If I can attest to anything about reading, it is that it teaches you a lot about yourself and your personality. We’ve all heard the saying that a person’s music choice says a lot about who they are, but I’d like to challenge that and say rather whether the person reads—and what kind of books they read—says a lot more about who they are than their music taste. IMO, developing a music taste does not require as much investment as developing literary taste does. I mean think about it: you can change the song Spotify/Apple Music shuffled for you at the press of a button, but you can’t tell if you like or dislike a book by the first few words on the page. So, here are 5 things that I’ve come to learn that books have the capacity to teach readers.
#1: your literary taste and your reading habits.
As we just discussed, books are the way to developing your personal literary taste. Everyone has a favorite genre/group of genres that they love. For me, that group consists of YA fiction (contemporary, dystopia, etc) and also now a mix of nonfiction as well.
Although I’ve practically always been a fan of fiction, I just began incorporating nonfiction reads into my genre pool this year and started with An Anthropologist On Mars by Oliver Sacks. That book, admittedly, was hard for me to get into for the first part and I struggled to understand why I even felt the need to branch out. But I did—and now I also love reading nonfiction books about human ambiguities. It took branching out and trying something new to open myself up to a whole other world that books had to offer, and so with investing time and patience with an open-mind, my literary taste grew.
Likewise, you learn about your reading habits. For a long time I tried to be the type that would finish a book in 2-3 days and keep the train going, but I simply don’t read that way. I take my time while reading a book—reading when it’s convenient for me and stopping to take notes along the way. That’s just how I am as a reader and I’ve come to appreciate it!
#2: what you’re passionate about.
So if you’ve learned a little bit about your literary taste, you may have stumbled upon a genre or general thing that lit a fire within you. For me, that came when I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for the first time. I realized that I was really interested in reading about human psychology and why society functions the way it does. (That flame was lit again when I read Blink by Gladwell earlier this year too!)
Just yesterday actually, I went to this debut presentation of the book called Voices From Bears Ears: Seeking Common Ground On Sacred Land, which is about the very contemporary dispute over the 85% reduction of the Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County, Utah. A two hour presentation and $25 later, I have the book and can’t wait to read it because the presentation made me realize, holy crap, I’m also really interested in reading about natural resource management issues too!
For you tl;dr folks: reading may just help you find your next passion.
#3: the way you view the world.
This is slightly abstract, so let me explain. The last point also has an opposite: while reading can teach you about things you passionately love, it can also teach you about things you passionately hate. Or maybe even after a book you find yourself on the fence about something. Regardless, reading can inform you opinion about x, y and z.
Again, going from personal experience, I went to that book presentation last night fully thinking I’d come out of it with a book that advocates for the restoration of the 85% of the National Monument. At first glance, who wouldn’t want that, right? The answer, it turns out, are the San Juan locals—who are sick of the sudden traffic jam of tourists ripping through their county, as well as Native Americans who have sacred artifacts on this land and want to preserve them. I had no idea those opinions existed, and now my opinion of the establishment of National Monuments has shifted to accommodate for those opposing positions. And I’m sure once I get into this book it will continue to shift as I hear the stories from different perspectives.
#4: how to be a better writer.
Alright, a little stereotypical, but hear me out. If you’ve ever tried to write after you’ve read a book you really enjoyed, whether it be for school or personal writing endeavors, have you ever noticed that your writing sounds a bit like the writing you just saw in that book you read? Or maybe it doesn’t sound similar, but do you notice yourself phrasing something in a way you haven’t before? Did you use that word in your writing that you had to Google the definition of when you saw it in that book? I truly do think that, along with practice of course, reading makes us better writers.
And, obviously, you can read books that will literally teach you how to be a better writer. Those exist too.
#5: how you can make a difference.
Knowledge is power. Once you know about something, you have the capacity to do something about it. Rather it’s formal research about some issue or just curious book browsing about a hobby you’d like to entertain, you have to know in order to do.
So if there’s something you’re really itching to get into or make a difference in, your first task is to read.
Happy Friday and last day of May! I’ll see you all next month! (AKA Sunday June 2nd) -Cc ♥️