An Underused Skill: The Case for Reading Books

A Neatly Arranged Bookshelf.

*Originally written April 23, 2016

Imagine you had the power to peer inside somebody’s mind.

With this ability you could gain valuable information useful for learning new skills and achieving more success. The power would act as an equalizer for the one who wields it.

You may be an intelligent person, but there is always that somebody out there who knows just a little more. The power to peer inside somebody’s mind would do much to shorten this bridge that separates your intelligence from that somebody else. It might seem evident to you that this power is only present in science fiction films.

What you may not know is that this power is ever-present in reality as much as it is in fiction.

A person can unlock and utilize this power by opening a book.

A book invites you to open it. The title specifies it, narrowing down its possibilities. The short description found on the back or the inside panel is a sample of its contents that lay within. A published book is in need of an audience. Books are intended for reading and the author has given you explicit permission.

As every ending has a beginning, every book has an author. The author’s knowledge and experience is different from your own. Everything compiled in the written work is a representation of this person. By writing and then publishing this collection of organized thoughts, the author is granting you the power to peer inside their mind. There is no better way to increase your intelligence than by acting on this grant of power and opening a book.

Books over Film, A More Interactive Medium

Books are more valuable than film. I make this assertion not to devalue film and artistry observable by the eye, but only to emphasize the unique information transfer that book reading allows.

One of the most crucial differences between a book and a film is the control given to the consumer. A film starts when you hit play and it continues. On and on without stopping until it reaches its final scene. Books don’t begin unless the reader says so.

A book begins the moment a reader lays eyes on the page, but is just as quickly ground to a screeching halt the moment the reader removes their eyes. If a passage needs to be re-read to ensure understanding, if a page needs to be skipped over, or if a dictionary referenced for clarity than a reader may do so with absolute control.

Reading a book then becomes inherently peaceful and relaxing. People are generally relaxed when they feel in control. It is times of apparent instability and uncertainty that people begin to stress.

Permanence and Convenience

The nature of books and the written word lends itself to more permanence and stability than a film. This is another way books allow for more control which gives a person more incentive to record their thoughts by writing rather than via film. There are no electronics necessary to read a book. Turning the page is the only requirement.

Therefore books are very portable and convenient. Taken almost anywhere and read in almost any environment, books were the first “iPhones” with the ability to deliver large amounts of information to a person at almost any given moment.

Readers in America

You would think that with this easy access to information and other peoples’ thoughts that more people would be walking bibliophiles. Unfortunately this is not the case. Just two years ago, nearly a quarter of Americans had not read one book during the entire year![1] That is unbelievable.

This is in contrast with a Nielsen report that found Americans watch on average four hours of TV per day.[2] People are not taking advantage of the information being granted to them by thousands of authors worldwide. Instead they waste away their days watching multiple hours of TV when that time could be easily invested in a book.

A Call to Action

People need to pick up a book. As much as people want to achieve success, learn the habits of the wealthy, and acquire new skills they neglect one of the original mediums for acquiring all of this. You may never meet Bill Gates and be in a position to ask him questions about how he runs a business, but you can do the next best thing and open a book. Realistically, this is the closest you will ever be to having a conversation with Bill Gates, but the knowledge gained may end up being invaluable to your success. Take a chance and read at least one damn book this year!

[1] Weissmann, Jordan (January 21, 2014). The Decline of the American Book Lover. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-decline-of-the-american-book-lover/283222/

[2] Content is King, But Viewing Habits Vary by Demographic (December 3, 2014). The Nielsen Company. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/content-is-king-but-viewing-habits-vary-by-demographic.html

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