Here are my top six reasons why I love being a bibliophile and you should be one too:
Be the go-to person on particular subjects: Let’s be honest. It is gratifying when people seek your advice on a topic that you are knowledgeable about. This will help you in your career-employers and potential clients are always looking for experts in their field and who are up to speed on the latest trends. To all the job seekers, most interviewers will ask you how you keep up with news and events in your industry.
Develop critical thinking skills: I do not regret taking classes in World Civilisations and East African Societies during my undergraduate years. As one of my professors once said, “It is important to trace threads of continuity over time”. It is that true events do not just happen in isolation but they are a culmination of semi-events, individual and corporate decisions that culminate in a major disaster or success. Quick example: Causes and Results of world wars and pandemics.
The funny thing is that we say is history is boring but keeps on repeating itself in events or we borrow heavily from it. Quick example: the developer of the Trojan computer virus probably named it after an ancient Greek war strategy, a lot of modern-day architecture and fashion (Ahem ladies, the off-shoulder bridesmaid dress design is very Hellenic) is borrowed from ancient times.
Reading helps people to develop a wealth of ideas on that they can use to assess different situations, eventually, tackle different problems and possibly even re-invent themselves.
Improves your command of a particular language: Until further notice, English is the official language of business! I have to defend English because I feel it is one of the most mutilated languages. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal indicated that grammar is the new victim in the office. In the article, a manager says that he cringes every time someone cannot use “is” and “are” properly. Communication is part of making a good impression, whether written or spoken. People will consider giving you a particular account, job or contract depending on how smart or sloppy your presentation Please invest in the good reading material to increase your pool of vocabulary more so in these times of “xaxa” and “lolest”.
The general principle is: if you want to improve your language skills, whether Kiswahili, French, Spanish or even Greek, read a book!
Elevate your conversations: Being well-read is definitely is a mark of refinement. It enables one to draw parallels and even come up with new ideas. This does not mean that you have to read Shakespeare but I dare you to move beyond the tabloids, magazines and self-help books. Look for something that will energize you with new ideas depending on your interests. The keyword here is interests.
A great way to kill time in traffic jams: A good book or article in a terrible jam is a great consolation. When I read during a traffic jam, I feel less frustrated because I know that I am “working” and recovering lost time that I could have spent whining. This is the only time that I can read because during the day I am busy earning my paycheck.
Living (vicariously) through others: I recently bought some books that are part of the Dear America series that diarize the lives of adolescent girls who lived through different eras of America’s history. Though fictional, the authors did a really good job of telling their stories. I think I have a slightly better understanding of the industrial revolution, what it means to be an American immigrant and having to deal with segregation issues. Since the books are written from the perspective of a minority (being a teenage immigrant girl was not exactly an asset in the 1800s), any reader will be sympathetic or even empathetic to their circumstances.
The beauty of reading about people’s experiences is that we get free lessons and advice so that we can take different paths and make different decisions. I love reading about the Holocaust and trying to understand what led to it. I believe that if our Kenyan leaders had taken the time to really read about Hitler’s atrocities or the Rwandan genocide, they could have prevented the 2007/8 post-election violence.
This week, go ahead and take a digital sabbatical. Read a book.
Originally published in August 2012