Why do I need to read stuff other than blogs and business books?

by Randy Murray on April 1, 2010

I am a voracious reader. I find reading to be one of the great pleasures in life. And I’m often surprised at how many people don’t read very much, and if anything, they’re only reading news, online publications, and business books.

“I don’t have time for anything else!” they tell me. I find that unfortunate. And it’s probably not true. Even the busiest of us wastes a huge amount of time every day.

Reading good books, novels, biographies, history books, popular science - all of these and more have tremendous benefits. The love of reading is something that we often claim to want for children. But do you have that same love of reading for yourself?

There are many direct and positive benefits that reading good books can do for you:

  1. A good book can expand your horizons. It can give you ideas and provide you with perspectives that you might not ordinarily have.
  2. Give yourself a break from your ordinary life.  The best books give us a taste of what someone else’s life might have been like. And they plant the seeds for the type of life that we might want for ourselves.
  3. You brain needs to be able to do something that takes longer than fifteen seconds before shifting to the next thing.  Multitasking is a myth and it is extremely draining. Sitting down with a book, even if it’s just for twenty minutes, can provide you with a much-needed respite. If you do it frequently and for long stretches at a time, I believe you’ll find your ability to focus and concentrate will become much improved.
  4. Most business books are out of date, badly written, and produced by gurus and experts, not by business people. Let’s face it. If you’ve read many business books, you’ll have discarded most of them as useless. How many of them got you really excited, excited enough to actually follow their advice? These thin books are often tossed off to help establish someone’s speaking and consulting career. Few of them are worth your money and your time.

I do have a few favorite business books, very few. But there are so many wonderful books that can bring joy and pleasure into your life. I believe you’ll benefit far more from reading Love in the Time of Cholera than you would from Who Moved My Cheese? And you’ll long remember Roughing It when you’ve completely forgotten Winning.

Here’s my suggestion and a book I think that every politician and business leader should know by heart (and that everyone else will be able to enjoy and benefit from as well): The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara Tuchman. Read this book and tell me that it didn’t help you learn to make better decisions.

Share your favorite books in the comments below! And come back tomorrow to wrap up the Week of Why!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mari April 1, 2010 at 8:43 am

I’m right with you, Randy. Reading is a win-win activity. My reward at the end of any day is to curl up with my book du jour and read until I fall asleep. For years I struggled with the idea of rereading books thinking there are too many to read to allow myself to indulge in a repeat. But then I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. As soon as I finished it I began a reread. Not long after that I picked up William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, and again, upon finishing I immediately reread it. One of my greatest pleasures is to read thought-provoking literature and be swept away by the mental images I form from the words on the page. Thanks for your suggestions: I will add The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam to my line-up.


2 Randy Murray April 1, 2010 at 8:55 am

I hope you enjoy “Folly” - and it’s an introduction to Barbara Tuchman and many terrific books, including “The Guns Of August” and “A Distant Mirror”.


3 Lucinda April 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Randy, I also agree. I was saddened this weekend when my brother said that he doesn’t read fiction. He reads all manner of philosophy, political books, biographies and other non-fiction of that type but not fiction. I learned so much about the Japanese and Chinese cultures by reading James Clavell’s books. Jane Austen’s books taught me a great deal about the everyday lives of people in England in the early 1800s and their class struggles. And I learned a great deal about my corner of Arizona by reading J.A. Jance and Louis L’Amour. Let’s keep reading alive! I’ll also add Barbara Tuchman to my list of authors to read.


4 Randy Murray April 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I’ve talked to a man that told me “I don’t read fiction, because fiction is a lie.” That’s a uninformed, sterile world to live in.

Without fiction, it’s a dry imagining just reading biographies and history. Fiction is art, as much as music or painting.

Tuchman is a historian, but with the touch of a novelist. Her “The First Salute” is a wonderful telling of the American Revolution, one most won’t be familiar with.



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