Last Saturday I spent more than four hours selecting almost 200 books from my library, then took them to my condo recycling room, where I left them with a “FREE to Good Home” note. Now that those books are gone my bookcase is finally…full – as opposed to full plus books on top of other books, on top of the bookcase, and stacked next to the bookcase.
In certain circles, my actions are considered shocking, even reprehensible. Because there are certain “rules” about books that everyone seems to think are backed by Federal legislation. (Ex: Books should never be discarded, never write in a book, you need to post pictures of your library on social media to show everyone how sophisticated you are, etc.) The amount of guilt, judgement, and virtue signaling surrounding books and reading in general is astounding really.
Some of the judgment is understandable. Books are sacred. A $17 book can transform your life forever. Really. Unfortunately, this dogma prevents millions of people from accessing one of our greatest sources of wisdom, delight, and enlightenment.
We need some new book reading rules...
The urgent need for these new rules became exceedingly clear when I recently started dating someone new. My best “go to” strategy for the potential of a new love interest is a review of their bookcase. You can tell a lot about someone by what they read. This new guy is smart, articulate, educated – and doesn’t own a bookcase. Which is actually quite common today. This means if you want to make a superficial snap judgment of someone now, you have to base it on what apps are loaded on the first screen on their cell phone. But I digress…
For me a home without a bookcase is a crime against humanity. But I’ve discovered many people, particularly younger generations like my Boo, don’t share that philosophy.
A lot of them are digital natives so they’ve always turned to their phones to access any kind of information. Unless they’ve visited a museum, most Gen Z people have never actually seen a real book. (In fact, many of them reading this essay right now are frantically Googling the term.) But even many Boomers like me are still not experiencing the benefits that regular reading can offer them. And I believe a huge reason for this is all the old, stuffy rules people believe about books and reading.
Fortunately for you, I’ve appointed myself to make and enforce the…
10 New Book Reading Rules
- You don’t have to finish every book you begin. In fact, if you are completing every book you start, you’re wasting important parts of your brain and life. You should never judge a book by its cover, but you can definitely tell if a book is a less than ideal use of your time within a chapter or two.
- You don’t have to read every book you buy. I buy some books to give away, others just to support a particular author and their work. Sometimes you buy a book because you need it, but by the time you get around to reading it, you’ve already discovered the answers you were seeking. Practice the circulation law of prosperity and donate the book to a library, school, or someone who will appreciate it.
- If the dust jacket fills the bill, feel free to stop there. There are certain concept books (Purple Cow, Idea Virus, Flywheel,) that simply by reading the dust jacket, you’ll acquire everything you need from that book. If you feel moved to read the entire book, by all means do. If not, don’t feel guilty. Put it down and move on with your life. And FFS, please don’t post a snarky review saying you were ripped off. You were actually blessed. If you’re judging the value of a book by the number of pages it contains, instead of the ideas it gives you, you’re doing it all wrong.
- You don’t have to start every book at the beginning. Some authors need to throw a few warm-up pitches before they can hit the strike zone. Don’t be afraid to scan the table of contents and parachute direct into a later chapter.
- Never buy a book from an author who has written more books than they’ve read. This leads to pestilence, plagues, and monkeypox.
- The best books to read sometimes are not actually books. There is a multitude of insightful and enjoyable writing available in blogs, message boards, private groups, and essays. The purpose of reading is not to support the publishing industry. (Although that is not a bad thing.) It’s to ignite your imagination, enhance your life, and develop more wisdom. There are many things you can read today that will do this.
- The best books to read sometimes are actually books – and they can’t be accessed any other way. There are books written centuries ago that still provide extraordinary value. And reading a “Cliffs Notes” version of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sun Also Rises or On the Road is like taking a shower in a raincoat. Finally, some topics or concepts simply cannot be understood in a condensed or unstructured form. They necessitate the logical, linear, and organized process required to structure (and understand) a well laid out book.
- If someone you know (and like) writes a book, you should order two copies immediately and post about it on social media. You don’t even have to read the book. You can simply tell the author how much you liked the title or cover, then give the book away. Doing this is the equivalent of rescuing a kitten from a burning building. It’s what fine, upstanding humans do.
- You are allowed to sketch, highlight, or write in books. (Unless you’re borrowing them from the library or someone else.) Every now and then I’ll spot someone across the aisle on an airplane or somewhere else reading one of my books. Seeing them mark it up is the greatest honor they can give me.
- Read what you love until you develop the love to read. This rule actually comes courtesy of Naval Ravikant and is especially important when working with kids. Please don’t shame them for what they start reading with. If you try to begin with the work of Shakespeare, Marcus Aurelius, or Ayn Rand – you’ll probably give up the ghost too early. It’s okay to begin with graphic novels, espionage thrillers, tawdry romance novels, or even comic books. The more you read, the more your curiosity will be piqued. This will widen the window you see the world through, and your reading tastes will evolve.
Did I miss any new rules we need? If so, please share them below.
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