Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Guides Our Book Choices For Life?

I am always encouraging my kids to read books and have supported a book-centric life since they were born.  Regular visits to libraries and occasionally to the bookstore have hopefully instilled the voracious reader within each of them.  But I wonder how many books they will get to read in their lifetime.  How many, at a minimum, will be needed to help them form who they are and inform them on how to best approach life?  Which books should they read -- in what order -- and by what age or stage in their lives?

Is it possible to map out the reading they will do over the next 60, 70, 80 years?  Think of how many millions of new books will be thrust into the choices they face in just the next decade.  Who or what will guide their selections? 

There is no magic number of books one must read, but is it safe to say that even under the best selection circumstances, there are easily hundreds, no thousands of books, that one should read in order to understand life -- its history, its future, its possibilities.  There’s so much to discover about love, death, courage, and the emotional facets of life.  There are so many scenarios of fantasy and alternate reality to contemplate.  There are many facts, statistics, events, biographies, philosophies, and theories to input into our brains so that we can have a baseline working knowledge of the world.  And while we busy ourselves with what was or is, new books revealing new truths, facts, and revised ways of thinking overwhelm the marketplace.

How do you choose science fiction vs. romance, or humor vs. mystery, or Buddhism vs. 18th country poetry?  The truth is it’s hard to choose until you at least test-drive what’s out there.  Flirt with a variety of genres, writing styles, and time periods.  Discover what speaks to you and follow your desires and needs.  Building one’s library is an amazing thing that takes a lifetime to unfold and is never a completed task.

Teachers instruct kids on what to read.  There are recommended reading lists from libraries, the media, or Amazon.  There are suggestions from friends and family, bookstore workers, and those we share our lives with.  But who or what guides all of this?  How are we organizing our overall approach to what we read, or is it all haphazard, reactionary, and happenstance as to how we come by the books we eventually read?

We need a list of books that entertain us.
We need a list that instruct us.
We need a list of books that explore new ideas.
We need books that inform us.
We need books that inspire or motivate us.

The list goes on.  We need so many kinds of books, whether we realize it or not.  Some would say the book you need most is the one in your hand.  If we apply ourselves, we can enjoy many books or find something redeeming about them, so how do we avoid the risk that we indulge in the books that are not the most important and valuable to us?

It’s not just a matter of a book being well written, selling well, or being given awards.  Even amongst that litmus test, there are too many books to choose from.  Too many classics as well.  So I ask, how do we choose, not just one by one, but throughout our lives?  Is there anything intentional that drives our book choices?

First, we need to know what those choices are.  We need a primer on the book world.  We need an introduction to the kinds of books that exist –a variety of formats, genres, time periods, languages, etc.

Second, we need to understand that a part of us should be in discovery mode and to seek out books we normally would not read or don’t know much about.  We need to try new clothes on to see what fits.

Third, we do need to be in touch with our lives and who we are. We should find books that support our needs, desires, curiosities, and passions.  We need to find out what is the best of the areas that interest us. 

Many readers are lost at sea.  They don’t really have a game plan of what to read.  They don’t even know what they like until exposed to it.  People live busy lives and are distracted by technology; social media, and the explosion of entertainment options.  But what we need is a reading curriculum for life, one that can be customized, revised and built upon.

I am not sure how that can be done, but maybe there’s a book on it.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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