comments under posts and YouTube videos. Others will think you’re the God of commenting. This equals a lot of likes. Everybody loves getting more likes.
Reading inspires: In the world of entrepreneurs, you need to be inspired like the rest of the dudes who hustle and grind. In the moments of sadness and lack of new good posts to comment under, read a couple of pages of a good book. This will surely inspire you to continue what you’re doing.
Extra note: Even if you don’t really have time to read, you might consider observing some book summaries. Like the ones I share in this section of my site: actionable book summaries. I curate top-ranked nonfiction books. I squeeze the essential information inside and give you some actionable notes that you can apply right away.
Some Closing Thoughts
Regardless of the fact that reading will take a bit longer than playing a video game on your phone. The absolute truth that there are other, cooler, activities that are available nowadays. Reading is still among the top 3 habits of the most successful people on the planet.
Maybe this whole post is not convincing enough put people like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg can’t be all wrong – they all read, a lot.6
If you still don’t think that you should read. You don’t give a damn that the most successful people on the planet take some time from their busy schedules to go through a book. The least you can do is take a picture of a book and share it online. Who knows, you might inspire someone else to read more.
However, If you love reading, you adore this activity and don’t consider it as a chore, share this post and let’s together make reading cool again.
Guess from which song are these lyrics?
Especially reason number 6.
To be honest, I don’t really think that there is any type of business, or career, where selling, as a skill, is excluded. You’re selling every day: a new concept to your boss, you convince your wife that she has to do the dishes today, you sell your idea every time you speak to your children. If they don’t buy it, you’ll end up arranging their toys, yourself, again. Bottom line, get a book about selling man. This will help you persuade others.
If you suck at hitting on girls, read The Game by Neil Strauss. It will change your life.
Working hard is not so much of an advice. Everybody can tell you that working hard is a way to succeed. The idea is to understand how to continue to work hard regardless of all the troubles you’ll inevitably face along the way.
I’m not laying. You can search online or check this post, here.