I read a blog post today called “The Case Against (Non-Fiction) Books.”
I cried a little inside. OK, I cried outside, too.
Then I wiped my face off, and started writing this post. It’s not really a rebuttal, since everyone has the right to their point of view. But this is my blog, so I want to present my point of view.
The truth as I see it is, there is no substitute for reading books. Online material is great. If you’re really into a subject and want to learn all there is to know, by all means, listen to TED talks and podcasts, watch films, read blogs and magazine articles, post on message boards. But start and end with books.
Anyway, here are just a few of the ways your life gets better when you read books every day:
- You calm down. I can always use more quiet and mindfulness in my life. Nobody ever got more stressed out by sitting still. Escape for a while from the endless digital chatter of the web and your smartphone. Let your brain think about one thing for a while instead of cruising from tab to tab.
- You think new thoughts. Your brain gets grooves, just like a road. Neurons fire in a certain way, and every time they fire in the same way, the more likely they are to fire that way again and again. Mostly this is good. But if your neurons only fire in the same ways all the time, you don’t have new ideas. Books make your neurons fire in new ways. Reading new things makes your mind fresh. Like a wildfire that clears out all the old growth in a forest. Sometimes you just need a nice controlled burn.
- You are more creative. You associate new things you read with things you already know. Putting two things together in an unexpected way is creativity, and creativity is the foundation of all progress.
- You improve your skills. Sure, this is one where a lot can be learned online and through practice, but there’s nothing better than a great book to teach you the full breadth and depth of a subject.
- You save time. Most people think reading takes a lot of time. And it does. But since I read Ramit Sethi’s book on automating my finances, I’ve saved 4-5 hours per month, time that I had been using to manage my money. The book “time paid” for itself in just two months and is now wellll into the black.
- You save money. You could read a book on buying a car that saves you $5K. You could read a book on keeping your job during layoffs that saves your salary.
- You make money. All it takes is one insight from a $15 book that you use to start a business, get a better job, improve your freelancing career, and you’ve just realized an enormous return on investment.
- You gain hundreds of mentors. Books are where the people who came before you, and achieved what you want to achieve, set down their distilled, curated knowledge of how they did it. They take years or decades of their lives and put them into a little package for you to unwrap.
- You get the best and deepest knowledge. Books take hundreds of hours to write, edit, think about, and prepare. A book can often be the definitive word on a topic or person in the way a blog post or a podcast or even a film never could be.
- You write better. Any author I’ve ever met or read about backs this up. And you don’t have to be an author for this to be valuable. What is writing more effective emails worth to you in time and money?
- You think better. Books are kind of the opposite of thoughts. Thoughts come rapid fire, often with no relation to the one you just had. A book is orderly and rational. Maybe this should be my new slogan: “think like a book.” Don’t think like Twitter.
- You lose weight. It’s a lot harder to eat and read than it is to eat and watch TV. Also, you can read a book while on a treadmill. Get lost in the book and you also lose a pound or two.
- You are more attractive to the opposite sex. Knowledge is power. Sex power. The more you know, the more confident you are, the better impression you make on others, and the more curious they are about you. That’s just science. You can also read books about how to dress snappier, how to have more charisma, how to build muscle, etc.
Can you do all those things without reading books? Yeah, probably. But I wouldn’t advise it.
Life is better with books.