When I was in secondary school, I hated books. That was mostly because teachers told me what to read and I resisted (reading benefits were clearly unknown to me).
However, when I started studying at university, a guest lecturer once said to me: “You can’t go to a job interview in finance if you haven’t read “The Big Short”. His reasoning was – if you haven’t read one of the most popular books in finance, you can’t show up to a job interview and tell that you are very passionate about finance. You would just look foolish and no one will take you seriously.
Naturally, the next thing I did was to read the book.
After reading “The Big Short”, I was surprised about a couple of things. One, I enjoyed reading and I wasn’t bored. Two, even though I thought I knew a lot about the topic in the book, I still learned many new things and enjoyed new stories. Then I picked up another book, and another and gradually became an avid reader.
Although I can’t call myself a “bookworm”, I certainly read more books than ever before. It’s not about how many books I read though. It’s about the reading benefits that I have noticed over the past few years from reading books.
Famous People Love to Read Too
Here is what famous people say about reading benefits.
Bill Gates: “books are the best way to explore new topics that interest you”.
Warren Buffett: “The key to success is reading 500 pages of material every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”
Elon Musk: “I was raised by books. Books, and then my parents”. Elon read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica at the age of nine and read science fiction novels for more than 10 hours a day.
Naval Ravikant: “The foundation of learning is reading. I don’t know a smart person who doesn’t read and read all the time.”
One particular example that always stays in my mind is Jason Benn. He is not very famous, but if you have read the book “Deep Work” then you probably remember him. In short, Jason was a bored financial consultant from Virginia. He quit his job in finance and decided to learn to code. Then, he spent 6 months learning to code, locked himself in a room with no distractions or electronics and read 18 books on coding. As a result, he landed a job in a startup with double the salary he had as a financial consultant.
Now, think about the benefits of reading books and how you can change your life with more knowledge and better habits.
The Benefits of Reading Books
1) Reading Books Helps You Find Value in an Increasingly Distracting World
Reading websites, newspapers or blog posts can be helpful, but often they are full of noise. As content has become easier to distribute and cheaper to produce, the quality has decreased. I often cringe when I see people publishing several stories a day. Is it really possible to generate real value and insight in such a short amount of time for your readers? Or do they post large amounts of content just to make money? I’ll leave for you to decide that.
The problem is that we as readers rarely stop to ask ourselves questions about what we consume: Is this important? Is this going to stand the test of time? Is the writer well informed on the topic?
I suggest avoiding the noise and focusing on the signal. Your attention and time are too valuable for focusing on stuff that will be irrelevant in a few days. That means reading books (preferably good books, but more on that later).
Find great books written by great authors and extract value!
2) Reading Books Distracts You From Unwanted Thoughts
A book can be a good distraction from your daily stressors.
When I’m reading an interesting book, my mind forgets everyday problems and starts focusing on what’s written in the book. Not only do I forget my daily problems, but I also get some value out of it – it’s time well spent. I feel more fulfilled at the end of the day, and begin the next day more relaxed. It’s a sense of accomplishment and excitement of learning something new.
“Time well spent leads to life well lived.” ― Martin Uzochukwu Ugwu
3) Learn About the World and Become Less Ignorant
Reading books shapes our worldviews, increases our knowledge and affects how we interact with others. Through reading, we consume valuable information and consider multiple perspectives. To make sense of our world and improve it, we have to be critical consumers of information and ideas, but we can only do that if we’re exposing ourselves to new ideas.
One of the best examples, when reading opened my eyes, is the “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism” books written by Cal Newport. These books taught me to value my time, to gain focus in an increasingly distracting world and highlighted the dangers of consuming social media the wrong way (aka the digital slot machine). Before reading these books and breaking my smartphone, I was the person who is checking their phone for no reason, scrolling Instagram and watching YouTube videos, at the end of the day feeling tired, ineffective and unfulfilled.
Personally, avid reading has transformed my life and my perspective of the world for the better and I would definitely encourage everyone to give reading a try.
“Wisdom is the ability to see the invisible” ― Sunday Adelaja
4) Reading Books Increases Your Ability to Concentrate
A side effect of reading is an improvement in your general ability to concentrate.
