Some revised thoughts on reading

As an avid reader, I try to have a focused routine in terms of book consumption. Books are one of my passions and, with all due respect for the internet, my favorite blogs and all the feeds we get to follow, books are definitely my favorite source of knowledge.

I also think a lot about what it means for us as readers to read what we read, when we read it and why we read it in the first place. Up until recently I had an extremely utilitarian view of books (and of many things). Long story short, some things have changed in the mean time, as for instance I started focusing more on fiction to pair with the psychology, marketing and business books I have read and will continue to read.

It turns out utility is not all there is in life (yeah duh, I know). Specially when we start focusing on the things that have no specific or tangible outcome, those which we do because we feel like it, because they make us smile or simply because they help us pass the time (for instance while riding the train to work). In the end, it doesn’t really matter if part of what we do has no real (or at least direct) utility, because as the saying goes, “time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” And this leads me to why we actually read.

I believe we read about one subject only: ourselves. Nothing more, nothing less. Books work as an extention of ourselves, and we have a recurrent need to reinforce our own identity to ourselves or others. They help us project in our mind and environment the very kind of person we wish to be. That’s why often social media professionals read about new social business models, many designers enjoy comic books or housewives crave Fifty Shades of Grey. I believe these books reflect the projected views those same people have, or desire to have, of themselves.

Perhaps this is why good books (by our definition) often feel so familiar once we actually read them. They are, after all, a mirror of the people we have yet to become but wish to be in the future. Having the company of those people is comforting, because they carry a dream and a path that simply make us want to have more and more. It’s no wonder: we’re actually interacting with our own dreams and paths in a written form.