Last night, instead of being a fun human being and partying it up at a wild New Year's Eve party, I spent the evening cooking a pot of blanquette de veau, sitting around in my parents' living room, and finishing up a few books before the start of the new year. Sure, it's lame, and you're likely laughing to yourself as you read this, but I place a high value on reading books…and so should you. According to the most recent stats from Pew on the state of reading in America, adults on average read just 5 books in 2013. While it's understandable that our lives are busy, we have 365 days to do everything – that's a lot of days. Considering the many benefits of reading books (as opposed to, you know, incessantly consuming online content), surely you can try to read more books in 2015.
Paul Graham Reads (and Rereads) Books
In a recent blog post by Y Combinator cofounder and partner Paul Graham, Graham writes about the notion of human knowing and how we come to know certain things. It's a good, short read, but what stands out about the post is this idea of rereading a book as both an experience and a pathway to knowing. In it, Graham reflects on the times he's reread books, only to discover that he remembers very little of what the books were actually about upon rereading them. Which leads to this point: if Graham has the time in the year to reread books, why aren't we all doing more to spend some time giving books an initial read?
Successful People Read Books
Here's the strongest argument you need to know about books: successful people read them. According to Tom Corley, the founder of Rich Habits, wealthier people read more books than poorer people. The presumption here, of course, is that wealth equals success (which, despite whatever our lofty ideals are about what constitutes “success”, is still the resounding measure by which the majority of society judges success). Looking at Corley's stats, 88 percent of wealthier individuals read for 30 minutes or more each day as opposed to the 2 percent of those in a lower economic brackets.
And, of course, this shouldn't be surprising: those who are more educated, earn higher. With each additional year of schooling, we earn a little more towards our life-long accumulation of income. Particularly, the more books we read – hence, the more overall words with which we engage – the more words we add to our personal word banks. In Your Natural Gifts, a book by Margaret E. Broadly that looks at the work of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, Broadly writes that higher vocabulary scores are associated with higher earnings and management status.
Wealthier/successful people read books, but looking at it further, they seem to read more books that enable them to succeed in their careers. 79 percent of successful people read educational career-related material and 55 percent read for personal development. What's most surprising is that company executives read a lot of books, and it's helped them in their careers. Indeed, studies from the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation found that, as a group, executives scored better on vocabulary than editors, writers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, and even college professors.
The Argument for Fiction Books
But you shouldn't just aim to read more books, in general, in 2015. While it's certainly beneficial to read more nonfiction, education career-related books in the new year, you should also take some time to get in more fiction books along the way. Why? Because studies have shown that reading fiction enables people to become more empathetic. Why is that important? Well, because much in the way that reading more books in general can impact success, high emotional intelligence can impact success. My recommendation: Harry Potter.
So, yeah, read more books this year. It'll pay off in the long run.