Why read books?
Why should we read books? Is it worth spending the time to sit down and follow an author’s thoughts page after page? The simplest answer is that books take us beyond ourselves and give us access to experiences, thought and wisdom that we could not otherwise reach.
Freedom from our limited perspective
Each of us are only allowed a few years to live, and during that time we can only have a handful of jobs, live in a few places, and we only get to know a few people on a deep level. Books allow us to live many different lives, at different time periods, with different social and economic situations. We begin to see how other people’s priorities and motivations lead them to make decisions that we would otherwise not understand. We learn to empathize with people who are not at all like us–we walk in their shoes for a couple hundred pages and we understand them (and the rest of humanity) better.
A distillation of a lifetime of thought
Why read books? One of the best reasons to read is that it gives you access to the author’s best thinking on a topic that they know well and have considered deeply. It is a distillation of insights they have been gathering for years. We understand the world better by sitting at their feet and hearing their reflections, following their thoughts and seeing why they’ve come to the conclusions they have.
In just a few hours and with relative ease, the reader gains some of the wisdom and experience that the author has wrestled and fought for decades to earn. They stalked the wild beast for years in the wilderness of the mind, with great personal discomfort and sacrifice, then labored for months to shape and prepare it, just to give it away, putting their ideas on our plates in thinly sliced, easy-to-read chapters. We would be fools not to eat.
Wisdom from suffering
Experience is, essentially, wisdom that has come from suffering. In most cases we are stubborn enough to suffer on our own, and create our own experience. Books offer us an opportunity to learn from the suffering and experience of other people, both real and imagined. We see how the characters or historical figures lived and suffered, how they responded to different situations, and we learn. When we face similar situations in our own lives, we have access to the experience we gained from watching them.
For some more thought on the purpose of books, check out this great video from The School of Life.