What Good is a Book?

Bill Abbate

Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

Do you want to live a rich, full, rewarding life? If you do, there's one habit you can incorporate into your life that can make it happen.

If I could only give one piece of advice to someone starting their life and their career, it would be to develop the habit of reading. I wish I had discovered the advantages of reading before I turned 30. Had I known how much it could add to my life, I would have surely started much earlier.

I'm not talking about reading comic books as I did in my youth. However, they did fuel my imagination. And I am not talking about trashy novels and other such nonsense. I am talking about books of substance. While I mainly read non-fiction, some of the best, most meaningful writing in the world consists of fiction, especially the classics.

I am also talking about real books. You know the kind made of paper! I realize today many people read eBooks, which is a great habit, but there is nothing quite like holding an actual book in your hands, turning the pages, writing in the margins, and marking or highlighting impactful words. The great thing about a real book is all you need is light. It never has to be plugged in, and there is no battery to drain! Ever!

How reading books affected my life

My reading habits started when I took a Dale Carnegie course called Human Relations and Public Speaking in the mid-80s. The course cost $700, and my company agreed to pay the fee. While that may not sound like much today, it was a sizeable investment at the time. The return on this investment has been enormous!

As part of the course, we received three of Carnegie's books: How to Win Friends and Influence People, How to Develop Self Confidence and Improve Public Speaking, and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Looking back, Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People was the first book I had ever read entirely through in my life! Yes, I read parts of books during my studies when younger, but I had never read one cover to cover. This first book helped me understand there was far more to life than I had realized. It set me on a lifelong journey of learning and personal development.

There is no doubt in my mind that books helped me rise to the highest levels in my industry, running some large companies as chief executive. You will often hear readers are leaders, and this was certainly true for me. Without question, if you want to improve your life, the first thing you should do is to start reading the right books.

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)

The importance of books

It is well known that some of the world's most influential and wealthiest people claim much of their success came from reading. We are fortunate to have access to some of their most important words in history recorded in books.

"Throughout human history, our greatest leaders and thinkers have used the power of words to transform our emotions, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny. Words can not only create emotions, they create actions. And from our actions flow the results of our lives." Tony Robbins (1960-present)

A leading industrialist and one of the wealthiest people to have ever walked the planet, Andrew Carnegie, funded a total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries between 1883 and 1929. Of these, 1,689 were in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and the remaining worldwide. Carnegie was responsible for building half of the public libraries in America by 1930. To say Carnegie believed in the power of reading books is an understatement. He once said:

"A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never-failing spring in the desert." Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

One of the founding fathers of our nation believed in the power of books and reading so much he said:

"A room without books is like a life without meaning." Thomas Jefferson (1743-1886)

When the British burned our nation's capital and the Library of Congress in 1814, Jefferson's personal library, the largest collection of books in the country, was sold to Congress, replacing the lost books, reestablishing the Library of Congress.

A well-known American writer and philosopher once stated how crucial books are to civilization itself:

"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent." Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

For a final word on how essential reading is to our lives, let's travel back 2,500 years to the time of a well-known Chinese philosopher for his wisdom:

"You must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance." Confucius (551-479 BC)

Which of his choices will you make – to be ignorant or not? Experience shows there is little doubt the life of someone who reads books and someone who does not will look different and have different outcomes.

Benefits to reading books

A vast amount of research and information is only a few keystrokes away in your favorite search engine about the many advantages reading books can bring into your life. Here is a short list of some of the more important benefits:

  • Exercises and improves brain function
  • Prevents cognitive decline as we age
  • Sharpens memory
  • Improved analytical and thinking skills
  • Increases knowledge
  • Increases comprehension
  • Builds vocabulary
  • Improves communication skills
  • Strengthens writing skills
  • Improves focus and concentration
  • Increases attention span
  • Enhances empathy
  • Reduces stress
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Aids sleep
  • Lengthens lifespan
  • Provides enjoyment

If you are a reader, you know and have experienced many of the above benefits. If you are not a reader, any one of the above is reason enough to start reading, is it not? All it takes is a desire for a better life and understanding how reading can provide it to get you started. Have you made this connection yet?

Final thoughts

I am thankful for the ability to own and read great books. No single material thing has impacted my life more or brought more joy.

The thing I love about books is they can transport you to another world. They help you learn and grow. One book, the Bible, provides so much wisdom you can never read it enough.

The spoken and written word is indeed one of the most powerful things in the universe. All you need to do to take advantage of this power is to speak, read, and write. As a well-known philosopher and early psychologist once said:

"All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down." Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes about reading from a Victorian-era novelist:

"The habit of reading is the only one I know in which there is no alloy. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will be there to support you when all other resources are gone. It will be present to you when the energies of your body have fallen away from you. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live." Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)

Why not take a few minutes each day to read a book? If you want the best life possible, you will find the time. It will be the best investment you can ever make in yourself!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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