Dangerous books

The pleasures of reading do not come without their own perils.

The very notion of exposing ourselves to new ideas has a terrific broadening effect. We get smarter. More aware. More knowledgeable. We get to know the right questions to ask, instead of the ones we’ve always asked. We realize how wrong we were, and we use it as the perfect justification to improve. It’s a noble effort at its core.

Still, or rather because of this, I believe there are some dangerous books out there. Not because they set us on the wrong track (even if we do have a lot of bullshit bingo best-sellers), but because they show us that we’re not even racing the same race. And that can lead us down a perilous path.

There are some books which have radically changed me. Rework, Velocity and Delivering Happiness are but a few, and they mean a lot to me for very personal reasons (you might have your own references, obviously). What these books have taught me, beyond their precious insights, is how blind we can be. They have taught me about how we constantly overestimate our real ability to do our own jobs, to produce our own thoughts and to debate the questions that come with the game. That is, until we actually come across such books.

These books are dangerous because they set two different timelines in our lives. To me, there is a pre-Rework and post-Rework perspective. Pre-Velocity and post-Velocity. Pre-Delivering Happiness and post-Delivering Happiness. After these books, usually the post-versions of our own lives seem to lose some sort of purpose. We just don’t feel we’re doing our jobs all that well. We might feel weak. Or less than anyone else. Or simply that our work is ugly, unworthy, gray, boring.

On the other hand, we might feel more motivated than ever to forget how shitty we were until that moment, and learn how we can do better. Much better.

These books are dangerous because they teach us about our rights in modern work culture, or rather those that we don’t have. We don’t have the right to settle. We don’t have the right to calm down. We don’t have the right to turn off our minds and drone away. We don’t have the right to be robotic. We don’t have the right to be selfish. We don’t have the right to forget about everyone else after 5pm.

Most importantly, we don’t have the right to ignore all the opportunities we are given from such books. Opportunities to learn, to imagine, to be humble enough to actually say to ourselves and others, “unlearn everything”, “we were wrong”, “our work has been shit”, “we still have a long way to go”. Opportunities to grab these books and read them once. Twice. Three times. Heck, maybe even once a year until the rest of our lives. We most definitely don’t have the right to forget the lessons they teach us.

There are indeed very dangerous books out there. Let’s keep that in mind the next time we feel bored.