When you are reading a book, the rest of the world just falls away. You are 100% focused. The distractions are switched off. You want to absorb all the new information. As you read more, reading benefits your attention span, which will carry over to other aspects of your life.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to your body.”
5) Reading Books Builds Your Vocabulary and Improves Your Writing
When reading books, we tend to notice words that we have not seen or heard before. When I read books, especially on a topic I am not very familiar with, I find myself googling words every now and then and writing them down. As a result, each book that I read increases my vocabulary and spelling. This is especially useful if you are trying to improve your foreign language skills.
Increased vocabulary is especially crucial for writers and bloggers. Many successful writers will tell you that if you want to write well, you have to read a lot. The more you read the better your language will be. You’ll be surprised at the words you start incorporating into your writing or even in your conversations.
Better vocabulary isn’t only beneficial for writers, but also for people working in different kinds of jobs. I can tell from my personal experience in finance, that good writing has been very useful when preparing marketing presentations for companies or even when writing my CV.
You want to stand out from the crowd and good language skills are definitely a plus in any situation.
“Reading one piece of writing on an unfamiliar topic can be more effective than reading ten books on a topic you are regularly exposed to.”
6) Reading Books Inspires and Motivates You
When I was 23 years old I read a book “The Rules of Wealth”. To be honest, I don’t remember the book in great detail, but it inspired me to start a business at the time. One chapter was particularly motivating. The next day after reading the book I called my friend and offered to start a business together. He thought about it for a couple of days and said yes. In a couple of months, we were already running our store.
7) Reading Books Improves Your Social Skills
Once I read a book named “The Match King” about a Swedish businessman Ivar Kreuger. A few years later I met with a Swedish guy on a business trip and had a long conversation about Sweden. He was quite surprised that I knew about the Swedish Match Company and the crazy stories of Ivar Kreuger. We clicked from the start and I gained a new contact for my business network. You never know when a book might help you.
A different situation where books might help you are social gatherings. Sometimes at parties, when I don’t know anybody, I ask about the best book someone has read. First, it’s a good way to start a conversation and find out if you have common interests. Second, you might find a good book to read yourself.
You can improve your social skills with the wealth of knowledge gained from reading. Reading makes you interesting and you should be able to engage in conversations easily.
How to Read More Books?
Naval Ravikant had great advice in his podcast How to Get Rich. He said: “Read what you love until you love to read.” It’s that simple. He explained that the main problem for people is to answer these simple questions – what do I read? How do I read? Because for most people reading books is a struggle, it’s a chore. So, the most important thing is just to learn how to educate yourself and the way to educate yourself is to develop a love for reading.
He also mentioned on the Joe Rogan show: “Don’t force yourself to read bad or uninteresting books till the end”. It’s garbage in, garbage out. You will just waste your precious time and bad books might even harm your joy for reading.
One way of finding good books is to check if the book has above 4.0 rating on Goodreads. As soon as you start reading more, you will develop your taste, identify topics that you want to know more about and will find books that you like.
There are some other ways that helped me read more books:
- Kindle works quite well! When I bought my Kindle, I started reading more books. The “% left in the chapter” helped me read more. Also, when I got the urge to read something, I could just download the book and start reading while I was still inspired by a particular topic.
- Make books easily accessible so you can read them when you are bored, waiting for something or commuting with public transport (again – kindle here helps).
- Cut off distractions. This is a huge one. How many hours do you waste every day scrolling Instagram or Facebook, watching YouTube videos or playing Candy Crush? If you don’t do any of this – well done! However, many people are spending their valuable time unwisely. All this time that you waste could be spent on more meaningful activities. For me, that is reading books, meeting friends, learning a new skill, hiking or doing some sports. For you, it might be different, but the point is the same.
- Create a habit of reading. You can’t read more books and gain more knowledge if you don’t start reading actively. My personal habits are to read on lunch breaks, in the evenings after work and on the weekends. On the weekends I read something where I need to focus more and in breaks, I read something “light”. Vacation is also a great time to read!
- Always keep a book with you!
What Books Should a Beginner Read?
Most importantly, you should read what you love (as described above). That means, reading books on topics that you are genuinely curious about.
Here are 5 of my favourite books from which I learned something valuable:
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
- Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Other interesting books that I’ve read you can find here.