A room without books is like a body without a soul.
The rules have changed. True power is held by the person who possesses the largest bookshelf, not gun cabinet or wallet.
Anthony J. D'Angelo
If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When my son was in high school, he complained about all the reading he had to do. He said, "Dad, I don't understand why we have to read all these books and memorize facts. If I need to know anything, I can just Google it." He had an excellent point. Unlike the pre-Internet days when you had to look up topics in the encyclopedia or visit the library for information, today almost anything you need to know is available instantly by computer or smartphone. Dinnertime debates about people or facts can be immediately settled with an iPhone. So, why bother to read books any more?
Successful people read books. The amount of time spent reading is directly correlated to academic success and income. If you read more, you will do better in school and earn more money—it is as simple as that.
The conclusion of an extensive National Endowment of the Arts study entitled To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Significance is powerful:
All of the data suggest how powerfully reading transforms the lives of individuals—whatever their social circumstances. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed. It is reassuring, though hardly amazing, that readers attend more concerts and theater than non-readers, but it is surprising that they exercise more and play more sports—no matter what their educational level. The cold statistics confirm something that most readers know but have mostly been reluctant to declare as fact— books change lives for the better.
The benefits of reading are shown by these results:
• More than 60% of employed Proficient readers have jobs in management, or in the business, financial, professional, and related sectors, compared to only 18% of Basic readers employed in those fields.
• Proficient readers are 2.5 times as likely as Basic readers to be earning $850 or more a week.
• Literary readers are more than 3 times as likely as non-readers to visit museums, attend plays or concerts, and create artworks of their own.
• They are also more likely to play sports, attend sporting events, or do outdoor activities. As an example, 72% of readers exercise compared to 40% for non-readers.
Common excuses for a lack of reading are "I don't have the time," "I've never been a good reader," "I have a hard time finding a book that interests me." None are valid. The busiest, most successful people find time to read books. They recognize that reading is an investment that pays high returns. "Poor readers" can improve their proficiency by reading, just as those who are out of shape improve with exercise. Saying that you can't find something to read when there are over 130 million books in the world defies belief. There is no good excuse for not reading books.
There are ways, though, to leverage your reading time. For example, I read book summaries provided through services like Audio-Tech or Soundview. For a minimal cost (typically less than $100 per year), you get 2-3 book summaries per month. These summaries capture key ideas in the books, and take 15-30 minutes to read. If a particular summary interests me, I will buy the book. Otherwise, I have the benefit of much of the thinking for only a few dollars, and spend a fraction of the time it would take to read the entire book.
I read three newspapers daily—my local paper, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Since I don't watch television, this replaces morning and nightly TV news for me.
I also subscribe to a number of daily e-mails that provide useful, summary information, such as Harvard Business Review, Wired magazine and my local business newspaper. Google Alerts allow me to get e-mails when news occurs on specific topics. All of these take seconds to scan, and keep me current.
Knowledge is condensed experience, and the best way to get this experience is through reading. Crack open a book today, and start living the surpassing life.
• Read, read, read—no excuses!
• Leverage your reading time with book summaries.
• Read newspapers instead of watching TV news.
• Subscribe to daily e-mails.
• Actively read by putting yourself into the story and determining how you would respond.
Greater knowledge, academic success and financial reward, smarter kids, positive personal and social behavior