The Importance of Building a Reading Habit: It’s the Ultimate Superpower

If there’s one thing that I would recommend to make 2018 a more fulfilling, productive, and interesting year, it would be finding more time to read more books.

I’ve always tried to read as much as possible, but in recent years I’ve been consuming more content digitally through blogs, ebooks, podcasts and audiobooks. All of these mediums are convenient entertainment and learning tools, but I found myself missing the feel of a book in my hands. In the past 12 months I’ve focused on reading books as much as possible. For me at least, there’s a place for digital, but not to the exclusion of the analog alternative of a hardcover book.

There’s nothing like sitting down with a good book, and dog earring its pages and writing notes in its margins, when a particular passage or turn of phrase really lands. Books allow us to lose ourselves, and free our minds, if even for fleeting moments. As Anne Lamott, who is one of my favorite authors, once wrote:

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

Reading great books is not just a pastime, however. Books are performance improvement tools. A recent survey showed that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read, on average, four to five books per month.

Teddy Roosevelt read one, sometimes two, books per week. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are voracious readers. So is Warren Buffett who, when asked about the key to success, pointed to the stack of books in his office and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” Buffett read 600 to 1,000 pages per day when he began investing.

Looking for a way to learn and grow in 2018? Read more books. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read science fiction. Read books outside of your domain of expertise in order to explore new ideas, connect dots, and discover dots you didn’t even know existed. Read Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. and inspire those around you to think more creatively. Read Cal Newport’s Deep Work and bring greater focus to your most important priorities. Learn to show more vulnerability with Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. Cast a new vision for the future with Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. 

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” Vera Nazarian

Earlier this year I was frustrated by the fact that I was stuck with the new book I’m writing. I had spent a couple of months writing the first draft, then didn’t write anything for the next two months. I then picked up a copy of The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan and read it cover to cover over the course of a weekend. It was the grease I needed to get unstuck. On Monday morning I threw out everything I had been working on and started from scratch. Fast forward three months, and this past week I sent off a much better manuscript for editing.

In this season of giving, one of the great gifts you can give yourself is to develop the habit and find the time to read more books. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, too, as parents who read tend to raise kids who read. As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once said, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

Heather and I are always on the lookout for great new books. What are you reading these days? We’d love to hear your recommendations. In case you’re in the market for a new book, here are a few of our favorites, in no particular order, from the last year. (Note: The following links are affiliate links through Amazon. We earn a small commission on any purchases made through these links, which help us to offset the expenses related to running Life and Whim.)

Creativity, Inc. – A journey through the process of building a creative business by Pixar founder Ed Catmull. (Non-fiction)

Rising Strong – An exploration of courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness by social scientist Brené Brown. (Non-fiction)

Descent – A harrowing tale of survival and the bonds of family set in the Colorado Rockies. (Fiction/Thriller)

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love) moving take on the issue of creativity, and her attempt to shatter the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the creative process. (Non-fiction)

Snow Crash – It’s hard to describe Snow Crash in a short blurb, other than to say that it’s a thrilling window into what the future may hold by the brilliant science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. (Fiction/Science Fiction)

Deep Work – Want to get more focused on work that really matters? Read Cal Newport’s book about what it takes to stand out in today’s Information Age. (Non-fiction)

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist explores the themes of decluttering everyday life and concentrating on what is truly important. (Non-fiction)

The One Thing – You could be working on many things. But what’s the One Thing that would make all of the difference? (Non-fiction)

Now that the snow is falling (at least here in northern Michigan), it’s a great time to hunker down and read a great book in front of the fireplace. Happy reading during this holiday season!

LifeJay Harrington