An Argument for the Quest for Knowledge
In 2013, American adults read 12 books. Actually, half of them read fewer than 5 books, and half of them read more than 5 books with the average number read by any given adult sitting right at 12. That comes out to one book per month. Each year I make it my goal to read at least 12 books on top of any journals, articles, posts, or newspapers. If I hit that average, I am reading more than most Americans do.
If American adults are already reading as much as they do, why is this titled “You Need to Read More”? There are a variety of reasons, and they stem from a quote in a book I recently finished.
“Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.” The Judge, page 207 in Blood Meridian
As a human, you should have a thirst for knowledge. Many Americans have a thirst for knowledge when it comes to celebrities, friends, and family. They want to know what’s going on. But when it comes to more practical matters, they couldn’t care less. They allow things to exist, function, and act without their knowledge and without their consent.
Reading Opens Your Mind
Back in college I read a fascinating book by Colin Turnbull called The Forest People. This ethnography took a deep look into the Mbuti pygmies of central Africa, and highlighted their way of life, culture, and living conditions. It is definitely a book that should be on your list to read at some point during your life.
One of the most fascinating parts was when the author has to leave the forest, and he invites one of the pygmy people to come along with him. This particular individual had never been outside of the forest before, and Dr. Turnbull documents his reaction to the new stimuli. For instance, they stand on a cliff and survey the savannah below. The pygmy asks what the insects are crawling on the ground. Confused Dr. Turnbull asks for clarification only to realize that the pygmy man is referring to wildebeest and other animals grazing miles away in the distance. Having lived his entire life in the forest, the pygmy man didn’t realize that you could see miles and miles away; and as things got further away they got substantially smaller in appearance.
Most of us won’t be able to travel the world and experience all of the cultures first-hand. But most of us can pick up a book about the Mbuti pygmy people, or the art culture in Paris, or how Hong Kong was settled. We can learn about cultures and open our minds to the realization that there is more than our little world; much of it is confusing.
Of course ethnographies, histories, and case studies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But you don’t have to pick up a dry text book in order to learn. Expand your mind, exercise creativity, and grow your mind with fiction. When you have to create your own pictures in your head, and not let a television set do that for you, your mind expands. That effect can ripple throughout the rest of your life positively.
Make More Money
Pew Research Center conducts surveys to gain insights into peoples’ lives. They break their findings down by demographics, including household income. Take a look at the findings:
- Those making less than $30k per year average 9 books, with half of that group reading more than 3 per year.
- Those making $50k-$74k average 18 books, with half of that group reading more than 6 per year.
- Those making $75k or more average 16 books, with half of that group reading more than 8 books per year.
The statistics show that the more money a person is making, the more books they are reading. It also shows that the higher their education, the more they read. But what we can’t conclude is the causation. Do they read more because they are higher educated, or are they higher educated because they read more? Are they earning more because they read more, or do they read more because they earn more? It’s safe to say that the higher their education, the more they earn; so does that education play into how much they read?
Furthermore, the studies don’t talk about what kind of books they are reading. Some may be reading lengthy novels of over 800 words, and thus reading fewer books. Others may be reading novelettes of just 100 pages, and they’re able to read 8 times as much.
Regardless, You Need to Read More
The statistics are intriguing. But what really matters is your personal experience. Are you reading enough? Could you read more? How would your life look if you read more? How would your emotional health look if you experienced events vicariously through the written word? How would your career fare if you read just one book regarding your industry every year?
If you feel you are already reading enough, here’s a challenge for you. Choose a book outside of what you normally like to read. Engross yourself in it, and experience the world from a whole new set of eyes.
If you feel you don’t read enough, here’s a challenge for you. Choose a book that looks interesting. Engross yourself in it, and experience the world from a whole new set of eyes.
Today is February 28th. I recently finished my 4th book of the year, and at this pace I’m on track to double my goal of 12 books. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate that goal.