A few weeks ago, I came across a perspective with which I disagree profoundly. The premise was somewhere along the lines of ‘the lack of self-development is also caused by lack of reading, especially of specialized books; you might as well read twenty books of fiction a month, it’s for nothing if you don’t read many self-help books too.’ Boy, oh boy!
My plea here is one for the love of books and the action of reading. Please, read. Read anything, and do read (all sorts of) books.
(Fiction, Memoir, Biography) Books …
… enrich our lives and contribute to the vividness of our imaginations.
… expand our inner universe and help us relate.
… provide us with coping mechanisms and understanding of nuances.
… help us explore other worlds, some which we might never be able to physically come across, because of several (limiting) factors.
Read, please read!
Here’s the wonderful, deeply powerful thing about stories: we empathize with the characters, feel the relationship dynamics, and live the story. Stories serve us, they open our appetite for listening and widen our perspective. This openness will also help us take from the story what we need, and then put it aside or pass it forward. That’s where the magic happens.
My father died almost a decade ago. One of the ways I coped with his death the following year was by reading Dostoyevsky. I read most, if not all, of his novels. His writing helped me cope with pain and guilt, as well as provided me with a better understanding of family dynamics. In hindsight, his books were the catalyst for a long-winded journey of forgiveness. And it’s not just Dostoyevsky that I have learned a lot from; my list includes the likes John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Nikos Kazantzakis, Neil Gaiman, Simone de Beauvoir, Ludmila Ulitzkaia, Amos Oz, Cheryl Strayed and so on.
All the great books I can think of are great stories. Oliver Sacks is a brilliant storyteller. So is Robert Sapolsky. Susan Cain tells us a story about the power of introverts. James Victore urges us to ‘feck perfuction’. Seth Godin encourages us to think about permission and acting ‘as if’ and being meaningfully specific. Frederic Laloux tells us a story about organizations and guides us into understanding how some work, and what the future might look like.
I am not against reading specialized books. I see their value and applaud their specificity. Just give other writings a chance too. Don’t pigeonhole a type of literature, you’d be pigeonholing your universe.
I have found that it’s my voracious reading of fiction that has helped me better understand concepts of philosophy and psychology and business that I might have had a difficult time grasping otherwise. Fiction both expands my world in terms of semantics and feeds my curiosity, sometimes throwing me towards specialized literature so that I can understand other concepts and delve deeper into notions I wish to pursue. At present, I’m keeping a balanced act of reading a fiction piece and a specialized one. I have noticed that too much specialized literature limits the vividness of my imagination and shatters my vocabulary. However, I have to admit, I never felt as if I had too much fiction.
Reading, like listening to music, provides me with numinous experiences; I feel that sometimes, the only way we can reach transcendence is through these media, as we seem bound to limiting ourselves by just being. Leave it to words and music to help us reach a higher state of beauty and an inner understanding of sorts.