Become a Reader

Ragged Dick Frontispiece Coates 1895.JPGDick meets the son of a wealthy man and shows him around the city for a day. Later, the boy’s father tells Dick that “in this country poverty is no bar to achievement” and relates his own rise from apprentice printer to successful businessman. He notes that there was one thing he took away from the printing office “which I value more than money.” When Dick asks what this was, the man replies:

“A taste for reading and study. During my leisure hours I improved myself by study, and acquired a large part of the knowledge which I now possess. Indeed, it was one of my books that first put me on the track of the invention, which I afterwards made. So you see, my lad, that my studious habits paid me in money, as well as in another way.”
Source: Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks by Horatio Alger Jr.

The main take away from this book is that we should strive for success not just to get a fortune, but to gain tenacity, discipline, frugality, and optimism—qualities that cannot be bought.

A case in favor of reading the whole book

In most books, the important ideas and insights are usually unevenly distributed across the whole book. Which means, if your intention behind reading books is just to gain knowledge (and not care about its entertainment value) then there’s always some part of the book which doesn’t add as much value. Does it mean one should read just the book summaries? Scott Young, makes a case in favor of reading the whole book instead of books summaries. And his argument is quite convincing.

…the value of books comes not only from their ideas, which of course can often be gleaned from a summary, but from being a difficult mental task that requires focus and simultaneously guides deeper thinking…reading a hard book is more than just the ideas you obtain from it. Thinking about the book’s content while you read it is what matters. So a really long, good book on a topic will provoke much longer reflection and therefore have a much larger impact than a short summary or perhaps even many short summaries.