Stop Force-feeding Yourself With Literature

It won’t make you happier or more successful. And you could lose more than you could get.


Maria Milojković

3 years ago | 5 min read

It won’t make you happier or more successful. And you could lose more than you could get.

I saw a newspaper article “How to read 200 books in a year” and I thought: “WTF?! Why would anyone want to do this?”

Then I remembered success, so I typed in Google “successful people who read a lot” and this is what I got:

  • Warren Buffett
  • Elon Musk
  • Mark Cuban
  • Bill Gates
  • Go to the library
  • Set a timer (WTF again)

People also ask:

  • How many books does the average CEO read per year? (the keyword is “CEO”)
  • How do busy successful people get time to read a lot of books?
  • The reading habits that change your life
  • Why do some people read a lot of books? (with the emphasis on “why”)

What I am trying to tell you can be summed up by a humorous Serbian radio jingle:

“Dostoevsky in green! Are you nuts?!” — The couple is buying books for their home library and the husband is flabbergasted by his wife’s decision of the book color. Because that’s important.

Yes, shelves full of books are one of the most beautiful interior decoration moments. But we need to ask ourselves:

Why do we read at all?

Reading is one of the noblest things. It cleanses and feeds your soul.

Your vocabulary increases and you write better.

It improves your memory, stimulates the mind, and reduces the risk of Alzheimer.

Reading fiction improves your empathy according to the research published in Science.

It enhances your imagination. Reading makes you more creative — it helps you make new connections between unmatchable concepts.

It calms you down. It sedates you into sleep.

Apartments are sold fast with a cozy reading nook by the window. Like meditation, reading is supposed to disconnect you from reality. You enjoy it.

Still, if you don’t read for the sake of it, you are losing a great deal.

I’m at risk of being labeled as a superficial person but I’ll take it. Here are the reasons why I wouldn’t recommend reading tons of books because everybody does it:

You don’t become a doctor by skim reading

Because who can read 200 books a year thoroughly and carefully?

How much will you remember after finishing 10 books this way?

Do you jot down quotations, or have a spreadsheet where you save them? It’s good for the business. To support your theory. Has it become a part of you though? Is it a part of your practice? Has it changed you?

You cannot learn much if you skim read. A few tips don’t make you a good doctor. You need the whole context. You need years to get there. It’s a process, it takes time, and you are included in it consciously. There is no shortcut to success, no quick fix.

Reading doesn’t necessarily make you smarter

The premise “I am an avid reader, therefore I am a noble person” is preposterous from the standpoint of logic. Reading doesn’t necessarily make you a part of the intellectual elite but more of intellectual snobbery. Book porn. Some people enjoy having sex with 200 people a year. Most of us don’t.

Everybody can write a book today. And everybody reads, but what?

I’d rather be selective.

You can get to hate it

I graduated from the English language and literature, and it’s embarrassing how few books I’ve read after graduation.

I used to read a lot. I loved it. My master’s thesis deals with postmodernist parallels between one woman’s personal life and the history of the world. There had to be some reading, right?

After graduation, it took me several years to get back to the university and earn a master’s degree. And to start reading books again. It took me even more to start learning new things just because. Why? Well, I was made to — cramming for exams, too demanding programs, tight deadlines, unappealing books make you not want to see any book for a while. Or is it just me?

The diva can’t read suddenly

Don’t get to hate it. There are few things in this world you can thoroughly enjoy without causing you harm or extra pounds. Reading is one of them.

Do it your own way or don’t do it at all

I don’t read much. Would I read more if my kids were older? Yes.

Would I spend every minute reading while I eat, or on public transport? Not really.

You cannot escape the harshness of life with the Pomodoro reading. More concretely — multitasking is bad for your brain and bowels. And 15-minute eating is to be savored as a meditation practice. Because — gorgeous food!

The advice to read 200 books per year brings you nothing but frustration. It takes time to get into the zone and to understand somebody else’s view of the world.

Books don’t make you a better man

Yes, some people are hungry to read. Books make you understand the world and life better (if you are lucky). You accept the different. You learn about yourself. Will they inevitably make you a better and more learned person?

Hitler was an avid reader. So was Stalin. Some people with a university degree in literature look like nouveaux riches in Channel — they either read crap or don’t understand what they just read.

Self-development books won’t solve your problem if you’re sitting on your butt

Or as Steven Tyler said it:

“You gotta learn to crawl

Before you learn to walk”.

Unless you start doing something, you won’t be able to change yourself. Green smoothies won’t make you healthier without the workout. In Physics you can never really understand the definition you learned if you don’t do exercises.

Reading is not a tool to become successful. There is another way to do it

I know a guy who was an extremely bad student, he is quite successful in IT now. He never reads books. He is online all the time but only 30% of the content is work-related. It took him 7 years of tough grind to get where he is. He is my partner.

Again, there is no shortcut to getting knowledgeable. It is always a lot of work and time, so you better find a way to enjoy it. You can do without reading 500 pages a day if you don’t crave books.

My suggestion would be instead:

Be picky and enjoy the read. You will learn more

Imagine reading one book more than once. Because you just love it, because it resonates with you. You lose yourself in the narrative, the characters are inspiring, it teaches a great lesson.

This article was originally published Maria Milojković on medium.


Created by

Maria Milojković







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