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Carl Sagan, one of the greatest astronomers—and thinkers of our time—once said that “a book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
Perhaps nothing else in life has the power to transport us to different lands, read into another’s mind, and introduce us to new ideas, concepts, and exotic worlds—both real and imagined—quite like a book. On the surface, they are just cardboard and paper glued and bound together (or pixels if e-readers are your thing). But those pages contain a certain life-changing magic that Sagan and many others know so well.
This is nothing short of a miracle. In fact, that’s exactly how one of the greatest American writers, Kurt Vonnegut describes books. “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.”
If you’ve ever gotten lost in a book, you know exactly what Vonnegut is talking about. They are life’s user manuals. And curling up with a good book can teach, edify, inspire, and ultimately change our lives.
Read Of Mice and Men or perhaps Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and you quickly understand the deep sense of human connection that a good book establishes. They are, perhaps, the only medium that most closely allows us to walk in another person’s shoes, even if that person is a fictional character. Books help us analyze and reflect on our own morality, hopes, and dreams through stories.
But books also heighten our sense of human connection through more tangible ways as well. We loan books to friends, which can be much more meaningful than simply recommending a show or a movie. We discuss them in groups, we participate in book clubs, and we talk about them over the water cooler at work.
Take a look at almost any New Year’s resolution and you’ll probably find some version of “exercise more” at the top of the list. What you usually won’t find: read more. But perhaps it should be at the top of the list.
Most business leaders cite books as one of the biggest influencers behind their success. Bill Gates famously releases his favorite books of the year. Attend most any seminar, and you’ll see quotes from books and authors who have paved the way for new, world-changing views.
Books serve as practical guides to life. From business to history, we can learn from others’ success, and perhaps more importantly—their failures.
For children, story time is magical. Books serve as a catalyst for their imagination. Going to the moon? No problem. Books make anything possible.
Sadly, as adults, our sense of wonderment dies a slow, painful death as we become wrapped up in our careers, day-to-day problems, or figuring out when to do story time with our kids.
Books can help us recapture the curiosity we once had as children. If you want to understand astrophysics, check out some of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books. If you want to experience fantastical, unimaginable worlds, read Neil Gaiman.
Allowing books to open our curiosity delivers benefits that extend beyond mere entertainment. It helps us see the world differently, become better at our jobs, and enjoy life a little more.
It doesn’t matter that we’re months removed from the New Year. If you failed to put reading more on your resolution list, now’s the time. Because when you make time for books in your life, you open the door to so much wonderment, possibility, and human connection. Especially in our news-crazed, instant-access internet world where information flies a million miles an hour. Books can help us clear the noise and provide an important manual for a life well-lived.