1 in 4 American adults did not read a single book last year. Those who did read books were usually women and older folk. This doesn’t bode well for younger men. It’s not that younger men aren’t reading. They’re probably reading plenty on blogs or on their Tweetdeck. But reading snippets from blogs and websites is a completely different experience than reading a good old fashioned book. With a book you can get completely immersed in a story and suck out the marrow of good ideas. With the internet, you tend to just get blips of information at a time. It’s never enough to gain the kind of immersive experience and broad picture that a whole book gives you.
Today, we’re going to turn the page (so to speak) on the dearth of men not reading books. But before we begin, let’s just quickly review some of the benefits of reading.
The Benefits of Reading
Of course, the greatest benefit of reading is simply the pleasure that it gives you. Reading is an unmatchable pastime for relaxing and wiling away some time. Besides being thoroughly enjoyable, it has even more benefits:
Improves your writing. The ability to write well is a skill that will set you apart from your peers. Of course, if you want to become a skilled writer, you must practice writing. But in addition to writing, reading the words of great authors can also help you improve. As you read, you’ll begin to notice patterns and sentence formations that work well. If you’re constantly reading quality writing, it’s hard for some of it not to rub off on your own writing.
Provides fodder for conversation. Some of the best conversations begin with the simple question, “Read any good books lately?”You don’t want your answer to be, “Uhhhhh, no. But dude, have you checked out Keyboard Cat?” By reading good books, you build yourself a storehouse of conversation topics that are engaging and interesting.
Improves concentration and focus. With the internet and its millions of mindless distractions, concentrating and focusing on a single task has become more and more difficult. If you feel like you’ve become particularly distraction prone, reading a book could be just the prescription you need. Unlike blog posts and magazine articles that can be read in a matter of minutes, reading a book requires extended periods of concentration and focus. You’re not surfing around, feeding your brain an endless supply of new stimulation. It’s just you and the text. If you set aside time to read a book every day, you’ll start to notice a strengthening of your attention span.
Increases creativity. A creative person doesn’t just create new ideas out of thin air. He takes already existing ideas and cross pollinates them to create something entirely new. By exposing yourself to different ideas in the pages of books, you create a breeding ground in your mind for new ideas to grow.
Makes you a better man. Do you want to be a better man? Then read the biographies of great men. The lives of great men contain numerous lessons that are just as applicable to us today. I feel I’ve gotten more out of reading a biography of a hero of mine than I have with any so-called self-improvement book. With a biography, you can see concrete principles of manliness in action instead of just reading abstract advice. If you’re looking for a biography that will really inspire, I suggest The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. (Big surprise, huh?)
Broadens your perspective. No matter how far and wide you travel and how many interesting people you meet, you can never have the breadth of experiences contained within the world’s great books. Through reading, you can experience what’s it’s like to grow up fatherless, sail along with barbarous pirates, fly a plane in World War II, and climb Mt. Everest, all without leaving your armchair. Books help you gain greater insight and empathy than could be mined from your personal life alone.
Today’s Task: Start a Book
Start a book. Any book. Pick one of your favorite novels from high school or college. Choose a book that you’ve been forever meaning to read and have been continually putting off. Pick a book from the Essential Men’s Library or our list of great fictional adventure books and go to the library to check it out. Once you’ve selected your book, we’re going harness our inner third grader and D.E.A.R it up. You know. Drop Everything And Read. Read for at least 30 minutes today. Your brain and soul will thank you later.
Listen to our podcast on the 1,000 books to read before you die: